Yes, the ubiquitous it's "Memorial Day weekend and I have to write about it!" moment. Still, there is much to comment on - the end of school is very near and we had a great race yesterday. And it IS a three-day weekend. Life is pretty damn good!
Regarding school - before I slip into a state of "irrational exuberance" about the fact that classes ended on Thursday afternoon, I should remember the words with which someone cautioned me - the year isn't over yet. But, in terms of classes, it is! I said adiós to my classes on Thursday, and now all that remains of the year are exams to grade, a trip with the seniors, lots of ceremonial moments, and final meetings. See, almost done!
It is even more perfect that the last day of classes more or less coincides with this weekend which is a true three-day-weekend for me. I say "true", because I have almost zero work! This stands in stark contrast to last weekend, which was a three-day weekend for me because I took a personal day on Friday, but then I spent several hours at school on Saturday and Sunday. This weekend has involved and will continue to involve friends, food and fun. (Yay for alliteration; too bad that I'm using it at a first-grader's level) The fun truly began yesterday morning, if you can use that word to describe a killer 8.6 mile trail run.
Yes, after some training and plenty of anticipation, Michael and I woke up on the early side for a Saturday morning and headed to Sierra Madre for the Mt. Wilson Trail Race. It was a beautiful morning - the rain from yesterday cleared out the air, and it was sunny with wispy clouds still hanging a bit low. A perfect beginning for a race day! After my illegal running of the race last year, I had my sights set on a legitimate run this year. I feel like somewhat of an interloper because it's a race with a very long tradition, being the second oldest trail race in the state of CA, and I still consider myself a newbie to SoCal and hate to think that I might have taken someone's place who had raced it for 20 years straight. I did not, however, volunteer to give up my bib, and was excited to participate in the event, especially since Michael and some friends were running it, which lent the race experience a much more 'community-feel' than my usual races.
In terms of race strategy and expectations, I hadn't spent hours of agonizing over this race although I did feel plenty nervous as we lined up at the start. Nor had I given too much thought to my race strategy. A part of me was tempted to run slowly and just enjoy the experience, but then another part of me wanted to RACE it! The latter part seemed to have greater persuasion because once we started, I decided that I needed to push it up the initial uphill which leads to the trail, in order to be in a better position once I hit the trail, as passing requires some strategic maneuvering on the ascent and descent. At a certain point on the uphill, I began to worry that I was pushing it too much and would run out of energy. However, the incline surged up, so it then became a game of run when I could and walk to save energy, especially since walking was faster than running at many moments on the trail - at least for the group that I was with. As per usual, I passed plenty of people on the uphill. I wasn't sure what my time would be to reach the top, so hitting that point just under 60-minutes was a total surprise! Yes, 4.2 miles in 58 minutes isn't speedy, but considering the elevation gain, I was happy with it. Reaching the half-way point meant a nice, long descent with a few uphill bumps along the way. Also, people running downhill had the safer position of being on the mountain side which is also a major bonus! As for the descent, I got passed by probably 40 people that I had managed to crawl past on the uphill, but this race, for me, is not about ego, so I did not mind one bit that people passed me. I was actually very happy with my downhill run which, for me, was a good pace. Coming off the trail, we hit pavement - it is strange to suddenly find yourself on a street after the miles on a trail. The only issue I had at the end was the small uphill coming off the trail - my calves started to cramp up! I've never had cramping issues on a run, so that was not fun. It comforted me that I was not the only one experiencing issues, since another woman stopped and stretched out her calves. Once we turned the corner of the street and headed downhill again, the calf-cramping issue abated and it was run, run, run to the finish! I crossed at either 1:36 or 1:37 plus some seconds which was great - I had hoped to finish around 1:40, so that was a better race than expected!
After getting some water and an orange, I then waited for Michael whom I sighted once he was on the final downhill - I ran partly down with him and then peeled off to talk to some students who had gone to the race to cheer different teachers on. They had even made signs for me in español! Michael had a good race, and so did other friends - it was a good day for everyone! It only improved when we had a beer at the beer garden afterwards. Perhaps half-way through the beer, we decided to take the celebration on to Amigos, for Mexican food and, of course, margaritas.
Looking back, I think that the day might just meet my definition of a "perfect day". A hard but fun race with plenty of cheering on other people, shared food and drink, and finally a big fat nap in the afternoon. This definitely puts me in the mood for summer!