This past Saturday was a gorgeous day to run a race; there was just a trace of chill in the air, the sun was out and the park was spectacular, as it usually is. Actually, I've only been to Champoeg twice, but I've seen enough of it to know that it's a very nice park. It makes a compelling argument for moving to Newberg!
My running mate Donna was there at the starting line with me, but because we'd previously agreed she didn't have to stick around if she felt she could go faster, I was on my own within the first tenth of a mile. I had my iPhone with RunKeeper going, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that for a good chunk of the first half of the race, I more or less maintained a sub-13 minute mile. My 5K time was just a hair over 38 minutes, which for me is a serious PR, but I slowed down during the second half, mostly because my iPhone died and I didn't have music to keep me fully charged.
For a while I had to fight hard against the desire to walk, especially during a fairly long and straight (but gentle) incline between miles 4 and 5. Obvious hills are a challenge, but sometimes I think the subtle "sneaker" inclines are the ones that get you! Fortunately, I am at the point where I can recover from small hills without having to walk, which is a nice milestone to hit. That being said, I managed to run the entire distance, with the exception of the water stops - drinking from a dixie-cup while running is practically impossible!
The last mile stretched out under full morning sun - and while the weather was about as close to perfect as it can get for a race, I was hot, even with short sleeves and shorts. A nice cross-breeze came to my rescue just as I ventured into another straightaway through a wide-open swath of meadow and encouraged me to pick it up just a bit. Getting to the end was a huge relief and it was fantastic to have a few folks there cheering me as I crossed the line. My time was 1:20:47, about a 6 minute improvement over my last 10K and my best 10K time since I started running again.
It's amazing how relative speed is with this sport, especially as an activity with participants of all different levels of ability. During this particular race, I was passed not once, but twice by a small herd of 20-somethings, mostly Red Lizards - these guys were doing the 30K and man, they were flying! Someday I might run fast enough to keep up with the slowest of that particular pack - that would be a miraculous day, let me tell ya! I'm not sure whether it made me feel better or worse to see them sail by - on one hand, they're inspiring because I want to run like them - but on the other hand, it makes me wonder if I should just stop kidding myself. The more I dwell on this thought the more aware I become of every excess pound and all 42 of my years....along with a strong sense of insignificance, which is very hard to kick.
What helps is thinking of how far I've come and of my future potential, because there is potential -- and this is entirely in spite of the fact that I will never win any of these races. In fact, it will be amazing if I even place highly within my age category. But at the end of the day, I simply do what I can do. It sure as hell beats what I was doing before, which was nothing - on top of being 60 lbs heavier and unable to jog to the end of the block without keeling over.
So yeah, in a very big sense, I guess I've already won.