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Fueled by Food, Friends, and What Felt Like Frost

December 1, 2013

2013 Run 4 the Pies

piesNovember 28, 2013
Bib Number: 342
Overall Placement: 310 / 1646 (18.8%)
Age Group Placement: 12 / 100 (12%)
Gender Placement: 89 / 912 (9.8%)
Chip Time: 31:37.137

In the days before our Thanksgiving Run 4 the Pies, in which the first 900 finishers walk away with an apple pie, I had been watching the weather forecast attentively. Meteorologists predicted that in the days leading up to the race our weather would remain fairly consiststent, with highs in the upper 80s. But, the night before the race, we were expected to be hit with a sudden sharp cold front, which would make temperatures plummet into the 40s overnight. At gun time, temperatures were expected to be in the 50s.

I was excited to finally be running a race in my preferred cooler temps–I feel just about perfect running when the temperature is in the 50s–but I knew that it was far from ideal to be facing those lower temperatures for the first time on race day. Besides, with the slight wind coming at us from the north, it felt a little cooler. As I stepped out of my car on race day morning, therefore, I was interestingly dressed, wearing a skirt with high socks, a tank paired with running sleeves, a long-sleeve tech top, and a fleece over that. And I was shivering. I lost the fleece before starting a quick warm-up jog with the kids, then enjoyed watching the kids’ 100-yard dash. After the Boy’s age group–the last to run–was finished, I shucked off my pink long sleeve top, staying in my tank and running sleeves. I didn’t have a lot of time left before the race would start, but I knew I needed to find my racing pace before I got in the chute, so I went off for a quick run at race pace.

For the first time, I was happy to have lots of company at the race. Though Little G was away with family for the holiday, I had lots of my spiritual family around me–about ten of my church friends had trained for this race.  Usually interested only in my own performance, on this day I was deeply invested in the running of all those who had come from so far, and invested so much, in this stretch of road. When they asked, I had told them honestly that I hoped to run the race at about eight-minute miles. That would net me a 32-minute finish, though, and I knew I wanted to come in a little under that.

We lined up as the clock edged closer to gun time, and I noticed that some of us were comfortable staying closer to the back of the pack. I started to move toward the front, and a few of our church family followed me. We stood huddled together a few rows back from the pack, shivering–we’d all shed most of our layers, knowing we’d warm up as we ran.

Mile 1. We start unceremoniously–no gun, no bullhorn. Everyone just starts moving, and we’re off. I lose sight of my church friends immediately as we work through the crowd. The first part of the course goes through the neighborhood, and as we turn I’m trying consciously watching my pace. Sub-8 pace doesn’t feel quite as easy as I had hoped it would in the cooler weather. I’m watching the people around me, trying to focus on those who are running and breathing without struggle. I find myself working up a slight incline expecting my church family to pass me at any minute. I consider my arrogance in assuming an eight-minute pace would be easy for the four-mile distance. 7:55.

Mile 2. My breathing gets easier as I settle into a rhythm. Ahead of me I spot a runner with a large turkey hat, and marvel at the ease with which he’s running about seven-minute pace. I focus on keeping an easy, steady pace, reminding myself not to pick up the pace just because this rhythm has become easy. I find people beginning to pass me, and remind myself there’s a long way to go yet. I know this course well enough to remind myself not to open up at all until I see the straightaway that leads to the second-mile marker. Once I turn onto that street, I realize I have a chance, not just to take my sleeves off (it’s getting warmer), but even, maybe, to leave them with my watching family. I begin to peel them off, which requires also taking off Garmie–a delicate operation. I’ve already lost my headband somewhere in this mile, which I didn’t bother to pick up, but if I drop my $300 GPS, I’m definitely not leaving it behind. 7:58.

Mile 3. As the mile begins I’m still dealing with a little guilt over having narrowly missed a spectator as I tossed my sleeves at the Boss. I try to put the incident out of my mind and prepare myself mentally for the single worst mile in this race, which will take us along the train tracks and abandon us runners to our own solitary company, at a place in the race when we are no good for each other, too exhausted to do much but breathe hard and run on, trying not to fall too much off pace. Though it’s not extraordinarily windy, I know if I’m going to feel the wind at all in this race, it’s going to be on this stretch, and, sure enough, as we open up onto the northbound stretch along the tracks, there it is, in my face. I look down and see my pace has slowed by about twenty seconds. I press a little and determine not to pace off those around me, who I know are also slowing down. Instead, I tell myself, I must insist on moving slowly through the crowd, remembering to save enough in the bank for that last long mile. 8:05.

Mile 4. We pass the mile marker and I tell myself I can let out a little more, but find I don’t have a lot of energy left. My finisher’s kick is all but gone. I look at Garmie, seeing my pace is 7:45 or so but feels harder, and refocus on passing people instead of the clock. I know everybody is slowing down as the effort weighs on us. I mentally berate myself for not bringing my inhaler to a cold-weather race. As I try to pick up the pace in the cold air, I hear myself begin to wheeze, and find myself unable to fully push air into my lungs. Still a half-mile from the line, I know I can’t red-line that long. I hold back, but I’m frustrated. My legs want to go, and my lungs are closed. I work around the crowd, around the last turn, and into the chute, grabbing my pie ticket as I slide under the clock. 7:21.

In the park, around the finish, I discovered that about five of our church runners earned pies, a solid result for many for whom this was a first or second race. Some are enjoying the sport and are planning to line up to run again, some even desiring to train for a longer distance. And we’re hoping many more will join us next time, either for this race next year or for another race in the near future.

As for me, though this wasn’t a personal best at this race, I managed to complete the distance at sub-8 pace, and though my asthma raised its ugly head in the cold air, I was satisfied with my time. When the Boss asked about my time as we found each other, I had to tell him honestly, “I didn’t even look at the clock as I went under it.” I know a race in which I didn’t look up at the clock is a race in which I really ran well, and am not measuring myself solely by the clock. I was happy to get to run this one again, and happier yet to get to do it surrounded with people I love.

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