Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Forgetting a Bad Race

Sometimes it's better not to remember.

For instance, this weekend is the Good Samaritan Challenge 12k. I ran this race once before, back in 2009, and vaguely remembered it as "sort of hilly, but not too bad." Yeah, I should have stopped there. Instead, I thought, "Hmmm...," yes, I actually thought "Hmmmm..." Then I went back and checked if I had written a post on the R's about the race. And indeed I had.

And lo, it seems the race was much more hillier than I thought. Much, much more hillierer.

Here, read it for yourself...

So, the Good Samaritan Challenge 12k. Well, that's what I ran...there was also a 5k.

Let's see what the brochure has to say: "The 5k and 12k courses start and finish on 45th Street between Sunset and Starker Arts Park. The 5k course is mostly flat with one short but steep hill challenge about half way. The 12k covers the same route as the 5k for approximately two miles, before continuing on toward Philomath where the 12k participants will be challenged by Neabeack Hill."

Now I've been around, and I realize most race directors would tell you that a race up Mt. Hood would be "short, but steep" and a race up Mt. Everest would be "challenging," so I felt prepared for what was ahead of me at the start line.

Still, about 3/4 through the race, I realized, "Wow, this mother is challenging!"

But back to the start...

A brave and hardy 20 or so people lined up for the start of the 12k in Starker Arts Park. That's what happens to a small race when there's a driving rain coming down an hour before the start time - you don't get many day of race registrations. The weather at the start was nice though; overcast and cool, but not raining. Better yet, Starker Arts Park is about two minutes from the apartment - I walked over to the start line!

Since there was a very small crowd of runners and a 5k that started right after the 12k, I knew that everyone in the 12k would be a "real" runner and I'd be finishing toward the back of the pack. No problem there. I really just wanted to have a good, strong race as I barrel toward the Cowtown Half-Marathon that I'm not nearly prepared for...if I ran anything under a 1:15, I would be happy enough. Slow but steady was the order of the day.

And we're off!

I immediately drifted to the back of a very short line of runners as we headed off down Country Club Drive. There were maybe one or two runners behind me and a few in front of me that were only going slightly faster than me, so I settled in to my pace and waited for the first mile marker, so I could adjust if needed.

The clouds were making it pretty humid, but the lack of sun was actually nice and the first mile-marker came up fast: 8:30. Hmmm, not bad, but I was looking more for nines. I wasn't sure I could hang with 8:30 on a "challenging" course. I throttled back just a touch and came to the first hill. Ah, this must be the "short, but steep" guy here. I hit it pretty good and the top came up fast. That wasn't so bad. I was feeling good about that first uphill - I was right over that baby.

I came around the next corner and realized why I felt so good...there was the "short, but steep" hill still coming up! Yep, that's why you should always run the course beforehand. Ah well...

Oof, that one was "steep," and I'll reserve judgement on the "short" until I see the rest of the hills on the course. After we split from the 5k course at mile two, we hit a nice, long flat stretch as we headed into Philomath. Unfortunately, it didn't last long. Yowza, where did these hills come from!?! I thought these Philomath people liked the flat country so their cows could wander around without getting tired.

Coming up to the top of the first part of a very long hill, I looked over to my right and checked out my plot if I couldn't make it to the top. Nice spot for a cemetery - nothing like pondering your morality while you're struggling up a steep hill. Then we hit a few switchbacks on our way up a very steep road through a nice neighborhood of Philomath. Made it to the summit and the mile five marker and water station, where a volunteer told me "you're almost there!" Yeah, well unfortunately, I know my metric system and five miles sure isn't almost there for a 12k.

Nice view of the church steeple as we came back down from the highlands into Philomath and then suddenly we were on the paved running trail that goes between Corvallis and Philomath. Hey, this is the trail I run all the time - it goes right by our apartment. Suddenly in familiar territory and knowing exactly that we had two small hills left, then a nice flat stretch to the finish, I nuzzled behind the only two runners in my view. After getting over the the hills, I gave a slight (very slight) burst and moved in front of the two and tried to remember how to close to the finish.

I somehow stayed ahead of them and hit the line at 1:07:51 for a 9:05 pace.

Hey, that's about what I was looking for and I felt pretty good the whole way through, even though I could have used a Sherpa at the four-mile marker...

At least it's something to build on as I head to Sacramento for what looks to be an extremely flat Half.

Oh yeah, I took 2nd place in my age-group...but for all I know there may have only been two of us.

OK, I know you're thinking, "that doesn't look cloudy and overcast to me - that looks like Phoenix!" Hey, I didn't stop during the run to take photos! Those were taken the day after - not a cloud in the sky.

So now I haven't forgotten how hilly the race was. Now I remember.

I should have left well enough alone.

See you at the race!

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