Today I ran my very first cross country race! I wasn’t 100% sure I’d run it up until about 40 minutes before I left because last night my left hip started being weird. I haven’t gotten hip soreness in a while, but perhaps a combination of foam rolling in recent days (which I haven’t been doing THAT much of but also I am new to it?) and an intense HIIT/cardio workout yesterday did something to make my hip… weird. Maybe I wouldn’t even say “sore.” It wasn’t like I was in pain, but at the same time, I wasn’t sure I wanted to push it.
So I decided this morning to just do a lot of stretching, keep the foam roller off the sore spot for the time being, and take an Ibuprofen. I walked the dogs around the block about 40 minutes before I had to leave and assessed how I felt. I was okay. It was settled. I was doing it.
The race was on the grounds of the local VA Medical Center, a sprawling campus I lived near for years but never saw up close until today. It looks like a New England college campus, with endless brick buildings, multiple parking lots, and tree-lined walkways. I kind of want to live there? But not actually?
I got there JUST in the nick of time to find parking – really my only complaint about the day was that there should have been signs or people directing traffic to tell people where to park. I ALSO could have left earlier. Once I got my bib and my (nice quality!) long-sleeved race shirt, I ran back to my car to throw the shirt inside (I hate running races in long sleeves, even in today’s 48-degree weather), ran to the start, got my playlist ready to go, stood still for the national anthem, got my app going and boom, we were off.
It’s strange running on grass! It’s not bad, though – I just had to take those few extra milliseconds to make sure I wasn’t stepping on a little mound or in a ditch. So a bit more attention to my feet. I guess that’s part of the challenge.
I spent the first half mile plowing through the crowd and feeling like a goddamn superstar until I fell in step with the other people who were running about my pace, and then it was just about trying to keep up. My first mile split was 7:53. It was looking like I was on track to a sub-8:00 pace! That’s been my goal for the 5K, and although this was a 4K, I thought it would still be rad to break 8:00.
I felt pretty good throughout. The weather was nice and cool. I got stuck behind a few people I would have liked to pass here and there, and a small but steep hill nearly killed me (and everyone else) towards the end, but I crossed the finish at 19:52. I was so happy to finish in under 20 minutes, I said out loud as I crossed the finish “UNDER 20!” because I am very chill.
Now, in a 2.5-mile course, breaking 20 minutes would mean breaking 8:00 min/mile. Right, math whizzes? Because 8 x 2.5 = 20. So anything less than 20 results in less than 8. However – and here’s the crux – 4K is not 2.5 miles. It is 2.48548 miles. A hair under 2.5. Which means that, ultimately, my 19:52 finish would not have me break 8:00. It had me exactly at 8:00.
I realized all of this when I checked the results printout they tape to the outside of the truck after the race.
Well, it’s okay. So I didn’t break 8:00. But hey: I came in 4th in my age group. I mentioned yesterday that I wasn’t expecting to place in the top three due to the larger field today (there were over 500 runners at last year’s race). I honestly thought it’d be nice if I was in the top 10. So coming in 4th was kind of cool.
I even stayed for the medal ceremony, and not just because there were free bagels, of which I naturally partook.
And the best part: my hip is fine! At least, it is now [knocks on wood until my hand bleeds]. I didn’t even feel it in the race. So I hope that’s behind me.
Tomorrow is my long run, and after skipping the past two weeks due to 1) my heel and 2) the rain, I’m looking forward to getting out there again. It also means I will eat pancakes tomorrow, and really, that’s all that matters.
UPDATE: Well, do I feel like a fucking idiot. I just checked the results page and realized that since the top overall female Masters winner was in my age group, I technically was awarded 3rd place in my age group. I was there when they announced the awards for my group BUT I COULDN’T REALLY HEAR THE NAMES BECAUSE OF BACKGROUND NOISE AND I DIDN’T HEAR MY NAME BEING CALLED SO I NEVER WENT UP THERE.
Jesus Christ. I didn’t realize there was a separate Masters category.
Next time I come in 4th, I’ll pay closer attention.