With the sound of grown women crying.
Note to Self: when you sign up for a race that has “Hills” prominently displayed in the title, and markets itself as the 2nd toughest race in Connecticut, it’s not going to be a cakewalk.
Not that we thought that it was going to be easy. If you recall, we didn’t think anything at all because we forgot we were running the damn thing. But truth be told, had we given it thought, we wouldn’t have worried too much. We have suffered through the sufferfest that was the old Fairfield Half course, with hills you could ski down – but had to run up. (Even the new Fairfield course is hilly and it’s always 80 freaking degrees.) A little more than a month ago, I ran a hill named “Heartbreak Hill” and lived to tell. Colby runs trail races that end at the moon. So if we had prepared for the race, we would have thought, Hills. OK. So it won’t be a PR course, but we’ll be OK.
And those hills that knew we were ignoring them and not paying our proper respects? You know what they did? They kicked our disrespectful asses.
SAT AM: We start texting around 5:30 AM. Salt tablets? Address for race? Do we have the right date? Copious amounts of water? We’re ready. Kind of. I still don’t know where I am going, but fortunately, my GPS does. Call Colby from the car for pre-race giggles and nervous musings on the 66 degree, 97% humidity weather we are having (at 6 AM), and our call gets dropped twice. Even though we are less than 25 miles apart on the same damn road. Look for a post on cell phone rants coming soon.
We both arrive without incident. Colby is able to park within feet of the start line. God Bless the Small Race.
We are laughing because her number is 12. I’m 48. No, this is not because we are part of the elite team. It is because they assign numbers alphabetically. Still, it is cool to see her with “12” on her bib and I’m kinda wishing I married someone with an A last name so I could be in single digits.
We look around and can’t help but notice that some people look like they are heading to a Rocky Horror Picture Show or maybe the prom? We know this race was not marketed as a costume race and yet feel underdressed in our running shorts and singlets. For the Love of God. Please do not tell me that I am now expected to gussy up for a half. I can barely remember my Garmin and my Glide. Is there a memo I have missed? Stay tuned for a post on this topic.
Bib pickup starts at 7, race starts at 8. There are a few hundred people signed up for the race and there are 3 – count ’em – 3, porta potties. You do the math. The line takes up most of the 5K course. The race is delayed almost 20 minutes while we wait for the porta potty line to clear. We feel the temperature go up minute by minute and panic, quietly. The last visitor is cheered as he exits the stall.
And we’re off.
The first 2 miles are on a flat rail trail through the woods. Not too bad. To exit the rail trail to the rest of the course, though, we have to run up a wooden walkway that is narrow, steep and full of switchbacks and elderly people out for their morning constitutionals. The person in front of me almost took a gentleman out. This is weird.
Just after mile 2, our friend Patty and her daughter Grace were waiting to cheer us on. Grace even made a sign! Such a great surprise and made my morning.
I think it was around mile 3-ish where several miles of hills really started. Holy Crap. HOLY CRAP! For the next several miles, there was a total of 610 feet of vertical climb. That’s not hilly. That’s mountain-y. It’s also painful and at this point, I start thinking that I not only don’t like racing, I’m pretty sure I don’t even like running. I generally have at least one of these moments in any race where the mercury is above 70. Which it most certainly is at this point.
And it wasn’t just the big hills. The course is rolling almost the entire way after you get off the rail trail. Quads! Hammies! Calves! They all hate me at this point, as well as, I am assuming, Colby.
See, Colby was all ready to run a fun half in Branford that ended at a brewery on Sunday, but since I couldn’t make that one, she switched to this one. As all BRF’s do.
But that doesn’t mean that she won’t beat me to a pulp at the end. And it would be well-deserved. This course is hard.
I spend miles 7-9 running a little faster, thinking of how Colby is going to kill me when she sees me at the finish. Should I just keep running after the finish line until I get to my car and high tail it home? I think she has a busy weekend – probably doesn’t have time to drive to my house and kill me. Will buy me at least another week.
The sun comes out and I think of the delayed start, and all that beautiful overcast sky that was wasted waiting for people to clear the porta-potties. I go from hot and uncomfortable to a hot mess. In seconds.
It’s an out and back course, so the rollers that were there from miles 3-7 on the way out are sadly still there on the way back. Fortunately, many of the bigger hills were uphills on the way out, so we get some – not enough – never enough – but some – nice downhills on the way back. Except at mile 10, where there is an endless uphill that makes me want to puke. Or cry. Or both.
When I see our personal booster club (Patty and Grace), I know that just that weird wooden walkway and the rail trail are all that separate me from a massive bottle of water and a lick of shade.
Once on the rail trail, I’m kind of alone. I can see two guys about ¼ mile ahead of me and there is someone around ¼ mile behind me, but no one right near me. I realize that I have never run a race this small before. Felt weird, but kind of cool. More weird than cool, though. City Girl likes crowds. I also like someone to chase for the last mile to keep me going. Here, it’s just me and a bunch of trees that all look alike.
The finish is nice – plenty of people hanging around to cheer, and the medal is cool. Lots of water.
My face and legs are covered in salt. So are Colby’s. We are officially disgusting, sweaty messes. We don’t love our times, but it turns out that it was more because of the tough course than us having tough races, because we both finish well in our divisions. I actually came in 2nd for our division and got a sweet pint glass with the name of the race and my place engraved on the back it. We spent the next hour bitching about the race and agreeing that we are DEFINITELY doing it next year.
Did you ever doubt?