A local running club, Raritan Valley Road Runners (RVRR) hosts a 5k running series every summer, and I finally decided to join in the fun this year. They have 4 race nights throughout the summer (on Tuesdays, two in June, two in July) and you can do any or all of them. I felt ambitious when filling out the form, so I obviously signed up for all four races. I figured I might as well, since Tuesdays are speed work/intervals anyway, and for only $15 each, I could get in some fast running and participate in some cross-country races (which I’ve never done before).
The last few days have been exceptionally wet around here, which actually caused the race I was going to run in Pennsylvania this past Saturday to be cancelled. Since we’re close to the Raritan River, and the race is actually held in a park that borders it, I was worried that there would be flooding at the park. There was a chance of rain on Tuesday, and I had my eyes to the sky, especially in the afternoon as clouds rolled in and the wind started to pick up. Thankfully the weather couldn’t make up its mind, and by the time the race started the sun was back out for a bit.
This year the race moved to a different park from where they’ve had it in the past, so we actually wound up starting 20 minutes late due to some people heading to the other park by accident. I didn’t really mind, but it was awkward to have warmed up and then sit around for 40ish or so minutes. I really didn’t have any expectations going into the race because I had never ever run cross country before, so I didn’t know if I should try for a PR or not. Plus, like I said, there had been a TON of rain over the weekend, and the park we were in typically floods. So it was no surprise to me to see parts of the path under water, and big puddles of muddy water on the grass. It’s a good thing the sneakers I wore are on their last leg; they’re covered in mud now!
We got a brief course description, and then before I knew it we were off. Even though they explained the course, I really had no idea where we were going… even though when I first started running I spent 90% of my time in this park. We jumped over a little ravine, trudged through puddles on a path, sloshed through wet grass, ran up some hills, and down some hills… twice. I kept it controlled on the first loop, trying to get a lay of the land and figure out what exactly the course was, knowing I’d have the opportunity to pick it up (if my body let me) the second time around being more familiar. I’m happy to report that after the first quarter mile or so, I didn’t get passed by anyone, and instead did all the passing myself. I did pick it up the second time around, and that proved interesting – I almost lost my shoe at one point due to some seriously muddy grass!
By the last half mile or so I had zeroed in on a younger boy and another woman a few strides ahead of me. Since the path was narrow and had some branches and tree roots, I didn’t push it as hard as I probably could have, which wound up a smart idea because I still managed to roll my ankle at one point. I hadn’t seen any other women in front of me aside from the one in my view, but I was sure I must have missed someone somewhere. Things started to hurt, and I just kept repeating my new mantra, “so much pain. so much fun.” We made a sharp turn onto the field and I powered through to the finisher chute, with the boy I had been trailing out kicking me.
I crossed the finish in 22:42, a brand spankin’ new PR! I was kind of shocked – sure I had felt decent, but the race was hard. The whole time I kept thinking about how cross country running is no joke! Everyone around me kept saying after the race “wow, that was a true cross country course!” which made me feel better about how hard I thought it was. It turns out that there hadn’t been any other women in front that I miscounted, and I came in second (by two seconds…) and first in my age group! Plus, because it was a new course, I automatically scored myself the current age group record! Since this is a series, though, I have added pressure now to make sure no one else creeps in and grabs the course record in the next three races. But even if they do, I’m okay with having it for two weeks… I had plenty of swimming records in high school and college come and go… that’s the beauty of athletics! For my efforts I got a sweet potted plant, that I’m actually going to plant in my front “yard” eventually.
After the race they have food and beer, so I grabbed myself a slice of pizza and a Philly pretzel for dinner. It may not have been the healthiest post-race food, but it sure was delicious! We didn’t get home until around 8:30p, and I was in bed not too long after that since I got up at 6am Wednesday morning to run again. I’m really looking forward to the other three races in the series, along with the other summer races I have on my schedule.
Have you ever raced during the week? Love it? Hate it?