I rolled out of bed this morning feeling great. Looked out the window and saw some heavy mist rolling in off the bay and this cheered me even more since I love racing in gloomy weather. Despite all the apprehension I had coming into today, I felt calm this morning, finally convincing myself that my planned pace was within my capacity.
Besides a couple bathroom events, not much exciting happened between the apartment and the start of the race. The weather was perfect -- must've been in the mid-50s or so with the sun poking out here and there. It rained over night, so the trail was a little muddy here and there and the grass wet, which worried me about wearing my flats. But overall great conditions.
I located the SMU kids at the start to make sure I could find them later. As I was doing some strides, I recognized Sean's face from his blog and went over and said hi. Cool to see blog representation out here. Anyway, the race got underway, I started a little quicker than SMU #1 and had to ease off to let him get by me, then I latched onto his back.
He beat me by about 40 seconds at pre-nats 2 weeks ago, so I wasn't sure what to expect. But we reached 1k and the pace didn't seem too crazy. I actually felt good. Then we headed up into the hills and I just let him pull me along.
The hills on this course are nothing killer. Just some rollers that you run through at the beginning and end of the race. At this point, I hardly noticed them. Passed the mile in 5:06. Perfect.
The rollers continued and we passed 3k and headed down the final hill into the flats. 2 miles at the bottom in 10:13, 5:07 second mile. I was feeling really good.
A chase pack had solidified by this point and me and both SMU guys were in the middle of it. As we got further into the flats, I got antsy and wanted to push the pace. So I left SMU #1's shoulder and pulled in line with the leader of the pack and was startled to see the lead pack about 20 yards ahead of us. I invited him to go after them with me and he goes "Cool it, bro. We got 4 to go, they're coming back." Which I decided was good advice and stayed in line with him. I couldn't help noticing the sun breaking through the clouds on the opposite side of the lake. It was a beautiful scene.
We passed 3 miles in 15:17, 5:04 for that one, then 5k in 15:50 or so. I couldn't help feeling a bit ecstatic at how good I felt. We entered a patch of grass that turned us in a gradual 180 to go back around the way we'd come. At 5k, the lead pack was almost close enough to touch, but all of a sudden they were pulling away. Alaska Anchorage #1 must've made a move, I thought.
So I figured I'd had enough of the chill dude I was running with and started to pull away. He didn't resist. But I heard footsteps trailing me and figured SMU was on my tail. The 4th mile came and went at 20:20 if I remember right, so 5:03. The lead pack was the same distance away, and one guy had fallen off the back. I smelled blood and picked it up some more.
I caught him just after 4 miles and what was left of the pack was stringing out. I focused on the next guy. I caught him just before leaving the flats, saw it was AA #4 and tried not to think about getting beat by 3 guys from the same team.
Heading up the first hill kinda hurt. It's the longest and steepest, but it drops away on the back side and I focused on letting loose and allowing the downhill to rest me. There were still footsteps on my tail. I tried to pick it up some as AA #3 was about 20 yards ahead and I wanted to lose the SMU runner. I was starting to feel the race in my legs, but I still felt ecstatic about how things were going. And I knew I had plenty left for the finish.
The rollers continued rather uneventful. Each downhill I'd put distance on SMU, but then he'd reel me in. Passed 8k in 25:2x and 5 miles in 25:32, 5:12 for the uphill. SMU made several attempts to pass me, but I held him off and knew from how he settled on my shoulder he was hurting. This made me happy. Not because he was hurting, but because it meant my training is coming together. He destroyed me 2 weeks ago, and here I was shoulder to shoulder with him, 8k into the race, and he was hurting. AA#3 still had 20 yards on us, and I didn't want to go after him alone, so I invited SMU to go get him with me. He dug deep and pulled alongside my shoulder.
I came off the last hill into the final flat loop into the finish. AA#3 was still about 20 yards up, and I decided I would catch him. I quickened my stride and suddenly he was drifting back. SMU fell back. With about 400 to go, I pulled even with him and went past. No resistance. The turn back into the finish was about 200 ahead and I put what I could into gaining distance. It wasn't enough.
I came off the turn facing the finish and sprinted at what I thought was full speed. AA#3 blasted past and SMU was right behind. I put my head down and pulled a hideous grimace and found a little more speed. SMU started coming back and I thought I'd nip him at the line, but he saw me and managed one last squirt of speed to edge me. There's nothing I hate more than getting outsprinted. But there's plenty of time left in the season to work on that.
And then something happened. Something that has never happened in all my years of running. I heaved. Nothing came out. I heaved again. Again nothing. I heaved a third time and my oatmeal from this morning came flying out of my mouth and onto the ground in front of me. Proudest moment of my life as a runner.
I feel so happy about how today went and all that it means. My training is finally coming together. I am so grateful to be able to run, that my body is cooperating and staying healthy and injury free. I can't describe the feeling of joy I have after today. This is a beautiful sport we have.