Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Cougar Challenge: In Like a Sad, Drenched Kitten

Needing to continue setting short term goals now that the 150 mile relay has come and gone (which was my whole purpose for running again), this will be the first month to test my running wherewithal. And May is giving me some ridiculous exams.

The Columbus State Cougar 5k Challenge on Saturday, May 6th seemed like a good baby step in the post "major goal" process when I signed up for it a month ago, when we were seeing an unseasonably warm April with 70 and 80 degree temps. This month, though, has reverted to an Autumn-like state. Six days in and it hasn't reached above 60 and it has rained nearly every day.

The Columbus State Cougar 5k Challenge
Course Map
The day before (Friday, Cinco de Mayo) was just ugly: 45, windy and a downpour nearly the entire afternoon. I'm not one to complain about the weather, but schizophrenic - out of season - weather is just annoying. Despite mother nature recovering, apparently, from too many tequila shots the night before I was prepared to move out of my running comfort zone.

My training consists of longer distances and working on pacing for them. The 3.1 mile length is faster and is more/less a distance running version of a sprint. So,I was hoping to tag along with a group of folks more comfortable with the 5k distance to help pull me along on this day. Also, getting out of my own head and simply running a decent race was among my personal challenges. I tend to think too much which can be a detriment to your entire psyche. 


LOOK! NO CLOUDS or RAIN!
Luckily, the clouds parted and we had a bright blue sky and sunshine. Still cool at around 45 degrees and a more than decent head wind, the major focus was navigating the water logged golf cart path littered with pools of water. At the starting line ready to roll, a group of Columbus State Cougar Cross Country members slide in next to me. Maybe, I thought, I can use them to pace me.

At the gun, I'm trying not to take off at light speed and work on hanging with those who have emerged to lead the group. Though, within a half-mile one of the Columbus State members moves ahead of everyone and the group I'm with seems - to me -  to be going a much slower pace than I than I'm typically comfortable with. Splashing along, I take it upon myself to move ahead to where I want to be and keep an eye on the rabbit in the Cougar uniform ahead of me.

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It wasn't easy to keep my personal pace up as puddles and pools of water seemed to litter every inch of the route, but being able to see the lead runner from time to time kept my mind in place. With my shoes and socks fully waterlogged, I ignored the urge to slow down and pushed ahead.

About two and a half miles in on the ever winding course, I glance to my left to see who was relatively near me. A course official says laughingly as I pass, "You've have no one to worry about." That was good to know since the constant splashing and sloshing along the course made it near impossible to be able to tell who was behind you and how close they were. Working on stride and form, I glide through the final straight stretch and across the finished line. Winded, but not all that worn out, I think I was more frustrated with having to trudge through muck and small bodies of water for about 20 minutes.


Race SWAG
Officially, I came in second overall - first in my age group - at 19:40. A little slower than what I had been looking for, but the shape of the course after several days of constant rain had a big impact. A good 45 seconds behind the winner, but still 46 seconds ahead of third place. The SWAG included a cool Columbus State Community College tote bag, decent racing technical t-shirt, excellent medal, a coupon for $15 off your next purchase at Columbus Running Company and a myriad of random whatnot.

Happy with myself, I decided to make a pit stop on the way home. Come to find out Restoration Brew Worx in Delaware opens at 11am on Saturday and I arrive at eleven on the dot. I recommend the Double Judgement DIPA and, if they have it, the jerk rubbed grouper sandwich (it was the special on this day). It is stupid good. The bar maiden on this day just so happened to be a runner as well, so we shared some good stories before the crowd made its way in.

So, I'm still running and I'm enjoying it because I'm running for me. As spring evolves and summer lies in waiting, I'm planning to keep pace with various races as they become available. Next up is the New Moon Quarter Marathon on May 27th and maybe the weather will wake up by then.

And maybe, just maybe, some good things will come with it. Run on my friends...

“The soul is like a wild animal—tough, resilient, savvy, self-sufficient, and yet exceedingly shy.” ~Parker Palmer


Age group winner's medal
Post race feast














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