A couple of days ago, I posted about the forthcoming Hard Cider Run, a 5k through the orchards and fields of a local winery. I expected it would be a bit of a slog. ‘A bit,’ I wrote. Ha. Hahahahaha!
I seriously underestimated the terrain. More on that later. This tale shall be told in order!
Race day, I chugged my warm lemon water, followed shortly thereafter by a protein shake with almond butter and cinnamon (because: delicious). Tried to quash my usual instincts of arriving far too early, but since I had no idea what to expect parking/attendance wise, my sweetie and I split the difference. Good thing, too. The lots filled up quickly; I later found out there were just shy of 1,000 participants, many of whom were delayed by the traffic funneling into the tiny back road leading to the venue. My race buddy had beat me there, and was waiting at the (then) deserted packet pick-up.
As this was an inaugural event, there were certain hiccups, but everyone was friendly and as helpful as they could be. We killed time until the 10:00 start by petting many adorable dogs and waiting in a painfully slow-moving line for the port-a-potties. Cellular signal was spotty; my RunKeeper app was most displeased.
Without any official announcement, an air horn blasted and we were off. The first quarter mile was uphill, because joy is for suckers. After that, we turned into the first orchard – a fairly flat and unassuming switchback, save for the tufts of grass and hidden deadfall. I saw one girl go down, though she sprang back up and seemed unharmed. Next came a level but deeply rutted tractor path* that led to a lovely downhill slope on the outskirts of a field. Of course, the far side saw us running back up once more, and by ‘us’ I mean those mightier than I. After that initial valiant effort, I walked every uphill stretch. Briskly, but still .
More fields, more paths. Serious humidity. Insane amounts of pollen**. Cloud cover, thankfully, until near the end. So much sweat. So much adjusting for footfall, for balance. Finally, I was guided to the right, and assured, “It’s the last orchard!” I could hear the music in the not-so-far distance. Final push. I lengthened my stride on the downhill. Strode with purpose up the next row. And again. And again. Bumped into, in spite of the huge number of runners, a friend and fellow fitness coach. Without hesitation, she cheered me on. I returned the favor. She ran steadily. I flailed along. The music was louder. I could hear cheering. This was it!
Only it wasn’t. There was one more freaking uphill.
I tried to run it. Couldn’t. Gritted my teeth, turned the corner to the last decline, and found a tiny bit of energy to finish with the facade of strength and cheer. My sweetie was waiting and snapped a pic of me crossing the line with arms raised, a big smile on my face. I got my medal, I got my banana, I got a sip of the black currant cider my boyo had been sipping to pass the time (apparently, the majority of the support crew waiting for runners were spouses/significant others/buddies. The bar, wisely, was opened at the race’s start).
After that, I met up with my race buddy and we waited in a thoroughly ridiculous line for our hard-earned hard cider. The organizers kept it moving best they could; there were just so. many. people. Chanced upon another friend who we’d known was coming, but was a victim of the traffic and thus had a delayed race start. There was an air of geniality, and certainly of delight that the race was done, but much discussion of the difficulty of the course. In the handful of races I’ve done, there’s usually some sense of victory when you cross the finish line. Smiles, cheers, congratulations. Here, there was a lot of, “that was terrible!”
And it was. It was freakin’ beastly. I was heartened to hear this from much more seasoned runners; meant I wasn’t as much of a wuss as I suspected. Was initially bummed that, according to my phone app, my pace significantly slower than my usual 5k time.
(Side note: I make the mistake of judging myself against my runner friends, those who love it and/or are dedicated to putting the time in. It’s always a bit of a trial for me.)
The final result: 33:10, about 10:45 min/mile. Considering how much time I spent simply staying upright? I’ll take it.
Would I do it again? Sure, now that I know what to expect. There was good bling (t shirt, temporary tattoo, medal, commemorative glass, free hard cider), and the winery grounds are lovely. We sat in the shade to rest our creaky quads and marvel over what we’d done. I may not like running, but I do rather enjoy races. It was nice to be there with friends and gratifying to have the support of my always wonderful sweetie. Amazing how that’ll get you through.
That, and battle braids.
*that was the terrain for the entire course: rutted tractor path and tufted orchard grass, save for the bits that were hard packed dirt and loose gravel. I should’ve expected this, but somehow it was worse than I’d imagined. In any case, I’d signed a waiver. Suck it up, buttercup.
**in an orchard? in spring? the devil you say!