Sunday, September 9, 2012

Tunnel to Towers Ferndale

In the 5 years that I've been running, I've rarely run the same race twice. Partly because I like trying new events, but mostly because I haven't lived in the same place long enough. The first race I ran last year after moving back to Ferndale was the Tunnel to Towers 5k. I didn't even know about it until the day before. Despite having run 14 miles on Saturday morning, I still signed up for the 5k on Sunday. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to run in my town and support a good cause. I finished in 22:55 and placed second female. Yay for small town races!

Tunnel to Towers Ferndale 2011

As you probably guessed, I ran the Tunnel to Towers 5k again this year. The race was on Saturday so this time I planned ahead and took Friday as a rest day and moved my long run to Sunday. The race was about a mile away from my house so I walked down as a warm-up. I arrived just in time to see them raising the flag...

Along with the race bib, I was super happy to get two coupons for free Baker's Breakfast Cookies. The cookies are really good, but have more calories than a Luna bar and seem less filling, so I haven't bought any in years. Now I have an excuse to indulge.

The race started a little after 9:30am. It was a loop course and the nice thing about the course is that the slight uphill is in the first mile and it's not even that steep. After that there's a downhill and then the rest of the course is flat. Even though I started at the front of the pack, I honestly didn't think I was going that fast. But when I checked my Garmin later, I saw that my first two miles were 7:06 and 7:02.

Going out too fast caught up with me during the third mile and I could feel myself fading, but I had good motivation to keep pushing... when I registered for the race at the Ferndale Street Festival, the guy manning the registration table was the race organizer (although I didn't know that at the time). He told me that this year they were giving out engraved fire axes to the winners. I was planning to race anyway, but that was an extra incentive to really give it my all. I didn't want to presume anything because there are a lot of women in the area faster than me. However one thing I had on my side was that there was another, larger race in Fairhaven (Bellingham) that I figured most of the fast runners would be at.

Usually the last mile of a race feels the longest, but luckily I knew the course well enough to not be wondering where the heck the finish line was. There were two guys in front of me battling it out for first (at least that's what I thought at the time). They were pulling away from me and I just kept telling myself to hang on. No stopping until the race is over. I knew I was the first female so all I had to do was not get passed. I ran mile 3 in 7:41 and then the final .1 in 0:41 (6:26 pace). It was awesome hearing the crowd cheer for me as I reached the finish line... first place female!

Despite the slower mile 3, that was one of my hardest running efforts ever. I actually had to sit down and catch my breath which I can't ever remember having to do. (Usually I keep walking until my heart rate has lowered sufficiently.) I felt bad because I initially walked away from the race organizer when he was trying to get my name, but I think he understood I was spent and we ended up chatting later. It turned out the overall first place finisher, and winner of the firefighter division was the race organizer's son. He's a high school cross country runner and fire cadet. He ran wearing full firefighter gear and still finished in 19-something minutes! He was so far ahead that I don't even remember seeing him off in the distance.

Here's me with the race organizer, his son in the back on the left, and the first place male finisher on the right (with his daughter).

Not going to lie, I was grinning from ear to ear during the awards ceremony when they called my name. Obviously I realize that in a more competitive event, the winners are going to be running sub-20 times and my measly 22:30 couldn't compete. But at that time and place, it felt great to know I was the fastest female there. And what an awesome "trophy". I have absolutely no idea what I'm going to do with a fire axe (it's sitting in the corner of my bedroom right now), but it's definitely going to be awhile (if ever) before I get something that cool again from a race.