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December was an unexpectedly good month for racing around
here.  I went into the holiday season
with relatively low expectations, but between the two of us, Harper Lee and I
had a pretty good month.

On December 10, my girls from G-Force raced at the Mt. Airy Rosy Cheeks 5K.  For those who don’t
know, G-Force is an after-school running program for girls in grades 3-6.  We focus on fitness, nutrition, friendship
and fun and operate under the premise that “a fit girl is a powerful
girl.”  This was the close of our 3rd
season, and as always, we concluded our 10-week session with a 5K.  For some of the girls, it was not their
first, and they raced for personal records, but for most, it was their first
race, and it was a great one to start off with.

The Mt. Airy Police Department uses the race to collect toys
for needy children in the area.  Instead
of an entry fee, participants bring one unwrapped Christmas gift.  I especially love this race because it allows
the girls to participate in a race, which is a new and exciting experience in
and of itself, and it lets them do something good for others. 

It was our fastest group of girls yet.  21 of them completed the course and all under
an hour.  Harper Lee ran a PR with a time
of 27:43.  Her official time was slower
because we started the girls pretty far back to avoid impeding other runners,
but I clicked my watch as we (finally) crossed the start so I could get an
accurate time for her.  She raced really
well and looks stronger all the time. 
And that was all after she tripped over a giant plastic candy cane at
the start and got run over by the crowd.  I had gone ahead and didn’t even know about it
until one of the other girls told me she had fallen.  I said, “Well, I hope she gets up.”  Fortunately, Crystal was further back and pulled
her up and looked her over before saying, “Your Mama is up there.  Get up and run!”  Yes. 
One of those lessons that applies both to racing and life— don’t be
surprised if you fall; be surprised if you don’t.  And when you do fall, get up and keep
going.”  Eventually, she caught up, and
after calming down a bit, she went on to run a good race.  Is there a lesson there?

The next weekend, Crystal, Jason and Alison and I ran the
Pilot Mountain Challenge, which is technically a 5K but is straight up Pilot
Mtn. on trails.  It’s not a PR
course.  And it is most decidedly not MY
kind of course.  I love running trails,
especially on training runs, just because I love the mountains, and I love
being in the woods, and I love the solitude and quiet, but trails do not play
to my strengths as a runner.  I am
strong, yes, and I can muscle through a lot, but I’m really a rhythm runner who
finds a pace and sticks to it.  Trails
tend to break it up, and I don’t handle it nearly as well as I do just running
as hard as I can on the roads.  That’s
why 5K’s on the road are my best races; however, it’s fun to just jump in these
trail races from time to time and see what I can do.  I’ve found that the good people are REALLY
good, but that I can do pretty well too just by virtue of being out there and
being tough.  This race was no exception
in that I placed 9th out of 57 or 58 women; however, I ran a
39:43.  Yes, for a 5K.  That’s 12:49 pace, I think.  Hmmmm…. 
Not my kind of course.  Alison
tore it up and destroyed the women’s field with a time of 28:56 and beat all
but six of the men.  It was her kind of

I felt the absolute worst I’ve felt in a race in a long,
long time.  I had a stitch, I felt like I
might puke from half a mile on, and I looked like I was in major distress at
most points in the race, BUT it was worth the run and something I would
probably do again.  Besides, as I was
sucking wind and trying not to fall off the side of the mountain, I remembered
to just look up as I went around the knob. 
It was beautiful.

After Pilot Mtn., I felt I was ready to run a faster 5K
course that would allow me to stretch my legs and find out exactly where I
am.  I chose the Mt. Mourne Elf Run on
Christmas Eve.  Jason and Rex drove down
with Harper Lee and me to watch us both race. 
Harper decided to run a fast sprint rather than another 5K, so she
signed up for the Fun Run, which was a 400. 
We had run there a few years ago, and the course was a fast PR kind of
course.  I was psyched to see where I am
right now despite my weight and my less than great training.  I figured it would give me an accurate baseline.

I was wrong.  It is a
PR course but only when the police car leading us out knows the course.  Unfortunately, we ended up running about 5541
meters.  At the two-mile mark, I looked
at my watch and wondered if I needed to flag down a car to give me a ride back
to the finish.  I knew at that point that
something was not right, so I just kept racing, and I won my age group and
finished well overall.  But as for
finding out what I can run for a 5K, that will have to be on another day.  The police had sort of rough day; the police
car that led the Fun Run stopped and sat for at least 8-10 seconds halfway
through the race resulting in several fast kids slamming into the end of the
car and piling up on one another.  Rather
than stringing out, the leaders were caught once again in the mob and had to
start sprinting again from a dead standstill. 
Harper Lee finished second right behind another girl who was working
just as hard.  They both had a good race,
but again, who knows what might have happened. 
Still, it was a race, and it was a great way to start our Christmas Eve.

Besides, the winner of Saturday’s race was Anthony Familglietti, a two-time Olympian and six-time US Champion.  As Jason likes to point out, not many folks
can go out and get in on a game of basketball with Michael Jordan or Lebron
James, but the beauty of running is that you just never know who will show up
on any given day.  In this sport, people
like me can run the same race on the same day as Familglietti.  And he seems pretty nice to boot.  

I hadn’t really planned much for December, and I
never really got to see what I might be able to run right now, but it was a
successful race month anyway.  I know
that I have missed it.  A lot.  And I know that I’m nowhere near where I need
to be, want to be or am able to be.  It’s
not a bad place to end the year with a new one on the horizon.