Today was like a trip back in time. I was back at Portage West Middle School for the first time since 2007. This was the last time I ran the Open Race in the Portage Invitational and 2006 was the last time I ran this course as a runner for Gull Lake high school.
I usually didn't get the chance to run this race because normally the same day as the Campus Classic 5K and I have to go back to Western and run in that race, but this year they were on different weekends.
I arrived around 7:00 am when it was still dark out. After I gathered my gear and made a pit stop, I started warming up for the race touring the course and re-familiarizing myself with it. Then I began stretching and I ran into my friend Stephanie who I used to run with at Gull Lake. I also saw Brandon before my race.
After we stretched we headed down to the start line and waited for them to sound the gun. When they did, I was caught off guard and started a couple of seconds behind. I got out at a solid pace and headed up the biggest hill on the course about a 1/4 mile into the course. I followed the pack and we were passing each other back and forth. There were a couple of more hills and then we headed through the woods to where the first mile was at the exit to the woods. I was at 6:14 after the first mile and just a couple of seconds behind Brandon.
The crowd support was phenomenal. People were out cheering us on all over the course along with other cross country teams waiting to take the course later in the day. After we headed around the outside perimeter, we headed around the course again for the second time.
My pace was beginning to slow at this time after I got up the big hill for the second time. This was still due to the lack of hard workouts I had put in at the end of this season. There were times I had to slow my pace around tight portions of the course when I wanted to pass other runners. My second mile time was 6:54.
The last mile was a little slower, but not bad. I couldn't quite catch Brandon and the ending at Portage is a long stretch to the finish. Brandon finished 10 seconds in front of me and I ran 20:47. I was hoping to beat my all time best at Portage which was a 20:45 back in 2005, but that is a goal I can work toward for next year.
It was a great morning to run, cloudy, not windy, and a little humid, but not bad. It was certainly a nostalgic day and I hope I can come back next year if the Campus Classic doesn't fall on the same day.