A few minutes into the woods and I'd already picked off my first runner and began progressing along the trail. I felt confident in my technical skills and that made up for my lack of speed. A few miles in I began a conversation with the woman ahead of me--I needed to remind myself that this was just a training run and I needed to save a little for my run tomorrow. So we chatted about last year's race, about JFK50, about trail fashion (I was wearing both a new shirt and new Inov-8s--that's a no no, right? It all worked out, thank goodness--no new blisters, no chafe). Chatting helped keep my pace steady/slow. At the last aid station I gambled on a cup of Mountain Dew. Can't stand the stuff in every day life, but there's something about that neon yellow liquid that gives me the extra push to finish well. And I did--finish well, that is.
As we entered the final 200 m I could see the historical cemetary ahead and to my right and I could hear the strains of some classic rock song. Crazily, it felt like the final scene in The Warriors--hearing that jangly music and seeing the Wonder Wheel and knowing I was home. It felt like that until I broke out of the tree line and saw the crowd in a small knot at the finish line. I was not on Coney Island, but in my temporary home further down the East Coast and I was done--at least for today. I ran through the finish chute and just stopped short and into a walk. My toes hurt a little (a combination of klutziness and new shoes, I suspect), but really I could have gone another 13. I feel good and closer to being ready to slay bigger dragons.