This weekend I participated in the Pullman Winter Race Series which I helped coordinate. There were seven runners, and each chose how many 7.75 mile loops they wanted to run.
I chose one loop, and I gotta say that half-way through the loop, I felt like it was too much.
The race started off with me counting down and pretending to fire a gun into the air (which was pretty rad). Rose, a new friend and fellow runner, ran with me for the first mile and a half, and it was kind of nice - the company, the gently falling snow, the cool winter air. I had a good feeling about the race; and truth be told, I even considered running a second lap, depending on how I was feeling.
And then, everything changed. And changed fast.
As I was slowly making my way up the hill by Schweitzer Engineering, the wind and snow picked up. And before I was to the top of the hill by the Cougs Corner Mart, my whole body felt frozen. The temperature was in the 20s, and so were the winds. I had ice in my hair, ice in my eyes, ice on my cheeks. And then I slipped and fell on the ice beneath my feet. I mumbled curses under my breath as a driver - safe and warm in his stupid heated car - honked at me as I picked myself up and got back on my feet.
The worst of the race was still to come. The entire stretch from the hill toward Roundtop to the section by the Bear Center was just miserable. The blizzard conditions made it impossible to see in front of me as I attempted to run down the path. The fronts of my thighs were so cold that they stung, and my shoes were completely covered in snow and ice. When I tried to wipe my runny nose with my glove, all I felt were jagged ice particles scraping against my bare cheeks, and even though this may sound dramatic now, I thought that my face was bleeding. I couldn't tell whether I was crying or if my eyes were watering or if the snow was just melting on my face, but my cheeks and nose were wet and colder than I ever remember them being.
I was alone on the trail with snow drifting all around me on the Palouse fields, and I wondered what my smartest move should be - keep moving forward, go back to the Coug Mart and call it quits (but get warm), or find/make some kind of temporary shelter. (Again, I know this sounds dramatic and might be making you chuckle as you read this, but I was cold and I didn't know if the weather was going to get worse or where the other runners were. It was definitely the lowest point of the race for me.)
I decided to press on, and by the time I got to the crosswalk at the Moscow/Pullman highway, the weather (and my spirits) perked up. With my hands balled up inside my gloves, I picked up the pace and ran all the way to the finish line. I was still cold and my ponytail was covered in ice, but the wind wasn't at my face anymore, and it was good to see other runners on Chipman Trail. I knew I was almost done and that I could go home and get a hot shower.
I finished the race in 1:41:00, which is about a 13-minute pace. I was actually quite pleased with my time even though I came in dead last in yet another race. Considering the conditions and the distance, I was happy about how much I pushed myself to run.
I'd like to say that even though it was a tough day of running that it was a good race, but I think that would just be an attempt to make a happy ending out of a crappy story. So I am not going to lie: this 7.75-mile race was one of the worst runs I have ever been on. It was hard, and I don't think I am a "hardcore runner" that can enjoy these kinds of conditions.
That said, though, I did it. And not many can say that.
P.S. Here is a picture that I took of myself after the race. I don't usually share pictures of myself when I think I look awful, but I have to post this picture - the tired grumpiness is all over my face. :)