Friday, October 28, 2016

Pennypack Oktoberfest 10k Race Report

Last year, I ran the Pennypack Park Oktoberfest Half Marathon. I set a great PR in a season that led to me BQing at my goal race, won 2nd place in my age group and a beautiful handmade hygrometer, and declared that uberendurancesports and the Pennypack Park Oktoberfest race was my favorite race organizers/race of all time. Naturally, when registration opened I again signed up to run another 13.1 through beautiful fall leaves.

Then the Seattle Marathon happened the end of June and I didn't run much until the middle of July. Then I got an infant puppy and didn't sleep for a solid month, I started biking 40 miles a week back and forth to work 4 times a day, and I decided to concentrate on simply running 30 miles a week until the end of 2016 and my body acclimates to the mileage. Also, after The Summer of Burning Sun and Roasting Death, I lost all motivation to run longer than my standard run of 7 miles. Plus I've wanted to spend Saturday playing and napping with my puppy instead of running forever. And I could count on one hand the number of miles I've run in under 8 minutes since June.

So I knew I could run 13.1 miles, but I also knew that it was going to be nowhere close to my PR. I spent weeks trying to talk myself into being happy to just enjoy the fall leaves and the race atmosphere. I'm not very good, however, at tamping down my competitive tendencies. Despite knowing that I am endurance building, that I just added a LOT of unintentional cross-training into my life between the biking and the puppy-walking/playing, that I am consistently and comfortably running higher mileage per week than I ever have before, I felt like I've lost a lot of fitness. I'm not as fast as I was last spring. It's been ages since I've done a sprint workout. I already skipped the Philadelphia Rock n Roll Half Marathon I was signed up for earlier this fall. As the Pennypack Park race got closer, the more I waffled about simply not starting.

Then, the Wednesday before, I got an email saying that it was my last chance to drop down to the 10k! Aroo? They added a 10k option this year! It was perfect. The last time I raced a 10k was in the Bolder Boulder when I was 13. I ran a 9:xx mile in that race, and it felt like a monumental effort. My 10k "PR" was set last year around this time on a treadmill (45:48). As the race got closer I still waffled. I didn't feel fast and I really had no idea what time I should be aiming for or what I was capable of. My boyfriend, being the wonderful boyfriend he is, said that I was running, and that he and Zucchini (the wonderful puppy) would come along and cheer me on.

The entire drive to the race, we both whined that we wished we were back in bed. About a half mile from the parking lot, I realized I forgot my watch. I laughed and shrugged and finally surrendered to the idea that I would really be running on effort, not pace.

The delightfully Bavarian man announcing the start told us that since this was the first year of the 10k, the winner would set a course record, and win a handmade Black Forest German cuckoo clock. Le most excellent boyfriend told me to win. Sure honey.

We started and I ran off with people, happy to be frolicking in the chilly fall air. I stretched my legs a little but kept my breathing even. I passed quite a few people in the very beginning and then steadily passed more as time progressed. Without knowing what pace I was running or how many tenths of miles had passed, I had nothing to obsess over except the people around me. So I began targeting people in front of me and picking them off. Eventually, I saw a group of two men and two women far in front of me. Slowly, I got closer. Around Mile 2, I caught up to them and settled in behind them. At first, I struggled a little to stay with them. But then, as the hills became more rolling I began to leapfrog one woman on the uphills and the other on the down. Just before Mile 3, I charged down a downhill and left them for good. I ran along, slightly disappointed I had lost my motivating group to chase. I assumed the leaders were far ahead of me.

After another half mile or so (unsure of the exact distance), I reached the turnaround for the 10k. I leapt about a bit and asked for a high five. The gentleman serving as the cone to run around laughed, gave me a high five, and shouted that I was first woman. FIRST WOMAN?! "Get out of town!" I exclaimed, channeling a heretofore unknown part of me that is a genteel 70-year-old.

Suddenly, it was extremely important how far behind the other women were. I ran by the second place woman in bright orange arm warmers very soon after the turnaround. She couldn't have been more than a tenth of a mile or so back. And just like that, I was running scared. My legs picked up and my eyes focused. No more enjoying the pretty leaves. I wanted that damn cuckoo clock. It was mine. I powered up the rolling hills and spread my arms wide to tumble down the downhills as fast as I could. For the first time since Seattle, I was pushing and feeling serious pain and enjoying it. Plus, I was wearing my Seattle Marathon tech shirt, which felt a little bit like I was sticking it to the race. Watch me destroy this 10k, you stupid Seattle Marathon. I am going to win a goddamn cuckoo clock.

Every couple of minutes I turned around to look for bright orange arm warmers. They slowly faded into the distance. The last mile I couldn't feel my legs, but I loved it. I sprinted across the finish line with the biggest smile I have worn probably in any race I've ever run. Incidentally, I finished in 44:38, beating my "PR" that I set on a treadmill last year and setting my official 10k PR. I also hold the course record!! I'm sure it will blown out of the water as soon as anyone even a little fast shows up, but for a whole year it's mine.

Here is my beautiful cuckoo clock.
Zucchini (the puppy) is very suspicious of Cuckoo. Occasionally she gives it a little growl to keep it in its place.

Running for place not pace is fun. I love this race. I love the organizers. I love the Bavarian music and the bratwurst served afterwards. The pure joy exhibited by the people who run this race and the people who organize it is unmatched by any other event I've participated in. I will be back next year. Love you, UberEnduranceSports.

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