When I sign up for a Saturday 5K Walk/Run in a nearby town I think I am going to have company. I also erroneously believe the weather will remain moderate and not plunge below freezing on the day of the race. At the break of dawn on Saturday, I am forced to face some hard truths. I arrive minutes before the race by myself while my potential team mates remain at home snuggled in warm beds. With frozen appendages, fogged up glasses and very little competition I begin my wog (walk/jog) to the finish line alone.
Happily this turns out to be one of those “all’s well that ends well” experiences for me. The race starts in “waves” of one person every 15 seconds. Facing only 16 competitors, my turn to cross the start line arrives in no time at all.
All I can think as I solitarily attack this course is that my sister, Val, would wholeheartedly approve of my race strategy. She advocates racing exclusively in events where winning in at least one’s age group is almost guaranteed due to lack of competition.
Determined to join the glorious ranks of 5K icons like my good friend Terrie, I pass the one mile marker. Terrie once won a medal at a 5K in Smithfield because she was the sole participant in her age group. With thoughts of joining her as a 5K dominator, I place one frozen foot in front of the other and plod on. If only I realized how close to the front I am, I may have handled the finish a little differently.
Racing in a sort of vacuum with so few others on the course, I have no idea I am in second place for women OVERALL. When a genteel lady aided by a cane clip-clops by me, I am distracted and do not react quickly enough to thwart her. Mesmerized by the feeling that has only recently returned to my now somewhat thawed out feet, I wave and let her go by. This lack of competitive vigor so close to the finish line costs me an extra $5 in gift certificates.
I am a Champion
On the bright side, for the price of the race, a early morning wake-up at 5am, a ten mile drive to the event parking and a near hypothermic episode, I get a little exercise, some fresh air AND I take third place overall for women in this contest. That is the highest ranking I ever achieved in a race in my life. Assuming we exclude the two best racing costume awards I won. Once I got a prize for my sprint as a giant elf and once for lumbering along as a Christmas tree.
My prizes today include a $10 gift certificate at a local running store (hope they have walking gear) and a personalized tote bag. Of course there are always the bragging rights – let’s not forget those! But I can’t get too big-headed, I only surpass the oldest racer who is 80 years young by 1 minute and 32 seconds. I could hear her walker wheels squeakily devouring the pavement behind me near the end!
Riding the Rails
Other exciting news this week includes an off-road ride in the shadow of the Dragoon Mountains. Leyman and Jane lead a small group of Jeeps along the railroad tracks near our park. While the dirt paths that we follow are not technically difficult, they do run parallel to some very busy train tracks. I never use 4 wheel low on this adventure, but it is still an exciting day trip. For example, a couple of trail sections squeeze me between the rails on my left and deep drop offs on my right.
Continuously scanning my rear view mirror, I begin planning to eject if a train comes barreling up the tracks behind me. Because you know the engineer will blow the whistle right beside my Jeep in the hope that I will catapult out of the jeep to entertain the train crew. (Who wouldn’t?). In an act of excellent leadership (or is it mercy), Jane and Leyman lead us to an ice cream store at the end of the trail. That makes it a perfect ride!
So What's Next?
On New Year’s Day, just down the road a very special 5k will “kick” off at 9:00am. The race is call the New Ear’s Bray 5K. Runners in this race don’t have to be alone. They have the option of racing as a team with a burro. I know you all would love to see photos of me trying to coax a burro through a tunnel on New Year’s Day (again, who wouldn’t?). I will think about it, but I will likely travel to the course and celebrate with the spectators. Or MAYBE I could get someone to pay to drag me through the course?! As I am sure Stormy would have attested, I have a fair amount of practice being stubborn 🙂