|The Bavarian Inn, just by the race start and finish area.|
|These are the overall winner steins - we need a scale for reference - they're about 2 feet tall.|
Nothing specific for this one, although I did get up at 3:15am the morning of my flight in order to run 8 miles in the pitch dark cold of Wagga - possibly just to remind myself of what I was leaving behind.
It should probably also be said that I spent the acclimatisation time going completely AWOL from my training plan (I did confess this to Benita later, I'm not sure why) - including a fair bit of time spent drinking beer, playing frisbee on the beach and watching fireworks. Also, not nearly enough food or sleep. In a way it was an experiment of one: if I do everything the opposite of what I'm supposed to, how badly will it affect me on race day? Hmmm, watch this space.
Then, at the expo I make a snap decision that is undoubtedly due to the company I'm keeping: I sign up for the 5K, which will start around 40 minutes after I finish the 20K. A good few people I know are running two races (mostly the 10K/5K combo) and I'll be in need of a cool-down, right? Plus, if I can get another stein for that - well, that's pretty outrageous, but also possible! It's also possible that I've finally gone completely insane, we'll soon find out either way.
Being July in Michigan, the Volkslaufe has a reputation for rather dicey weather. A couple of years ago it was over 100F (38C) by the 5K start at 10am, and everybody pretty much melted. This year, however, sees the coolest and therefore best weather in a long time: it's predicted to be just 50F (10C) at the start, and we wake at 6am to clear skies and not a breath of wind. Perfect running weather, in fact!
We head over to the race precinct early to set up the racing team tent: I've been made an honorary member of the Hansons Yellow Team for today, and on account of it being July 4, also an honorary American. We pitch it quickly and drag over chairs and tables; it's been so hot here in the past that shade was at a premium, and the tent indispensable. Today will be quite different, but the team members present still pose proudly:
Those racing the 10K head off to start first, while we 20K runners mill around in the cool morning air. We're starting (and finishing) over grass, and honestly I'm not in the mood to run fast. But the gun goes off and suddenly I have no choice....
Miles 1-3: 6:29, 6:16, 6:13 (pace in min/mile)
It's difficult to get up to speed on the grass, and there are somehow a lot of people around me - I definitely don't want to trip, so I'm being very careful as we finally hit the gravel path and turn sharply to the right. The course heads out through some truly beautiful countryside, but for now I'm preoccupied by the fact that there's a woman who looks around my age just over my right shoulder, and I can hear a couple of female voices behind me. They are casually discussing the weather and beaches in Florida - okay, we're only running 6:30 pace, but still - either they're just jogging (in which case they are going to destroy me later) or they've gone out way too fast (in which case, why are they still capable of talking?). All I can do is hope to leave them behind in the miles ahead.
With this in mind I consciously speed it up in miles 2 and 3, and as a result I lose the woman over my shoulder (who I later find out is not in my age group anyway - her name is Lisa, she's 46 and one of Michigan's top masters runners), as well as the chatty pair. There are 3 Yellow Team runners within sight ahead of me: John, Jesse and Bill. I wonder if I can catch any of them?
5K split: 19:50 approx
Miles 4-6: 6:24, 6:17, 6:27
Just as I have that thought, Jesse (who at this stage is closest ahead of me) visibly pulls away. Is he speeding up? Maybe, but a quick glance at my Garmin tells the truth: it's me slowing down again. I'm not being helped by the moderate headwind that has suddenly appeared out of nowhere, either - we've just turned onto a long straight stretch and the wind has definitely picked up. I need someone to draft off, but Jesse and co. are out of reach now; thankfully there's a guy wearing a blue shirt that reads "HillRunner" just ahead of me. I exert myself to catch him, but he's not happy with that and immediately surges ahead once more. Sigh, I wish these guys wouldn't react so badly to a girl catching up with them.
It's clear at this point that I'm not going to be able to run my usual HM pace today, so I might as well relax and enjoy the ride. For the first time I look up and take in my surroundings, and wow, it's beautiful out here! Cornfields stretch out on either side of the road, the sky is blue, the clouds are fluffy and white - it's gorgeous. And being America's birthday, every house we pass seems to have a flag in the front yard! I love how patriotic Americans are, especially because Australians are so much more casual about it - apart from drunken shouts of "Aussie Aussie Aussie, oi oi oi!" and gratuitous beer consumption at sporting events, I mean. Anyway, the Americans are doing it in style today, and it's very fun to watch.
10K split: 39:40 approx
|Und wir tanzen, tanzen, ja ja ja....|
|1 covered bridge, 2 happy excited runners.|
|The 5K course|
|Fast chicks.... ....fast blokes... ....insane raceaholics.|
|YELLOW TEAM!! With many steins, and ring-in Aussie wearing patriotic gear.|
I had no idea racing as part of a team was so much fun, and it's a major pity that nothing similar exists in the part of Australia I inhabit. Still, what an amazing weekend of racing, and a fantastic group of people to share it with! I didn't run to the absolute extent of my abilities in either race, but it was good enough to win me some pretty incredible hardware - my carry-on bag is going to be bloody heavy on the way home, that's for sure.
My experience of racing in Michigan has further confirmed what I already know: it's fun to travel and it's fun to run, but doing both at once? Priceless. And the American running scene sure makes a lot more of a fuss about Masters runners than the Australian one does, something that is not lost on me. I need to race more in the US before I get slow!
After sadly returning to Australian soil I find myself somehow signing up for another racing double, this time over the Wagga Trail Running weekend. Did someone say "Raceaholic"? Wheeeeee!