Sunday, March 30, 2008

"This race paid for itself"

I worked really hard all week so that I could take some time off yesterday and go with Rob to the Hillsboro Roubaix, his first bike race as part of the Wild Card Cycling Team. I don’t think I’d ever been to a bike race quite like this before. Its actually pretty hard to spectate at a bike race because the riders go so darn fast and they all look alike, so its hard to even tell if you’ve seen your man (or woman) go past. At the many triathlons Rob has done, I always was able to stand in the transition area and see him several different times as he switched from the swim to the bike to the run. He’s done a couple criterum bike races—usually several laps around a centralized location—so again, I got to see him frequently. At this race, I pretty much saw him take off at the start and then zoom in at the finish, with a lot of standing and waiting in between.
Pre-race: Wild Card Cyclists are at the front of the line in orange jerseys.

Rob and Karl, just before the race

And they're off!

It was fun to watch though. The riders always have such brightly colored jerseys on and there is a lot of excitement and drama in the air. There were a bunch of bike races going on too (with pros and riders of various different categories), so even though I wasn’t seeing Rob very often, there was always something to see. I was a little freaked out because traffic control wasn’t so great. There was one intersection right by the start/finish area that was really tight—cyclists were zooming around, cars were trying to blast through, and one overweight traffic guard (who was consuming a big mac and fries) was trying quite unsuccessfully to keep it under control. As much as I hate drivers, sometimes I couldn’t blame them: it was very unclear what they were supposed to do at this intersection. I was standing next to a woman who had a son in the junior division, and she started helping out with the traffic control. More power to her, she was a mother lion alright.

As soon as I saw Rob and the other Wild Card guys go through this intersection (on their way up a big hill), I ran back down to the start/finish area just in time to see Rob cross the finish line, but not enough time to snap a photo. Darn, better luck next time.

It turned out that two of the guys from Rob’s team (Stew and Thomas I think) got 1st and 2nd place and Rob came in 6th overall. That is a really great job, to have so many Wild Card guys up in front of such a big field. Plus, the one woman on the team (that I know of) did the women’s race and came in 1st place overall. Talk about hard core. I think the Tour de France ought to be next on their agenda.

The race was really hard on me; I didn’t do anything but stand in the freezing cold all day, but I was exhausted. And hungry. I’d assumed that a few fig bars and a mealy pear would sustain me, but I’d severely underestimated that. Note to self: take something more substantial to Rob’s next bike race.

Being cold and tired, I actually went to bed at a fairly decent hour and almost got a whole good night’s sleep. Despite the fact that my dinner had been a bowl of cereal (will I never learn?), I needed to do a 17-mile training run this morning if I want to pull off the Madison Marathon in May. Rob told me that there was a 5K race over at Crystal Lake Park in the morning. It was a little bit pricy to enter the race, but 100% of the proceeds were going to needy families in Ecuador. Rob planned on doing the race (yes, after a bike race the day before!), and since my heart bleeds for all of Latin America, it wasn’t too hard to talk me into it. Sometimes doing a small race as part of a long training run can be fun. I figured I could run over to the park (approximately 2 miles), run the race (add another 3), run back home (2 again), where I could refuel and only have about another 10 to go.

It was cold and raining, so it didn’t go quite as smoothly as all of that. But it was not too shabby. Rob and I ran over to the park together (incidentally, Crystal Lake Park is where we got engaged some 8 years ago), registered for the race, and then shivered in the semi-freezing rain for about 45 minutes while we waited for the race to start. Actually, I couldn’t take the cold and ended up running a loop around the park to keep myself warm. I felt pretty out of place at this race. It was put on by the pre-med students or something like that, so it was a very small field of very enthusiastic college students who cared a lot about Ecuador, but had probably never run more than a couple of miles in their lives. That being said, it was one of the best organized races I’ve done in a long time. Much better organized than the marathon I did last December. For starters, the course was marked and they had orange cones and volunteers standing at the corners making sure everybody went in the right direction (not that it would have been too hard—it was 2 loops around the park). And they had a huge spread of food at the end—tons of really great bagels, cookies, fruits, pastries, even pancakes with syrup. I was really impressed.

At any rate, the race started and we took off. It was a little congested at first, but I could see Rob and the other leaders of the pack up ahead of me. We cruised down a bit of a hill and a girl passed me; as we got to the bottom of it, I went on ahead and didn’t see her again. I realized that I could see only one other woman in front of me; the rest were all guys. I hit the first mile at 6:55 and sped past the other girl. She stayed on my heels for a long time. I hit mile 2 at around 13.57 and around then some volunteers called out “You’re the first woman!” And then, “Right on your heels is the second woman!” I thought… no way!. Is this really so small of a field that my puny 7-minute miles have me out in front? I realized that this might be the only time in my life, to have the opportunity to be the first woman finisher in a race. I could hear #2 just steps behind me and I decided I was going to go for it. I kicked it and took off. Only 1 mile left, no problem. Besides, its not truly a 5K unless you puke at the end.

I blazed through to the finish line, where the race volunteers were screaming and cheering like I was about to win the Iron Man. I felt like I should tell them, settle down guys, I’m really not going that fast! They had put a red tape across the finish line and were shouting “First woman finisher!” and snapping about a million photos as I broke the tape.

What a feeling that was. Definitely a once in a lifetime experience, to break the tape. It wasn’t even my best 5K time by a long shot. I think the fastest I ever ran a 5K was something like 22.11 back when I was at least 5 years younger and 5 pounds lighter. This time I was something like 22.25, which certainly isn’t setting any records, but on a personal level, I'm not going to sneeze at. I guess these pre-med kids didn't know I hadn't broken a world record, and they treated me like I was some kind of royalty.

I met up with Rob after crossing the finish line and found out he’d finished about 3 minutes earlier in 3rd place overall. It turns out that only 1 person finished in between us: I was 5th overall. We hung around eating cookies after the race (not going to help me lose those extra 5 pounds) and shivering in the cold. Then they did an awards ceremony which was the coolest thing ever. Instead of handing out lame trophies or medals like most races do, they had real actual prizes donated from local businesses. You got to pick your own prize, and the male and female winners (that was me!) got to pick first! I chose a $20 gift certificate to Strawberry Fields—a local health food store I visit about once a week. Rob, as the 3rd place winner, also got to pick a prize; he chose a year’s worth of free bread from Panera Bread Company. No kidding! Its a little certificate and every month you can go in and get a free loaf of bread. I was standing there, basking in the glow of my fabulous cash prize, when Rob said, “Well, this race paid for itself.”

That’s true. The entry fee was $25 per person. I made back $20 and Rob got 12 loaves of bread, which has to be at least that. So our net loss on this race was probably negligible. Score.

We ran home, where I briefly contemplated throwing in the towel on my planned 17-miler, but ended up having some Clif Bar and pounding the pavement once again. I ran another 8 miles, ending up at 16.25 total for the day, which I figure is good enough. I did the whole thing wearing my Bitch Socks—these are socks specially designed for runners/cyclists and they have the word “Bitch” stitched into the cuff. One of the women in the cycling club was wearing some a couple of years ago, and I guess Rob said to her, “Wow! Where did you get those socks! I’ve got to get a pair for my wife!” He got me 3 pairs for Christmas that year, and I think Aunt Marcia was a little horrified as I opened them up. But I love the Bitch Socks. If you’ve got the word “Bitch” sewn onto your socks, everybody knows you are one tough cookie and they should not mess with you. And don’t forget it. That’s Ms Bitch until Dr.

Thanks for reading!


Anonymous said...

foxy mama SAYS,,,,,, WAY TO GO MS SOCKS. ( I just can't refer to you as MS B----- ) CONGRATS to you on a FANTASTIC race---- wish I could have been there to CHEER you on......... So, from the sounds of your BUSY weekend, Monday morning will DAWN waaaaay tooooo quickly!!! ESP, if it dawns, RAINING< BLECH.... is it EVER GONNA GET SPRING?????????? Congrats to Robby ,too!!! Glad I didn't know what he was DOING YESTERDAY, as I would have been MORE than FUSSED!!! luv and hugs

amypfan said...

Way to go on the race! Just think, you helped Ecuador, did your training run, AND made your money back in yummy food $$. Now I would call that efficient!!

Logan's Mama said...

Congratulations to both you and Rob on your Major Awards! Wow, what a weekend for you. I get tired just cleaning the house. We can't wait to see you and cheer on Auntie M in Madison. Definitely wear the power socks...

Aimee said...

YEAH FOR YOU!!! That's great! I wish we had known, we would have come over and run too--and I promise neither of us would have been any where near you!

amypfan said...

So I'm not sure if I've told you this before, but my friend Cathy reads your blog regularly. Today, me and the kids (Bryn, Shay, and 2 babysitting kids, Bekah and Levi) went to the zoo with her and her son. This is an actual conversation that I overheard:

Bekah: Look at the monkeys!
Cathy: No, those are apes. I learned that from Melissa's blog!

Thanks for educating us. :)

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