Posts Tagged ‘media challenge race series’

It took me 28:05 to run the second Media Challenge Race of the season, but I was drenched before I’d been on the course for a minute. Not because, like in years past, the weather was just so oppressively humid, but because a powerful, exuberant thunderstorm broke out at the exact moment the race organizer started the clock.

photo credit: @runner510

Imagine a great takeover: everything was forced to submit to the deluge. This storm raised an amused eyebrow at your umbrella, then proved how useless it was by aiming the rain sideways. Although us racers didn’t completely submit–we still raced, after all–we accepted the race on the storm’s terms. We were going to be sopping wet, our shoes would squish, and even seeing what was in front of us would be a challenge. What does this mean as a runner? For me it meant this was the most fun I’ve ever had in a media challenge!

Running through a strong rain brings out my inner child. While she didn’t completely take over (this would have involved twirling in circles with my arms spread open and my head tilted back), she definitely helped me run faster than I thought. It was all so absurd, the weight of my water-laden tech tee (yes, I did wring it out while running while it was still storming. Me: super smart), trying to wipe the streams out of my eyes. I might have mumbled Squish squish! Squish squish! in cadence with my strides. I definitely laughed out loud with delight and glee. (Fuckin A, people, how often do adults get to feel delight and glee? We gotta revel in it when we can!) Having said all of this, I can imagine that running a marathon in these conditions would suck hard.

Don’t ask me my splits. I ran this race the first week my Garmin was broken so I was running naked, which gave me a chance to really tap into and pay attention to my effort levels. Not sure I could have run any faster without puking at the finish line, which is just not cool in front of industry peers. I think my team would have gotten docked a point or two if that had happened (or at least, I think that’s a fair rule that should be instituted, don’t you?). Finish-line puking: minus 2. Mid-race puking: minus 5.

photo credit: @runner510

One thing about racing drenched: there’s no hiding your body flaws. All the lumpy parts are accentuated by the clothes that are clinging damply to every curve and bump. Dear God, please release me from my vanity….. Still way-ting!

Here’s a blog post about the only other race I’ve run in a lot of rain. Have you ever raced in the rain? Did you love it or hate it?

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Usually, the first Media Challenge race of the season is my fastest because the conditions are the most hospitable. The least hot, the least humid. I was confident I’d be speedy in race #1, not only because of the weather, but also because of the two superb workouts I’d had this weekend, plus Tuesday off as a rest day. I was hoping for proof, or for a reminder, of what I have to look forward to in October in the marathon. Yes well. Humility is a helpful on race day, too, right?

Or rather: Doesn’t it just suck when the rest of life rises up to fuck with our running?

I work in book publishing, which affords me the specific pleasures of a constant supply of free books, of working with lettered and intelligent humans, and of racing in the Media Challenge Series every summer. I work in book publishing, which means I submit myself to lower salary norms, long hours spent working for little return, an insecure environment due to a changing consumer landscape (ebooks), and, once a year, the grueling schmooze-a-thon of Book Expo America.

I used to loooove BEA. Parties! Cute men in nerdy glasses! Free books! Celebrity authors! Parties! Cute men in… okay okay. Nowadays, I strategically maneuver my way through BEA to avoid as many phonies, succubus, aspiring authors, and exes (oops) as possible. This means my appointment book is pretty fucking lean (yo). (Who has time for meaningless or pointless? Certainly not me.) However, Wednesday (yesterday, a.k.a. race day) I could not avoid making an appearance, since I had numerous authors there I needed to dote upon. (If anyone requires references as to my doting abilities, just ask. I know it seems far-fetched but actually I am quite skilled at making others feel like they are the only person On.The.Planet.) What did all this doting mean, though, for my race? It meant there was no race, not for me. It meant that my legs were completely thrashed by the cement slab I had to walk upon all day long, and when it came time to race, my legs had morphed into that upon which they had been standing for six hours.

The Jacob Javitz Center is hell for racers. New York City Marathoners, take note! Do not belabor your spin around the Marathon Expo; it will needlessly exhaust your body.

As I walked to The-Building-Formerly-Known-As-Tavern on the Green, I couldn’t deny the complete malaise that had overcome my body. We’re talking zero zip. I thought perhaps I would catch a second wind once the Go was given–that usually happens–but then thought again perhaps not, since I couldn’t even walk quickly to the race (forget jogging, or even wogging).

The race definitely happened–without me. Oh, I was on the course, but my legs did not show up. They were on strike, having filled themselves with some sort of leaden substance that made it impossible to move quicker than a 10-minute-per-mile pace. Frankly, I don’t blame them–I would be pissed too if the rest of my body made me take the brunt of the abuse from a concrete floor for the entire day. At the start, I reined myself in down the hill because every step was so jarring I thought my teeth would fall out. After that I proceeded gingerly. And that’s about it. I never felt that tightness in my chest from pushing so hard I could hardly breathe. I never pumped my arms. A few times during the two laps of Central Park’s lower loop, I thought about walking (tra la). At one point I spent an inordinate amount of time politely chatting to a shirtless runner who had pulled up beside me, that was odd yet at least distracting (the conversation; I did not glance at his torso). Shirtless running: I remain conflicted. Rarely is it a good thing for anyone other than the shirtless one.

So, I finished the race in what might be a personal worst. 3.5 miles run in 34:13, average pace 9:41. Fastest mile 9:04; slowest mile 9:58.

I can’t remember the last time I’ve been upset over race results, but this is one of them. Fucking A I run my training runs faster than this! I ran 8 miles at a faster clip just this Sunday! Do over, do over! Oh wait–there IS a do-over, in 2 weeks, it’s called Media Challenge #2. See you there, folks.

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The Media Challenges have been cancelled so many times this summer due to crazy heat that I don’t even know which one this was supposed to be, the third maybe? Whatever–it was the last one of the year, which meant it was my last chance to run a best time for the season, and maybe to set a new PB for the distance. I was so rushed after work that I left Little G at home, forgot to check my course times, and had to hustle to get to the starting line with only two minutes to spare. Defaulting to my If I’m not going to win, I may as well look cute in philosophy. I wore my red London Marathon tee, spandex shorts, and my adiZero racing flats. Spontaneously, I decided to race with my nano so as to avoid aggravation (the music distracts me from idiots).

There was an annoyingly large contingent of big guys from the New York Times–all in their royal blue team shirts–mucked right at the front of the starting line. I decided to stand smack in the middle of them, a lone red dot in a swarm of blue papermen. And then we were off. I smugly held myself in check as everyone else tore off full speed down the hill. Honestly, haven’t they figured out by now that killing the hill early kills them for later? This happens every race! I was pretty tense  from my work day, and could feel my shoulders up around my ears. I tried to lower them but gave up after a mile or so, deciding to concentrate on quick turnover instead, since that seemed to be what my body wanted to do: short rapid steps. I liked that, it felt good. A little past the halfway mark, the timekeeper called out my split for slightly more than 1.75 miles — 13 minutes plus. The second loop is slightly shorter than the first, so I was curious if I could possibly break 26 minutes, but then somewhere around Mile 2.5 I could feel myself working twice as hard to run a little bit slower than I was in the first 2 miles. I thought of DT, who theorizes that the third mile is the most physically painful and the most mentally challenging in these 3.5 milers. It’s the point where we start to seriously wonder if we can hang on until the finish line. I definitely fell off my pace; I can’t say by precisely how much since I was running watchless. I had stopped passing people, but I didn’t care since I’d passed plenty in the first 2.5 half miles.

Later, on my walk to the subway, I called my dad to tell him about my race. He commented that the distance was a walk in the park for me, but I had to clarify that the effort was quite the opposite. My legs were burning, I had an awful cramp in my side, and my vision was blurry. My dad laughed for a moment and then said, “Well butter, it sounds like you had a fun time.” I had to giggle too. Running: sublime, yet ridiculous.

So there I was, at the crest of the final hill before the lovely decline that drops into the finish line. I was pushing it. Dig deep, woman. You are actually only at the beginning of a long hard road, and I know you’ve got more grit inside. Carry yourself forward. I opened up my stride, but frowned when I heard “26:31” come through the finish line bullhorn. I didn’t even come close to breaking 26.

Regardless, I was still satisfied with my effort: I gave everything I had that day and got in my speed workout for the week. It was only later, when I got home and checked PF for my 3.5 mile PB, that I realized I’d set a new course record for myself. 26:31 is a 39-second improvement over my best time from 2 years ago. And, that 7:35 pace is my fastest per-mile pace in any race (not counting the Fifth Avenue Mile).

YOU GUYS! I am super excited to see what’s going to happen next! How fast can I get? Just how freaking fast can I actually go?

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Nope, I’m not racing this one. Just running it, just taking it easy. This was my plan all day, as I have been suffering from some strange illness since Sunday night. It felt like some mix between jet lag, chronic fatigue syndrome, and extreme dehydration. I was sluggish, woozy, and (perhaps worst of all) thinking very slowly. I even called in sick to work on Monday. I have been feeling incrementally better, but still today everyone was telling me I looked “glassy” and “sleepy.” I went to Pilates at lunch, which is not a cake class since our instructor gets our heart rates up and instructs us to do everything “from the belly.” Nevertheless, I love these media challenges (remember last year I went to the first one just to cheer?) and refused to miss it. I’d run with my iPod, I decided, and have it be just another workout towards my 30 day running streak (Day 17 for those of you keeping count at home).

Unexpectedly, I felt a lot better after Pilates, as it seemed to improve both my mood and my energy level. By the time I got to the benches outside Tavern on the Green, I felt ready to run (not race, just run). I wore my funny little running dress. It’s such an unlikely item in my drawer of workout gear, yet it is helpful as a strategic tool. Who thinks the girl in the dress and cutie pie pigtails could be competitive? I look silly, so people underestimate me. Then I pass them. Or at least, I pass some of them.

If you aren’t savvy about it, this course can really kill you. It starts just north of Tavern on the Green with a long downhill, nearly half a mile long–we run down what I call the “Hill of Spite” (it is part of the last .2 miles of the New York City Marathon, except marathoners run up it). The course continues counterclockwise around the lower loop of the park, over lots of rollers which, on the second go-around, can really hurt if you haven’t paced yourself well. I really held myself back the first loop, strictly pacing myself (Mile 1=8:41; Mile 2=8:16). My split for that loop, which is a little bit longer than 1.75 miles because we start about 100 yards back from the finish line, was called out at 15:13. Okay, now break 30 minutes. It was a little after the 2-mile mark when I decided to start picking people off, and in fact, everyone I passed stayed passed. Well, everyone except for this one guy, who first passed me, then I passed him, then he passed me finally in the home stretch. I passed my colleague’s husband, SJ, who told me at the start that he would hang back with me and let me pace him since he ran Ragnar this weekend. Except he took off down that hill with all the other runners who get sucked in to the slope, and clearly tuckered himself out. I was surprised since he knows the course as well as I do. In the last half mile I even passed KD, a much younger runner who was one of my mentees in Team in Training for the Disney World Marathon in 2008 and who I’ve never beaten before. Mile 3=7:27, and the last 0.47 miles took me 3:12 (or a 7:29 pace).

My official finishing time doesn’t correspond with my Garmin because I was so chilled out at the beginning of the race I forgot to hook up Little G with his satellite buddies and my watch got started late. My race time is 28:08, as the 22nd woman to finish (my personal best for this course is 27:10). I probably could have pushed harder, too, especially in the first mile, but hey: not bad for not racing!

After the race, I was able to chat with DT, a friend, colleague and Twitter buddy, and I met DG, who races with Brenn for MgGraw-Hill, and who has been reading my blog for over a year! I was touched when he told me he still reads PF. I’ve just added his blog, The Long Rush, to my blogroll now that I’ve met him (that’s the rule, I have to know you in the actual world, for your blog to make it onto my blogroll). The guy who passed me in the home stretch came over and shook my hand and said “Good race.” We introduced ourselfs and I recognized his name–the guy who passed me is an occasional reader of my blog who originally found PF by googling the Media Challenge two years ago! All in all, this was a great start to the Media Challenge series, and I look forward to improving my time from this race, as well as over my PB.

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All day my old injury had been aggravating me. My left butt hurt when I sat down; my right upper hamstring area burned when I leaned on that leg. I tried not to think about it; I tried not to think about the afternoon’s race. For it was the fourth and final 3.5 mile Media Challenge Race in a series of five (rescheduled from a day of thunderstorms), and I was hoping to PR, though it seemed unlikely given the return of a familiar pain. 

Finally at 6:22 PM, my colleague SN came into my office and said, “We gonna do this thing?” and I immediately chased him out so I could change–we had to leave in eight minutes. Yes, we are gonna race! I thought, Maybe my muscles just need to warm up and I’ll be alright. 

Weather conditions were less tough this time, with the heat and humidity easing off just enough to give the illusion of favorable conditions (everything’s relative, right?).  However, as I was styling my pigtails at the bag watch benches, both hair ties snapped! I had no backups at hand–all of a sudden, I felt like Samsonette. Quickly a colleague offered me an extra elastic so I could at least get my hair off my face–but a single ponytail? It didn’t bode well. 

Then, I was talking to my old friend KP when they gave the “Go!” signal—that’s right folks, I was distracted, and missed the start. I lost a few seconds as I pushed my way over the line, only then awakening Little G. This earned me a raised eyebrow and a laugh from my department-mates, who know me as the gritted-teeth competitor (at least against myself, and the few runners I manage to pass in any given race), ready to use any slip-up by another racer to my advantage.

With or without me, it had started. For the first loop I kept the effort level elevated but not anywhere near what I did last week at Nike Speed. Mile 1 – 8:51. Mile 2 – 8:31. When I glanced at Little G and saw the split, I thought it said 9:31, so I really picked up the pace and thus: Mile 3 – 7:59. The final Mile 3.51 would up at 3:40 (7:15 pace). Final time? 29 minutes flat, beating my previous by just 13 seconds, but the only reason that happened was because I ran 0.05 miles less this race (according to my Garmin). This race, my average pace was 8:16 minutes per mile; the last one was 8:12. 

Alas. A stunning PR wasn’t to be in 2009. As all good Mets fans know how to say, with notes of hope, denial and pluckiness in their voices, There’s always next year. This year, I learned to pack extra hair ties and to stop chatting up the boys before the race.

(Injury nutshell: I was sore after the race; I went to PT today and took the day off; I am not freaking out.)

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I am nervous about the race tonight, I emailed a running buddy Wednesday morning, because I don’t know of what I am capable.

The 3.5 mile course (two lower loops of Central Park run counterclockwise) is quite familiar to me as I’ve been participating in the series (and running in Central Park) for years. My PB for the race is 27:10, but last month I ran a sluggish 32:12. My training indicates I can hold a sub-9-minute mile for at most two, and usually run 3 miles in around 28:30. I had no idea how to pace–nor (more importantly) how much to push–myself. I didn’t feel like running as hard as I could, only to cross the finish line dizzy and nauseous. I wanted to run steady, with just the right amount of effort, so I could kick at the end. But what was that pace? Pfft, I threw my hands up and decided to shoot for 9:15’s.

The race starts at the top of the slope by Tavern on the Green, which creates a stampede of media workers, all hurtling down the hill at speeds that are unsustainable over 3.5 miles. Granted, it’s a great feeling to whoosh away, but I have paid the price for a fast first mile before so always try and rein myself in once we hit the trough. I suppose I did rein myself in, because Mile 1 was my slowest of the race at 8:25. Yeesh, better slow down! Mile 2? 8:13. Can I actually sustain this? Mile 3 — 8:03! Ohmygoodness just half a mile left, there’s that big curvy hill, but still… Mile 0.56 clocked in at 4:31, or an 8:02 pace. I was done in under half an hour. Damn, woman. Check the systems. Adductor brevis? No pain. Heart? Pounding with excitement. Lungs? Panting with glee. Hey, that just felt gooood. Mmm and aah. Dare I, dare I hope for something better than a 1:59:00 performance in Baltimore? Ooo, that’s risky emotional ground. Let me spend a little more time compiling evidence. 

And also, I had a vicarious thrill at the performance of colleague SN, (who quit smoking less than a week ago) and broke away from me at Mile 2, to finish in 27:51 (more than a 4-minute improvement for him over last time). I say “broke away”–actually, it’s more like I yelled at him to bolt ahead (“Will you just fucking go?!”), since he wasn’t even sweating just keeping pace with me. And also, I passed my friend LW our for a workout; she trotted towards me on the course and we swapped waves. It’s always lovely to see her; she’s one of those amazing women I like to collect. And also, I had a lovely catch-up chat after the race with DT, a leggy Masters speedster from our children’s division and a regular at this series; I’ve known him for 10 years! 

3.5 miles in 29:13, and 39th among all women. Can’t wait to see what happens at the fifth Media Challenge (which is actually the fourth, rescheduled due to thunderstorms). What do you think my target pace should be?

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I forgot to mention in my last race report that I came home from Vermont with a nasty sore throat and chest cold; I felt it scratching on Sunday morning and by Monday it had bloomed and taken control of my body. As quickly as the symptoms had seized me, they had eased off, so that by Tuesday evening I was rested enough to join my company’s team in the second race in the Media Challenge Series. Granted, I still couldn’t breathe too well; I was definitely congested, but I wasn’t out there to race until I hurt anyway. No, I was there to add to the numbers and to pace my coworker SN, who would be running his first-ever race. I figured that even though he’s 8 years younger than I am, he is a smoker which would cancel out any speed advantage his younth may hold.

Finally, finally, there I was, among my teammates, dressed to run. It felt great to be part of the gang again, and I was gratified that they were happy to see me back at it as well. I gave SN a rundown of the 3.5 mile course–twice around the lower loop of Central Park; it will smell like horse manure; we start and finish on the downhill but it will feel as if we’re running uphill the rest of the way. And then we were off, I started us at a 9:30 pace for the first mile, based on the times SN told me he’d been hitting in his own training. We slowed down a little for Mile 2 (9:50), but then I picked it up for Mile 3 (9:00), and by the time we were in the last half mile I was running as fast as I thought I could sustain for another three or four minutes (7:50 pace), primarily to see if SN could hang with me. While he was breathing hard, he didn’t fall back. I, on the other hand, had a side cramp and could hear myself wheezing from somewhere deep inside, due to the congestion. I let him know that once we passed the traffic light before Tavern on the Green, it was just 100 yards downhill to the finish line. I could sense him working hard next to me, but he still seemed restless. It was strange to be so attuned to someone else’s race, but I felt a small measure of responsibility to pace SN through a good first race so that his experience would be positive; I wanted him to finish as fast and as strong as possible.

As we pounded down the hill, we could hear the woman with the bullhorn shouting out finishing times, “Eight-fifth-three! Eight fifty-eight!” I told SN to go if he felt like he could, and he did, but of course I had to chase him a little. He beat me by one second, with Little G showing me a time of 32:12, for 66th place out of 115 females. Far from my PB on this course last year, but it leaves me (and SN) penty of room for improvement.

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Earlier this week I made the impulsive decision to go to the first 3.5 mile race in the Media Challenge Series to cheer on my colleagues and see some friends from other companies (including Brenn). Spectating and hanging out with other runners cheers me up and inspires me, and I was relieved to finally be able to report to everyone that I was definitely on the mend as we mingled before the start. 

This morning I hit the gym again, and did my strength and balance exercises. This workout includes squats on a bosu, static lunges on the bosu (deceptively difficult), squats with 10lb dumbbells, the leg press machine, and my mat workout. Owe (in the good way)! Then, the highlight of my day: 15 quality minutes with my new flame, Mr Treadmill. Funny how I used to think he was so boring, but now? Now he puts a great big smile on my face, even though I’m the one doing all the work. 

So, I had no hard feelings when it came time to watch others race. It was just plain fun–a whole hour of running talk, finding out that one of our young guns editors was a high school middle distance track star and our sci-fi specialist is signing up for the Brooklyn Half. Who knew? Seeing my office mates getting their competitive dander up on the course was fun, too. We showed well, with two runners in the top five.  And, I am looking forward to when I’ll be able to race with everyone in June. 

(Brenn came in sixth, despite the sliders he had for lunch (apparently they slid back up somewhere around mile 2. Yeah!). The top female finished in 21:57. Whoo-ee.)

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Like a moth near a tiki torch at dusk, this race series has been flicking around the back of my mind for a month now. In many ways, these races were the harbinger of my success as a runner last year. Or, I could put it another way: they were a course of vitamins I diligently took to make me stronger. 

Last week, my HR department announced the dates for the five Media Challenge races, in which employees from various media companies pit themselves against each other for the right to control the hearts & minds of the American public. The first one is next week, on May 20th. I’ll have to send my regrets to that party, since I know there’s no way–I can feel it in my post-9k+ walk soreness–that I’ll be running a mile by then, let alone 3.5 of them. 

The other night, EN tried to perk me up. First, he laughed Device MemoryhomeuserpicturesIMG00274when I told him I felt like a pussy: I’m so weak and off my training that a long walk made me achy. Pathetic! Then, he tried to convince me this forced hiatus from running was an opportunity to start fresh, as if I were a running virgin. 

Honestly people. I have no desire to revisit virginity (of any sort)–apart from the fact that it’s technically impossible, it was hard enough to lose it the first time. No joke: I mounted very persuasive arguments using both words and, er, gestures to get my first two boyfriends to have sex with me–without success. (They were exceedingly Catholic.) And granted, while my first-ever weeks of running were primarily characterized by lots of heavy breathing, skin slick with sweat, and rythmic motion, I am not looking forward to awkwardly pushing through 10-mile weeks, side cramps, and reduced speed to get to that Oh Yes place in my training again. 

At least with running, I just have to worry about pleasing myself. 

Here are the dates for this year’s Media Challenge Series. All races start at 7 PM near Tavern on the Green in Central Park. Give me a shout if you’ll be competing for your company.

  • Wednesday, May 20
  • Tuesday, June 23
  • Wednesday, July 8
  • Tuesday, July 21
  • Wednesday, August 5

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Pigtails PR’ed tonight, folks, and I just couldn’t wait until the end of my race report to tell you all.

Going into this race, my company’s team is in first place for the series, winning every race, but maintaining just a small lead over the second-place team. Our captain was rallying everyone to show for the final race so we will be able to clain victory, and I did my part by coercing fellow Green Mountain Relay runner JMK to come out with me by exhorting, “Win Win Win!” I’ll admit, I was starting to feel nervous about the race, in that good, excited way. But also, I was wondering what had gotten into me when I thought it would be suitable to let everyone know I was hoping to PR. What if I didn’t?

Fat chance! I ran the first loop, 1.8 miles, in 13:32. That’s an average pace of about 7:30’s–but I think I ran the first mile closer to 7, then slowed down a little. My strategy was to go out stronger than I could sustain, because I knew I could gut it out the last lap if I gave myself a good head start, and I could kick on the final .1 mile of downhill. We started in front of Tavern on the Green, and I was breathing hard by the time we entered the smelliest manure zone (you know that stretch on the South East corner?). 

By this point, I know the course very well, and that made the loops seem smaller and the hills shorter. I started a mantra which I would repeat on the uphills: Soon you will be running downhill. And then I had another mantra to make sure I didn’t relax & slow down on the downhills: Enjoy the downhill.  I tried to gulp water at the split but I was breathing so hard (and reluctant to slow down) that all I could do was sort of toss the water towards my mouth and hope some made it in.

Somewhere in the middle of the second loop my friend LW, the cookie-baking triathlete who recently spent a weekend with us in the Poconos, passed me running in the opposite direction, on a training run with TNT. Boy, did she look relaxed — she could talk! I think I grunted out a response. I couldn’t say if I passed any other racers that last lap, I don’t think I did, but at this point I was just racing myself. I didn’t dare look at my watch, though, I was working off my split time, internal dialogue, perceived effort level, and the time I had to beat: 28:12. I got to the top of that hill in front of the Tavern on the Green, one-tenth of a mile from the finish line, and could hear them calling out the splits — 26:49, 26:54.

I told myself, You will kick it down this hill and not let up even though you’ve wiped your old time. You will kick it. I finished in 27:10, the final 1.7 miles taking me 13:38, for an average race pace of 7:48’s. I grabbed my pink place card from the volunteers, saw that I finished 13th among all women, and went to sit down on the grass and soak it all up for a minute or so.

(Actually, that’s what I’m doing right now. Sitting here at my keyboard grinning.)

(I’ll let you all know if my company team won the series once the final results get emailed around.)

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