Last year’s Castlewood Cup was a great experience for a couple reasons: it was my first race with the tri club (an experience which proved joining was a great decision), and I got to meet some new internet friends for the first time in person. I felt like I ran strong in the race, and I had a lot of fun spending 9.3 miles talking about adventure racing. All in all, a very enjoyable day.
This year, I had an additional year of running behind me, real-life friends to ride with and meet up with at the race, and, above all, a goal. You may recall that back in December I was publicly gunning for my friend Wade, who’s become something of a race-day nemesis for me. While I dramatically improved my time in the Pere Marquette race, I failed to beat Wade, which resulted in two months of his gloating (so far). When he signed up for the Castlewood Cup, of course I had to take another crack at ending his winning streak.
|No, he didn’t enjoy his victory at all…|
|In response to my report card on my 2011 goals…|
Race morning was a cold and sunny 30ish degrees, with a wind chill of 18. Not an unreasonable temperature at all, except for the fact that Thursday’s high was something like 70 degrees. This mild winter has made me soft. My ride had set our departure time as “7:30 AIS”. I was running a little behind, but I had to grab a coffee on the way. I cut it close, but my A was in the S in time to avoid Wade leaving without me. That’s right, my competition was also my chauffeur. Keep your friends close and your nemeses closer.
|This year’s shirt|
Despite the cold, I had only brought a hoodie to wear before the start, so the race shirt came in very handy. As soon as I got it, I pulled it on over my other sweatshirt. I may have looked like a Texas orange Pillsbury doughboy, but I was still shivering. Luckily, Chuck and Lori joined us at the registration table and she let me snuggle in her coat with her. After talking for a little bit, we all headed back to the cars to hide from the wind until closer to race time.
About 20 minutes before the race began, we made our way closer to the start line. Big River Running had several propane heaters blasting, and I found myself a spot right in the middle of all of them. I looked around to see if I recognized anyone and saw Drew from Team Virtus, so I abandoned my cozy refuge to say hi before we all headed to the start.
This year, racers departed in waves that were 1-minute apart. Drew was (I think) two waves ahead of me, Chuck and Wade were one wave ahead, and Robin and Val were in my wave. We wished the boys luck (though I may have been mostly serious when I told Wade to break a leg) and pretty soon it was our turn.
|To view larger picture, click here|
The race begins with a loop around a flat, open grassy area. I was glad that Wade had started ahead of me so I wouldn’t feel pressure to try to keep up with him early, and I enjoyed the chance to talk to Robin as we circled the field. We separated when we got to the first big hill.
|From the 2011 race. This year I was on a mission that didn’t involve stopping to take pictures.|
I managed to run most of the way up, motivated by the sight of Lori, who’d positioned herself and her camera about three-fourths of the way to the top. I was not getting my picture taken walking (yet), so I kept slogging up in the slowest “run” you ever saw. Even after I passed her, I was afraid her camera was still on me, so I ran until I couldn’t anymore and then walked the rest of the way to the top, where there’s a brief level respite before another less steep hill.
I felt surprisingly good early on. Since I rarely warm up before a race, usually the first mile or so is rough, but this was ok. I definitely wasn’t chilly after the first hill! By the time we came out of the woods after hitting mile 2, I was ready to lose my gloves. Thankfully Lori was there cheering and taking pictures, so I tossed them her way.
Much of the race was suprisingly similar to my last Castlewood training run, and it definitely helped me to know what was coming up. It’s a great route, some hills, but plenty of down to go with the up. Lots of fun to run there. From mile 2-3, the course was fairly flat, which was good because I didn’t manage to run much of the next hills at all. Mile 3-4 was my slowest split of the entire race, at 12:48. Luckily, once you get past that section you can tell yourself you’re basically halfway done. I ran through the mile 5 water stop feeling pretty strong. As I grabbed an energy gel, I thought I heard someone call “Super Kate!”, but I didn’t recongize anyone there and thought maybe I was imagining things.
Heading up the hill I saw Lori, who told me Wade was about 2 minutes ahead of me. Damn! How did he gain a minute on me? I started getting convinced I was was going to lose to him AGAIN and spent the next mile or so mentally composing facebook statuses where I admitted being beaten once again by someone older, bigger, AND sick. Sigh.
Running alone this year, I had a much quieter race, and I didn’t have anyone pushing me from behind. Still, few people passed me in the back half of the course. One guy came flying up behind me, so I moved out of his way and he zoomed by without saying a word…but he was toast before mile 7 and then he was the one moving over for me. I kept catching up with people and be comfortable following behind, but they kept moving out of my way. It probably made me push myself more so that I didn’t get re-passed.
Just a bit past mile 7 I spotted Wade’s Team Godzilla shirt towards the bottom of the hill. I was so happy, but I held in my excitement and worked on steadily catching up with him. I was afraid if he saw me he’d speed up, and I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to run any faster at that point. I caught up to him before the course crossed the road, and then I quietly stalked him until I was ready to make my move. Right around the ranger station, I moved up next to him, said, “Just remember, I’m already a minute ahead of you…” and then ran past giggling.
|I actually paid for the pictures, but my computer isn’t cooperating with downloading them.|
The creek crossing was fun as always. I plunged in, hoping not to look as stupid as I did in last year’s picture there. I guess I was semi-successful. The return trip was pretty flat as we retraced part of our mile 2 route and then crossed the road for the absolute worst part of the entire race: the trip back around the field.
I guess it’s only half a mile or so, but it’s the longest half mile in history. I’d rather run uphill on singletrack. You can see the end. You can hear the end. But you just keep running away from the end…until finally you curve back towards the finish line. This year I didn’t have my teammates running with me and telling me to give it my all, but I was so ready to be finished with that stupid field that I ran as hard as I could, crossing the finish line in 1:39:42–a 3:23 PR, and more importantly, a long-awaited victory over my race-day nemesis.
|So happy to be finished.|
I waited around to cheer for Wade as he came through the finish, and Eileen, one of my Daily Mile friends, came up and introduced herself. She had been working the mile 5 water stop and had recognized me there. I guess the braids make it easy to pick me out. Anyway, it was great to meet her and so cool that she and her daughter were out there volunteering. Thanks!
We walked over to get some of the delicious pulled pork being served after the race, cheered for Robin and Val as they finished, and then hung around while they called out some attendance prize winners (I didn’t win, but Chuck did) before heading for home. Despite losing the nemesis crown, Wade was pretty good-natured about the whole thing and didn’t threaten to leave me behind even once. While he’s all about a rematch, I think I’ll savor my victory for a nice, long while. And you better believe I’ll spend the wait gloating.
|At least I can feel confident I wasn’t taking it too easy.|
Women: 73/135 (not quite top half, darn it)
Age group: 15/22