A chronic early morning wakening insomniac, I can't even remember the last time I've awaken to light filtering my cheap aluminum mini-blinds, but alas--it finally happened on race day. Actually, I did wake up at 5 A.M., noted that it was the exact time my daughter was born 11 years ago, since today was also her birthday, but for once, conquered my insomnia demons and went back to sleep till seven, relieved that I really wasn't giving birth to a nine pound baby. I took this as a harbinger of a good race to come, since getting up at 4 am and a noon race probably wouldn't go over well. I woke up feeling good. Nothing hurt. I rattled open my cheap blinds and watched the ducks swimming in the stream under a canopy of blue sky, and ever-widening patches of grass growing under receding snow mounds after a few days in the mid to upper 30's.
The Shamrock 15K/5K is a beast of a race in that it's hilly as heck and one of our few club races that I selfishly insist on running. The weather can be absolutely anything--I've run it after snow storms, in 62 degrees and sun, and pouring down rain. I'll help a little at the end, packing up boxes, but before that, I want to be a socializing runner, talk to my running family, get runner butterflies thinking about running those god-awful 4 miles up North Hampton Road and worry if I ate enough, or too much, or if I should try to pee again. I've run every year since I've become a runner. I use the Shamrock 15K to purge myself of winter laziness, overeating, negativity, easy running, and prime my runner muscles for the upcoming spring marathon season. I did two training runs with Bobs, Bills and assorted Debis. The first one wrecked me. I had shin splints from the hills, my intestines rumbled for two days and I felt slow and beat myself up for being such an unmotivated, goal-less runner. The second training run, I pushed myself, felt good, and felt the ghost of my former 9-minute mile girl get under my skin. Now, on race day, I could really feel her coming back to life.
We had a spectacular turnout. I showed up a full hour for the race and already the Woodridge High parking lot was filling up. We were running out of shirts. I gave mine to my trail running buddy, Melissa, comfortable in her skin, and colorfully dressed in an Eric Carle caterpillar shirt and, in keeping with our St. Patrick's Day theme, what appeared to be pajamas, liberally sprinked with green Shamrocks. Chef Bill showed up to help and eat bagels. Finally, Debi was back from her two week ski trip. I begged her to come with Hope and I down to Cincinati for the Flying Pig Marathon. Bob fretted about the race. I figured he'd run a good 8:50 pace for the race, easily beating his last year's time. My best time for the Shamrock was three years ago when I ran a 1:24--a near perfect nine minute pace on beastly hills. Last year, I ran a 1:28 which I hoped to beat this year.
The race was on! It's easy to run too fast the first three miles since it's mostly downhill. When I was still hanging with Bob by mile two, I knew either he was running too slow, or I was running too fast. We were averaging around 8:12 per mile, which I do every year and then it bites me in the ass later, so I fell behind Bob and settled into a moderately hard pace as evidenced by a 3 inch trail of drool. A nice looking fellow passed me and asked me if my name was Red, except he used my real name, so I figured he didn't know the Blogger Red and merely the newsletter editor Red. I tried to wipe away the drool, but I think he saw it. I asked him if he recognized the red hair, but then I realized how stupid that was since the newsletter is black and white. He made a comment about how I pump my arms when I run. I wondered if my arm pumping was inefficient.
The weather was absolutely Mama Bear perfect, not too cold, not too hot. Then the hill. I don't even pretend to run the first steep upward jaunt when you turn left off Akron Peninsula onto the first tier of the endless reverse stairway to runner hell of North Hampton Road. I didn't know if it would be better to be totally ignorant of the hills to come, or the knowledgeable ole sage that I was, having run this race several years in a row. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.
I was having a very bad patch around mile five, but after that I recovered fairly well, except I noticed I couldn't do basic math. What was five times 8? Honestly, I couldn't figure it out for the life of me and felt bad for getting all over my kids when they can't memorize their times tables. My 8:15 pace was eroding down to a nine something. I think. I stopped trying to figure it out and just ran. I was feeling pretty good again, so I tried to recover some time. Finally, North Hampton was done and then the slight gradual climb up Steels Corners Road. The course diverts a short way down a side street and then turns around. I could discern the Clydesdale easy gait of Bob coming toward me. I gave him a smile and kept running. I estimated he was a good 3-4 minutes ahead of me. I trailed behind a lady named Marta for about 4 miles. We chatted a little. She's a hybrid trail/road runner, too, and we'd recognized eachother from the trails. Finally, Marta broke away.
Debi, Bob and Hope were standing at the finish shouting me in. I really tried to push it and came through the finish at 1:26 something!! Yeah!! 2 minutes faster than last year. I did a 9:15 pace! I was thrilled. Bob had a PR, shaving several minutes off last year doing the 8:50 pace I had predicted for him. What a fabulous race. I feel like I'm sufficiently broken in for the official start of spring training. Now, only if the rest of this snow would melt...