I actually had to look up how to say "pumpkin" in French. Seven years of French and I never learned that, and yet I can still rattle off a scintillating dialogue about a failed bouillabaisse.
Pumpkinman was its usual awesome self. This was my 4th year in a row racing the sprint here, and the 4th year in a row of perfect weather. It is pretty clear that the swim was a little shorter than usual here (no, I didn't take 1:30 off my last year's swim time!), but I am choosing to believe that it was not over a minute short, and therefore this counts as my best time in 4 attempts.
While the swim course might have been short, I did my best to lengthen it by swimming an oddly wide arc to the first buoy. I kept correcting every time I sighted, then finding myself wide again. Other than that, though, the swim felt great, and I could see I wasn't too far off some of the lead caps from my wave. During my endless pre-race obsessing over my previous years' performances, I decided I had lollygagged pretty seriously up the big hillclimb to T1 last year, so I focused on keping that quick this year. My focus netted me something unimpressive like 7 seconds' improvement, but at least I felt better about myself at the time.
Onto the bike: I rode so hard I thought I might puke, passed tons of people (because I was in the 2nd-to-last wave), and for my efforts ended up with almost exactly the same bike split as last year. The only thing I can think of is that I had to spend a lot of time passing people who were not super experienced at racing--some of the roads are a little dicey on the side, so these folks were often riding pretty far out to the left, which made passing challenging. I'm still not convinced this could have lost me that much time, but who knows? Anyway, it wasn't a big deal, and everyone in my AG had to deal with the same situation. Also, it's one thing when you see a guy in an aero helmet riding a disc wheel engaging in this behavior (which I did earlier in the season), and quite another when it's some person on a mountain bike. They just didn't know, and it wasn't going to help anyone to get frustrated with them, so I just called, "please move right" when I had to and thanked them when I passed.
I saw the 1st place amateur about a quarter mile into her run when I was coming in on the bike, which I knew translated to a deficit I couldn't make up unless she decided to sit down on the side of the road, but I took off anyway, not really knowing who else was ahead of me (especially from the earlier waves). I felt great this year on the run; my time wasn't as fast as a couple years ago, but it wasn't as bad as last year either, and I pushed pretty hard the whole way through. I want to thank in particular one of the volunteers, a teenage girl standing at the last corner of the run around transition--she was yelling at everyone to kick it in, and she was seriously motivating when I went by.
In the end I was the 4th amateur woman, 2nd in my age group (because yes, the same woman won it again--she is a rock!), but awarded 1st because of that whole bumping-up process. The downside to this was that I had a bigger climb onto the podium than I'm used to, and that is one tall podium.
And look--I won a visor, along with my lovely Pumpkinman coaster! I love prizes I can use. (I also love those coasters; I'm not 100% sure they're supposed to be used as such, but they work really well.)
I was joined in Maine this year by two teammates, Cindy and Kevin, who both had great races as well.
Cindy's partner took the photos, and although it looks like she added a fake backdrop here, that's really what a beautiful day it was. Also, I'm not standing on a podium here--I don't think of either of these folks as short, but apparently I'm kind of a giant.
The day after Pumpkinman was my running team's home cross country meet. We are trying to score in both the masters' and open categories for the women's USATF-NE cross country series, which means the more meets we can score in, the better. Since our club was hosting one of the scoring events, it just seemed bad form not to show up for it, even 24 hours after a race.
The start was just like I remembered--fast, with me at the back.
I felt pretty good, at least until about 800m from the end, when the wheels kind of came off. But who feels good 800m from the end of a cross country race, anyway? We won the masters' team race, primarily because we were the only full masters' team, but a win is a win, and I was the 3rd scorer for that group, having finished a rather sobering 24th out of 29 women in the race. My team also won the open race, no thanks to me. Here we all are, post-race and victorious:
A more typical post-race shot:
Me, wiping my sweaty face off. I think I am both the tallest and the sweatiest runner on my team. Also, I tend to run into scratchy things a lot during cross country:
The next weekend was another road race in the USATF-NE grand prix road race series. Are you keeping up here? There is both a road race and a x-country series. (Also a mountain series, I think, but I'll leave that alone.) This one was a 10K in Gloucester. The first thing I realized, a couple days out, is that Gloucester is really far east. I had to get up at 4:15 to meet my carpool for the 9 am race. I had a dark moment when I spilled most of my coffee in the car, but I recovered emotionally and had a lovely day. Gloucester is beautiful, the weather was beautiful, and the race wasn't half bad. Our master's team finished 7th and our open team 6th, and I scored for both after one of our actual fast runners was stricken with calf cramps partway through the race. I felt bad for her, but when I passed her on the side of the road (and yes, I checked to make sure she was OK first!), I knew that made me the 5th scorer for the open race, which was highly motivating. I kept thinking that I owed it to the other 4 not to embarrass myself on the uphills. And despite what this picture looks like below, I actually ran hard the whole way.
Really, it looks like this picture is missing the oxygen cart I was pulling along with me. And this was less than a half mile from the finish, so in theory I was running faster than average.
I love that there were so many free pictures available from this race. I just wish they had edited them to give me better running form.
What is with that hand? I actually ended up outkicking this women, who looks like she's about 25 but turns out to be 38. I felt prouder when I thought she was 25. Anyway, surely the hand position is just an artifact of this particular shot.
Or not. I think my running form is pretty good when I'm not tired, but there's no denying the photographic evidence--I am a huge cross-body arm swinger when I'm tired. Not to be confused with a plain old swinger.
The other great thing about this race was that my college friend Sue, who lives a town or two over, showed up to do it. We found each other, out of the 1,000 or so runners there, in line for the bathroom, and we finished just over a minute apart, taking 9th and 10th in the 40-49 age group for women. I'm not posting any of her race pictures here, because she thinks they're hideous, but as usual they just show that she has much nicer running form than I do.