You've been warned by the title- this is a long one. I've divided it into three parts in case you want to skip something. Enjoy!
Part 1: The house
We rented a house for 12(ish) of the teammates. (We run as a team called "Running for the Win(e)". Thus, our blog name.) The house was amazing. Travers and I took a half day vacation Friday to pick up the packets and get there a little early. After that, it was rest and relaxation (and for Travers, wine drinking). The only concern was the pouring rain that was supposed to start that night and carry through the race. Sure, California needs the water, and I actually like running the rain (minus the extra chafing). However, the post-race wine festival is not as enjoyable when it's pouring directly into your alcohol. Although I suppose the state-wide drought is more important than our alcohol.
Left: Packet picked up, ready to go! Right: view from our amazing rental house
Saturday morning was finally race day. I didn't post any pre-race thoughts about how I thought I would do for 2 reasons: (1) I didn't want to say anything positive and jinx myself, and (2) I haven't done a single training run with more than 40 ft of elevation gain and this race had 500 ft. Granted, it's not insane for the Bay area or anything, but it's more than enough when you're pushing a hard tempo pace for over an hour and a half. Nonetheless, I didn't know how it would affect me so I set a goal of PRing (sub-1:38) with a secret speculation that I could probably do a 1:36 on a flat course and I could maybe possibly have a small chance of doing it on this course.
Miles 1-3: Uphill then downhill
The race starts with a ~130 ft hill within the first 2/3 mile. I have a tendency to begin races too slowly because I'm afraid of the pain of race death, but I knew I wanted to average 7:20 and I didn't want to lose so much time on the hill that I couldn't make it up later. So I charged up it and clocked a 7:40 for mile 1, and I hit mile 3 averaging exactly 7:20. In retrospect the uphill charging was a bad idea, but I didn't know it by mile 3 quite yet.
Miles 4-9: The rollers
For about 5 miles here I held a constant 7:16-7:20 pace which was right on target. They had a timing mat at the 10k mark and I crossed at 45:34 which is a 10k PR for me! (Disclaimer: My 10k PR is about 4 years old. But hey, I'll take it. With 1 PR already achieved for the day, can I just stop here? No? Crap, ok.) By the time I hit mile 6 or 7 in these rollers, I was really starting to feel the effects of the hills. It became clear that the mile 1 charging was a very bad idea. I tried to NOT think about how the race was only half over and I was already tired, but sadly my math brain knew there was a lot of running left. At the very end of mile 9 we started climbing and I knew that the race was about to get even worse.
Mile 10: The long, unrelenting uphill
We have run this race 6 years in a row and they have used three different courses. In the past we have always run down this hill (or skipped it altogether), and it even feels long running down it. In addition, we drove up it on the way to the race and it felt bad even in a motorized vehicle. Before the race I had calculated that if I could hold 7:20 for the rest of the race, bring this mile in under 8:00, and finish strong I'd have a chance for my 1:36. Needless to say, the hill was awful and I felt like I was barely moving. I wanted to quit and walk so badly, but I doubted that would even help much. The steep part of the hill was over by mile10.7 and I noticed my average pace for the mile was 8:20...shoot. As it flattened out at the top I really picked it up and squeaked in a 7:59.6 for mile 10. And it felt like DEATH.
Mile 11: Smallish up and down
In this mile, there is actually about 40-50 more feet of climbing before you start heading down. I remember feeling so good to not be on the giant part of the hill anymore that this went pretty quickly, despite the extra climbing. When I passed the mile 11 marker, my stupid calculating brain told me that if I could average 7:20 for the rest of the race I would get my 1:36. My body felt so heavy and I thought 'maybe I should just give up and go for 1:36 at a different, way flatter race.' But then I thought, 'I've already been suffering for the last hour.. what's another 15 minutes? I mean, do I really want to have to do this AGAIN? Nope.' Gotta love the internal dialogue that happens during a tough race.
Mile 12: Downhill to flat
I knew this downhill was coming and I was excited about it. I knew I needed gravity's help to get that 7:20 average. It felt terrible but my watch showed a 7:08 and I was thrilled to have banked some time, given how miserable I was feeling.
Mile 13: The END
This mile had about 30 feet of very gradual climbing. I don't know if most people even noticed it. I, on the other hand, was SPENT. Completely dead. From mile 12.0-12.3, I kept looking at my watch constantly. I would hope that 0.1 mile had passed, but each time I looked I had only moved about 0.02. I saw my pace for that mile creeping up slowly each time I looked 7:23...7:24...7:25. Around mile 12.3 I couldn't take it anymore. I wasn't going to lose my 1:36 with 3 laps of a track left. I put my head down, decided not to look at my watch anymore, and basically just started flailing all of my limbs as much as possible in an attempt to move my body in the forward direction and come in at my goal time. I felt like wanted to vomit. I thought to myself "I will not run again after this for a VERY long time." Finally, at some point I saw a banner that said "FINISH" and somehow eventually I was actually there. I got my PR (1:36:36!) and I hated running (seriously) and I hated that course.
After about 20 minutes, I started not feeling like death and I was able to enjoy the festival with the team (minus the rain in the wine problem). We stuck around until the end and I'm glad we did- Team Running for the Win(e) got 2nd place (and 6 bottles of wine!)! Great job, team :)
Part 3: The party
Fellow blogger Will turned 30 this weekend, and like every good 30th birthday party we celebrated with a lot of alcohol. The theme was tequila and tapas and we had plenty of both. We also gathered around for the Giants World Series game and drank our victory wine. Awesome cap to race day!
Upper left: view from the house in the rain, Upper right: victory wine, Lower left: we all know what this is, Lower right: Everyone pitched in with some homemade tapas!