In a last minute decision, I decided to race this thing. It started at 10 AM--pretty late for a race. The later start was nice because it gave me a head start on grading papers, eating breakfast early, and letting the weather warm up to a balmy 4 degrees with a windchill of 12 below zero.
On our drive over I asked Laura one more time if she wanted me to run with her. She said, "no, go run by yourself." Then, after weaving through the narrow side streets around Lake Harriet, we jogged over to the start.
It was cold enough to freeze my teeth--this mild winter has really made me a huge wuss. I was glad I had a face mask on--during the race I pulled it down so I could breath better, but before the race it was doing a nice job of keeping my lips from freezing shut.
Laura found some fellow runners to take our picture. I thought it would be funny if we got different back tags (the race was offering back bibs with, 'single,' 'taken,' and 'it's complicated'). Laura's said, 'it's complicated,' and mine said, 'taken.' I was envisioning us running together, me with a look of stupid, contented obliviousness while Laura carried herself with hesitant resignation while keeping her options opened.
Laura said it was complicated because she was running by herself in a Valentine's race.
After a "warm up," I arrived at the start line while someone was singing "The Star Spangled Banner." I patriotically placed my hand on my chest while I gently elbowed my way to the front of the line. I heard they were giving out prizes for the top three so I figured I wasn't going to lose time tripping over people once the race started.
When the horn went off and we started our three-point-one mile trek around Lake Harriet I found myself breathing hard and having a nervous and sick feeling in my stomach. There appeared to be several fast runners at the start and I was thinking it was highly unlikely that I would be able to finish in the top three.
I tucked in behind two taller guys. At this point I was in fifth and I was still breathing hard, but the nervousness started melting away. As the first two runners started to put some distance between me and the two guys in front of me, I decided to go for it. I caught up to the second place guy and thankfully he was also tall--perfect for blocking the wind. We went past the first mile in around 5:15.
Watching the first place runner crossed the first mile in 5:05 I was pretty sure winning was out of the question. I wasn't sure if I could hold a 5:15 pace (I was pretty sure I couldn't) and I was right. The second place guy couldn't hold it either though, so I passed him with a little less then a mile left. He seemed pretty gassed when I passed him--I felt a little bad letting him serve as a wind block and then passing him, but my competitive instincts told me if he was going to go out fast there was no reason to run into a freezing cold wind when I could draft for a couple miles.
After a slight downhill I heard him get a little closer and I tried to pick it up. Unlike the half marathon a couple of weeks ago I actually had some water left in the well and was able to finish with a decent kick. The Garmin said my last tenth of a mile was at 4:38 pace. One of the race officials asked for my name and between the wheezing and frozen tongue I had a really hard time spelling and pronouncing my last name for him.
It was pretty cool getting second place--it would've been fun running with Laura, but my face was too cold to talk very well anyway. Besides, I was able to jog back and run with her along the side of the course for a little while. She also ran a nice PR, though this race wasn't chip-timed and as far as I know has no official results.
I guess I'll be doing this race again next year unless I have something really important that weekend because part of my second place prize was a free entry for the 2013 race. I told Laura she could run next year's race, but if she wants to run 2014 she's going to have to start pulling her weight and get a top three finish. I'm hoping she's knows I'm joking because I'm really looking forward to her making clam chowder for dinner tonight.
Here's the goods I got for second place: