My first real race since Covid! There were some differences, masks were worn at the start/finish and we tried to social distance at the start. But this was a small race to begin, about 100 runners in the 15k, so it didn't feel much different.
There were 2 people intent on the front of the race, 1 woman who looked a cut above the rest and 1 guy who looked vaguely familiar with a Runner's Flat shirt on (Cedar Falls). I joined their start and pace for the 1st 100m until another vaguely familiar guy passed us to take the lead with a purpose. I matched him through the first 1/2 mile which was altered from 2 years ago. Now it has a lot more short and steep ups and downs. Quite the different way to start.
I let the leader go as we were well under course record pace once we got to a flat stretch. I was just thinking that Drew made the right call in suggesting the classic singlet w/ arm sleeves combo as I was feeling quite comfortable and the wind was being mostly blocked... then it started pouring rain. So I cursed Drew and yelled out an audible "Seriously!?" at the heavens. Thankfully the rain only lasted a minute or two, not enough to get soaked.
Back to racing. The biggest hill of the day is early on and I felt very strong going up. It was hard to tell if I was making up ground but I told myself I was to gain confidence. We made it over the top and I had made up some ground. About this time we started passing the 30k/45k runners that started earlier. I had been annoyed before the race thinking about all the runners we'd be passing but it actually gave me some adrenaline as my ego wants to show off. All of a sudden I was right next to the leader and he was breathing heavily. He confirmed that he was Mike Norberg who also lead 2 years ago before I passed him around 5 miles and has the course record from last year. I confirmed I beat him previously and that I wasn't Devin, the stud who was signed up but apparently didn't show up.
It didn't take much to get a half step on Mike as we approached a hill. And as I'm prone to do (and sometimes a poor strategy), when I get a few steps on someone, I just want to bury them... so that's what I did. I kept my cadence up and my legs pumping up the hill and down the next and soon I felt a solid gap. It definitely felt like deja vu as I rolled away from Mike, but I was a little concerned that I was making my big move just 1/3rd of the way through the race.
I focused on staying strong but smart until the final big hill before 6miles. The hill didn't feel nearly as good as 2018 not surprisingly. But still no concerns on falling apart. All of the miles while in the lead I really fixated on passing the longer-distance runners and trying to engage them by saying "Good Job" and the like and getting mostly brief responses in return. It was a good distraction and I'm grateful to have not been alone.
I hit 8miles a little after 49min so sadly I couldn't take it super easy if I wanted to beat my prior time. Of course right then I had a rather slow uphill as my legs were losing their hill strength. Thankfully a downhill gave me all my speed back. By 9, I knew I'd beat my prior time, but I should have researched the counterclockwise course record as I would miss that by 11sec (I beat my CW CR by over 1 min and win overall by 3+ min).
Great to win and beat my younger self (granted, previous race was on a hot September day). I somewhat wish I had better competition but a thorough win is very motivating. And since I assume this is my last race of 2020, I will finish with 2 victories in 3 races this year. Not half bad (literally, only 1/3rd were bad).