UNTIL LAST NIGHT, I NEVER IMAGINED I WOULD HEAR THIS PHRASE after a race:
“In first place, with a time of (something awesome) – Jeff Jackson from Ann Arbor!”
Okay, maybe I imagined it, but I didn’t think I’d actually hear it. But Wednesday night, at the 4-mile Leap Day Run at Willow Metropark, it came to pass.
I heard about this event thanks to an offhand remark by my friend Cathy, a fellow runner and another of the wonderful people who work at Zingerman’s Bakehouse. As I paid for my giant molasses cookie she asked if I knew about the four-mile Leap Day run near Belleville. I hadn’t, but I found it online later and signed up. I thought it would be a good tuneup for the Shamrocks 5K in March, if nothing else. And they promised a cool sweatshirt with the entry fee.
I left work early (gee, what a shame) and arrived about an hour before the 6:30 p.m. race start, before most of the crowd showed up. Short lines for packet pickup and the restrooms – what a treat! I also had time for some warmup sprints, and although it was a bit rainy (“a heavy dew” was the euphemism used by the race organizer) I switched out of my rain/wind jacket, thinking I would be plenty warm once I got running. I was right.
I’d discussed strategy with Coach Marie on Saturday, and told her my goal of beating 28:00. She liked my plan to start a bit slower than my 5K race pace, then give it whatever I had left the final mile. I lined up in the front ranks and got off to a clear start, and away we sprinted into the deepening mist, a truck with a flashing light leading the way. About a quarter mile in I checked my watch; a 6:18 pace – too fast. So I eased back to my planned pace of 6:50. (I still can’t believe I’m writing, “slowed down to 6:50” to describe myself in a race.) I was amazed to find myself up in the front pack, and while the fastest runners eventually pulled away, very few came up from behind to catch me. Instead, I was overtaking people ahead of me! Near mile 3 the route had a turnaround point, and I started counting the people who passed me going the other way; there weren’t many. After 3 miles I started to flag, but I held onto a pace around 7:05 or so until the finish.
My time was 27:04, well under my goal, and I figured I had a shot at the top 3 in my age group. As I enjoyed a piece of the cake they’d put out to celebrate the Leap Day birthday runners, they posted the preliminary results – and there I was at number 1! I’d beat out the second place finisher in the 50-54 age group by over a minute! (In the spirit of full disclosure, if I’d been in the 55-59 age group, I’d have come in third, so I still have some work to do.)
So what did I do to celebrate my first-ever age group win? What any self-respecting runner would do; I accepted my medal with grace, and had another piece of cake.
AND SPEAKING OF CAKE AND OTHER DESIRABLE FOODS…You all have no doubt recognized that I got nowhere near my goal of 50 new recipes in the month of February. Well, “the best laid plans…” as the saying goes, and with a huge push at work to achieve a new certification, it just didn’t work out. But no worries; I’ve extended the cooking challenge into March. As work is still crazy busy for a bit longer, I may not set a separate March goal, but we’ll see. But I did manage to get one more new recipe in last weekend. I am a particular sucker for a good scone, but of course they are loaded with sugar, fat, and refined carbs, which is why they taste so good. I decided there had to be a way to create an equally tasty version that was at least marginally nutritious.
I started with a recipe I found on the net for low-fat maple oatmeal scones. Its use of white whole-wheat flour appealed to me, as did the addition of flax seeds, which, as we all know, are the new wonder food. I followed the recipe as written, only to find them unappealingly dense and not all that flavorful. So I made some adjustments. I replaced 1/3 of the white whole-wheat flour with all-purpose, and doubled the baking powder. I also swapped in low-fat sour cream for the skim milk, figuring it would retain moisture, help with rising, and add a nice tangy kick. And it worked! This batch rose much higher and while not light in texture, has a moist, tender crumb, and a nice, not-too-sweet taste.
(I will post my complete recipe later, along with all the others that pan out. But if you’d like it now, drop me a line (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll email it to you.)