Running Buddies, Part III

Posted on May 15, 2015. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

“You got this.”

She was waiting at the bottom of the hill just short of the finish line. The steep hill. The hill some genius thought would be a good idea to put right here, blocking the view of the end of things, but not the sound of people clapping, music playing.

“F*%@,” I said before I knew I would say it, the word escaping with my breath.

“I know.” She nodded. “Come on.” And ran me up the hill.

The YOSA 10k, my favorite 10k, the only race I really try to place in.  The course usually meanders through a neighborhood, across somewhat rolling hills. But this year it was moved to the River Walk, along a series of hills hugging the San Antonio River just south of the city, on the Mission Reach.

The 10k was a double out-and-back. I hate double out-and-backs. Races are mentally challenging already without having to repeat the same scenery, the same steep hill just short of the finish line.

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Not that it’s all bad, experiencing the same thing twice. The tuba player standing on the hill near the halfway mark belting out songs I’d never before heard done in tuba. The wildflowers studding the tall grass, waving in the breeze.

The breeze that blew at what felt like 25 mph, both ways.

My plan was to run hard but not too hard. I was running a half marathon the next weekend over the truly rolling hills in Luckenbach, Texas, and I wanted to save my legs.

But I ran hard anyway. I couldn’t help it. Once the clock started I was off. At the first turnaround, halfway through the first 5k, I found myself counting the number of women ahead of me. The second time around I was determined to pass as many as I could.

By the last half mile my legs were throbbing low and hard, like a tuba singing for me to stop already, or at least slow it down. I ignored them, kept my eyes down, and ran. Prayed that I would just make it to the finish line, just up over this low grade, long rolling hill, and around the bend. Then I would be there. Done.

Except I forgot about that hill. The steep hill just short of the finish line that some genius thought would be a good idea to put there.

When I looked up again, I saw the sharp incline first and knew I couldn’t make it. I was out of steam.

But I saw her second.

“You got this,” Stephanie said.

Just a few steps and we were up the hill. “It’s all you.”

She skipped back down as I ran toward the finish, knowing. It’s never all me.

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In Sync with Greensleeves

Posted on April 12, 2013. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Texas country roads

Greensleeves was in my sight from the moment the 10K runners split from the 5.  There were only 4 runners ahead of me.  Greensleeves was the closest.

This is a mistake, I thought as we approached the water stop before the turn, not to keep my eye on her but to even think the name Greensleeves.

Everybody knows “Greensleeves,” an age old song whose tune has been most frequently adapted to Christmas music.  Think “What Child Is This” and you know the tune. Slow. Kinda pretty. Not exactly conducive to fast running.

But it wasn’t my fault that my brain chose to name her this.  She was, after all, wearing green sleeves, a shoulderless running bra with unmistakeably bright green sleeves.

For almost a mile, I couldn’t shake the song from my head.

But I made a promise to run well.  It was the Wild Woman 5K/10K, part of the first annual Wild Woman Weekend held in Blanco, Texas, and I needed to run faster than ever before.

I had to lose this stupid song.

When we turned at the halfway point, the stream of runners trickling along for a good half mile or more startled me.  I had been focusing so intently on what lie ahead of me that I hadn’t even thought about what might lie behind.  It didn’t register until that moment that I was actually running pretty well, but it would only take one powerhouse runner to catch her second wind and I’d be left in the dust.

That was enough to blow the song right out of my head—and to gain quickly on Greensleeves. Before I knew it, I was close enough to hear her iPod.

I hung back for a bit, debating what to do. We still had almost 3 miles to run and I didn’t want to pull out all the stops just to pass her and risk crashing close to the finish line.

I knew she knew I was there.  She glanced back once or twice.  We were running virtually alone on a country road outside of Blanco, and it felt a little creepy.  I kinda felt like a stalker, running so close behind.  So I pulled up to run beside her.

The next 2.5+ miles were some of the best running I have experienced.  It was almost surreal. There were no people, only cows and birds, the wind and the smell of flowers.  If there were cars, I don’t remember them.  We simply ran, breathing simultaneously, keeping the same pace, feet striking the pavement in sync.

When we hit mile 4, there was no marker to indicate it. I held up 4 fingers. This is 4, I said.

That sucked coming down, Greensleeves said at the bottom of a steep hill.

It sucked going up, I replied.

There was no more talking, no need to.  We were in stride, side by side, and running fast.

I’ve never checked my watch so frequently. I wasn’t interested at that moment in beating her. I was, instead, astonished at our pace:  7:37, 8:02, 7:58.  For over 2.5 miles we maintained an 8-minute mile average.  We might as well have been flying.

With less than 1 mile left, Greensleeves stopped to drink and, I think, to breathe. I kept running, but not as fast.  It just wasn’t the same without Greensleeves.

She shot across the finish line only a couple of minutes after me.  I waited, high-fived her when she crossed.

That was great, I said.  Thanks.

Dang, she said, and we smiled.

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