Saturday, July 4, 2015

Go forth (on the fourth)...and run!

Team WestEnders decided to go a little wild on Independence Day this year, stretch our boundaries, challenge ourselves...and compete in a 4-mile race, rather than our previous 5k norm. (I know, right? Are you gasping in shock? Yeah, I didn't really think so...) You might wonder what prompted such audacity, and the short answer is: hey, why not? Okay, okay--the slightly more forthcoming response is that we've been signing up for races for a couple of years now, since the Summer that Riley was 9. That was when we figured he was big and strong enough to handle 3.1 miles, and this proved true when we tested it in an actual pound-the-pavement situation.

After that first successful trial, we just began registering for any event that occurred close enough to our neighborhood that we didn't have to get up at an unholy hour and drive too far for it. So basically, we did several annual races in Olney; then we continued the same formula when we moved to North Carolina. Fortunately for us, the Chapel Hill area hosts numerous runs every year, so we have plenty of appealing options from which to pick and choose. But we'd never yet opted for a longer route--5k was totally comfortable, 10k seemed a bit too when I spotted the notice for "4 on the Fourth", and it started and ended practically in our back yard, it was definitely too tempting to pass up.

After all, the boys have oodles of stamina from soccer, and with the year-round-outdoor-weather, Husband and I both continue our training routines--practically uninterrupted--in all 4 seasons these days. Since relocating last June, I've even extended my typical outing to somewhere between 4 and 4-1/2 miles each time...I credit the hilly nature of our town for this phenomenon. (Because "That which doesn't...cause you to collapse into a puffing, sweating, nauseated heap...makes you stronger." Isn't that how the saying goes?) So we put our names down, crossed our fingers, (and I picked up our bibs and swag--which happened to be little jars of local, homemade race booty EVER! Who needs yet another silly t-shirt, anyway?) and waited for the Day of Reckoning...or what have you.

In the meantime, a teensy bit of trepidation began to build in the back of my brain. I mean, there's always some of that anyway, mostly due to the fact that my body, when left to its own devices, would N-E-V-E-R willingly do something as crazy as, you know, "run" at 8 a.m. But this time there was the added uncertainty of "What if it feels too long? What if I get too tired? What if I turn out to be the absolute slowest plodder in the whole recorded history of organized road racing?" (If you're thinking that my inner voice can be a bit of an over-dramatic pain in the butt, trust me, you have nooooo idea...) So my goal for this particular outing was quite modest: I wanted to finish in 40 minutes or less. That's it. No pressure, no hurrying, no worries.

Auspiciously, race day revealed mild temps (around 70*) but fairly brutal humidity (approximately 150,000%....or, um..."98%"...but it totally felt like the first one, believe me). As we trotted off from the Starting Line I repeated my mantra "Nice and easy"...then checked in with the old legs and lungs to see how it was going. And whattya know, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I felt...pretty doggone great. Don't get me wrong: I wasn't burning up the road with my blazing speed, or anything--but "slow and steady" was my game plan anyway, and since it was working out so well, I was sticking to it. As I passed people along the way (which always happens, and always makes me feel awesome...or at least like I'm not actually the pokiest person out there on the course...I'll take it...) I realized that, thanks to the relative flatness of the terrain (THANK YOU, race organizers!) I wasn't even breathing hard.

In fact, when I crossed the blessed Finish Line at 38 minutes and 49 seconds (unofficial time, as measured by my trusty Timex), I concluded that this might very well have been the easiest race yet for me, personally. I scanned the masses for the rest of my tribe...and there they were, lined up at the homestretch....waiting for me to pass by them so they could cheer. It turns out that they only finished 3 minutes ahead of me this time, which is unheard of in our race history. So the Final Stats lined up like this: Derek and Riley finished together, at 35:45, for 298th and 299th place overall...out of 755 total participants! Royce came in mere seconds behind them, 302nd. I, of course, was the last finisher on Team WestEnders, 420th overall, but 26th out of 62 for my age group,, which sounded just fine and dandy to me.

Well, there's nothing like clocking a nice 4 miles...before 8:40 a.m., am I right? As a bonus, I had achieved my 10,000 steps for the day by the time we returned home for showers...and the delayed delivery of jumbo mugs of iced coffee to deserving recipients (or, you  know, "me"). I must say, not a bad start to a July 4th weekend. And now that the hard stuff is done, we can get started on the very crucial picnics...patriotism...and passive muscle recovery (Hello,couch...and televised baseball games)!

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