In my previous post I mentioned a 15K I happened to run on the Fourth of July…and WON! Ahhh! I have to say, it was exactly what I needed on so many levels – the good, the bad, and the unexpected.
I’ll start with a little background. A few days post-Grandmas, I was on a bit of a race registration spree. In the midst of said spree, one of my friends from work, CJ, texted me and told me he was running the Race Street Run. There’s a four mile or 15K option, and he was doing the four miler. After a few group text messages we roped another friend of ours from work, Leigh, into the fun. CJ runs the occasional 5K, and Leigh just started running this past spring. She recently lost like 50lbs (did it the healthy way and looks amazing!) and began to embrace running. They both signed up for the four miler, myself and one of CJ’s friends chose the 15K. I felt like I needed some redemption from Grandma’s, AND I knew one of my good friends, Mark H., had run this race before and really enjoyed it.
I did a little research the week before the race. It’s in a beautiful little town about 40 minutes from my house called Jim Thorpe. A pretty cool place to be if you are in the Poconos on the Fourth of July – apparently, they have quite the scene downtown. I’ve been to Jim Thorpe a number times and know it’s a charming little town, so that was appealing from the start. I stalked some past years results and knew that the overall winners were close in pace to what I could run. Some years they were faster, others they were slower – no doubt due to the fact that it’s July and the weather can be unpredictable. I researched the course elevation and found someone’s MapMyRun data from a few years ago (key words here: “a few years ago”). I knew I was in for uphill on the way out and downhill on the way back. I thought a little about what kind of pace I hoped to run and thought it was reasonable to shoot for 7 minute miles on the way out and 6:50 (or better if possible) on the way back. If all the stars were aligned, this would put me in the 1:03-1:04 range, and in the 6:50ish pace range overall. Cool. Good plan. What do they say about plans? Something about them going awry? 😉
I had no reason to question what type of race this was because my friend who ran it in a previous year, Mark H., is a road rat. Besides, the race was called the “Race STREET Run”…road race, right? HA. HA. HA. I showed up at the race and to follow suit with the weather from both Boston and Grandma’s, it was pouring rain. I wasn’t even cranky about it – desensitized is more like it. I was just like, here we go…again. I parked, found packet pick up and went back to my car to hang out until my friends arrived. CJ and his wife, Laura, showed up first and we hung out in their car. A few minutes later, CJ’s friend (Bob) showed up and got in to hang out with us. He’s a speedy guy but was NERVOUS, which began to confuse and concern me. I mean, sure, it was a little hilly on the way out, but nothing to be nervous over.
Until he started saying how he’s not a trail runner and how he really didn’t want to eat shit this year. Enter more confusion. Trail run? This is on a trail? What? CJ was all, “Oh yeah I probably should have mentioned that they changed the course last year and now it’s on a trail. It’s still the same elevation profile though, uphill then downhill.” Bob continued to tell us how he fell pretty badly last year because the trail is in rough shape. Um. Well…I mean I like trails…I’m signed up for a legitimate trail 15K at the Game Preserve (where I usually run serious trails) in a few weeks…but I might have thought twice about this one if I knew this was a trail race. I was in the mood to test my speed, not my agility on rocks and tree roots.
Bob mentioned that the first and last mile were, in fact, still run on Race Street, thus the race is still called the Race Street run. Still, the first mile IS still completely uphill with 7 miles of trails following it before a nice glorious downhill road mile. I semi abandoned my pacing strategy at this point. I say “semi” because I also didn’t know Bob well – maybe it was just a rail trail type of thing like I’m used to, and he thinks little cinders/crushed limestone classify as “huge rocks and boulders”. I quickly devised plan B – run the first and last mile like a bat out of hell, and survive the trail segments without dying. I didn’t want to risk turning an ankle or falling over a little 15K. My goal pace wasn’t off the table unless it was a serious trail.
We lined up at the start, and our race went off at 8:30. The four miler went of at 8:45, so my friends lined the streets to cheer us off. CJ’s wife, Laura, wasn’t running and captured a shot of the start:
The race benefits a local church, so a little prayer was said, the gun was sounded and we were off. As promised, we were climbing and the first mile was run on the road. The uphill was already more than I’d anticipated, but I hit the first mile in exactly 7:00 flat and entered the woods. I had the lead right from the start, and I didn’t see another female until the turn around. The first two miles on the trail were the most treacherous and hilly. I got a little flustered and frustrated. It wasn’t as steep as where I normally do my trail running, but it was MUCH rockier and muddier. Not boulders, but large rocks that made running pretty tricky, with the frequent tree root thrown in for good measure.
Around mile 3, the trail opened up a little bit and wasn’t quite as rocky, but since it was pretty much pouring, the mud was ridiculous. There were some points where I thought I was actually going to have my feet fly out in front of me from slipping! My pace for miles 2-4 was in the 7:30s, which I was happy with considering the terrain. It was completely uphill – no relief or recovery – and rough terrain. I brought a GU with me, thankfully and used it around mile 3.5. I knew I was going to need a boost on the way back, even though it was downhill. I was expending so much energy just dodging obstacles, let alone that it was completely uphill.
I hit the turnaround and had one more teeny climb (way to add insult to injury here), but I knew after that it was literally all downhill from there. Somewhere around mile 5, I crested the little climb and said, okay. Let it fly. Which I did, but honestly “letting it fly” was nearly the same pace that I held on the way up. Although gravity was on my side, it was actually harder to avoid the rocks and roots when coming down the mountain. My legs felt great, and I felt incredible (FINALLY) – but there was no going any faster, not if I wanted to stay upright. Once I hit the turnaround, I also glanced down at my watch to note the time. I didn’t look at it again until I saw the next female coming through – a minute and a half after me. She still had to finish climbing before she could hit the gas pedal cruise downhill, so I turned it up as much as I could. When I got to mile 6, I hit the really rocky segment again and just focused on my footing and running comfortably. I knew the road was coming up and I wanted that fast finish mile to continue with my training goal and to secure my win in case the woman behind me had a really strong second half.
I was all smiles when I hit the road: nothing hurt, my legs felt fresh, and it was all downhill to the finish. It was only after I started flying down the hill that I realized just how much we’d climbed on the way out! I felt comfortable and looked at my watch – 6:32 pace! And it felt GOOD, which was the first time in a long time I could say that. As I entered town and turned the corner, my friends that ran the four miler were all screaming and cheering. Leigh’s fiance, Mark, brought this huge bell and started ringing it as I came down the final stretch…
I crossed the finish line in 1:06:58, an average pace of 7:14/mile. Not the sub-7s I was gunning for, but also not the course I was expecting. I was four minutes ahead of the woman who came in second. Plus there was also this weird elevation profile thing going on:
The church had the little auditorium area opened up for the runners and there was lots of food and hot coffee. We hung around for awards. It was Leigh’s first race ever and she got second place in her age group! Her mom also ran, and won first in her age group. Bob ran a 1:03 in the 15K and took second in his age group – the overall male winners finished in like 52 minutes – WHAT?!
The church was built in the 1820s and had an elevator from 1911 or something in it that you were allowed to use, so naturally we needed elevator selfies on the way down…
…and it wouldn’t be a race if we didn’t celebrate after with a few drinks and some lunch, and Shock Top Spiced Banana Wheat Ale (what?! Who knew that was even a thing?! I don’t even like bananas much and it was awesome):
It may not have been the race I’d hoped for or expected, but it ended up exceeding my expectations once I knew what I was getting into. It was a great way to celebrate the Fourth of July, and there’s a good chance it will be on my list for next year!