There is something so special about racing against others without regard to race pace or finish time. Don't get me wrong, I want to improve and race faster with each race I run, but cross country is a different animal. I don't even know where to begin about today's race.
My husband and youngest son and I drove into San Francisco and witnessed a spectacular lightning and thunderstorm along the way. When we arrived at Golden Gate Park it was raining and we could hear the thunder close by. It made me so, so excited to run the race!
I ran the warm up with a couple of team mates, doing the 2 mile loop that we'd have to run twice during the race. It was downhill, uphill, downhill, uphill, muddy, sandy, rocky in some sections and grassy (lovely pitted grass that can really make a mess of your ankle if you're not careful). I also ran several strides to really loosen up.
Then the fun began. It was just crowded for the first mile and then some. I couldn't see my footing and was so afraid to fall and I was surrounded by racers. If I fell I was certainly going to cause someone or multiple people to fall. But we all just went for it. Jockeyed for position when the course went to single track, took off around other runners when the course opened up a bit, and back and forth. The first two mile loop felt very hard. I really doubted that I could finish strong on the last loop, or that I'd pass anybody.
Well something happened. My body just pushed on through the feelings of nausea, through the heaving breaths, through the negative thoughts. It helped to tell myself that all the training in the last few months was not going to be wasted today. I pushed the hardest I have pushed in quite some time. I thought I pushed hard in Santa Cruz two weeks ago... but that felt easy compared to today.
Anyway, I ended up passing 6 runners during the 2nd loop. They had all seemed so strong during the first loop that I felt I'd never pass them, but I felt strong as I ran by them one by one. There was one lady who caught up to me again but with just over a quarter mile to go we both started to kick down the last hill. Somehow I made it to the grass before she did and we sprinted as hard as we could to the finish. I could hear her, she could hear me. I could hear everybody screaming for her to pass me and I told myself, "NO WAY is she going to pass me. I will pass out at the finish line before she passes me." She was right on my shoulder but I held her off and crossed the finish line before she did. What a good feeling!!!
Did I want to pass out as soon as I crossed? OH YES. But I just stood there for a few seconds, gasped for air and made my way slowly to the end of the chute. I finally thanked her for the push and told her she was awesome.
My splits reflect the downhill, uphill, downhill, uphill of the course: 6:44, 7:13, 6:41, 7:24. Yup, the last mile was the hardest, hardest ever. It felt like I was holding on for dear life. So thanks God for letting me survive!
P.S. Don't know if our team won yet, but my 48-year old team mate took first place again today, :45 seconds ahead of the 2nd place runner. She's seriously amazing! The Open Men's race was awesome, too. First place went to another one of my team mates and he did not lead the race until half way through, then he finished just like Linda... by a landslide!