By the time I got down to Lake Park, the rain had tapered off to a drizzle again and, from the parking situation, it looked like half the free world had showed up to go for a run. I did make a last minute decision to leave everything (read: phone, iPod, etc.) in the car and only carry my car key with me. This would prove to be a very good move.
I jogged the 4 blocks from where I parked up to my tri team's tent, said hi, and headed off in search of my bib/timing chip/t-shirt. Once that was out of the way, I was left with the problem of what to do with the t-shirt. I didn't have enough time to run it back to my car, so I ended up tying it to one of the cross poles in the roof of the team tent!
The IronCheerleader gathered his herd and gave us some last minute advice: go out slow, this is not a PR course so forget about it, the monster hill is at about 1.25 miles, and HAVE FUN!
The gun went off and I forced myself to hold back. I know I could have easily run a sub-9:00 minute first mile, but I would have died on the Ravine Road hill. I settled in around a 9:45 pace and focused on trying to avoid the larger puddles as much as possible. This was an exercise in futility since my feet were pretty much soaked after half a mile. I rounded the corner onto Lincoln Memorial Drive and let my pace drop a little as gravity took over on the only downhill of the entire race. I hit Mile 1 about 2/3 of the way down the hill at an even 9:30. I probably should have pulled back on my pace a little for the rest of the downhill, but I knew that the evil of Ravine Road lay ahead so I banked as much time as I could leading up to it. As I made the turn onto Ravine Road, it was drizzling a little harder, but I was too focused on running up that hill as long as I could. About half way up, I needed to drop to a walk for about a minute to catch my breath. After I recovered a little, I ran the rest of the way up the hill. Just as I topped out on the hill, lightening lit up the sky torrents of rain began pouring. Everyone was instantly soaked to the bone. I could have bailed right there, since I wasn't too far from my car at that point, but I decided that quitting this far in was equivalent to a Crybaby Moment, so I kept running along with just about everyone else. The rest of the course was mercifully flat, but the pouring rain definitely added a serious challenge - both physically and mentally. I hit Mile 2 and my Garmin flashed 9:41 for it. Okay, not what I was hoping for, but after the misery of the hill, it was reasonable. The last mile was a killer. The rain somehow picked up (how that's possible, I don't even know) and the wind whipping off the lake was freezing cold. I started to have a few thoughts of 'I don't want to be doing this anymore.' and 'What the %#@! am I doing out here?' My pace really started to suffer. Finally, I reminded myself that there were to be no more crybaby moments and that I was dangerously close to being a crybaby - this last mile could suck for 10 minutes if I ran or longer if I stopped to walk. I ran. I hit Mile 3 at 10:00 even. I took the final turn and saw the race clock ticking away in front of me and I sprinted toward it.
Official Finish: 30:13. Not a PR by any means, but considering the hill, the conditions, and the fact that this was my third race in seven days - it was much better than I expected to do.
I worked my way back to the team tent, drank a watery beer while standing out in some seriously ugly weather, and then jogged back to my car. I toweled off as best I could (so happy I'd thought to shove a beach towel in the car, covered the seat with said towel and headed home - shivering all the way!
At the moment (2 days later), I'm still trying to dry out my running shoes since I need them this weekend!