The land was beautiful. I had the chance to take in the views the night before the race when the girls and I got in a good five miles on the course. Even though it was nice, it really makes me appreciate where I run at home. I think that most cross country runners have that special place that nothing can even compare with. I certainly have mine. But it is good to experience what other runners love, too.
A few differences:
1. I could have been convinced it was mid-December (Temperatures in the 50s!)
2. Grey, grey, grey skies
3. Everything was a winter brown
The course is probably the most difficult race I have ever run, and one of the most fun. Although the start is a slight downhill, the footing is quite different than any Florida race. The hard ground was covered with dips and holes, making the first mile challenging. This front part of the course, a few hills and all, was the flat part of the course, so it needed to be faster.
The large back loop of the 6k race was like a roller coaster. A sandy roller coaster. In the second mile, I took advantage of the longest downhill I have ever experienced. I could not have stopped even if I had tried, so I let the hill take me and tried to make my legs keep up. Naturally, the next mile was all uphill. Gradual and less sandy, this was the place to maintain a constant pace and close in the gaps between other runners.
I knew I was about to hit mile three because I could just spot the wall of sand was peaking through the trees. This hill marked the start of the end of the race. If I could be strong and work my way to the top, it was generally downhill for the rest of the race. I booked it at the bottom of the hill, trying to pass a few girls and put some space between us. Chances were, they wouldn't put up a fight. Then, I worked on staying strong. I remembered the months of the work I put in to get back to this point. Recovery from injury is never easy and it makes us stronger. There is no way I was going to give up here. I repeated that as I climbed. At the top, I felt a sense of relief, but it was no time to rest. I went. Up a smaller hill and back down to the start, I gave it everything I had left.
In the end, I do not know my finish time. The race results were inaccurate because of the primitive timing system and lack of a backup. According to the posted results, I PRed by about 15 seconds, but I am not sure that is true. I guess when I race here again in just over a month I will just have to be even faster and earn a new personal record. I honestly felt strong, even up that final hill, and I know that I will be a better runner in a few weeks.