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Race Recap: Sweetheart’s Relay


Remember how I kept lamenting the lack of racing opportunities available to me through the winter?

How I was going to go braindead without a race?

How there supposedly wasn’t going to be anything on the race calendar until April?

Well, guess what.

I was wrong!!!

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I was thrilled to participate in this morning’s Sweetheart Relay, which is composed of a two-mile and three-mile leg.

If you like, you can run the entire five mile course solo. This is what I did.

Due to the iciness of the trails, the course was altered so that it included an out-and-back portion on the beach, about a mile total but more if you weave like an intoxicated porcupine trying to avoid the ugly headwind and the creeks flowing into the channel, all while attempting to locate a tangent of sand that doesn’t suck too much energy out of your foot strike.

The rest of the course was on road; a combination of hills and flats.

Let’s just say my performance was… not my best.

Even running solo for both legs, I quickly found myself out in the front with no one to catch. A lot of my weekend running buddies were running the relay in the three-mile second leg, so I didn’t have them to pace off of.

Guys, I’m a terrible front runner. Absolutely awful. I spend the entire time being anxious about going off course, and I become immediately complacent once I identify that no one will be able to catch me. I prefer to have people out in front to patiently stalk, to run as if I am hunting something.

You know, hunting. That thing Sarah Palin likes to do. Are we sick of Sarah Palin jokes yet?

Anyway, with no mile markers, no one to catch, and no concrete knowledge of the course, you’d be correct to presume that this turned into a tempo run right quick. It’s a laid-back event to begin with, and I didn’t care to be the doofus going all-out in a relaxed Valentine’s Day relay race.

Then why even bother racing? some of you might ask. Confession time! I’m not Steve Prefontaine. I’m not badass enough to be all run-’til-you-puke if I have no one to catch.

Chalk it up to a vestigial structure from my soccer and lacrosse days, but I like having something to chase.

All told, I crossed the line first overall in 34:08. That’s 6:50-ish pace, if we’re calling it five miles.

This pace is:

…nine seconds slower per mile than my 10K PR pace

…25 seconds slower per mile than my 8K PR pace.

For the metrically challenged, an 8K is ~4.97 miles. In other words, about five miles. In other words, about the same distance I ran today.


I realize I have been training with the consistency of a short-tailed weasel this winter and consequently have completed no speedwork in the past two months, but even so I would have preferred to put down a faster time — one more consistent with my recent race performances.

And I do adore the racing scene around here — the laid-back atmosphere, the lack of mile markers, knowing so many people at the races, the unbeatable sense of community — but there are times that I miss being another face in the running crowd with leagues of faster people ahead to chase. Winning races here is inflating my ego and more frighteningly, my expectations.

I don’t want this to dissolve into another whiny diatribe about how I have trouble pushing myself, so let’s stop there for now. I’ll call this a “rust-buster” race and move on.

In other news, I bought several bags of Valentine’s Day-themed Hershey’s kisses for my Monday nature education program. I plan on having my kids use the Hershey kisses to play a food-caching game inspired by the habits of ravens.

If this were a nature education blog instead of a running blog, I would write a lot about ravens. They dominate the landscape here, and they are so cool it hurts. They swagger around like they own Alaska, because they do. They also have an outrageous sense of humor, are scary smart, make more vocalizations than any other animal aside from humans, and are about 37 times cooler than crows.

But my point is, I bought all those Hershey’s kisses and they keep leaping into my mouth. It’s going to be meager pickings for my raven-imitating kids on Monday if I keep up this pace.

Have you ever been the front runner in a race? Do you like being out in front, or do you prefer having people to chase?

What are your strategies for running on sand?

31 Comments leave one →
  1. Bradley Finley permalink
    02/12/2011 16:37

    Front running sucks. Running on sand sucks. Sounds like a terrible day for a race. HOORAY CYNICISM.

    In the same vein: one time I ran a race that was a 5k and a 10k, but the 10k was just running the 5k loop again. I was entered in the 5k and (disappointingly) won by a lot, so I decided to keep bounding along. I won the 10k too, but those terrible people only gave me award money for the 5k! Can you believe that?! Absurd.

    • 02/12/2011 16:52


      Where have you been in my life? Why is Track Talk so boring?

      And what AL hick-ass race were you running in that gave out award money? (If it helps, I’m countering that last statement by yelling WDE out loud in a southern accent as I type this.)

  2. 02/12/2011 16:45

    first off, you’re hilarious. i’ve never heard of anyone complaining about being first place before. (although i understand…er…kinda…)

    actually, i do. when i run around the opera house and gardens, there’s always tons of runners out and i thoroughly enjoy being behind a couple. gives you something to shoot for, silent competition i suppose.

    regardless, you still kicked ass and i don’t feel sorry for you. 🙂

    • 02/12/2011 16:57

      Thanks, girl. Maybe I should backpedal a little bit and clarify that I’m not trying to complain… but you’re right, the “silent competition” is what I enjoy most about racing. I love having somebody to key off of and reel in…

  3. Bradley Finley permalink
    02/12/2011 16:59

    Haven’t been on TT in a while because, well, it’s boring. I was going to text you the other day with some interesting fact that I’ve since forgotten, but I broke my phone and my SIM card didn’t transfer your number so I was SOL.

    I didn’t even know the race had prize money, they just announced my name at the post-race and told me to get my prize. I was expecting a sweet aluminum medal and maybe a free pedometer, but they handed me a $75 check. $75 for 17 minutes of work! That’s more than $225/hour!

    • Bradley Finley permalink
      02/12/2011 16:59

      Also, I’m really good at knowing how to reply to the right comments.

  4. 02/12/2011 17:26

    – I haven’t been a front runner since high school, save a couple racewalks I won. But I remember it sucking.

    – Running on sand is impossible.

    -So…running in shitty conditions out front all alone? Suckage, but also coolage since you got to win a relay BY YOURSELF. Times, shmyes. Now you can tell everyone you won a relay SOLO in February IN ALASKA. You should also tell people you could see Russia from the finish line and Sarah Palin tried to shoot you from a helicopter. That makes you a certified badass.

    • 02/15/2011 10:59

      Maybe we can stage that scenario for the next season/episode of Sarah Palin’s Alaska.

  5. 02/12/2011 19:39

    Congrats on your win! Glad there was a race this winter after all. I think it’s understandable to be slower than PR pace when you’re all by yourself in front, even if you’re not thrilled about it – it happens. “Consistency of a short- tailed weasel” is the best line ever.

    I don’t think I have ever been in front, so no advice on that. I do like picking out people to chase. I also try and avoid sand because my Achilles can be touchy.

  6. 02/12/2011 20:03

    On SAND and you ONLY lost 30/sec/mile off your PR pace? Dude, I call that a win. Sand sucks.

  7. 02/12/2011 21:18

    That’s not too bad. Being a big fish isn’t the best. I’d rather be 29:59 for 5 miles and 18th than 34:08 and first.

    I’m a happy back-of-the-mid-pack runner now. Always somebody to chase! Have never won a race (that wasn’t a slow heat of something on the track). Have a couple of 3rds and a 2nd in road races from a few decades back. A half marathon with 30 or so runners. 1st was 1:12 and 1:23 was good enough for second, so I guess that was like being in the lead. Blokes are good at navigation, so I wasn’t worried about getting lost 😉

    On sand, wear shoes and run in that sweet spot of firm sand close to the water.

    • 02/15/2011 11:02

      “Blokes are good at navigation” – haha, that’s great. I did end up trying to run closer to the water on the firmer sand. As I understand it, the entire beach (and town…) is man-made from leftover mine tailings… I’m not sure if that impacts the pack of the sand at all. It wasn’t great but I’m sure it could have been worse!

  8. 02/13/2011 06:01

    Right, what Shelby said: if you’re running on sand, you can throw all other pacing out the window. That goes along with running on snow, ice, mud, etc. It’s a whole new ballgame.

    I’ve been the frontrunner in a few races – hell, won races – and I’ve still been upset with my time. Well, not upset. Disappointed. I mean, it’s sweet to win anything (I am presently winning Sunday), but when you underperform according to your abilities, that’s a bummer. On the other hand, when I started running in NYC, I had to adapt from getting top-five finishing spots in suburban races to maybe making the top 25. So try to appreciate your top-dawg status a bit.

    • 02/15/2011 11:04

      You’re right, it is definitely worth appreciating and enjoying. Funny enough, I always think of you NYC runners during these races, and how different the experience would be if I were racing in a huge metropolitan area.

  9. 02/13/2011 10:19

    I get the dissatisfaction with running slower than your PR. I really do. But dude, you ran ON THE BEACH! In SAND! In February! Into the wind! Just think what you’ll do when you can finally run on, you know, non-sand with no wind.

    As for the frontrunner question, I think that happened to me once at a track meet in high school. It was bizarre 🙂

  10. 02/13/2011 14:34

    shelby and sarah are right about the sand factor! i totally understand the being unhappy part but man, running on the sand is HARD. i could only dream of running like that.

    i’ve never been the front runner in a race…sure sometimes in my age group or female but never overall. so i can’t really speak to anything of it. BUT i think that for me racing isn’t about beating all the others (certainly it doesn’t hurt) but it’s a game with me. and only me.

    i guess the point of above ramble is that 1) you ran in sand 2) you still ran fast and weren’t chasing anyone.

    BAMF points lady

  11. 02/13/2011 17:20

    good call on the kisses. especially since you’ve eaten most of them already. i’d have done the same.

    hot damn you’re fast if your 8k is 25secs/mile faster than that. envious.

    so how many people were in this race? i don’t blame you for not prefontaining it. i’d slack too. course i never find myself in the front front.

    • 02/15/2011 11:11

      I’m not 100% sure on the field size… the races here tend to be quite intimate affairs. 20-40 people, maybe?

  12. 02/14/2011 10:14

    Being in front gives me horrible anxiety that someone will catch me, but that makes me go faster. You definitely got a good workout in this race even if you didn’t push yourself to your usual race pace.

  13. 02/14/2011 18:47

    Ravens so cool, it hurts. Love that. Great race, congratulations! Not one thing bad about it, especially as has been noted, you’re in friggin’ Alaska and it’s February. Please. Just wait. Bet you’ll be faster in a couple months without you even trying.

  14. 02/15/2011 03:52

    It always happens with your posts that I leave them open for a few days, hoping to think of the appropriate comment to make (yeah, sorry if I throw off your stats…). But it hasn’t come to me yet. Except that “Guys, I’m a terrible front runner” strikes me as the most awesomest thing anyone has said in ages. Just that statement – is awesome.

    But I have no advice.

    • 02/15/2011 11:14

      Diction-wise, it was between “terrible” and “abysmal.” I’m not sure why I ended up choosing “terrible.” Either one is an apt description though! It’s okay to own my weaknesses, right?

  15. 02/15/2011 10:53

    A bad race is an excellent tempo run.

    (but I think this is not bad, given the conditions)


    If you don’t like being a front runner, you’d better have a damn good kick.

    (or live in a major metropolitan area… I would like to have the experience of leading a race (I’ve won two rinky-dink 10ks in my life, and was totally unaware until the end for both), but it ain’t gonna happen unless I scout out events with names like “Anza-Borrego Wilderness Hobby Joggers 5K Run/Walk for Women”)

  16. 02/15/2011 11:15

    Maybe if you’d worked a little harder…

    I kid, I kid.

    Wind, sand, hills. You just named all the things I despise about running. I say you spanked it, given the conditions.

    And no, I’ve never been a front runner. Maybe at the special olympics…if everyone else was on crack. Wait, that would probably give them an advantage. If *I* was on crack.

    Did I just make a special olympics joke? ::new low::

  17. 02/15/2011 13:40

    Have I ever been the front runner in a race…hahaha…twice. Once in the county championships for the indoor 4 x 200 – a success here. Once for the first six laps of the billionth heat of the indoor 1600 – ‘hello wall!’.

    My policy on sand running: Avoid it at all costs.

  18. 02/16/2011 05:22

    Running on the beach sucks. It is not all inspiring and awesome like the opening scene of “Chariots of Fire” leads you to believe!

    And I’m sooo bad at running out front. You can totally chalk this race performance up to that. It’s no secret that the best races come from good competition. About the Steve Prefontaine ability to run-till-you-puke: I know I can’t push myself that hard. Oh well. Use the other athletes. I bet Pre couldn’t run patient and smart like we do 😉

  19. Murdoch permalink
    02/16/2011 06:48

    Hey a W is a W, take it no matter what.

    I hate leading and if given the opportunity would always rather be running people down at the end. The only race I won in college was a 10K by 2 laps, but it actually wasn’t that fun. I kept expecting some freak injury to happen forcing me to DNF and look like a fool stopping with a 2 minute lead.

    You ever going to come back to New England? Come to Boston where the local girls run Sub 17:00 every weekend it seems.

  20. 02/17/2011 11:48

    My only advice for running on sand is…to avoid it! Hehe, and if you *must* run on sand then I think you are entitled to eat as many hershey kisses as you wish 🙂 I don’t think I’ve ever been the front runner in a race, but I can see how it wouldn’t be prime conditions to run a PR. I need competition to push myself!

  21. Jim permalink
    02/18/2011 15:12

    Valentine’s Day!!……and all of those men chasing you. Were you hoping to be caught?

  22. 02/19/2011 22:25

    Hey, congrats! Your complaining make you look humble.. IMO… Are you joining BM next year?

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