A relaxed day with Ash spent snuggling on the couch and playing at the park leads into a stressful 20-minute flurry of preparations for the 7.4-mile hilly race at Sabino Canyon in the evening. I'm desperately trying to find a running outfit that matches - a hard-to-find prospect in my dresser - and also fits - which is even harder to find. I'm attempting to stave off a full-on meltdown over my bad eating habits and worse running habits of the last four months that have caused such weight gain (particularly around my belly and upper thighs) when I realize I forgot to prepare dinner for Ash and pack warmer clothes. Chris arrives in the midst of the flurry and is surprised to see me flying about the house like a chicken with my head cut off.
We make it into the car, where he turns on Dave Matthews and leads us all in a breathing exercise. I feel better. Ash falls asleep. I am so ready for this run.
Ash awakes upon arrival at Sabino Canyon and promptly throws a gigantic tantrum over wearing his shoes. He wants to wear his flip-flops, which are more comfortable. But it's cold, and windy, and I want him to be warm. I worry about the time I am racing; will Chris and Ash make it without any additional major meltdowns? Ash promises to wear his winter coat the whole time if he can wear his sandals. We have a deal.
Chris asks if I see anyone I know; I turn around and there's my friend J, the person behind the gorgeous shots found on my blog in recent months. He's already ran one Phoneline Lap (9 miles) and needs to prepare for the race up-and-back on the road. Chris, Ash & I wander to the start, where Ash cheers for me as I start.
I position myself at the back of the pack; I know I'm slow. I'm aiming for a 90-minute finishing time. The fastest I've done the road is about 1:28ish. In the last three weeks, I've run the road three times and finished in 1:31, 1:36 (HOT!) and 1:29. The 1:29 was a major, tough push. I'm not sure I can do 1:29 tonight, but I am sure am going to try. The caffeinated sports beans should help, I think.
J runs with me, then ahead of me to take pictures, then stops to pick up litter. He catches up, then stops to talk to someone he knows. Once he catches up again, he jokes that we are "cruising on Speedway in our low-rider." This is an easy stroll through the canyon. I concentrate on running as much of the uphills as I can.
Two miles in, as I head up the three-mile hills, I realize I'm running more of the hills than the last three weeks, and it feels pretty good. I leap-frog with two women in pink who like to walk when I like to run, and a woman who reminds me of Lisa. I wonder where Pat is. There's a guy up ahead who could be him, but I can't catch up.
The moon hangs over the canyon walls as darkness descends. Twilight in the canyon is gorgeous. I power-walk the last .75-mile hill to the top, watching the people I leap-frogged with walk faster than me up the hill, and I feel frustrated.
I slap five with Pat as he heads down. I make it to the top in 47 minutes, where J is waiting, taking photos and making sure the volunteers have the glow sticks out and ready for us back-of-the-packers. I grab water and a glow stick and launch down the hill, flying past everyone. Metric comes on the iPod and I dance down the road, my arms at my sides simulating wings. I use my glow stick to bang on imaginary drums and wonder if people are thinking that I look like I'm having a seizure or something.
There are only a few people behind me - god, I'm slow - but I don't mind. I'm having the time of my life; I love the downhills. Eventually, J catches back up to me. He calls me "OnePinkGlowStick," and talks about night noises in the canyon - I don't want to hear them; they'll scare me! Cake starts singing about friends and four-letter words, and I think of Jeff, who helped me through Zane Grey one year ago, telling me "CAKE, Angie, Cake!" We'll make it through; this is easy, it's CAKE! Jeff's voice gives me extra encouragement and I pick up my pace, knowing I only have two miles to go. I check my Garmin; if I can keep a 12-minute-mile pace, I'll make it with two minutes to spare. I should keep an 11-minute-pace, knowing the course is mostly downhill.
Darkness makes it hard to see the road, but I don't want to pull out my headlamp - it'll take too long, plus I enjoy not being able to really see what's going on. I feel faster this way, and I'm in a wonderful zone. I don't want this to stop! But the last HUGE, STEEP hill looms in front of me. I decide to walk it as J says he's gassed but needs to run it. An older gentleman races past me as he runs to the top. Way to go! I hit the top and launch downhill again. Three-quarters of a mile to go, mostly downhill.
I fly down, down, down. It's dark and I can't read my Garmin (which button turns on the light?!) and that's probably a good thing. I pick up the pace, feeling amazing. The older gentleman is trying to pass me again but I won't let him. I turn up the music - Silversun Pickups singing about making it to the finish line - so I don't have to hear his loud breathing and footsteps. Three-tenths to go; the finish line lights are a giant spotlight, silhouetting the line of people cheering us in. The older gentleman flies past me with his final burst of energy. I see a small, dark shape on the side of the road next to a larger one. It's Ash and Chris. Ash keeps up with me for a good tenth of a mile before slowing down. I'm feeling good and want to finish strong. Faster and faster and faster.
I finish in 1:26, setting a PR for this course. I'm so happy. I walk back up the road to Chris and Ash and we walk back to the finish line.
Ash watches a wild west gunslinger who is funny and entertaining while I get colder and colder and wish the food line wasn't so long. I'm too cold, so we head home, picking up some chocolate milk on the way home. Ash goes to bed and Chris and I split a ham-and-gruyere cheese pizza-type thing while discussing future races and how my fueling/training strategy actually really worked on this race. I finally kick Chris out; it's late, I'm tired and I still need to shower.
Fresh and clean, I fall asleep happy and sore and promising myself I will find a few more fun races this year and train for them. That will help my clothes fit again.