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Saving Face

Finally, finally, snow has arrived in my neck of the woods, though it came hours before my second race of the winter and hit again the night before my third.  Timing.  But I’ll be honest, it feels much more like an achievement born of dedication to tell people you fought your way through legit wintry race conditions than to say you ran on a cloudy day with temps in the mid-40’s.  So I’ll take it.  And I’ll feel all proud of myself whilst I share the story with you…

New fallen snow on race day #2

New-fallen snow on race day #2

RACE #2

There was some question as to whether or not I’d be able to run this race.  I’d been nursing a sore back for a few weeks and knew I had another, longer race coming within days of this one, and that the conditions could be dicey.  Wes had been wanting to spend a snowy day on a nearby 11 mile hike and this would have been a good day for it.  In the end, though, he told me to go ahead and run.  Then spent the rest of the day crabby.  But that’s another post…

My morning got off to a rocky start.  In general, I like to get to a race with about an hour to spare.  Time to find parking, warm up, stretch, pick up my packet (if necessary), and of course, call it nerves, the cold, what have you, but I always need to hit the bathroom one last time before hitting the pavement.  I also prefer to shower before I leave the house.  I feel more alive for the day.

I had to let the moment pump my blood for me on this day.  I woke up an hour late.  No, I did not hit the snooze button.  Yes, the alarm went off as planned.  I did not.  Just didn’t hear the thing.  No shower and no early start for me.

Having run a race at this site before, I knew what to expect, which was both good and bad.  Good because I knew exactly where I was going and how the morning would be orchestrated.  Bad because I knew there’d be hella lots o’ people, especially in line to pick up packets and to use the restroom, which, as we all now know, would have to be on my itinerary pre-race.

But I hadn’t anticipated how many folks would decide to stay away, and the crowd was thinner than I expected, so I ended up with plenty of time.  As I walked briskly up and down a street near the race course I slipped around a bit on ice and snow and started to get more than a little worried about how I’d fare running in such conditions, having never done so before.  If the race route was this bad…

It wasn’t quite that bad, but in spots, it was reeeeaally close.  Nevertheless, I came, I saw, I only slipped a little, I had to move to the snow-covered grass a few times, but then I conquered.  From my spot in the pack I was blown away by all the diehards in front of me who were completely unfazed by the conditions underfoot.  Ran right over the ice as if it wasn’t even there.  No hesitation.  I guess it helps to be an invincible high school boy.  I wouldn’t know what that’s like.

Source: Columbia Daily Tribune

But I do know what it’s like to face my fears and try anyway, even when the deck seems stacked against me, which was how I felt that morning.  I completed the 2 mile course under the time I’d set for myself, which is always nice, and squeaked into the top half of my age group, also nice.  I would have preferred a better result, but again, I’ll take it.

RACE #3: New Year’s Resolution Run

My forthcoming- and first ever!- race medal

I was really pumped for this one, just because I liked the idea of a virtual race.  Something different.  A course of my own choosing.  And my first medal.  I had it all planned out: where I’d go, the scenery I’d be taking in, the impressed looks on the faces of walkers, runners, and bikers sharing the path with me when they noticed my race bib, Wes and the wips cheering for me at my “finish line”…  Okay, that last bit was pure imagination (no, not the impressed onlookers part!  That would totally have happened!!).  But even without it, I’d built the experience up to a pretty lofty height.  And considering it had been two months since my first 5K, I was really jazzed to see what I could do with the distance the second time around.

Being a virtual race, I had my choice of days to run my chosen course.  In theory.  But I didn’t want to push my back, especially having just run a race, so I opted to wait for the last possible day.  And c’mon.  A New Year’s race on December 30?  Ah, no thank you.

So, blah, blah, blah, NYE up too late because Novella wanted to see the ball drop but then fell asleep anyway.  Wips.  Anyway, I woke to a race day encrusted with iced-over snow.  I thought I might wait a little while to see if the sun would warm things enough to melt something, somewhere, but cloudy skies and temps holding in the 20’s made that unlikely.  This was as good as it would get.  Go, or go not.

I really wanted this race.  And that medal.  I was….oh boy, get ready…yes, I’m doing it…I’m gonna say it….RESOLUTE.  Plus I’d talked this day up to more than myself.  I couldn’t lose face over it now.  So go I did.  But not without making a pit stop at a grocery store restroom first.  You know- race day and all…

It took me longer to find a place to run than to run the race.  My first choice was, indeed, beautiful in all the snow.  The path was not.  Solid ice.  I retreated to the local high school track (maybe some of that teen gumption would seep in through my shoes), but it, too, was a no-go.  My idealized vision of a race course was not to be.  Actually it was, somewhat.  I impressed the hell out of plenty of people driving here and there on the busy street close to home where I ended up.  At least I think I did.  Facial expressions can be so hard to read sometimes.  Especially through windshields.

It wasn’t glamorous.  I admit I wondered how I’d make it when the first unrelenting blast of arctic wind cleaned my clock.  I’d never felt anything like that in my life.  This gust had personality.  It was hard core.  But then again, so was I.  And I’m not only referring to the fact that I was almost frozen solid.

Thankfully we only crossed paths a few nearly intolerable times, and eventually my core thawed enough that I didn’t even realize I was in danger of losing my face and my fingers in their pathetic $1 cotton gloves (I know, I know…).  I was having too much fun and feeling too good to care.  Psychologically speaking, of course.  There wasn’t a whole lot of feeling going on physically.

I’ve read about how good runners respond to moments of fatigue or weakness by pushing harder, moving faster.  It works.  I didn’t plan to do it, mind you, but sometimes there are no crosswalks and way more than no cars on the road so when you have to loop back you pick up the pace when traffic clears and you go for it or end up stopping.  I really didn’t want to have to do that.  It’s amazing what a little burst of energy can do.  I finished my frosty run exhilarated.

I know a lot of y’all out there eat 5K’s for breakfast, 5K times/year.  I’d love to dine with you someday.  But for now I’m happy with what I’ve discovered I can do.  I walked away from my virtual race with a concrete PR and a concrete smile on my face and concrete goals for my first complete year of running.  And a concrete medal on the way.

I just hope my fingers will be limber enough by then to lift it over my head.  Either way, I’ll take it.

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12 thoughts on “Saving Face

  1. Great read, well done and good luck with your real and virtual races in 2013. No snow here thankfully and long may it continue, Cool medal BTW and spikes for running over ice

  2. And yet another good one. 🙂 I truly enjoyed this post. Running in the cold is soooo exhilarating isn’t it? Give me cold over hot any day. Love the changes you have made to your blog, looks great!

    • Thank you!! I wonder if anyone notices all that stuff lol… and I thought it was high time I gave some love up to the folks who have followed me:)

      Yes, yes, yes….cold over heat always. You can always put more on, but you can’t… well, I guess it depends where you’re running…

  3. https://www.yaktrax.com/ these are great for running. I have a pair of snow cleats and they really make a difference.

  4. Lovely post ROW – snow and ice are the worst running conditions and you took them on and survived. Love the virtual race idea as well – I might try that and get on the podium for once 🙂

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