I wasn't there to win the race; I was just there for a good 13.1 mile run.
But when you put runners in front of me, I can't help but compete with them.
Yesterday, I ran the Blackwater Trail Series Half Marathon - which was indeed a good 13.1 mile run. Just under two miles in, we had to cross a stream. The race staff had put up a bridge, but the bridge was carried away with the rains this week. So we grabbed a rope strung across the water, and clambered in up to our chests. We did the same on the way back through.
I knew the stream was coming up by the shouts and screams of those in front of me. Turns out, it wasn't too bad; the water was warmer than the air. I couldn't help but think to myself "By God Woodrow, it ain't dyin' I'm talkin' 'bout. It's livin'."
Just across the stream, I asked someone with a GPS watch what his pace was. 9:17, but that was too fast, so he was gonna slow down. I took off ahead, thinking I'd shoot for 9 minute miles. My long solo runs had been in the 9:30-10 minute mile range.
After about 3.5 miles, we turned onto a big loop, and on the loop is where I saw Red Shirt in front of me. I don't know his name, but I called him Red Shirt. He stayed about 50-100 yards in front of me the whole time, sometimes closer, sometimes further, depending mostly on how long we stopped at aid stations.
My wife was waiting for me at the third aid station with a refill for my handheld (water bottle) and some more Clif Shot Blocks. Race staff had told me this aid station was at six miles, and I arrived in 45 minutes. That means I was doing 7:30 miles, or it wasn't six miles. I don't think it was six miles. I ran up to my wife, topped off my bottle and my snacks, gave her a sweaty, snotty kiss, and took off with renewed motivation. Something about my woman will do that to me. She got back in the car and drove along the road which paralleled the trail, honking on her way to the next station for another one of those lovely kisses and some shouted encouragement.
Did I mention she's wonderful?
At the end of the loop, we went up a little hill next to an aid station, and he started walking. I slipped past, finally. Colorado made hills a lot easier, and thanks to my support team of one, I didn't have to stop.
I came across the finish line at 1:50:51. My pace? 8:28. That's a definite personal record.
My shoes, New Balance Minimus Zero Trails, performed excellently. They feel like a moccasin, but they have excellent traction, even in mud. And the water didn't stay in them very long, and it didn't make them heavy. I wore lightweight Injinji socks underneath to prevent blisters.
On the trail, I ate Clif Shot Blocks, which are the best endurance food I've found. I just cut the tube-pack of six in half and shove it in the pocket of my handheld or my shorts. They're not sticky, won't cut your lip like a Gu, and they're easy to chew. Now I just have to find a place to buy them cheap.
Three more weeks of training until the Pensacola Marathon. After that, who knows?