It was a small race, so I was able to pick up my race packet in the morning. When I showed my ID to the guy behind the stand he said “No, I don’t need that. I’m not the Police.” – an unusually refreshing response since picking up a packet is usually just a tad more formal than that.
With half an hour to the start, I started to run back and forth in the parking lot to warm up those legs, and especially to gets some data on whether my left ankle would cooperate today. I’ve had issues on most training runs in the past couple of weeks, where it has been hurting on impact, causing me to hobble and ultimately stop. And it took just a few seconds of warm-up before I thought, man… this isn’t going to work. I stopped several times to rotate the ankle, massaged the tendons around the front of my ankle. The pain would subside every now and then and I kept looking for the ankle to snap into place somehow. Jogging around the starting line, I thought that this might be the race that I don’t finish, but I was just ready to accept whatever was going to happen. I mainly wanted to use the race as a training stimulus and to be out with the Amish.
But as soon as the race gun went off, any thought of ankle issues were left behind and never returned. In the end it was almost as if I just needed the right mind-set. After a mile or so, some young teenagers came blazing by at full throttle and sprinted past me. An older guy to my left goes “What the heck?”. Two miles later I see the cocky teenagers that I thought were never going to make it through the whole thing – that they were inexperienced and doomed to certain failure in the latter part of the race.
I was following my heart-rate based racing plan, where I ignore my pace and focus just on heart-rate zones. While there is plenty of discussion around training around heart-rates, I don’t know of anyone who advocates it for racing, except me. It’s a fantastic strategy that is able to adapt your effort to hilly terrain, saving energy on climbs and pushing you on down-hills.
One of the young teenagers passes me going up a hill, and I’ve got my hopes that I’ll catch up to him around mile 10 or so when I’ve got my burners on.
I see a field of chickens roaming around on their pasture. Just the way I like it and I have to laugh at their unintelligible banter. One of them escaped the fence, and if I had the gall I would have stopped to catch and lift it back into the field.
In the distance, I see two Amish kids sitting on a fence watching the race. They are fast and nimble and run fluidly back to the farm as if not needing any instruction on a sport that many of us spend so much time reading about and training for to achieve perfect running form. It’s a beautiful image of the simple life out there that could have been a scene out of one of Astrid Lindgren’s or Selma Lagerlof’s (two Swedish authors) children’s novels. Later that day, I learned that Amish kids do not go to school passed the 8th grade.
Down Hill Run Home
The middle part of the course is pretty hilly and the race has a total 560 ft. elevation gain. A crazy steep descent ensues at around mile 6, followed by a red covered bridge and I wish I had the time to snap a few photos. Later we cross an even more beautiful stream, and I’m thankful to all the farmers out here for growing real, healthy food and for allowing us to use their roads. Being out here, is where our roads meet.
I feel relieved to hear that the rest of the course is mostly down-hill, a fact that I hope the spectators are not lying about. Thankfully that turned out to be the case and at this stage I’ve ramped the heart-rate up to its final racing zones between 167 and 171 beats per minute. But in the last 3 miles I’m feeling strong and am ignoring some of the warnings from my running watch to push through a little harder than I normally would. Looking at my watch there was a rough chance that I might be able to break a personal record, so I might as well give it all I’ve got.
Huffing and Puffing but no Hay Houses Here
I’m taking down one person at a time, but an old man passes me in the last mile. Then with half a mile to go, I pass him again. But I still haven’t seen the cocky teenager who is probably near the finish line now.
At the last stretch of the race, I’m huffing and puffing, running with my eyes closed, feeling my brain being depleted of oxygen. At the finish line, someone screams “Good work running with those funny shoes!” and I come around the bend to see my wife and kids cheering me on as I pass through the finish line.
I’m a Winner!!!
No PR for me on this race, but something else happened that has never happened before. Although I finished 48th place out of 383, I was 3rd in my division, but because one of the guys was in the top leader-board overall, that put me in 2nd place for the male 35-39 category – and I was a “Winner”!!! That’s one of the benefits of running a small race I guess :-).
Get the saucy race-statistics here: Strava Hands-on-House Activity.