On Saturday I woke up to - what a surprise - wind and rain. After going through the usual morning routine and packing a few wardrobe options, we headed off to Wooden Sticks Golf Club in Uxbridge. I picked up my packet and then got ready for an extended warm-up.
My plan was to run 11K before the race, with 6K easy and 5K at MRP. Hubs joined me and we set off to explore the quaint little town. We ran a couple of out-and-backs into the "downtown" area, along an old railway trail and finally in a residential neighbourhood. The wind was pretty strong and it rained lightly the entire time, but it still felt quite warm.
11.0KM (6.8mi) - 1:03:12 - 5:45/KM (9:15/mi)
5K MRP at avg pace 5:11/KM (8:20/mi) [goal 5:13/km (8:23/mi) or better]
I made a complete wardrobe change in the car (including shoes and socks) and decided to wear short sleeves, hoping I wouldn't regret it if it was very wet and windy out on the course. We walked back up to the golf club and I made one last potty stop while waiting for the start.
It was a small event so I waited until the last couple of minutes to hand off my jacket to hubs and line up. During the final announcements we were instructed to follow the green flags on the trails and suddenly I had a feeling that I might be in for a bit of a surprise out there.
The course started out on rolling country roads and we quickly spread out as everyone got going. I knew right away that it was going to be pretty quiet out there. I turned up my music, took in the scenery and allowed the first few miles to tick by. I was running MRP perfectly as planned, although I could feel that I was working for it when running uphill and/or into the wind. It continued raining but the temp was mild enough that I felt pretty comfortable.
Around the 5K mark we were suddenly directed down a deep ditch, followed by a sharp climb into the woods. And that's when I knew things were going to get interesting! The next 9K were primarily on wooded trails, unlike anything I have ever "raced" on before. I had to keep a close eye on the flags as well as the footing as I made my way up and down, winding all over the place.
It was impossible to maintain any form of consistent pacing, so I stopped checking the Garmin and focused on keeping a steady effort (and not wiping out in the process).
I would occasionally find myself running behind another runner for a while before eventually passing, but for the most part I felt alone out there. The volunteers were excellent at the aid stations and I made sure to thank everyone, though I was carrying my own water.
Some of the hills were really wearing me out and at times I was tempted to
With a third of the race to go, we were finished on the trails and picked up the cart paths of Wooden Sticks Golf Club. This was the section that we had been warned about and I was slightly nervous about what lay ahead, since I had already found the first 14K extremely challenging.
"The last 7K of the 1/2 marathon and 10K on the golf cart paths are challenging. It is a rolling course, with the last 2K being the toughest. There is a final climb to the finish."
I could see for miles looking out over the rolling landscape of the golf course and it was slightly intimidating, but also beautiful. I also hit a wall of wind coming out of the woods, but the course changed direction so frequently that I never had to run straight into it for very long.
I made my way along the marked paths and the climbs were short, but steep. And plentiful. With 5K to go I finally checked my Garmin to see if I was on pace overall, and I was surprised to see that a 1:50 finish was well within reach. I plugged along and found myself pushing a bit harder. I caught up to a couple of guys and tagged along behind for a few minutes before passing. I couldn't believe how lonely it was out there!
Before long I could hear the finish area and found myself tackling that final climb we had been warned of. At this point I knew I was way ahead of my goal, so I relaxed and even walked a couple of paces. I got to the top, made one quick turn and the finish line was pretty much right there.
A lady yelled out to me that I was the 5th female, and I smiled big, but thought "No way!" I spotted hubs [who was taking a video, which I'll post later] and ran it in.
We were treated to a buffet-lunch in the golf club after the race (which I shared with my supportive and patient sherpa) and of course we stayed for the awards! Since the overall female winner was first in my age group, I was awarded top spot on the podium!
I won a $75 gift cert for a local shoe store.
I got to meet two readers during/after the awards, which was such a nice treat! Hi Jeff and Jennifer!
The sun came out shortly after the race and it warmed up quickly. I was actually grateful for the rainy morning or I would have been pretty toasty out there.
It was a great experience overall. I love the feel of small races, especially when they are well-organized with excellent amenities such as this one. I would definitely recommend it (if you're up for a scenic but challenging course!) and I'll probably be back next year. Maybe I'll win the diamond next time!
While I ran quite a bit faster than planned overall and didn't exactly get the steady MRP pacing practice I was hoping for, I know I put in a good solid effort and a strong run for my final 20 miler.
eta: race pics