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Chasing The 5k PR
Part 2 (of 3 parts)– Wooly Worms and Vampires!

Chasing The 5k PR

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Part 1 - Bursting Into Flames

By Hank Brown
Posted Thursday, 16 February, 2006

As is so often the case in life, my wife's 5k PR chase wasn't going according to script. After the Spruce Pine Calamity, it was time to regroup. As Natalie (aka Scat) put it, "I'm lower than a snake's belly." That's not exactly the optimum mental state for peak performances.

The last few race attempts had been flame outs, either due to the heat or the hills, and Scat's confidence was shaken. Instead of challenging her best 5k times, she was in fact, running slower! What the heck was wrong?

We had a few more races on the schedule, so we tried to remain upbeat. Right now, however, she needed a little R&R from the racing scene. We scratched a planned 5k the next weekend and decided to take a little cerebral break.

I was looking forward to a weekend at home to catch up on some things around the house and yard. Well, Scat had other plans. She rules the Internet; a Google geek who can find out anything about anything. Guess what she found? The Wooly Worm Woad Wace. Oh well, the yard can wait.

The WWWW is not your typical woad, er, road race. It's a 10 miler in the mountains of North Carolina. Yessir, you heard me. I was just a little west of apprehensive for this adventure – I had heard horror stories about this mountain race, but Scat talked me into it.

"Oh c'mon, it will be fun," she pleaded. "And I bet they have a cute t-shirt."

Anything with a creature in the title of the race gets her entry fee - The Floppin Flounder 5k, the Coon Dog Days 5k, the Flying Pig Half Marathon, and now… the Wooly Worm Woad Wace. So what if we have to run over a mountain to get that worm, it will be worth it!

We decided to just take it easy, run together, and "enjoy the scenery." After a conservative start in which we were just a backwards glance ahead of last place, we gradually moved up through the pack. Around mile 2 we started THE CLIMB.

The next 4-5 miles go up. And up. And up. We switched back and forth and forth and back so much I thought I was going to run into myself. We were grinding it out, making progress, and even catching a few people. We trudged along, and never walked even though at times our trek resembled a mountain hike rather than a road race.

There were two ladies just ahead of us who were on a run/walk schedule during the ascent. They pulled ahead of us while running, but we would catch back up on their walk breaks. Their plan was working well for them, but I could tell this accordion session was a little disconcerting to Natalie. After about the 10th repetition of cat and mouse, I looked over at her and saw it. That look! She didn't say a word, but I knew the race was on!

We finally crested the top between miles 6 and 7 and started our steep descent. Scat is a torrid downhill runner so I knew what was coming. We were rolling down the mountain like a truck with no brakes. I was looking around for a runaway truck ramp in case we needed it! It didn't take long to catch and pass the two ladies and put a little gap on them. They pursued but Scat dug in and held her position. When we finished, we found out that Natalie was the 3rd overall female.

Scat was rejuvenated and officially out of her funk. It was time to find a 5k and kick some beehiney! Next up was the Flight of the Vampire 5k in Brevard, NC the weekend of Halloween. This was a midnight race complete with people in costumes and masks, but we were all business – we came dressed to race. We had heard the course had a "monster" hill near the end, which sufficiently frightened us when we drove up and over it on our course tour.

With no mile splits, and only a handful of course monitors, I felt a terrifying sense of vertigo running through the frosty, black night. Nonetheless I eventually found my way to the monstrous hill and to the finish. I was surprised to learn I finished 4th overall, because I literally couldn't see the runners ahead of me. I felt like I had run pretty fast but my finish time betrayed me. Oh well…

I jogged up the course a little ways and waited anxiously for Scat to crest the monster. In my post-race delusion I had forgotten to count the number of females ahead of Scat. Now that I think about it, I don't think I had seen any. And then she appeared - flying down the hill! Was she in 1st place? I think so, but someone was right behind her. Was it another girl? I couldn't tell! Like most of the other runners on this chilly night, her pursuer was wearing a hat and enough garments to stock the local Goodwill.

"Go, go, GO!" I screamed. "She's right behind you! Go, go, GO!!"

Scat zoomed by, and was quickly swallowed up by the dark, but I managed to see her squeeze across the finish line ahead of her hunter. She won! I think. I really think she won the women's race. Natalie had never won a race! Cool!

I caught up to her after she passed through the finish chute, and she confirmed she was indeed the first female. She was pretty jazzed – it still wasn't a PR, but it was faster than her previous few races, and most importantly - She won the Vampire!

We shivered and shook as we anxiously stood through the awards ceremony. I was proud of Natalie because she had trained hard and deserved her few seconds in the spotlight. We waited patiently as they went through all the women's age groups and handed out pumpkin trophies. Then the men's age groups. Then the costume contest. We shivered. We froze. I put my arms around her for some body heat.

"And now for the overall winner."

Finally! They called up the overall male winner and gave him his pumpkin.

"Well, that's all. We'll see you all next year. Thank you for coming!"

Natalie and I looked at each other in disbelief. Hey, what happened? Surely they just forgot to give out the 1st female award. So, Natalie approached the lady in charge and asked about it. She was told that they just had an award for the WINNER of the race, who of course just happened to be a male. Huh?

We left and tried to laugh it off, but there was no hiding Scat's disappointment. She's not a trophy hound, but hey, you don't win a race everyday so this one would have been a little more special than the other plastic running figures sitting on our mantle. So, we left Brevard slightly bittersweet.

So, our quest for a 5k PR was still an ongoing expedition. The last two races had been positive experiences, and Scat was making good progress. But we were running out of time, and only had a couple of chances left.

See you on the back streets.

End of Part 2 (3 part series)

Stay tuned for Part 3 – Turkeys Trot and Reindeers Romp!



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