Cliffhanger Run 2009

Let's review.

Thursday: Leaping with exuberance. Though I dare not say it aloud, I think I'll pull Sunday's Cliffhanger 5K in under a 10 minute pace. I really really want to do that. From where I was just two months ago (11:30ish), hitting a 9:anything would be like having developed mutant powers. Legs feel fantastic.

Friday: Trainer Kevin ramps up intensity. Again.

Saturday: What the [polysyllabic vulgarism of your choice]?! PAIN. Why is someone trying to hacksaw through my hamstrings? N. barely presses them with the Stick and I jolt and flop, an hilariously vocal landed trout. Oh pain. I curse TK, curse myself for agreeing to single-leg hamstring curls, then get a grip.

This post is about getting a grip.

The mental. OK. First, it's not TK's fault. That workout is killer fun and will build you up amazingly. It's your own damn fault for not backing off those curls when you felt them stretching your cooled-off legs. You knew better.

Second, is being upset going to do anything but knot up your shoulders and back? Frustration's gonna sit in your legs and wind 'em tighter. Relax already. Make the most of your day; don't waste it in self-important nonsense.

Third: Tomorrow you get to run run run. It doesn't matter what hurts. You get to run run. If you are anything but elated by this prospect then you are a fool. Aren't you excited to run? See? You are. Forget everything else. Baby, you get to RUN. And don't your feet feel good? Amen. And calves, silky easy? That's right. And quads and hips and core, set to aid their hamstring teammates? Yes! Sing it! It's time to RUN!

The physical. 8 AM: Bite a pillow while N. rolls out those screaming muscles. (Good man. Does not mind a bit inflicting necessary pain.) 9 AM: Walk Annabelle for an hour. Stretch a lot. 10 AM: Rake leaves. Laugh at the neighbor kids playing in leaves. Stretch a lot. Evening: Lovely ice bath. Then grab the stick and rolling-pin the muscles some more.

The Run

Except for the hamstrings, which were at about 50% of great, body and mind had realigned properly by morning. Snub the pain; chase the fun.

The best part of Cliffhanger is warming up and hanging out in the crowd at the start line: this run is like a big block party. Most people are running in packs of friends. It's even less competitive than the Zoo Run, and that's saying something, since it's hard to maintain a competitive vibe when runners stop cold to say, Oo! Look at the giraffes! Cliffhanger is even more mellow. There were a couple of people running in their jammies.

The run twists slightly downhill along a limestone cliff, past a waterfall and gorgeous views of woods and city, then doubles back and twists up the grade. The road's narrow; you look the leaders in the eyes when they shoot past like comets. Instructive.

Once out of the opening clog, the run was workmanlike: steady pace a quarter-beat faster than normal to the turnaround, then a strong negative split back up the hill, which this year felt a lot less like a hill. And yeah! I found somebody to race. #277, in a pink hoodie, 13 years younger, about 45 pounds lighter, and however it happened, a few seconds behind my chip time today. I caught her and we started racing a half-mile out; I pulled ahead at a quarter mile, and she completely toasted me in the last 50 yards. Chip time be damned, that was winning. She was by far the better runner, and it was a pleasure to match up. I found her afterward.

"Hey, thanks for making me go so fast over that last mile," I said.
"Wow, I felt you right there coming back at my shoulder," she said.
"No chance," I said, "That finish was just an even mix of 'oh shit no' and 'cool, she looks awesome!'"

Thanks again, #277 aka Jen. Good race!

As for benchmarking and all that... 31:05. It's close enough; let's call that a ten-minute pace achieved. And I placed fourth in the age group, which is an insanely goofy statistic and has been cracking me up all day. (There were a lot of walkers.)

Oh, also, a sixty-year-old woman smoked me. Thus: hope for the future!