I’ll take it!
The Oley Valley Country Classic was an unexpectedly delightful experience. Actually, it was better than delightful, it was fantastic. Put on by the Pagoda Pacers Athletic Club, this race takes runners through a scenic tour of Oley, PA. Beautiful and mostly flat with some rolling hills (not typical for the Oley Valley), the weather and the foliage were just perfect for this Sunday morning.
I’m not sure why we were all so nervous, but we were a bundle of nerves this morning. I’m sure it has everything to do with signing up for this race about 3 weeks ago and the complete lack of training that’s occurred other than a few longish runs on the weekends.
We had some guest runners with us today – a fellow ex-runner turned CrossFitter, Mike and Mama D’s husband, Papa D. Papa D hasn’t run longer than 7 miles ever and that was last week. Mike hasn’t run more than 2 miles in a long time. It’s amazing where guts and determination can get you….to the finish line. Let this be a lesson to everyone who’s nervous about doing anything. Tell yourself you’ll finish and you will, maybe not in a blaze of glory but you’ll finish. And then you’ll be trailblazing your own path of glory and that’s all that matters. Do something to impress yourself and do it soon.
I’m not sure how many runners participate in this race, but I know it was well attended even though it’s a smaller race. I really loved the size of it and the atmosphere was really relaxed. There weren’t any Port-O-Potty lines and transitioning from pre-race waiting to the start line was so easy. Once at the start line, runners only waited about 5 minutes until everyone was off and moving.
Mama C and I started off together and warmed up the first mile. We were moving pretty well at about a 10:20 pace. We made it to mile 2 (9:58 pace) until we had to stop and strip off clothing. Though cloudy, the temps were in the upper 40’s and seemed to be climbing quickly. We peeled off a layer and continued on our way.
The first water stop didn’t happen until shortly after mile 3. Without knowing when the next station would be, I fueled early so I could have a drink after sucking down a Gu and so I wouldn’t be stuck with that gel coating in my mouth. I’m glad I did. I was a little worried about not running with my hydration belt, but I’m glad I was a little more free.
Mama C and I continued to feel strong along the rolling hills and were told we were at 42 minutes at the mile 4 marker. I really loved how each mile marker had a person with it telling you your time along the way. I found that to be very motivating. At mile 5 we took a quick walk break to regroup for a tenth of a mile. We had just made it up a decent hill and decided to catch our breath and prepare for the 2nd half of the race. I didn’t wear my watch today nor did I turn on RunKeeper so I couldn’t obsess about the time and the pace. Mama C wore her Garmin and she was judicious about the information she shared with me, which was a good thing. I made it a point not to ask her every minute what our pace and distance was. I was really just trying to enjoy this experience.
One thing that was a little unnerving was that the roads weren’t closed on this course. While these were mainly quiet roads, I felt like we were passed by cars more often than I was expecting. There were a few that were a little too close for comfort. You could only zone out for a little bit at a time before you would hear from behind “CAR!!” and then have to pass it forward. We felt really strong after mile 6. This isn’t the most attractive action shot of us, but I like it because we were 60% of the way finished and we’re smiling and still feeling good. Mama C and I separated at about mile 7 and we went into our zones. I caught up to a woman I had my sights on and I was feeling really strong.
Usually it’s Mind Melt Mile 8 where I start to mentally lose it but this was different. Mile 8 had a looonnggg and slow hill that you could see coming for about a quarter of a mile (maybe a little less). It was hard to watch it get closer and closer. I just put my head down and kept putting one foot in front of the other. I vowed to pass the walkers no matter how slow I was running. I counted to 10 over and over until I passed every last walker (small victories) and then I reached the top.
I’m guessing we were at about 8.5 miles once we got to the top, maybe a little further. And then it happened…. My IT band in my right leg flared up with a vengeance and came out of left field. I have not had IT band issues for almost a year, but today was the day it decided to give me the double birds and have me completely wadded up for the last mile and a half thinking I wasn’t going to be able to finish because each step was excruciating. I felt like I was hobbling with a peg leg as people started passing me. I was starting to freak out. I experimented with different gaits and positions of my body. The one that helped the most was leaning forward and just swinging my right leg through to “catch” me as I was essentially falling forward. Somehow I just kept going. I told myself this wasn’t childbirth and I just had to embrace the uncomfortable stabbing pain on the outside of my knee. I breathed through it as best as I could and forced myself not to cry. That last mile was a blur until I saw Mama D close to the finish line.
I yelled my complaints as her as I ran by. She told me I looked good and that I needed to sprint to the finish. I tried but I don’t think I went any faster. The most frustrating part was that nothing else hurt. I was mad because I reserved myself for those last 2 miles. My lungs felt great, my body felt so strong. I wanted to give those last 2 miles everything I had. I guess I did, just in a different way.
The final stretch of the race was a little cross country through a baseball field on grass. Mama C and Papa D looked so strong at the finish. I love these smiles!
Even with the knee pain, I PR’d my 10 mile race. I was about a minute faster than Broad Street which was all slightly downhill. I finished this race in 1:43:12, but I think I could probably shave off even 20 more seconds since it wasn’t chip timed and I started in the VERY back of the pack because that’s where I like to start.
Mama D PR’d in a big way and finished in 1:29:30. She was able to maintain a sub 9 minute mile pace which puts her right on track with a sub 2 hour half marathon. She’s going to get it next year at the Delaware Running Festival and I can’t wait.
The goodies and food that was available to runners after the race was so fantastic – apples, bagels with peanut butter and jelly, and an open snack bar requiring donations only. They had hot dogs and three different kinds of soup, which was the absolute best thing to eat after that race. That cup of chicken noodle was exactly what I needed – it was salty and warm and nothing could’ve been better. It was definitely better than a medal.
Mama D wound up winning an award, 4th place in her age group, but we had already left so now she has to drive to Reading and pick it up. I really wished we would’ve known so we could’ve stayed to cheer wildly.
For $25 per race entry, this was such a great race to participate in and I would highly recommend it to everyone in the area. All that said, the best part of this morning was driving home and seeing this on the side of the road…
Was that really Papa D on an elliptical on the side of the road?! It sure was. Unfortunately something about it didn’t work well enough so there was no purchase at this yard sale. Mama D was kind enough to send this picture so we could save it forever. Apparently someone was inspired. 🙂
Keep Moving Forward!