The Race I Won in the Future

Scatter brained? Guilty as charged. It’s a somewhat laughable joke that I am easily distracted by anything shiny. How I am able to run races wearing Team Sparkle anything is beyond me. But, I digress – already. Race four of 103 was my first half marathon, race six was my first trail/second half marathon. What happened to race five?

It was a wee race, but it is still noteworthy. It was fast, fun and I won… or, rather I will win when I’m old enough. (Don’t worry, this will be explained.)

hip openers

Stretching pre-race, rockin’ what would later be dubbed my ‘Michael Jackson sleeves’ by the announcer.

Race four was a pretty small race, and by pretty small, I mean I took the 5 mile run-only option at a local short or long duathlon. For all age groups, men and women, there were a whopping 22 people signed up for the 5 mile trail race, 33 the long du and 50 in the short. Put on by Wolf Pack Events, the Golden Bears Du was my first exposure to duathlons. While I was raised with wetsuit-clad summers boogie boarding in Santa Cruz – and passed all my tests guppy through frog at the local community center – I’ve never felt swimming to be an athletic forte of mine. A triathlon is undoubtedly not in my future; a duathlon, however, I’ll give a firm maybe.

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Everyone, start your Garmins!

The 5 mile runners set out with the long course folks; the short course folks would start later. Now that I have a few races under my belt and have helped organize and run a few myself, I like to think I have a pretty good idea of the structure of one, from course markings to corralling finishers. In January I experienced a ‘big event’ race for the first time. While not quite as extreme as what my parents experienced, the Golden Bears Du was still on the other end of the spectrum. That being said – Wolf Pack ran the show beautifully.

The hilly course was well marked with friendly people standing at the ready where hairpin turns and course splits were. From what I recall there was at least one, maybe two aid stations on the somewhat out and back course.

I should probably also mention that after the Tinker Bell Half, I took about two months off from serious running and signed up for this race to help jump start my Dumbo Double Dare training. Having just had my gait analysis done, I had purchased three new pairs of shoes – see where this is going? Zero training (I promise this is NOT a predominant theme of my run career,) new out of the box Brooks PureGrit2 trail shoes, and no hydration pack or other gear to rely on. Why I do these things to myself, I do not know.

As I chugged along the course, I tried to not reap on my legs cramping, my general cardio fatigue or the fact I could have been marked as a kill (runslang read: I am the roadkill when passed on the course) many, many times. Instead I simply kept moving, kept breathing, kept smiling and encouraging… and chasing this one girl.

Gah, she was kicking my ass and for whatever reason, maybe because she was going in and out of my line of sight, she the rabbit and I the weary greyhound, that I felt so compelled to chase her down. It was my carrot on a string, chasing her heels, and by the time we hit the turn around I had pushed past her. She passed me again at the aid station; we were in the home stretch. She was going to beat me! How dare my ego be damaged; this girl who I had decided had somehow wronged me by actually being in shape for the race was now my target. [Expletives,] she might beat me, I thought, but if it has to happen I can’t let it be by much.

She beat me for sure through the finish line but not by much; she was still panting as I came up that final (cruel) hill. We laughed and high-fived and congratulated one-another on a great race. Of course I was open and admitted I was chasing her the whole way, laughing because she was kicking my butt and she too laughed, saying she knew I was back there and it had pushed her the whole race. Her twin sister had come in just moments before her. As I sidled up to the rankings printed and pinned on a corkboard by the medal display table, I noticed that the two of them were 1 and 2 in the women’s 25-29 division.

Then I saw my name. All I saw was “1” followed by my name. I was elated. I had won my age group! No other women were in the division (cough cough, 21 other runners total) but I still won!

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Flushed, a bit confused, and apparently the winner of the women’s 30-34 age group.

Then, after letting it sink in, I realized: they must have used birth years only to do the ages. Not until a week after Dumbo Double Dare will I actually be 30. Oops. Apparently I am so excited about being in the 30-34 age group (true story) that I simply forgot my actual age. It’s like my not immediately recalling new last name as a newlywed. (We are almost a year in and I’m finally getting it, don’t worry.)

Regardless of whether or not I actually won an age group, I still had a fabulous time.

This race reminded me that part of the beautiful camaraderie of running is the unspoken understanding that on the course, we are competitors, but before the gun and after the finish, we are a family. No matter how many times I barreled down on her, how many stink eyes we exchanged in passing and glances backward or forward, we were immediate friends at the finish. It is moments like that which make the financial bits fade away and running becomes priceless.

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