Barbarian triumph

It was cold, 35° outside my house, as I waited for Maggie to come pick me up. The weather people said it would be 49 by 10am, so I decided I would not need running tights for the race. But it was cold waiting to be picked up.

The snow on our mountains had all melted, but as we drove east we started seeing some on the peaks, after we’d climbed out of Camarillo the entire range was snow covered.

Maggie wanted to run a race out of town, to try something different. And she organized us all to join her down in Westlake. A new race which Paul was timing. One nice thing about running out of town is that you get away from all the Santa Barbara competition — of course you get the local competition, but somehow that never seems as intense…

It was still cold when we got to Westlake at about 8. OK in the sun, and luckily registration was in the sun,  it wasn’t so bad, but the shade was cold. Cold enough that doing a warm-up run had a more literal interpretation than usual. I had to get moving.

I had found a course map at the registration area, and decided to trot along the course to the 5K turn-around. When I got there the volunteer at the turn looked at me and, with great distress, said, “Twenty-five minutes, you have twenty-five minutes till the race starts, go back!”. I’m thinking “If I can’t jog 2.5K in 25 minutes then I should not be racing today.” But I turn back (I was going to anyway, really I was). Shortly I see Maggie, Jana and John jogging along toward the turn-around, the poor volunteer is going to have conniptions when he sees them!

I’m actually warm as I trot back. It’s all up hill for the last mile and more. Going to be a tough finish. At the start line I figure I can take off my jacket. Where to put it? I hide it under Paul’s table. Suddenly it is chilly again.

And there is Michelle. She didn’t come down with us. I didn’t realize she was coming, but here she is. Someone to run with perhaps? I haven’t run with Michelle enough to know just how fast she is, but I know she trains with Drea who is faster than I. Michelle says she wants to break 39. Drat. I was hoping to break 38, so we probably won’t be running together. (I run better when there’s someone going beside me).

There are chip mats at the finish, but no chip mat at the start. This doesn’t make sense to me. We have chips, why no start mat? Oh, says Paul, we’ll go by gun time and get an accurate finishing time with the final mats. That rather does away with the major benefit of the chip system, it means I want to be at the line at the start.

Michelle and I stand together, and do our strides. Two little kids place themselves in front of us (annoying, they’ll just slow us down) and wonder to each other why everyone has started early (we’re all doing strides).

And then the start. Downhill. Slowly passing people (including the two kids) who don’t know how to race and went out too fast. Michelle passes me. Hunh. So much for her worrying about breaking 39.

At the first mile 5:45. Yikes! Way too fast. (And Michelle is ~5 seconds ahead) Of course it was all downhill, still… I was hoping to run 6:05, maybe 6:00. 5:45 is way out of line, I can’t keep that up.

There are maybe 15 people ahead of me. We reach the 5K turn, and suddenly there’s almost no one in front. Michelle 10 meters ahead, and two guys right around me. Michelle is in the lead? Not quite, on a straight-away I see there is one guy far out in front. OK, Michelle is second. Way to go.

I start to gain on Michelle, and on the guys just in front of me. One of them pulls in front of Michelle and then I am pacing her. The 2 mile mark, 6:13. Oops, too slow. I try to pick it up a bit, but it is up hill now and this is hard. Still I pull ahead of my little group.

I come to a light just as it turns red. There is supposed to be a volunteer directing traffic for me, but there is none. That’s the problem being second (or third). First place gets a lot of attention, and the pack of runners does too, but the second runner tends to take people by surprise. I run through the intersection trying to stop the car that’s coming at me by holding up my hand. It works. I’m alive and on the other side.

Mile 3, 6:08. That’s a bit better. I’m used to flatter 10K courses, this won’t be a PR.

18:44 at 5K. A nasty abrupt turn. I have to slow and start up again. Immediatly I notice that my legs are tired. There is nothing like a sharp U-turn for destroying a race. Still, I’m on track for breaking 38 — if the final hill doesn’t kill me.

Michelle isn’t far behind. She’s the #1 woman. Nice! Maggie’s the number 4 woman!

Mile 4, 6:03. Finally, a reasonable leg. It’s a downhill mile mile though.

Every now and then I look up and see the guy in the lead. He never seems any further away. But he never seems any closer either.

Mile 5, 6:03 again.

And now it really turns up hill. I have to slack off a bit. Still I’m well ahead of 38:00 pace, so I should be OK.

Not so, this hill is too hard. Mile 6, 6:24. And breaking 38 is probably out of the question.

A fifth of a mile to go. Someone whizzes past me. No way I can speed up to catch him. It’s all I can do not to slow further. And then someone else passes me. It’s a woman, and it’s not Michelle. I find I do have a little more in me and I keep up with her, just a step or so behind, as I watch the seconds flutter past… :55, :56, no way I’ll make it, finally 38:08. Damn.

Two years ago I made the mistake of only watching the seconds and ignoring the minutes. Then I thought I ran 38:05 (and really was a minute faster). This time I know I did run 38:08. Oh well.

Ah! I know what my problem was — I decided not to wear racing flats because I thought that might be bad for the shins. I need those magic shoes.

Then Michelle finishes, 39:05 or so. So we were both rightish. I ran about 38, she about 39. She was the third woman (I guess I was the third man).

Maggie was next, fourth woman.

Even though our times weren’t the greatest, everyone of us placed. Jenna, Brooke, John were first in their age-groups, and Tamy was second in hers (first time she has placed. SB just has fierce competition).

As we cooled down (again out to the 5K turn-around and back) I looked up and noticed what a lovely view of the snow topped mountains we actually had had on the course. But not one of us had noticed it in the race.


2 Responses to “Barbarian triumph”

  1. drea Says:

    Great Job George! That is excellent racing and with your shins and everything, awesome! Michelle did so wonderful too! Wish I was there!

  2. georgeruns Says:

    I wish you had been. Had you been well, I bet you would have won (the entire race, not just the women’s — winner was only a half minute ahead of me.

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