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I was doing this race with my good friend and fellow crazy distance athlete, Karen. Karen was going back to defend her age group title from last year and is the one who told me about this race. It turned out that there were several hundred people doing the kids 1K or the full 5 K races this year, which I gathered was a significant increase from the last 2 years. Packet pickup went smooth as Karen picked up my packet due to work schedule issues on my part. (Thanks again, Karen!)
Karen and I also carpooled to the race site and discovered that arriving early gets you the worst possible parking--or at least the farthest parking from the event site. We had a nice long walk along part of the running trail to the event site. After we arrive we chatted with friends before getting in a 1.1 mile warmup along the course start. This 5 K is a trail race through the state forest and is a mix of rock and dirt trails (mostly dirt), and given recent rails there was a good bit of mud and water on the course--although the trails were well-constructed and were also in better condition than I expected them to be.
As the race came close to the start, Karen and I positioned ourselves just behind the first group of fast runners and prepared for the race to begin. When the gun (or whatever it was) went off we took off together and stayed together for almost half the course. The early part of the trail that we ran earlier seemed to be on of the best parts of the course, in terms of condition. Running was a matter of avoiding getting boxed in by other runners and areas of poor terrain. The path began to open up after a half mile, but it really took close to a mile before I wasn't always near another runner. After the first mile there was a lot more mud on the course and I attempted to run along the more densely packed mud where jeep tires usually drove through for better footing. I was forced to adjust my path numerous times in search of more solid footing during the race. The second and early third miles seemed to have the worst of the mud along the course, but that is what you get with a trail run on some days. I think this may have worked to my benefit as I have some experience in running on muddy trails, and that is a different experience than running on concrete. In the last mile of the race I was trying to use the runners ahead of me as pacing guides, though I kept catching and passing them one after another. Although I was trying to run a controlled pace that was as fast as I could maintain for the race, when I hit a half mile left I pushed with about all effort I could muster for the rest of the run. This last effort made my last mile my fastest by several seconds, even thought it had worse overall footing than the first mile. I ended up finishing in 23:06. Just short of a 5 K PR for me on roads, but definitely a PR for a trail 5 K.
After catching my breath I walked back along the course a bit to cheer on the other racers finishing, including Karen, who wasn't too far behind me. After we regrouped and got a bit of rest and post-race nutrition, we went to see the posted run timing for the race. As it turned out Karen not only defended her age group title from last year but was this year's Women's Masters winner (runners over 40) and I won my age group by over a minute. Wow!
I entered this year never having won any racing awards and have now won my age group in three straight competitive events. That kind of success was beyond imaginable for me less than a year ago. I hope in some way my success gives hope and inspiration to other athletes overcoming obesity and years of inactivity (or some other personal situation).
|Me, just after getting my award.|
|Posing with some superheros and other age group winners.|
|Karen and I after a successful race.|
|1st Place Age Group Award :-)|