“There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that's your own self.” **Aldous Huxley**
I have been waiting a year for the 2nd annual Bull Island 4 miler in my current home town of Poquoson, VA. In 2009, at the race’s inaugural event, I was just starting to feel good about racing. I had run my first sub 30 5K and had been working all winter on extending my endurance for my first half marathon. I was a brand new member of the Peninsula Track Club, who was timing the race, so I was also enjoying meeting the members and beginning to feel like part of the local running community.
This year a few things were different. I’m a much more seasoned racer, I know tons of people at the local races, and I have given up traditional running shoes. On the other hand, unlike last year, it was blazing hot and the mosquitoes were out in force. Before the race even started people had given up, not even wanting to try in this heat. I was feeling like I had a slight edge in this case since I have been running mid-day for the last few weeks and am fairly acclimated to the heat.
The road we were running on is one that has flooded recently and many houses are being repaired so I ran the route a few days ahead of the race to check out the viability of running in barefoot. The asphalt was good, but there were a lot of loose rocks and other debris. I was also worried about how hot the road would get since there was no shade and no grass on the edge of the road to retreat to if I felt like it was getting too hot. With all this in mind, I decided to wear my huaraches. The sole material I chose is very thin, flexible, light weight, and not impervious to rocks, but they did fine on the training run. Needless to say they got a lot of attention at the race start. “Are you running in THOSE?!” One guy yelled, “Cool huaraches!” He told me later he had planned on running in racing flats, but after seeing my huaraches, decided to go bare. It must have worked for him because he won 3rd place overall for the men. The best part of that was knowing I’m not longer the only barefoot runner in town! I hope to run with Elijah again soon!
The race itself was miserable. I have to laugh at my complaints about the heat and humidity for last year’s race because we would all have killed to have those relatively cool, bug free temperatures again. Unfortunately, I feel like I have lost a lot of speed over the last few months while focusing on distance. I set a much too ambitious goal for my last 5K and burned out so I wanted to set a goal I could stick with and decided that 9 minute miles would be a good place to start under the conditions thinking, if I felt good after the first couple of miles, I could kick it up. I ran a one mile warm up, which served me well because I felt really sluggish at first and needed to get the blood moving in my muscles.
I didn’t take off too fast, but it took a lot of will power to hold my pace in that heat. I had decided to carry my own drink so at the water stop I just dumped it over my head and kept running. My knee didn’t hurt at all, but I knew from the last couple of weeks that if I stopped and walked, it was going to stiffen up so I kept on running. I had started out pretty far back in the pack, but steadily passed overheated runners one by one. My final finishing time was 35:41, almost a full minute per mile faster than last year! This moved me up from 6th place last year to 2nd (once again missing first by a frustratingly small margin.)
Just like last year, the best part of the race was beer and pancakes afterwards. Any other time that combination sounds revolting, but after a hard race it is the perfect recovery meal!
Walking back to my car after the awards ceremony, I was stopped by a couple that said they had seen me running around town. Of course, they thought I was nuts at first, but after a few minutes of answering their questions, they were intrigued and ready to look into it more.