I spent the weekend of October 16-18 at a running festival in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. When people ask, “Do you know anyone else there?” I try to explain, well, I’m in this group on FaceBook, the Sub 30 Club. Ted Spiker started it – he writes for Runner’s World. It’s really fun! We all support each other! These folks are my friends! But, it is a little hard for other folks to understand. I try again: See, we made all these jokes about clowns? And then Roger shows up in a clown suit! And then, Ted himself shows up on the course in the middle of the trail run! I can see why this is hard to get.
But in fact, for this one weekend, it feels like Bethlehem has been transformed into a town where I know everyone. Every store and restaurant I go into has Sub 30 people already there.
The first race was the Friday afternoon trail run. It was awesome lining up with TJ (aka Night Muffin, ha!) and Richie (aka The Leprechaun) and a bunch of the rest of the gang. We had been told that the trail was technical and difficult and yikes, they weren’t kidding. It started rocky and hilly and continued like that for basically the whole race. I don’t mind hills, but rocks under leaves scare me. I liked that the trail doubled back on itself all the time because we were frequently passing people going the other direction and could cheer them on. I loved the surprise of seeing Laurie (Mama Canning) and Ted (the Godfather) on the course. To my great astonishment, I came in second in my age group for the trail race. This keeps alive my record of only placing in races that do not have awards for age groups. To my still greater astonishment, I beat Coach Cowboy at this race! No, he is never going to hear the end of that and yes, he beat me in all three subsequent races.
After the race, I headed over to the expo with Coach Cowboy.
They decided we were so cool, that they put us on an upcoming cover! [Um, not really….]
I also ran into some of my virtual training partners!
Friday night we gathered at the Steel Works, the pub adjacent to the Steel Stacks area where the races were staged. This is where I first understood both how big the group has become and also that it isn’t going to matter. As the room filled with Sub 30 shirts, I was thrilled to see “old friends” (people I met last year) and “new friends” (people I had not met yet, but who seemed nice on FaceBook), but it was also fantastic to meet so many “unknown friends” (people I actually didn’t recognize, but who ALL turned out to be incredibly nice). Something about this group is just magic.
Saturday dawned bright and cold as we took our now traditional pre-race picture.
Last year I had run all three races “comfortably hard” without real time goals and that had been just fine. This year, I kept changing my mind about what I wanted to do. I had made a plan to run the 10K with Hippie Runner and Fly Girl, hoping for a sub-55 finish, but I also really wanted to PR the 5K. Coach Cowboy told me he thought I could run sub-25 and to line up by the 8 minute per mile pacers. What? I did NOT feel AT ALL like I belonged up there.
The gun went off and we started and I can only remember a very small number of things about that race:
- First time I checked my watch it said something like 7:20 pace and I felt comfortable. WHAT?
- We definitely run over that damn bridge in all of these races.
- An absolutely clear promise to myself that if I can PR the 5K, I do not have to go for sub-55 in the 10K. I can walk the 10K. I can skip the 10K. I can drink beer during the whole entire 10K. It really doesn’t matter, just survive the damn 5K.
- This business of running around the stacks at the end seems to go on forever and then they freaking fool you because there is a big cool arch of FIRE at the end of the race except, THAT IS NOT THE END! You have to keep running to the finish line!
- Finish time is 25:23, PR of 51 seconds! WOOT!
After the 5K, I had a banana, I got a clean shirt, I cheered for some people, I got cold, I went pee. Before too long, it was time to line up for the 10K. I had planned to line up with Hippie Runner and Fly Girl, but I couldn’t find them and anyway, I was off the hook for sub-55. I lined up with Coach Cowboy instead and ran a mile or so with him before he took off to chase down Hippie Runner. The first two miles or so felt pretty bad, but then I started to get warmed up. I passed Fly Girl. Shockingly, I passed TJ, who was having some bad cramping issues, apparently due to only having three safety pins for his bib? Who knew safety pins could cause such problems! Halfway through the race, I started to feel pretty good and found myself picking up the pace. With a mile and a half to go I thought, oh, get this damn thing over with. Finish time: 55:10! WOOT!
Not looking brilliant!
Saturday afternoon I got to hear one of my running heroes, Deena Kastor, be interviewed by David Willey, editor-in-chief of Runner’s World magazine. Pretty much running-nerd-girl heaven. Deena was amazing. She talked about how positive thinking helped her overcome training obstacles in the lead-up to her master’s record at the Chicago marathon the weekend before. She told us she once held her breath during a race to freak out her competition (it worked!). And, she doesn’t like bananas, but she has one on race mornings because that’s what runners eat! One of my big regrets for the weekend is that I didn’t get a picture with her, but I had no idea she would be so down-to-earth and it didn’t occur to me to ask.
Saturday evening the Sub-30 Club pretty much took over the dinner with the editors of Runner’s World with our fearless leader as the speaker. His tales of adventures and misadventures had us laughing and crying from the start, but most impressively, he came up with a spectacular new Sub 30 slogan:
Runner’s World editors dinner – my tablemates!
One of the fun aspects of the Sub 30 Club is that you can “follow” other runners the way some people follow professional athletes. Kind of like fantasy football except with amateur non-celebrity runners. Fly Girl is one of the people I love to follow. She is a super cool pilot who loves dogs and lives in the Midwest. She started running after she turned 50 and in her first year at the sport, she won her age group in something like 10 of the 12 5Ks she entered! Her race times for the 5K are well below 30 minutes, but she thought she “wasn’t cut out for” longer distances. I knew that was baloney, but when Fly Girl’s first half marathon didn’t go as planned, her confidence in her distance running took another hit.
I still really wanted to run a race with Fly Girl and when the 10K didn’t work out, I decided to help her meet her goal of a 2:10 half marathon (she ran her first half in 2:22). I forgot that the half marathon starts up on the highway so I got to the start late and Fly Girl had already found the 2:10 pacer, Ingrid. We got off to a good start and Ingrid was marvelous. She was full of information about Bethlehem and let us know our time for each mile, as well as how close to 2:10 we were running. It was super relaxed running with her and I really enjoyed the early miles.
By mile four, Fly Girl and I started to pull away gradually. I knew she was good for faster than 2:10 and she didn’t seem to be working too hard so I kind of just let that happen. Every now and then she asked where Ingrid was and I assured her that she was just a bit behind us. By mile 7, we were well ahead of Ingrid and as we passed the 7-mile marker, Fly Girl said “only two 5Ks to go!” I could see when she teared up that that was the moment SHE knew she was going to make her goal. By mile 10 I was telling her to plan her finish line picture for her big PR because she was going to blow 2:10 out of the water. By mile 11 I could tell she was fine so I picked up the pace. When we were running 8:15 at mile 12 she said “hey, this is pretty fast! Is this ok? What if I blow up?” I eased off a little but also said, “One mile to go? You are NOT going to blow up!” In fact, when we saw the finish line, she blew right by me and rocketed through to the end! She finished in 2:06:32 with a huge smile on her face and the confidence to know that a sub 2 half marathon is within reach. We’re planning to run that together next year at RWF, unless she’s too fast for me by then.
I loved running with Fly Girl!
Some of my favorite Sub 30 girls!