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This is absolutely my favorite race EVER!  I look forward to it every year.  Maybe because it’s a “runcation”, but there’s also something about Silver Dollar City at Christmastime and running through 6.5 MILLION lights that gets me totally jazzed and excited for this race.

This was supposed to be my goal race to end out my fall season.  And while I guess it still was my goal race, I had a bit of a set back in August that derailed my training a bit.  I spent 3 weeks just doing easy runs until I finally couldn’t deal anymore and took 10 days off of training.  It was definitely the smartest decision I could have made at the time – and I was able to bounce back fairly quickly.  But, I also lost some fitness and it set me back more than I was hoping to end the season.

So, I went into this race with very little expectations.  My goal was really just to see what I had and how much I was set back.  Unfortunately, it was more that I was hoping, but I still cannot complain about my time, despite it being one of my slowest on the course.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, this race is a night race.  The park closes at 9, so before they can start the race, they have to get EVERYONE out of the park + the parking lot before we can even start.  The majority of the race takes place in the parking lot, so for safety reasons, the race doesn’t even start until AFTER 10PM.  The week after Daylight Savings Time ends made this even harder on my body, which was not adjusting well to the time change.

We arrived at 8:30 in order to pick up our packets before they shut packet pickup down, so it was A LOT of just standing around and waiting.  Matt’s best man from our wedding was in town also, and decided to run the race with us, so it was nice to be able to catch up with him while we waited for the race to start.

I started warming up around 9:30, which was a little difficult, simply because I literally had about 100-meters to warm-up in.  So, my warm-up mile was SLOW as I tried to dodge the crowds of people in a very small area.  Night races are also hard for eating, and my stomach was not quite sure what to think of the late race after a meal, especially when it is used to running on empty.

I pretty much had to push my way to the front, and I was still about 5 people back from the front.  But, I’m OK with that since I LOVE to chase – and my strategy was to take the first mile conservatively and then really race the last 2 miles.

So, I did just that.  The first mile is pretty much ALL downhill – or at least the majority of it is.  So, I used that to my advantage and just kept telling myself to stay relaxed through the downhills.  There was A LOT of people in front of me, but again, I enjoy chasing and need that to focus on those harder times during the run.

The second mile was all about catching up to and passing people.  There are a few more bigger, steeper uphills in the 2nd mile, plus a big zig-zag part through the parking lot, so I was able to see how far out I was from the other girls in front of me.  First place was about 200m in front of me, and the other 2 girls in front of me were definitely catchable.  So, I made it my goal to pass each girl by a certain point in the race, and hoped to be up to the first place girl by the end of the 2nd mile.

And BOOM – goal achieved!  I was able to pretty easily pass the 2 girls right in front of me, and by the time we got to mile 3, I was only a few steps behind the first place girl.  I decided that I wanted to stay right on her heels, in hopes that I could make a move on the BIG hill the last 400m of the race.  We alternated back and forth quite a bit, flip flopping positions, until I decided to just stay close and let her do all the work.

But, once we got to the hill, I was surprised to see her power up pretty easily and I started lagging behind.  This was definitely MENTAL and not physical for me.  This is really my biggest struggle as a competitive racer – it’s all in my head.  I KNOW I am able to run sub-20s (probably even sub-19s), but my mental toughness is terrible.  I am working on it, but I know that it’s going to be a constant struggle for me.

I ended up crossing the finish line as the 2nd overall female, just a few steps behind the first place girl.  She immediately came up to me after and hugged me, asking me how old I was!  Ha!  I guess this is what happens when you race against high schoolers – I let her know that I’m significantly older than her, but she definitely made me feel good about myself!

TIME:  20:30
AVERAGE PACE: 6:37/mile
2nd place overall female
1st in age group

So, I’m not exactly ending finishing the season with the sub-19:30 that I was planning, but after an injury setback, I can’t complain about my time.

Now, time to start focusing on the offseason to get ready for some serious spring racing!