The alarm went off at 5:30 am and I really didn't want to get up. I've gotten lazy this year and become accustomed to sleeping in (ie. to 7 or 8 am) on one weekend morning. But Sharon was picking me up at 6:15, so I dragged myself out of bed. We got to the zoo 45 minutes early, so we spent the time checking out the competition. Just kidding! We both just wanted to have fun. I knew that Olga would be there but I didn't see her before the start. Turns out that she was out doing a little 5 mile warm-up.
I was a bit nervous about 800+ runners jockeying for position on the single track trails of Forest Park. For that reason I positioned myself nearer to the starting line than I normally would. Sharon and I started together but I couldn't even see her after about 50 feet and from that point on she was way ahead of me. My worries of a bottleneck were for naught since we had to run uphill for about 1/4 mile on the road and then more uphill on a paved trail before we turned onto Wildwood. While on the switchbacked paved trail, I heard a Russian voice call my name and there was Olga on the switchback below. I spent the rest of the race wondering when she was going to catch me! Actually, seeing Olga behind me was good motivation. It kept me running some of the hills that I wanted to walk. I thought it was okay if Olga passed me while I was running (I fully expected her to catch me), but I didn't want her to see me walking. Silly thinking I know, especially for ultra runners who walk all the time, but it kept me moving.
I'm not fast by any means, but my trail running experience definitely helped me. On the first big downhill, all the women around me started putting on the brakes. But I turned it on and passed many. My strategy for shorter races (which I don't do many of) is to go out too fast and then try to hold on. For the first two miles I felt like I was running a faster pace than I could hold. But I was also thinking "5 miles....how hard can this be?" Turns out...very hard! My big mistake (that I won't make again) is that I didn't have any fluids with me. It was deceptively cool at the start, but humid. By the halfway point I was dying for a drink. At 3.5 they had an aid station with water. I downed a cup, drank half of another and then dumped the rest on my head. I kept running the hills but I was slowing up. Finally one of the volunteers mentioned that there was one killer hill ahead and then mostly downhill after that. I promised myself that I could walk that hill. Well, I didn't need to give myself permission because there was no way I could have run it anyway since it was pretty long and steep. Most were walking but a few runners passed me. Up to this point I was having a few moments of slight dizziness and I felt like I was on the verge of a serious bonk. But as I crested the hill and started running I had my energy again. It was about 1 mile from this point, down more trail, through the parking lot and then what seemed like forever through the zoo gates to the far end of the zoo. I passed some people and worked hard to kick it in. With about 1/4 mile to go I really wanted to puke. I hate that about short races! But I tried to keep up the intensity and finally was done. I forgot to turn off my watch but I think I finished in about 46:30. My goal was for under 10 minute miles so I'm happy with that. With some fresh legs and decent hydration I think I could have gone under 45, but its no big deal. Sharon was waiting for me, having finished with "the skinny girls" in about 42. Soon Olga came in and we got to hang out for a while, which is always a pleasure.
Pictures courtesy of Montrail
Back home, I showered, made the little guy some pancakes and then took a serious 1 hour power nap. I was determined to get that sleep! I'm feeling really good about my taper. I've lowered the miles but kept up (actually increased) the intensity. Two more weeks until my first 50M.....
Update: Official results are in for the 8k. Sharon came in 12th out of 168 in her age group and overall 76th out of 762. I was 22nd out of 93 in my age group and overall 164 out of 762. Not bad!