Well, it had been a long time coming, at least in my world.
After a 4-month hiatus, a live race became a reality for me. To say I was excited would be an understatement. After all, if this was any other year, I would have probably had at least eight other races done in that time span. Thankfully, there was a slew of virtual races to keep me busy.
When I got word about the 2020 Sully Freedom Fun Run, though, it didn't take me long to register.
Now in its 25th year, The Sully Freedom Fun Run takes place every summer on July 4th. It's usually held in conjunction with the Sully Freedom Days, and attracts a good-sized field of area high school track and cross country runners. There's a 5K, a 1-mile race, and a children's race.
This is a great, small-town event that I've run several times (2014, 2015, 2016, 2018). I had to miss out in 2017, since I was camping in a hospital room, and last year I opted to run a different race.
With all of the COVID-19 cancellations, the town had to cancel the Freedom Days activities...but allowed the race to go on as scheduled, due to the restrictions having been recently lifted in the state of Iowa. That said, the race director kept the fate of the race in limbo until he was certain he (and his committee) could ensure a safe race day experience for all involved. This encompassed limiting the number of registrations, not allowing any race-day registrations, no water stands along the course, and no after-party. Also, all participants were advised to follow the COVID-19 protocol of social distancing (as much as possible), as well as staying home on race day if there was any chance of recent exposure or illness. Also, since the race was chip-timed, runners were encouraged to spread out before crossing the start line.
Alas, it wasn't until about a month prior to race day that the all-clear was given (but with the stipulation the race may not hold if there were any new state-wide restrictions implemented). Since only online registrations were allowed, all registrants were assured of a full refund should the race not hold.
So, with the arrival of my first race day since the Leprechaun Chase (March 7th), I was over-the-moon excited to pin on a race bib. The hubby, myself, and our friend, Barb, arrived in Sully just after 7:30 (a 20-minute drive). The 5K didn't start until 8:20, so we had plenty of time to get our packets and do a short 1/2-mile warm-up run. It wasn't until we got out of the car, and were walking to the check-in table, that I realized I'd forgotten my Garmin...and my music. I did remember to bring along a bottle of water, so there's that LOL.
|ROAD iD, but no Garmin LOL|
It was a typical July summer morning...sunshine, warm temps, and plenty of humidity. Hey, it's Iowa and it's the summer...most of us know what we're getting into by registering for a race this time of year.
We lined up, heard the gun fire, and we off and running. Right away, I had misgivings on how I'd do. I had done all those 5K time trials, don't forget, so I was hopeful some of that training would come through for me. But, it was pretty hot and humid...and I didn't have my Garmin to monitor my splits. I'm used to running by feel, anyways, so that's the best I could do.
It wasn't long, into that first mile, and I was already wanting a sip of my water. Even though this was only a 5K distance, I was leery of drinking too much too soon. My strategy was to take just a sip or two every 1/2 mile or so.
I never have an accurate idea of what my pace is doing, especially in the first mile of a short race. I don't really have the natural-born speed to sprint right out of the gate, but I have been guilty of going out faster than I should. The air was so warm and muggy, though, I tried to play it safe and run steady without exerting too much energy.
The race course is two laps around the small town. The streets have a few gentle rolling inclines, but I wouldn't call them hilly. Thankfully, there were a couple of residents with sprinklers set up for the runners to run through, and we did have some intermittent shade cover.
I made it around the first loop and felt good. Barb had been about block ahead of me for most of the first lap, but I could tell she was gradually breaking away further. I was keeping at my steady pace (which I honestly didn't know WHAT pace it was without my Garmin). On the off chance I was going faster than what it seemed, I decided to just keep things steady for the time being.
Side note...Did I mention that the hubby and I had embarked on a 47-mile bike ride the day prior? Yeah, so I also was a little apprehensive that my legs would be giving out at any minute, so I really didn't want to tempt Fate.
As I made my way around the second loop, I could feel the fatigue setting in. The heat and humidity had me "glistening and glowing" like crazy. I was taking more sips of water than I had done in the first loop of the course. And, I could feel a little strain on both of my knees.
It was around the 2.5-mile mark (my guesstimate #noGarmin) that I decided to take a short walk break and slam the last of my water. I could tell my pace had slowed, and I knew I wouldn't be setting any new PR's anyways. I walked for maybe 15 total seconds, just enough to catch my breath.
The final stretch to the finish line is exciting, but also a mental battle as we have to do almost a full lap around the town square. As I made the final turn, I noticed the clock above the finish line...and had to do a double take. It showed 26:xx...which meant I was well under 27 minutes. The heat had messed with my mind (and of course, #noGarmin), so it felt like I was running much slower.
In keeping with the social distancing protocol, they did not post any results on site. They usually print off the standings and hang them up, as well as have a TV monitor to view (which usually invites a huge cluster of runners). We could access the results via the timing company's site, so I was able to see that I'd gotten third place in my age group, and Barb had gotten first in her's! A short while later, we learned that the hubby got second.
So, things went much better than they had felt. I've said it many times, but I'll gladly run (and race) in the heat over the cold. Although the hot weather is more challenging, and we have to give up the dream of an all-out effort in such conditions, I like that kind of a conquest. It's a delicate balance of running strong, but also running with caution...and it's quite empowering to cross the finish line knowing you had the grit and know-how to do it right.
|Apparently, the gals in my age group got the memo to wear blue shirts and shoes|
A few final thoughts:
*Upon seeing the results, the second-place gal finished in 26:35.5...so had I not taken that 15-second walk break, I probably would have edged her out. Or, had I not taken that walk break, I may have crashed and burned in that final stretch. I'll never know, and I'm alright with that.
*Although there had to be some social distancing/protocols in place, I think this race went off without a hitch. I'm thankful things aren't as bad in Iowa as they are elsewhere, and I hope things continue to improve...everywhere, for everyone.
*Although these race day conditions weren't ideal, I'm happy with how I did. Although it felt like I was going "slow" at times, I'd like to think that's an indication that my overall "base pace" has gotten a little faster. Too bad there aren't more races in the foreseeable future to test my pace further (no, I do not plan on doing any more 5K time trials).
The swag was at the minimum, and that's also alright with me. But, look at the shirts! I love the graphics and design!
It was great to be back on a race course. I have a 20K happening on September 5th, but nothing in the mean time. I also have a half marathon, slated for mid-October. Hopefully, both of those races will happen. I'm still waiting to hear on the status of my April half marathon that was postponed. I know, I know...these are first world problems. But for someone who loves to run races, I really miss the excitement and camaraderie of race day.
Do you have any live races coming up, that are still happening? Any fall races that you're looking forward to (should they happen as well)? Would you be comfortable in a small race setting if all the necessary safety protocols were enforced?
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