Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Winter Flight 8K winner kisses and tells

Thanks to Caitlin Chrisman -- one of the founding members of the Charlotte Running Club -- for contributing this report about Sunday's Winter Flight 8K in Salisbury:

Doing the first race of your new training cycle is like going on a first date.

With the date ... you get nervous because you have no idea if the person likes you. You contemplate the countless scenarios of how the date could play out. If the date goes bad, you want to get it over with sooner. If the date goes great, you maybe get a kiss at the end. And afterward, your friends call you to see how it went.

So as I headed up to Salisbury on Sunday for the Winter Flight 8K -- my first race in more than three months -- I was experiencing some of those same butterflies. I was nervous because I had no idea what kind of racing shape I was in. I contemplated the countless scenarios that could play out. If the race went bad, I'd want it to end ASAP. If the race went great, I'd hopefully wind up with a trophy at the end. And afterward, I knew my friends would call to see how it went.

Anyway, here's my recap of the day's events:

My friend Jay Holder and I hitched a ride up to Salisbury with our Charlotte Running Club teammate Boriana Bakaltcheva. As soon as we arrived on the Catawba College campus, we saw a slew of friends and acquaintances from Charlotte who had come just to cheer us all on, which was extremely exciting. Since the day boasted temperatures in the upper 60s, Jay was kind enough to bring his sport sunscreen so that this semi-albino's skin would not burn during the race. After lathering up, we were off for the warmup.

As we ran, I started getting concerned because my throat seemed really tight, as if I was coming down with a bad head cold. I was wondering if my breathing would be OK during the race. But I pushed these thoughts aside; I knew all I could do was run the best race I could, regardless of the circumstances.

After the warmup, we made our way to the start line to check out our competition. It looked like there were at least four girls who looked capable of running sub-30:00, including 13-year-old Alana Hadley, who has won several races in Charlotte over the past year. Immediately before the gun, I gave fist bumps to friends and foes around me for good luck. The race director blew the horn, and we were off!

I could feel two people on my shoulder, but instead of worrying about them I focused on staying relaxed through the first mile. I settled into a groove with Alana, Molly Nunn (a former teammate of mine at Wake Forest), and some guy in a red shirt. It was nice to settle in behind Red Shirt Guy so that I could get a slight break from the wind. After awhile, I could feel the pace slowing and knew I needed to make a move. Luckily, after the first mile, there was a decent downhill, which is where I pushed down and left Red Shirt Guy and the two girls.

After the move, there were two other guys about 20 meters ahead that I could focus on for the next two miles over the rolling hills. I got a boost of energy when I saw my friends Chris Jones and Todd Mayes standing at the top of the second big hill, especially because they told me that it flattened out from there.

However, not long after that I ran into yet more hills. To take my mind off of them, I focused on the guy that I was reeling in. After climbing one final 400-meter hill in the last mile, we turned back into the Catawba College campus, where the course dropped down before veering onto the track at the school's Shuford Stadium. I felt fantastic considering the heat and the hills.

As I rounded the last turn on the track, I saw the clock ticking away -- 28:37, 28:38, 28:39 -- and I pushed harded so that I would get my reach goal of 28:50-ish. As I stumbled through the chute, I was directed to a table where a woman wrote down my name and time (28:51) with a pen on a piece of paper. Very old-school, but very cool at the same time. I felt like I was in high school again. [Editor's note: Caitlin was the top female finisher, and sixth overall out of 250 finishers. Her average pace was 5:48 per mile.]

After meeting up with Jay (who finished third overall) and winner Bert Rodriguez, we cheered as several more of our friends from Charlotte entered the stadium. Then I went for a cooldown run with Molly, Alana (for a bit), Jay, Boriana, and Bert. We talked about how we each felt at different parts of the race, and about how none of us wanted to run up another hill.

The awards ceremony took place in the college gym and the trophies were probably the biggest I've ever seen. I also won $100! Not bad for my first date -- oops, I mean race -- of 2010.

[Caitlin originally wrote this for her blog, which can be found here. I edited her comments for clarity and brevity.]


Anonymous said...

First date – First race. Yes, good analogy for all the reasons you mentioned.

It seems like the race worked out very well for you. Congrats!!

And instead of an end of date kiss you got an end of race 100 bucks! WOWOWOWOW! Will it go towards new running shoes?

I once won a $10 gift certificate for a third place finish in a 5K, but only because the lead runners turned the wrong way and followed the 10K course instead of the 5K course! Hey, no shame though, the win doesn't always go to the fastest...seems like I heard that story before somewhere...oh well..

Anyway...keep going strong!


Aaron Linz said...

an AWESOME season opener! Caitlin keeps recruiting men to train with her and she is doing such a great job helping them improve that after a few months, they end up running faster! Although, now she is back on the hunt to catch alot of us and her long term goal to overtake me in the 5k:) Cash money and a W. Way to go girl!