goals · Races · Running

The Hogback Hustle (21:25) & The Cheatin’ Woodchuck Chase (32:44)

The final two races of The Grand River Valley Charity Race Series were The Hogback Hustle and The Cheatin’ Woodchuck Chase. If you read my previous post, the lost races of spring 2018, you might remember that I committed to running all six of the races in this series back in March, and I took that commitment very seriously. In early 2018 I was working my way back from an injury and I needed to create a controllable running goal for myself that had nothing to do with performance. This race series served that purpose. Aiming to run all six races was a goal I could achieve regardless of how fast or slow I ran. At the end of the six month race series I knew I would have something to be proud of myself for even if I wasn’t running the times I wanted to. I have a tendency to be really hard on myself sometimes and setting goals like this one helps me feel successful even if other areas of my running aren’t going as well as I’d like them to.

Race number five was The Hogback Hustle. At this point in the race series my running became more consistent and I started feeling stronger. For this race I decided that I wanted to try to run close to the same time I ran in this race last year. Based on my how I’d been running leading up to this race I knew it would be challenging, but certainly possible if I pushed myself.

Going into the race I felt really confident. I live on the race course so I am able to run it often. It also helped that I have been running a ton of hills. This race has an uphill start and I knew if I could get up the hill I’d have no problem running hard all the way to the finish line. Hills, for me, are all mental. Sometimes I run hills on days when I am struggling [mentally]. If I tell myself I can get up them, I get up them. If things in my life aren’t going well I will run up some kind of hellish hill just to prove to myself that I can overcome difficulty. Whether the hill is big or small, eventually you get over it–I just keep that in mind and push to the top. With this particular course, I’ve done that a lot.

The race begins at the grocery store and then turns right out of the parking lot before you go up the hill. At the start I knew [from experience] not to run like a maniac. I headed up the hill at a steady, reserved pace. I hit mile 1 in 7:23, still going uphill but less steep. IMG_2159.jpg

Around 1.5 miles into the race the course switches from going uphill to going downhill. Right before this happened I started to pick up my pace knowing that I’d have to run around 6:30 for the last two miles if I wanted to run close to the time I ran last year. Miles 2 and 3 were 6:28 and 6:33.

The main difference between running the race this year and running the race last year occurred during the second half. Last year I was still fairly new in town, but this year I ran by a lot of people I knew. I wasn’t feeling great coming down the hill but seeing friends and neighbors gave me a burst of energy. Community support is the number one reason I was able to get to the finish line as quickly as I did.

When I ran by my house I knew I only had about 600 meters to go. I ran down Main Street feeling extremely thirsty tempted to drink all of the water in the Colorado River. Instead I opted for a water bottle when I finished. Phil had also run the race so I saw him immediately as I crossed the finish line, even before I noticed my time. My time ended up being 21:25, only 2 seconds slower than the time I ran last year. I was really happy!


The next day Phil and I made it into the local newspaper! More importantly though, I knew my running fitness was finally starting to return and that I’d be able to pick a goal race in the coming weeks!


Race number six in the Grand River Valley Charity Race Series was the Cheatin’ Woodchuck Chase. I was committed to running all of the races in the series but if there was one race I would have skipped, it would have been this one. Last year when I ran this race I hurt my groin on a cattle guard with a board laying over top of it. I was stepping off the board when a guy who was much bigger than me stepped onto it. The board sprung up and sent a sharp pain up my left leg into my groin causing me to be in quite a bit of pain for the remainder of the summer and early fall. Plus, the race is all downhill so it’s hard on your legs. Both of those things made me extremely nervous about doing the race again. I knew the chances of something like this happening again were really slim, but still I was scared since this is the race that was the start of all of my running related problems a year ago. Nevertheless, I ran the race.

Race morning started off a bit hectic with me not being able to find my GOALden Peak Performance jersey. I am not ashamed to admit that I pulled this out of my dirty laundry basket. Laundry is always low on my priority list and that will literally never change. I did not leave the house in enough time to get to the race. I had forgotten about the part where a bus needs to take you to the start and I had forgotten how far away the race was. As I drove to the race I knew I’d be cutting it very close to making the bus. I wasn’t panicking or speeding. I am either overly anxious about racing or completely apathetic. There is no in between. When I arrived with 2 minutes to spare before the bus left I wandered up to the registration table and asked if I could still sign up. They said yes and told me it would be a few more minutes before the bus actually left. The bus ride to the start felt really long for only being 5 miles. We got to the top with plenty of time for me to do a warm up. I forgot to switch my shoes and the shoes I wanted to race in were 5 miles downhill back at my car. I got over that really quickly and went to the starting line after I warmed up. I also thought I had chapstick in my pocket but all I had was a tinted lip balm so I used that instead. I wanted to run a comparable time to last year, but as I stood there very disheveled I reminded myself that my initial goal was to run all of these races and since I was about to start running the last race it didn’t even matter that my shirt was dirty, that I had almost missed the race, that I didn’t have the right shoes, or that I had some kind of tinted lip balm instead of my chapstick. Things like this used to really bother me and effect my performance but now I just let it all go and try to be a more prepared and responsible athlete in the future. Plus, all you really need to run a race is your feet.

The race started by running around a small circle and then going straight downhill. It took me about 400 meters beyond the circle part to really figure out a good pace for this race. As I said, the whole race made me nervous so I wanted to make sure I wasn’t flying downhill in the first mile at a dangerous [for me] pace. I was running with my friend for the first few miles. When we approached the cattle guard she asked, “Is this it?”, because she’s heard the story. I said, “yes, you go then I’ll go.” There were no other people around us and I was thankful that we were able to strategize getting over the cattle guard. I was very relieved after that part of the race and I felt comfortable pushing myself to run a little bit quicker in the second half. I was still nervous about all the downhill, but I was confident I wasn’t going to get hurt.

I don’t remember a lot after that, just that I was wheezing in the last few miles. I’ve never had issues breathing in a race unless I’ve had bronchitis or I was sick. My guess is that the air quality is still poor from all of the fires in our area. The wheezing wasn’t a hug concern, more annoying than anything else. My last mile was the slowest mile but it felt like the shortest mile. The finish line appeared in front of me rapidly and I wasn’t prepared for it–it felt great to stop running though. I ran the race in 32:44, much more cautiously and only 11 seconds slower than last year.


After the race I was thrilled I had run all of the races in the series. Runners who did all six races even received a special medal. These races helped me refocus on running in a positive way after being injured, kept me accountable, and allowed me to feel a sense of accomplishment once a month for six months.

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