This past weekend we joined Candis’ parents at their cabin in Grand Lake, CO for a little R and R, which stood for Running and Racing. As luck would have it Saturday was the 21st Annual Granby Gut Buster 5K in the nearby town of Granby and even though I have the Georgetown half marathon this coming Saturday I was itching to race and too impatient to wait 7 more days. So on Saturday morning Candis, David (age 6) and I all headed out to test our mettle on the race course while Graham (age 4) decided to stay at the cabin and test his Grandparent’s mettle.
As we drove to the race I daydreamed that I was crossing the finish line with a new PR, breaking the tape and being showered with roses from adoring fans. I was rudely jarred out of my daydream by a roadside sign that read ‘Welcome to Granby, Elev. 7982.’ My confidence in a PR slipped a little. It slipped a little more when we registered and were handed our race shirts that had a picture of a runner on a mountain with the slogan: ‘It’s Just a Hill... Get Over It!’ I was disheartened to notice that there were a lot of steep hills around us. However, there appeared to be fewer than 100 participants and I figured that might lead to the elusive age group award that I’ve been chasing for some time now.
In the first mile of the race we did indeed run up a steep hill, which was followed by more steep uphill sections. Seemingly around every turn we were faced with another uphill climb and I was feeling winded from the lack of oxygen and from starting out way too fast. The good news was that this course was a loop, so I knew that the downhills were coming.
As we started the downhill section of the course I was no longer thinking about a PR, instead I was keeping my eye on the people around me and attempting to stay ahead of the guys who looked to be in their 30s. I was OK being passed by anyone that wasn’t competing in my age group until somewhere in mile 2 I was passed by an 11 year old girl wearing Kinesio tape on her calves. Oh crap! This would not do. I hung on a few steps behind her, determined not to let her get away from me.
We hit the final mile and I was still hanging on. As we made our way around a hairpin turn we were able to see the runners trailing us and I noticed a guy not far behind me that looked to be in his 30s. He was clearly trying to steal my age group award and I would have none of it. I pushed the pace and tried to ignore my distressed breathing. My push away from the age group award thief put me closer to Kinesio tape girl and I used my momentum to get past her, but I failed to pass with authority and could hear her settle in a few yards behind me.
As we came down the penultimate stretch before turning to the finish we ran past Kinesio tape girl’s father who I later learned is a High School track coach. He was screaming at her like an overbearing parent to start her finishing kick and to run like this was the final 200 meters, despite the fact that we still had over a quarter mile to go. I heard her footfalls quicken and she began closing the gap. (I can actually feel you all rooting for her as I type this.) I waited until she was right on my shoulder before starting my own kick and I separated from her again, but a quick glance at my Garmin revealed we had a quarter mile to go. I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold this pace for that long and hoped against hope that she would fade before I did. She did not. As I started to slow down she bounded past me, apparently unaffected by fatigue. I thought briefly about summoning one more surge, one more kick, but I decided against it because I was fast approaching the puke threshold and the only thing worse than a 33 year old man losing to an 11 year old girl would be for him to lose and then puke his guts out at the finish line. Plus, I didn’t want to be the guy that let his competitive spirit get out of hand and outkicked the sweet little blond girl, crushing her spirit in defeat. At the same time I didn’t want to be the guy that got beat by an 11 year old girl, but that’s the guy I ended up being.
I crossed the line with a time of 24:53 (8:01 pace), missing my PR by 25 seconds. I stood at the finish with no PR and having just been beaten by an 11 year old girl. The only thing that was going to save this race was if I finished in the top 3 in my age group. Seriously, in a small mountain town with roughly 88 racers how many males could there possibly be who were in their 30s and faster than me? I won’t keep you in suspense. The answer to that question is 3, there were 3 men faster than me in their 30s who showed up that morning which left me off the podium.
I wallowed in the post race cookies which were pretty good (although they tasted vaguely like failure and disappointment) and waited for my son to finish his first ever 5K. When he crossed the finish line with Candis in 42:30 I was so proud of him that all of my shortcomings were completely erased. His splits were 15:48, 13:27, 12:19.