race recap: run to the lights 5k

This was my second year running this race.  It is absolutely one of my favorite races for a few reasons:  the course goes through Silver Dollar City, it takes place at night, and the City is lit up in gorgeous Christmas lights.  Last year was Matt’s first race since getting injured 6+ years ago.  I promised to run it with him and had a great time enjoying the race with him.  I absolutely loved being able to run next to him and hope that we will be able to run another race (and finish) together sometime soon.

However, this year, I was determined to race this race.  I wanted to do well.  I needed something to boost my confidence a bit and motivate me to keep pushing myself in my training since I’ve been in a little bit of a slump lately.  I knew the course from last year, so I knew how tough it was going to be, but I also knew that I could use that to my advantage as well.  I hadn’t really “trained” for the race, but my times lately had been consistent from where I needed to be to have a good time.

But, my goal for this race wasn’t really about my finish time.  If you’ve ever been to southwestern Missouri, you know how incredibly hilly it is.  This is a very hilly and winding course – a difficult course to run a PR on.  While I would have LOVED to run another sub-20, I knew that it probably wasn’t going to happen.  So, instead, I was determined to win.  I wasn’t exactly sure how possible it was, but it helped that it was state cross country weekend so I knew all the fast high schoolers weren’t going to be running it! 😉

Matt and I started together at the start.  There is not a lot of room at the starting line and there was no way we were going to be able to push ourselves up to the front, so we just hung back a little bit farther than I normally would (actually, we lined up behind the race director!).  It’s actually really hard running a race with Matt.  We knew we were going to run our own paces (he’s still a tad slower than me right now since he’s still dealing with aches and pains on and off), but it was so tempting for me to want to run with him instead of actually racing.  Plus, during my warmup, I felt absolutely terrible and was just trying to keep things from coming up.  My tummy was giving me major issues, and the longer we stood there, the more I was telling myself to just run at a comfortable pace.

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The crowd at the starting line.  The race was about 1,200 runners.

But, when the gun went off, I took off.  Especially after I saw a guy in jeans and a backpack in front of me.  Oh, heck no, that guy was NOT going to beat me!  So, I sped off, passing people left and right.  Thankfully, the first half mile or so of the race is entirely downhill, so I used that to my advantage and just went with it, not worrying too much about going out too fast.

Once it leveled off, I got into a comfortable pace and stayed with it.  The course has lots of switch backs, so I was able to see exactly who was in front and behind me.  It didn’t take me long to realize that I was in the lead, and in the lead by about 100 meters.  I told myself to just try to keep the pace I was going and once I got back into the park (the first 2 miles are out on the parking lot) to pick up a little bit to lengthen my lead.

Luckily, there were about 4 or 5 more switch backs so I could keep my eye on the girl behind me, and give a wave or 2 to Matt, who was also keeping a great pace.  I also felt really comfortable on the hills, pushing up them without much of a problem.  I was consistently staying with 2 other guys, which helped me maintain my pace and kept me pushing ahead without slowing down.

Once we made the turn back into the park, I picked up my pace a little bit.  It was reassuring to hear the volunteers throughout the race keep telling me I was the first girl.  And on that turn into the park, the group of volunteers standing there actually cheered for me.  Such a cool feeling! 

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The final turn into the park.  I love being able to run through all the lights!

I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to see how close the 2nd place girl was behind me, so I knew I had to keep speeding up bit by bit to maintain my lead.  The first part in the park is downhill and then goes through a loop, before going through some gradual uphills before the final “Cardiac Hill” before the finish line.  The last hill was killer and my calves were screaming by the time I got to the top, but I never slowed down and finished with a last second sprint to the finish.

Finish time = 20:14
1st Place Overall Female

It wasn’t a PR, but it was still probably one of my favorite wins!  I ran a smart race and won on a tough, hilly course at a fairly large race – something I can’t say about most of my other races, which have been small, flat races.  I felt awesome the entire time and the race actually felt like it went by really quickly (a bonus of knowing what the course is like ahead of time).  I don’t think I’ve ever felt that a win was “easy” until this race.  Usually I am absolutely dead by the end of the race and just want to quit.  This race was different.  Yes, I was dead tired, but never did I feel like I wanted to quit or die at any point.  It was exhilarating actually and left me feeling really accomplished!

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Accepting my award from Jody Hershend, one of the co-owners of SDC.

Matt and his mom also ran great races.  Matt ran it in about 24 minutes (I got to watch him finish) and his mom ran it in about 40 minutes – both great times for each of them!  But, all 3 of us are soooooooo sore from the hills!  My entire back side of my body from my lower back to my ankles are so tight and sore.  Dang you hills!  But, you better believe I plan on running it again next year!

photo 5 One of the coolest trophies ever!  I will be displaying this proudly on my desk! 🙂