Yesterday, in place of my slow and steady long run, I ran the Balboa Park 8 Miler. It was the 56th annual put on by the San Diego Track Club and it is less than a mile from my front door. If you aren’t from San Diego, Balboa Park is the nation’s largest urban cultural park. It is the home to our museums, which are housed in spectacular buildings surrounded by plush landscaping and the San Diego Zoo. While I abhor zoos, which you probably already know, I love everything else Balboa Park has to offer. Had to get my little dig in there. ;-)
The beauty of smaller races like these is the crowd size. While there was a great turn out, it wasn’t overwhelmingly large and chaotic. I felt like I was running alone a few times during the race. I had space and didn’t have to maneuver around other runners, which is uncommon and very much appreciated.
There is an obvious sense of camaraderie at smaller local races like these. Many that show up are members of the track club while others are High School Cross Country runners. I am so inspired by these young female runners. It brought Ang back to her XC glory days and reminded her why she still runs today. It felt nice to run to the starting line from home and see familiar faces upon arrival. While I love destination races, this is something you don’t get when you travel.
The Course - Yikes!
The unique thing about this course is the combination of soft and hard terrain. Parts of the course are run on the streets of Balboa Park while others are on off road (HILLY) trails. Let me repeat, h-i-l-l-y.
Although I run on these same trails regularly, nothing could have prepared me for racing them. I usually take it nice and easy on those bad boys and there is one horrifying hill I avoid altogether. Yesterday, I was forced to face it head on.
The Race - Ego Check
After summiting each hill (and that is what it felt like) all I could think about was the monster that was coming at mile 7. When it finally came, I ran the final, arduous, painful hill (slowly) and had to stop and walk at the top. Talk about getting your ego in check. I felt like the most out of shape person alive! I slogged along after that one only to face another slow and steady incline back into the park.
Angela was ahead of me the entire way and although she thought I would catch her at the end, I didn’t. She was about a minute ahead of me and by the end I had no gas left in my tank. Typically I pass people in the last stretch, but this time I was the one getting passed. My legs were like noodles at that point.
Not every race can be a fast race, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a victory. I used to curse hills and they have always gotten the best of me. Now, although I may still feel like death afterward, I not only try but I conquer those hills. That is a victory in itself.
To give you an indication of how hilly this course is, think about this: I ran a slower pace than I ran the SF half marathon 2 weeks ago. (And this race was over 5 miles shorter!)
Post-Race - Thank God it's Over!
It was grueling but it was great! I love events put on by the SDTC, mostly because of the awesome people and the size. We were fed chilled watermelon at the finish and an assortment of bagels. Angela and I walked home, showered, made a fresh pot of coffee and relaxed. I felt completely exhausted, more so than ever, and my a$$ was a hurtin'. It was the perfect start to our weekend.