This year the Chile Pepper fell just two weeks after my half ironman. I waited until the last possible minute to sign up and was lucky to be one of the Rush Running team members to earn an entry spot into the 10K. Yeah! Thanks to Mike and his staff for making it possible for so many of our team to race together. As the race day neared, things started to look pretty dicey with the weather. Chile Pepper just wouldn't be the pepper if there wasn't some weather excitement. Most of my past runnings had been on really cold weather days or days after a hard rain resulting in a soggy course. This year...I got a new experience!
Race morning began with a radar map that showed a very uncertain weather future for all of Northwest Arkansas. This was going to be interesting. I went ahead and got myself to Fayetteville and managed to make it to the race site before the rains began. Mike Rush had one of the Rush Buses at the Athlete village and so I hung out with the other Rush Runners in the early morning hours. We could tell that the weather was headed our way and soon it arrived. We all sprinted onto the bus and began what would be one long weather delay! There were runners huddled under any and every tent possible but thanks to Mike our crew was nice and dry in the bus.
The race organizers made a decision very early on and decided to consolidate the two races in the open division into just one race. Instead of having the 10K open at 7:30 followed by a 5K at 9:00 the organizers decided to have the two races start simultaneously. Because of the number of races, for both collegiate and high school, there is only so much delay that they can allow to fit all the student races in.
Around 8:30 the rain lightened up considerably and we were given notice that the race would start at 9:00. The only caveat was that there had to be 30 minutes without a lightening strike in order for the race to start. Well, we all piled out of the bus...took a group picture and then proceeded to warm up. It had been raining heavily for 2 hours and as soon as we headed out we were all squishing through the grass. I hate...hate...hate getting my shoes wet and dirty. I was miserable...and then I decided to just go with it and have some fun. There was no way to avoid the wet and the water was several inches deep over much of the course. About 5 minutes into our warmup the unthinkable happened...lightning strikes off in the distance. We continued with the warmup and then headed to the starting line. We were all hopeful that they would start the race....and then there was more lightning....and then it started to downpour. We sprinted back to the bus and began to wait some more.
|The Rush team before the 1st attempt to start the race!|
Finally at 9:45 we were given word that the race would start at 10:00 and that all participants would be running a 5K. We headed to the starting line and sought out a spot on the starting line. This is a cross country race so the starting line is about as wide as a football field and after the first 200 yds the course narrows down to a 5-6' wide trail.
The course was a complete mess after all the rain. There was standing water everywhere and a few spots that were slick with mud. There were two spots that were especially fun...one spot on the course where there is a dip. That dip had filled with standing water and it was pretty deep. The other was the finish line which was one giant puddle! The course was a two loop course with a modified second loop. For how rainy the day was I was surprised to see so many spectators there
Overall, I was happy with my performance. The light mist helped keep me cool during the race and I tried to stay mentally upbeat throughout it even when encountering the messy spots that would normally make me cringe. I seriously hate to get my shoes dirty so it was good that I had gotten that out of the way early on in the warm up. I negative split the race with my first mile at 9:48 and my finishing mile at a 9:31 pace.
And for proof on just how crazy my friend and run coach Mike Rush is...here's a pic of him racing in his custom Rush Running Chile Pepper costume! He wasn't planning to race this year but when the downpour started he got so excited at the idea of playing in the wet and muddy conditions that he had to run! That's a true runner...pure love of the sport!
Note: Photos taken from Arkansas RRCA Facebook page.