This weekend, Barktoberfest rolled around. Barktoberfest is Lollypop Farm's annual fundraiser, complete with a 5 mile race (and a 1 mile dog walk, for those that would rather stroll with their mutts). Given both of our dogs were adopted from Lollypop, I always feel good about supporting the cause. Plus, the actual festival is pretty amusing to those that enjoy being surrounded by hundreds of dogs. It's also good to remind our dogs where they came from once in a while, they need to be scared into behaving (kidding, kidding...we'd never give them up). Every now and then, they look nice, too
As far as the actual race went, I wasn't expecting a whole ton. Two years ago, it had marked my return to road races after four months off with my butt fracture; last year, it had been one of those freakishly good days where I felt comfortable at the start and strong at the end. This year, I figured it would be a good way to get my legs moving a bit faster again, since my training had been a bit spotty in the two weeks since worlds. So, I thought some hard running was in order. The race started out with a mile on a gravel path, followed by some rolling hills, with the fourth mile largely uphill, leading for a downhill finish. Karen Blodgett, a top local runner who's been making a blazing comeback from having her third (adorable, I should add) child in May was there; she had run a 1:21 half the previous week, and has been getting stronger every race.
The race ended up being fairly uneventful. Karen took the lead from the gun (and by the lead, I mean the actual lead- male and female), and held it throughout. As predicted, I felt neither fresh nor awful, so I spent the better part of it giving myself the "man up, it's short" speech. At the turnaround just past three miles into the race, I realized that I was in a no-man's land between a very smooth-looking Karen and, well, several men (very strange that we were 1-2!), so I ran the rest of the way against myself. I crossed the line in 30:34, good for second place and ten seconds slower than last year (all over the last mile), but not far off enough to be concerned, given how I'd felt during the race and for the better part of the past couple of weeks. The race had served its purpose, which was to kickstart my way back into some more intense training. Dave ended up running a pr, coming in at 32:25 or so, good enough for the third man, meaning he took home his very first running paycheck! Go Dave. He's starting to make me nervous, given the run is the only thing I have left over him :). Afterwards, I took the Bailey on a 40min cooldown, which did absolutely nothing to calm her down. We then walked around with my parents, sister, brother in law, nephew, and our small crew of dogs, looking at farm animals, grabbing some free dog treats from the vendors, and generally observing the greatest population density of dogs that ever exists in Western New York.
Today, though, was to mark another milestone: the century ride. 70.3 training meant that I never had felt obligated to bike that far, but with Placid looming on the horizon and a winter on the trainer rapidly approaching, now was as good of a time as any to break through that physical and mental barrier. Dave and I had flirted with the mark when we had biked out to Provincetown and back while we were vacationing on Cape Cod this summer, but the ride worked out to 92 miles. So, last weekend, before we had even left Jamesville Beach Park after Dave's race at the Syracuse 70.3, the decision to go for it was made. The conversation went something like this.
Jennie: We should do a century ride before the fall's over.
Dave: Yes. We should.
Jennie: Let's go next weekend, if the weather's good
So, today ended up being the day. We set out west, since there's really no other way to go from our house and I didn't feel like driving the bikes anywhere (the Bills were playing the Patriots later, after all, and I needed to get home for the end of that!). The terrain out there is pretty flat, which might not be the best training, but my goal for the day was to just worry about the distance first, as I still have plenty of time to work on the pace and hills. The first half of the ride was fine, but I was keenly aware that this was largely because of a nice tailwind. Tailwinds, unfortunately, become headwinds on out and backs. Luckily, Dave was a trooper, leading for 30 miles or so through the worst of it. Miles 50-70 seemed to crawl past, but once past mile 70, I began to feel a bit better, and the distance left suddenly seemed very surmountable. The golden and red tinged leaves on the trees, the apples in the orchards, and views of the lake were worth it; I couldn't help thinking to myself that the ride was actually a great way to enjoy my favorite season. A quick trip around the block finally pushed my bike computer into triple digits, and the milestone had been reached. Somewhere along the way today, I realized something: I'm starting to love biking (sorry, running). Over the summer, I had gone through my identity crisis of considering myself more of a triathlete than a runner. Today, I discovered that I love being bent over my aerobars, churning at the pedals, whether I'm cruising comfortably with a tailwind, cursing at Dave as he forces me to push myself to keep up, or pushing my way up a hill. The feeling was comforting, though, given that I've got lots more time on the bike coming up in my life.
On a final note for today, GO BILLS. Say what you want about us Bills fans, but we're loyal, for better or worse. I grew up with newspaper posters of Thurman Thomas, Jim Kelly, Andre Reed, and Bruce Smith adorning our basement wall, before I even totally understood the game. I've gotten quite good at figuring out how it is, in fact, possibly to blow a double digit lead with 30 seconds left and possession of the ball (ok, that might be a slight exaggeration...but just a slight one). On our way back through Greece, we had biked many people mowing their lawns, leading me worry that the game was a blowout, and fans had given up and taken to yardwork. The first thing I did when we got back from the ride was switch on the game, and I'm pretty sure my heart rate was higher during those last couple of minutes than it was throughout that entire ride. These minutes included running commentary that would make any Bills fan cringe, including talk about not letting Tom Brady get the ball back, the forward lateral, and, naturally, as Ryan Lindell lined up the kick the winning field goal, wide right. But, just like the century barrier, the Patriots barrier was broken too, and our beloved Bills finally got their win! Which just goes to show, who knows what's possible? That's why we work and fight and play the game!