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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

PMETR 2015

I wasn't going to register for the Pere Marquette Endurance Trail Run this year. True, it's long been one of my favorite races. And yes, it's held at one of my favorite parks.  And it is a virtual who's who of the STL area running scene. But that "running" part was the hitch. I haven't done much of that this year. In fact, I'd guess that I did less running in 2015 than I've done any year since my first 5K. On the other hand, out of the four previous times I've run Pere Marquette, I've only twice shown up feeling even moderately trained for it. It's amazing I can even walk after shooting myself in the foot so frequently.

I picked things up as Pere Marquette approached, running 9 whole times in November, though this was mostly my attempt to not die chasing after Mickey at Castlewood.  Then I twisted my knee a couple of weeks ago and have spent the time since resting, limping, and worrying about missing first Castlewood and then, after aggravating my knee this past week at school, PMETR.

On Friday I was still having trouble on stairs and decided racing would be stupid. I wasn't trained for the race, anyway, and with intentions of starting to train consistently, I didn't want to hurt my knee worse and prolong the recovery.  That settled it. I'd DNS the race, sleep in, and enjoy the bizarrely gorgeous weather (ummm...67 degrees in December?) on my mountain bike.

Except then I saw a post about the race swag: a cooler/stool combo. I wanted it, and if I was making the hour-long drive to Marquette Park I might as well attempt the race and see how things went.  And that's how I ended up at the start line on Saturday morning, assuring everyone I knew that I was probably going to run a mile or so and hike back down.

I started at the very back of my wave and just ran easy as I waited for my knee to stop hurting. Instead, I ran until the trail began to climb and then hiked the first, relatively gentle, uphill. A few people from waves behind me began to pass, but it wasn't the onslaught I'd anticipated, and I passed quite a few people once the trail leveled out and I started running again.

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In the first half mile..."hey, I'm still running!"
Photo credit: Robin Rongey
And kept running.

Well, until the big hills. I walked those, but the knee pain never kicked in. My lack of running fitness was sadly evident on the flat sections, and I was super conservative on the downhills; still, I was delighted to be running at all. I spent a few miles running with my Momentum teammate Nathan and his sister, Sarah. Their easy camaraderie made me really miss getting to race with my brother Jim, and they were fun to talk with as we ran.

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Laughing at what a chicken I was on the hill.
Photo credit: Robin Rongey
JB was waiting at the mile 6 road crossing, finished with his own race and ready to continue our tradition of running the last couple of miles together. "What can I do to motivate you?" he asked.

"Nothing!" I told him, "I don't want to be motivated at all. I'm going to run this at whatever pace feels good and you can just keep me company."  That's how it went until the last half mile or so. I was easing down the last hill at a glacial pace when a woman flew down from behind me. Once I was down the rutted, rocky section of the hill, I picked up my speed again. "Are you going to catch her?" JB asked.

"No, but I'm not going to let anyone else pass me," I told him, but he wasn't letting me off that easily and urged me to chase her down. More because I didn't have the energy to argue than anything else, I sped up and started closing in on her.  We raced down the last flat half mile to the finish line, and I was about to pass her as we hit the parking lot. A friend of hers at the finish called out a warning, and she moved over just enough that I couldn't get around.

Laughing, I eased up and she crossed ahead of me.  We congratulated each other on the other side of the finish line and I got a glimpse of her race bib. She was in wave 14, which started about 4:30 before mine did, so I'd beaten her anyway. Well, officially. As fast as she came down the hill, I think it's more likely that she started later than she was supposed to; still, it makes for a good story.

Most of the time I finish Pere Marquette swearing to come back next year better trained. That's my intention again this year, but I wasn't unhappy with this year's experience. Yes, I was nearly 7 minutes off my PR, but my expectations going into it were so low that I was thrilled just to finish, and I was still 40 minutes faster than my slowest time on the course. Overall, it was a good race, certainly better than I deserved, and for maybe the first time ever I felt better and less injured after a race than before it.  Now to start on that whole consistent training thing...

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