I steeled myself and kept walking. I was tired of being soft, turning down opportunities for self-improvement just because they happened to be physically uncomfortable. I channeled my idol Dean Karnazes: "Somewhere along the line we confused comfort with happiness." I thought about Dean racing through Death Valley (in the middle of summer) and Antarctica; this weather was a light breeze by comparison.
As I walked down the steep Hyde Street hill to the starting line, a strong gust of wind nearly blew me off my feet. I steadied myself against a wall before continuing. I knew that once I got back to flat ground I would be perfectly safe. There was no lightning (which would indeed have kept me inside). And as for the rain? When running in the rain I always remember a scene from a reality show where the contestants were army-crawling through mud while hoses were turned on them, the boot camp instructors shouting, "It's only water". I said this phrase to myself and out loud several times, trying to ignore that the wind on this particular day was just as challenging to deal with.
I arrived at Aquatic Park to find a handful of runners huddled under a tent. I wrote my name on my soggy race tag with some effort. I jumped up and down to keep warm as others arrived and crowded under the tent. I chatted with a nice woman visiting from Seattle, who assured me that despite the small field I would not come in last, as I feared; her pace was a good minute per mile slower than mine.
The race director led us out into the downpour and we took off. Once I was moving, I felt much better. I started to smile, then beam, then laugh. I passed the window of a bakery, inhaled the fresh aroma, looked inside and caught the eye of a baker, and grinned maniacally at him before passing by. I wonder if in that half-second he saw me and thought "WTF is this crazy person doing running outside in this weather??" Probably not, but I sure hope so.
I sloshed through huge puddles, my feet already being soaked completely through. After about fifteen minutes the wind and downpour let up some, but the rain continued steadily. I figured there would be no mile markings as the flour or chalk would have washed away, but the volunteers put some birdseed or something at the turnaround line just past the Ferry Building, which I crossed in about 20 minutes.
Heading back, I tried to keep a steady pace, more to finish quicker so I could get home and dry than to achieve any particular goal time. Not having raced or trained for the four mile distance, I figured 40 minutes would be reasonable. And indeed, I crossed the finish line in 40:09, for a 10:02 min/mile pace.
Collecting my finisher's ribbon, I was amazed to learn from the volunteers that I was the third place woman! I had never placed in a DSE club race before; not even close. But at 40 runners, this was by far the smallest field I'd seen at a Sunday race; we normally have 200 or more. So I stuck around, shivering under the tent and chatting with the woman from Seattle and her daughter, until the top five men and women were announced. Woohoo!
If you're on Facebook, you can click through the above photo (by Noé Castañón) to the rest of the album to see more of the day's wet conditions. It was crazy out there. And exhilarating. So glad I did this run.