Today was the Helping Hands 5k in Elgin, and it was a beautiful morning. After far too much hatefully hot weather, this morning it was actually chilly! I grabbed a hoodie on my way out the door, though I ended up leaving it in the car.
The race was at the Bowes Creek Country Club on Elgin’s far west side. I had never been out there and was pleasantly surprised by how pretty it was.
Earlier in the week, when I picked up my packet, I had asked about the course, but no one seemed to have a map or know what it was like. After the surprise giant hill at the Founders Day race last month, I was a bit wary but reminded myself I’ve been running lots of hills lately and it shouldn’t matter.
As we got closer to race time, the director announced that the start line was a piece of tape near the crest of a hill in the adjacent brand-new subdivision. We strolled up the hill and milled around, making small talk with other runners. Then someone announced that the race actually started off by going down the hill we had just climbed. “Whew!” I said. “Glad we don’t have to climb this hill!”
Famous last words.
When the race director made his pre-race announcements, he smiled and said, “Those of you who were here last year know what a challenging course this is, but if you’re new this year, well, it’s very scenic!” People nearby chuckled and nodded in agreement. “It’s up and down and up and up and down and up again!” quipped one guy.
The gun went off, and the crowd bounded down the first big hill. I had started nearish the front this time, determined not to get trapped in traffic that could cost me the sub-30 time I was determined to get. I think I started off too fast and nearly lost my legs under me, but that was remedied as soon as we rounded the curve to the first of many uphills.
The first mile passed by quickly. We were running through the partially-completed subdivision, where the homes are brand new or still under construction, with few residents so far. One lady stood in her bathrobe at the end of her driveway, newspaper tucked under her arm, clapping as we passed.
“8:36…8:37…8:38…” a girl with a stopwatch called as we passed the one mile mark. Wha??? I thought. No way! I’ve NEVER run a mile that quickly. But I was thrilled, and also happy that there were people calling times at the mile markers. (One of my downfalls at Founders Day was that I had no sense of time – no one was calling out splits, and I hadn’t worn my watch, so I thought I was way behind the pace. I had my watch on this morning but never looked at it.)
Then we looped around a girl in a cul-de-sac wearing what appeared to be a viking helmut from the Warrior Dash, along with a pink feather boa. “Love your outfit!” I called with a smile. I hope to do that race next year.
Soon we were out of the subdivision and onto the golf course. We looped up and down hills, then back up the other side, running on the walking paths that ring the course and the golf cart paths between holes. At one point, though, we were suddenly on the open prairie and the path switched to a very narrow mix of dirt and loose gravel, reminiscent of the track at Grolich Park that I often run when rain is threatening. Like Grolich, it was a slow incline. It was so quiet through there, and beautiful as the sun rose higher in the sky, surrounded by coneflowers and black-eyed susans.
Too quickly, though, we were back on a cart path, with a giant hill ahead. Aha, I thought, here’s the beast I will slay! Corny, but it’s what popped into my head as I tucked in my chin and powered up it. It felt really good to pass a couple people who had slowed to a walk.
I made it to the top, rounded a small downhill curve… and found another hill! This one wasn’t nearly as bad, and I could see the finish line another quarter mile down the path. But my legs just wouldn’t do it, and I walked the last few steps up the hill before taking off and charging towards the end. My friend (who finished with his own incredible new PR) doubled back and cheered me in.
I finished with a 28:36! Not bad at all, especially given the terrain. I was thrilled, and even more thrilled that I had promised myself a massage if I beat 29 minutes.
The post-race party was good, with the usual bagels, bananas, and beer, plus oranges that I squeezed into my beer. Results took awhile, but it was a gorgeous morning and I didn’t really mind sitting out in the sunshine, beer in hand, happy about my time.
Overall, it was a great race. Though small – about 110 ran the 5k, and there were another couple dozen doing a 2 mile walk – it was very well organized and everything appeared to go smoothly. I loved that there were lots of volunteers around the course, calling out splits, handing out water, and directing traffic. For the most part, they were energetic and enthusiastic, which makes a huge difference.
Next Friday, I plan to run the Lake in the Hills Summer Sunset 5k. The course is supposedly “fast and flat,” and I can’t wait! The forecast right now calls for a high of 75 and sunny, so it should be a nice cool evening to run.
Anyone else up for it? The race starts at 7 PM, and the goody bag includes admission and food tickets for the adjacent festival.