Monday, June 20, 2011

Cross country

On Saturday I ran my first ever cross country 5K (or cross country race of any kind). I've run tons of road races (obviously), and several trail "races," but never a full-fledged cross country race. I know this one was because it was at Lakewood High School and the cross country coach was in charge.

I learned that a cross country course is a bit of a hybrid between a trail run and road run. Actually there aren't roads, but this one had a bit of pavement and track, a cross country trail through the woods (a lot like trail running, but not technical, just dirt and gravel), and some actual cross country across fields and such.

This run was in memory of Lakewood High student athlete Scott Skiles who died almost five years ago in a car crash just before his senior year. It raised money for the school's booster club and scholarship fund. They had both a 5K and one-mile event.

On Friday night I prepped for the race by hanging with the Book Club ladies, eating vast amounts of chocolatey food, watching the movie Chocolat, and even drinking (unusual for me) about 2/3 bottle of chocolate stout. Not only do I rarely drink, I never drink beer--but this paired nicely with the chocolate hummus that I made.

Yes, I said chocolate hummus...chocolate peanut butter hummus, to be exact.

No, that is not a bowl of is delicious chocolate PB hummus.

One 15-oz. can garbanzo beans
3 oz. smooth peanut butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon instant coffee or espresso (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Blend everything in food processor until smooth. Add water while processor is running, until hummus is desired consistency. Serve on whatever you please!

I promise you it is very good. I may in fact have eaten way.too.much. Even though I thought I ate modestly of everything else, suddenly at some point my stomach was overly, uncomfortably full. I had to unzip my jeans, and when we finally started the movie, I fell asleep during at least the first half (I was up really early that morning).

The rest of our Chocolat menu....not everything was chocolatey. Cheese fondue with bread and veggies, fruit with caramel, peanut butter and nutella, deviled eggs, chocolate martinis (I stuck with the beer as it was "lighter"), bacon-wrapped shrimp with spicy barbecue sauce, chocolate marinated flank steak (made by me), grilled asparagus, tossed salad. For dessert I brought a decadent chocolate ganache layer cake, but we were too full to eat it and I sent everyone home with big pieces.

When I got home at 1 a.m. I was no longer painfully full, just full, so I had a tiny slice of cake just to try it. Mmmmyumm.

I got together my stuff for Saturday and set the alarm for 6. That wasn't a lot of sleep!

Saturday morning was grey and drizzly. Too bad, the last few days had been quite nice and the weather turned just in time for the weekend. Of course.

I got up to Lakewood High at 8 and the 5K wasn't until 9:30. There was a one-mile race at 9 and I thought I might incorporate that into my warm-up. I picked up my bib and used the bathroom. Then I walked up to check out where the races began. I still had time to sit in my car with the heat on for a while before I warmed up.

Finally I dragged myself out of the car and started jogging around to warm up my legs. I ran around the track a couple of times then up to the starting field. I did a couple more laps then stood behind the line-up of one-mile runners.

I followed the group across the field at brisk jog. I couldn't help but pass some of the slowest runners. I noticed that running on grass is harder than pavement...not that that's news. I was going about 9:30 pace.

Just ahead of me there was a little boy, about eight years old, who would run a little, stop to walk, then start running again when I approached. I decided to run along and pace him, encouraging him to keep going. That was quite a challenge because he was breathing hard and half crying all the way. I started using the tricks I use on myself, like run to the guy in the blue coat, run to the fence, etc. A couple of times he did stop, but I coaxed him along and pretty soon we got to the final stretch, the track. I saw the finish clock ahead and thought he might finish under 10 minutes! He ran hard and although the clock passed 10, it was only by a few seconds. He did a great job!

I veered off to the side, bypassing the finish line, and continued around the track to the cut-off to the parking lot, where I dropped off my jacket at the car and headed back up to the starting area. After jogging around the field a couple more times, my total warm-up distance was 3.1 miles.

Then we all gathered along the "starting line," e.g. edge of the field. There were maybe 30-40 people running. A bunch of them were high school cross country kids, but there were a few adults as well. Meaning, some assurance that I wouldn't finish last!

Although I have done a few trail races, none have been at race pace effort, so this was a brand new race experience for me. I was pretty certain I would not be able to manage a sub-8 5K pace, so I hoped just to average sub-9. I really didn't know what was realistic.

I hurtled across the starting area with a pretty hard effort. The speedy younger folk soon disappeared into the distance, but other than that I was holding my own. The first mile was around the field, across some sort of grassy area, and down alongside the track for a bit. Several times along the course we had to run down grassy hills. The first time I was nervous of falling and a coach-like guy told me just to let myself go with it. I did better the next couple times.

I wish I could remember the course well enough to describe it, but my recollection is fuzzy. This is what I remember: grass, dirt, more grass, pavement, grass, trail through woods (dirt and gravel), two short steep gravel hills, more grass and dirt, repeat trail and hills, grass again, track and FINISH. The trail in the woods was probably about 3/4 mile long and it is the school's cross country trail.

The course was fun to run, but one of the things I found challenging, particularly on the trail, was to keep myself running hard and not lapse into easy running. This type of terrain seems so suited to leisurely jogging. I did push pretty hard, though. My first mile, which was before we got on the trail, was 8:16.

For the first mile or so, after everyone spread out, the closest people around me were a couple of males about my age or older. One was behind me and the other remained consistently ahead of me. As we crossed a field about halfway through, though, I saw him stop to walk a bit. I don't know if he had gone out too fast or what. Obviously I passed him there and he never got back ahead of me. The hills on the trail took their toll and mile 2 was 8:37.

At some point after that I caught up to a younger guy (20-29 AG), wearing lacrosse shorts, and ran on his heels the rest of the way. When we got to the final stretch on the track, however, youth prevailed, and though we both sprinted hard to the finish he pulled ahead and finished several seconds ahead of me.

I really, really wanted to finish under 27 minutes and my Garmin time says 26:59. I tried not to push stop prematurely so hopefully my actual time was a second or two faster. Mile 3 - 8:40. I really did gun it on the track, though, and my pace for the final .2 miles was under 7:40, I believe.

My total race distance was 3.2 miles. (Average pace of 8:28 per mile for that distance.) I can really see how distances can be inexact in cross country, considering that often you are just running across fields instead of on a precisely marked road. There was one place in this race where I came out on one side of a soccer field, and my destination was an opposite corner, so I just ran diagonally across. Thank goodness I didn't run around the edge or my distance would have been much further!

Click on "aerial" to view terrain!

I had been running in a short sleeved shirt, and it was raining or drizzling throughout the race, so by the finish I was more than damp. I didn't want to go all the way back to my car for a jacket, though perhaps I should have. Instead I opted for a post-race massage, since I was standing right next to the tent and they had a spot immediately available. Perhaps because there wasn't a line-up, my massage was way longer than a typical free massage. I must have been there half an hour. Halfway through they gave me a blanket as I was getting cold.

The massage therapist said she wasn't accustomed to sports massage (neither am I, actually, I just take whatever I can get), but she did a great job, really getting into my sensitive spots (glutes, quads, calves), and even doing some stretching. At the end I did start getting anxious about the time, as there were other people waiting and the awards were about to begin! I was sure I had won my age group, primarily because I wasn't even sure there was anyone else in my age group! I grabbed half a bagel to refuel while I waited.

First they did the one-mile awards. My little running companion, Grayson, won his age group!

Then the 5K, and none too soon. I was shivering in the damp. I got my first place AG medal and there were 2nd and 3rd place females behind me! They may have been walkers...but a win is a win! I would have liked to leave then, but it seemed awkward considering that we were in the bleachers and I would have had to cross in front to get past. Plus I wanted to wait to see if my secretary's son, Arjin, won anything. He's quite fast but so is his age group, 30-39. In the end he was second. The winner had a 16-something time! Unbelievable!

Here's me and Arjin after the awards.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

Congrats! How exciting to take on a new challenge like a cross country race. And chocolate hummus-- sounds intense!