Nice & Easy: The Hot Cider Hustle

With work and school and traveling, I’ve been woefully behind in my running. I’ve only been able to squeeze in one or two short runs most weeks, and rarely more than four miles. In fact, the last time I ran 8 miles was the Chicagoland Half Marathonback in May.So I was rather nervous about last Sunday’s Hot Cider Hustle 8 Miler at Danada Forest Preserve in Wheaton.But it was great.

As we arrived... the sun popped in and out all day.

“Falling back” the night before worked out rather well, mitigating staying out too late at a friend’s (non-Guy Fawkes) bonfire. The extra hour of sleep made getting up for a morning race not-so-terrible, especially given the 9 AM start. I even woke up to a bit of daylight!

After an easy drive to Wheaton, I picked up my packet – a lovely white long-sleeved tech tee (finally! a light color!) and matching mug with the race logo. I ended up with lucky #13, which I hoped wasn’t an omen. As I returned to my car, I found my friend Ilona.

Ilona and me, with Lucky #13, before the race

We milled around before the race, stretching and trying to stay warm. We agreed we were there to enjoy the scenery and conversation, and to take it slow and easy so we could finish with smiles and without injury.

Part of the course was through open savannah, with prairie grasses as far as the eye could see

We set off on damp grass and ran the first mile or so around the equestrian loop before launching onto the crushed limestone paths of the forest preserve. It was so pretty and tranquil, even with about 500 runners. I imagine the trees would have been even more vibrant two weeks earlier before they lost many of their leaves. But it was such a great way to spend a crisp fall day, crunching through leaves and spotting hold-out leaves.

Ilona let me set the pace, as she’s been running far more lately. We ran the first five at a nice, pleasant pace, stopping only for the aid stations. Once we got moving, the weather was nearly perfect – upper 40s/low 50s, with a brisk wind that occasionally abused us. I was comfortable in long sleeves and pants.

So many vibrant colors...

When we hit mile 5 – officially, the farthest I’ve run since July – my knee was complaining, so we started walking the first tenth of every mile. The last half mile was back on the grass of the equestrian loop – tough to run on! – but I found a bit of a kick towards the finish line.

Post-race was nice – the titular hot cider awaited us, along with bagels, Gatorade, cookies, and – brilliantly – caramel apples. Ilona and I sat in the grass, stretching and chatting until we realized how cold the wind actually was.

I didn’t have big expectations for this race, and I had thought about scrapping it.  (Though I suppose I set a PR, since it was my first 8 mile race.) But I’m very glad I ran it, albeit slowly. I had a fantastic conversation with a long-lost friend and proved that 8 miles is indeed possible. And it was a great way to spend a pretty, crisp autumn day.

All smiles, and injury free!

Thanks, Ilona, for the photos, and for a fantastic day!


5 responses to “Nice & Easy: The Hot Cider Hustle

  1. Lovely course. Sounds like you had a great day!

  2. You *never* lost your running mojo; it just occasionally gets misplaced under stacks of grad school papers and work schedules. You are an amazing spirit and I really enjoyed our time together out there, Crysta! Wonderful post, wonderful memory.

  3. Nice race! I ran the Hot Cider too, it was a nicely organized race and I adore the course. The path is really pretty, isn’t it?

  4. Pingback: Hot Cider Hustle 2012 Recap « chasingcheeto

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