Like I said on Monday, Matt and I registered for this race at the last minute. We went back and forth on whether or not we were going to run it, and finally decided a week ahead of time that we might as well! Plus, it was a great excuse for a weekend away for the 3 of us.
With all that said, I really didn’t “train” for this race at all. I use the word “train” loosely as I am pretty much always training for something, regardless if I have a race planned or not. But, seeing as I am actually focusing my athletic endeavors on triathlon, this was just going to be an extra race to squeeze in. I had no real goals for the race and even offered to push MacKenna if Matt didn’t want to, but he insisted that I could do well since it was such a small race. Yes, babe, I am in fact glad that I listened to you…
It was a very small race – less than 500 runners, most being younger kids and recreational runners and walkers. However, when we walked up to the starting area, we noticed a group of high school cross country runners. And my immediate thought was, “Dang. There go my chances of placing.” I’m so intimidated by actual cross country runners for no reason except the fact that I didn’t run in high school or college, so I automatically believe that they’re so much better than me. (Most of them are.)
I did an easy warmup and realized the course was completely different than I had anticipated. We originally thought that we would be running down the 76 strip in Branson (similar to the strip in Vegas but I’m assuming much hillier and not nearly as bright, big, or crowded), but instead they used the empty outlet mall parking lot for the race. It was nice to get an idea of the hills and what we would be running (twice).
I lined up right at the front, just behind all those intimidating high school runners. There were only 3 girls, the rest boys. I reminded myself that I absolutely could not go out with them – I might be older, but I definitely am wiser. 😉 And of course, all those young kids took off sprinting while I just took my sweet time getting up to speed.
Thankfully, my strategy worked. Of the 3 girls in front of me, the closest one was only about 100 yards away. I caught up to her about a half mile into the race. I thought maybe she’d stay with me, but she quickly fell behind. The other two were still way out ahead of me.
The parking lot we were running through was fairly hilly, lot of ups and downs, but nothing too steep or too long. I tried to use the downhills to my advantage as much as possible, relaxing and letting gravity take over while still maintaining some control. The uphills were definitely much harder, but I tried my best not to slow down too much and really push through.
I caught up to the next girl right before we finished the first lap around the parking lot. Oh yes, 2 laps around a really boring parking lot. But, as much as I HATE running in circles, it was really nice to know exactly what I’d be running the second time around. I tried my best to just keep picking off people one by one and maintaining my pace as much as I could.
We finished the second lap and headed back up toward the finish line. I really thought that was the end of the race and was remarking to myself how quick that flew by, only to realize that instead of turning toward the finish, we took one last turn uphill for about a quarter mile. Ugh. While I turned up that way, the first guy was just coming back down toward the finish line. I could see the first girl up ahead of me, but at the point, I realized that she was just too far ahead of me to catch her.
I again used the downhill to my advantage and turned toward the finish line. I didn’t wear a watch (I never do when I’m racing) so I had no idea what my time or splits were. So, that turn toward the finish was the first time I saw a time at all. And to my surprise, the first number I saw was a 19. WHAT?! I mean, I felt comfortable most of the race but really didn’t feel like I was going that fast.
So, what did I do? I flat out sprinted. And crossed the finish line in 19:50 – a PR by 8 seconds! Plus, second overall female and first in my age group (20-29). No way you were going to wipe that smile off my face!
Matt did great as well. He pushed the stroller on a pretty hilly course and was still able to average 8:15/mile, finishing in just under 26 minutes. And Kenna had a great time – her second official race! I see a future cross country runner in the future…
She just plopped down right next to this group of kids. Too funny!