Saturday, November 2, 2013

It ain't about the money

. . . or is it?

The USATF-New England cross country series awards $250 to the first place overall masters women's team, and going into the final race of the series next weekend, it looks like my team is the favorite to win this massive payout. This is mostly because:

1) I have a couple super-speedy teammates.

2) We're the only club to have fielded a full team at all the series races so far.

The third race in the series was--come to think of it, like 4 out of the 5 races--out in eastern MA. (So much for "New England.") When I saw there was a kids' 3K race, I asked my kids if they wanted to go. Patrick was a definite yes, but Charlotte was on the fence until I suggested we stop at the Natick Mall on the way home, at which point even a massive head cold couldn't keep her home. (The girl, who up until recently wouldn't wear anything but jeans and baggy t-shirts, has become a fashionista overnight.)

I figured there might be 20 kids or so, so I was as shocked as anyone to see the hordes of children there when we arrived. Not just hordes--organized hordes, in actual cross country uniforms, wearing spikes. Yes, even in the 10-and-under race. My kids, who don't actually train for running, were pretty nervous when they saw the competition. Charlotte put on her game face:

I tried not to stab Patrick with safety pins:

They both did great. Charlotte ran wisely, starting conservatively and moving up the whole time. Here she is finishing up on the track:

 Patrick took off at pretty much a dead sprint, so I fully expected to see him having been spit out the back when the race re-emerged from the woods. I think I underestimated his competitiveness.

 He dusted his sister, and his average pace for 3K was faster than my own pace for the middle mile of my 5K. He was exhausted after the race. . . for about 5 minutes. Then he spent the next hour playing soccer while he waited for my race to be done.

The 5K was run with all men and women together, which was great, because there were always people around me. My coach told me to "go out hard and hang on." I got the first part right, but my execution was a little more "go out hard and die." This shot of me coming into the track for the last 300 meters proves mostly that I am the least photogenic runner in my family.

I did manage to pass a couple people in the last mile, including one woman who looked like a masters runner. She was strong and had beautiful running form, and she said something encouraging as I went by her. And then I heard her name called out as she finished: Karen Smyers. Like the huge dork I am, I turned around in the chute and said, "You're KAREN SMYERS?!" I'm sure she was really happy to meet an excited fan at the end of a 5K.

The mall was nearly as exhausting as the race. I picked out a pair of cool and edgy suede ankle boots, only when I went to try them on I realized they were Dansko, just like all the sensible and non-edgy clog-based shoes I own. The salesman tried to make me feel better by saying, "They're really making a lot of more stylish shoes these days." I'm sure he says that to all his middle-aged customers.

Two weeks later we headed back east, to the Mayor's Cup in Franklin Park in Boston. This is our team after all the races, minus a couple women who had to leave early, and plus one of the team babies:

 At this race they held a separate women's championship race and relegated the masters to the open 5K. This seemed like a really good idea once we mature ladies watched the championship race, which was ridiculously fast. Here's a shot from the start:

Triathletes reading this might recognize the woman in the white shirt--that's Sarah Groff, 4th place in the 2012 Olympic triathlon. She got 2nd in this race. And yes, again because I'm a total dork, I had to go meet her. She was extremely nice, so if it's possible for me to be an even bigger fan of hers, I am now. Oddly enough, I seemed to be the only person in Franklin Park who knew who she was--I was kind of running around like a tween at a Justin Bieber sighting, telling all my teammates, "I think that's SARAH GROFF!" and they were all--even the cyclists among them--like, "Who?" None of the official race coverage (which to be fair is all on fringe running sites) has mentioned her Olympic awesomeness, which I take as a sign of how marginal a sport triathlon is to the rest of the world. Even the rest of the marginal-endurance-sports world.

For my race I went with the same strategy as the last one, hoping that at some point all this "going out hard" business might translate into enough fitness to sustain the "hang on" part of the plan. I think I did better--it's always hard to compare different courses, but my 2nd mile was less sluggish than last time, and my overall time was significantly better even though rumor has it the course is a tad long. It appears our masters team won in spite of there being two other actual teams there, although USATF seems in no hurry to post actual results. It's like they don't understand that there's $250 on the line, or something.