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Posts Tagged ‘Ohkay Owingeh’

I won! I won! I won! and not just my age group – 1st female, 5th overall – with men.  Today was the Po’Pay 5k race that took place at  Ohkay Owingeh ( formerly San Juan Pueblo). This race has been going on 30 years and draws mostly runners from the Pueblo and a few Anglos like myself. I do not know historical ratios I am just commenting on today. I only know the largest number of runners so far was 400, today was under 100.  The race marks the Pueblo revolt from the Spanish over 300 years ago.

Pre-race: super organized, a lot of young runners, one girl had on her Foot Locker Cross Country Championship race shirt from 2010. I figured she would fly out of there. There  were a few other really thin lanky young women, high school and college. I figured they would dust me. I checked out the older competition, my age group was 46-65 and I saw one women who may give me a run.

The course was circular and  dirt, my favorite. I brought my cross country flats. I had no idea if this was a road race or trail so I brought both types of racing flats.

I felt good despite a 7 hour hike with a straight up 3000′ climb of Mt. Frazier yesterday. My quads were hard as rocks, but the 12,163 ft mountain filled me with energy and excitement.

We lined up on the orange sprayed line. We were told to take off our hats and glasses and a Tribal Council Member said the prayer. It was fantastic. There was this great rhythm to the prayer and it went on for a long time. I had no idea of course what he was saying but I assumed it was “thank you and let these legs work well.”

The gun when off, I started on the line with 2 other women, and the men. Our rabbit was an ATV. I let the women go ahead of me but about 1/2 mile in I passed one, then a mile in I passed the other. At mile one a very strong women passed me, weighing about 100 pounds and easily moving. She stayed about 20-40 meters in front of me most of the way. The first two miles were up but gradual, only about 100 feet each mile. Then after 2 miles  it started to drop and I worked the downhills, hard. I was gaining on her. Running at elevation is weird, it is way slower and breathing is way more labored, but because it is slow, I have no lactic acid build up, my legs never get heavy they just can’t go fast. I thought, “When should I make my move?” I can catch her but we are over 1 mile to the finish. I do not want to puke at the finish line, I always have dry heaves when I work hard, and I did not want to be outkicked in the last 200 meters which is easy for someone to do to me.

But I need to push. It was the two of us plus an older man, older like me, who obviously runs a lot. I took a chance, I passed her, he pushed hard, I let him pull me a bit then passed him. In passing I verbally prodded him on, “come-one” I wanted him with me, until I would push again. I dug in deep. I hoped that my passing her would psychologically let her drop back but it didn’t she kept pushing. I saw two men about 400 meter from the finish. It was her coach. I thought, “oh god don’t let me fall apart now.” I push and pushed. I heard the people at the finish. I tried to make my legs work as fast as they possibly could, it was only 200 meters, get me into the 6:00 pace please, don’t let her pass me. And there it was, I crossed the finished, first women, they were 10 seconds behind me. No dry heaves, an immediately recovery, then it was as if I didn’t run. Time wise it was the slowest 5k I have ever run. Effort wise  it was the hardest I have worked. It was also really fun because I had to think far beyond, “can I beat her” but I had to make bold decisions and big risks to win. I felt like I really earned it.

Immediately a reporter from the newspaper was there. He interviewed me and I said shinning things about the girl I ran with, The Santa Fe Striders for promoting the race, the excellent quality race. I was told the women I beat was one of the best high school runners to ever come out of the Espanola area. She was a college cross country runner at New Mexico Highlands University.

One of the things I was most thankful for is that the Kenyan’s didn’t show up. They dominated the last Pueblo race – in fact the same man and woman that won, also both won the NYC 1/2 marathon this year. So you know never who is going to show up. But today was my day and for that I am very happy.

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