Friday, October 19, 2012

The Run Like an Antelope 5k…I don’t know if it was like an antelope…but I ran…

Yes, I’ve had some injury issues and yes I may have been pushing it by not just getting back to racing after the injury but that race being the BAA half marathon but to be honest I’ve been feeling pretty good. If I feel good…why not race some more. What? Makes sense to me. LOL It just so happened that there was a 5k just down the street, with a late start so I figured why not?!
It was cold and rainy. I normally run a while to get warmed up for a race but I needed to run just to get warm. Now if you remember from my post about the Canal Diggers 5k, there was the guy in full racing kit standing on the start line who had NO business being there. Imagine my surprise when I not only see him at this race, but he’s doing warm up drills at the start line in front of everybody. Even though I didn’t feel that great, I at least knew I had something to focus on when the gun went off. A few laps to get warmed up and then up to the start line. I wasn’t going to stand on the start line, I figure about 1/3 from the front was a good location to see the field and judge how I felt. I couldn’t believe that I looked up to see “Mr. Pro Road Racer” had now taken off his tank top and was gonna run shirtless from the start line! Um, do you remember my saying it was COLD?! Ok, I have no expectations for this race but I would make sure that at the very least I was way ahead of this guy come the finish. 
We start and immediately the lead pack forms…including “Mr. Pro” which means I have to be in the lead pack. The pace seemed comfortable but quick. The eventual winner took off right out of the gate so I was left with a couple 6 foot tall runners, “Mr. Pro”, a couple others and myself. I focused on putting distance between “Mr. Pro” and myself (which happened within the first quarter mile. Dude, get a clue) and when I looked up it was just the leader, the two 6 footers and me. I have this internal debate about looking at my watch for time/pace when I’m racing. I read an article about Ryan Hall doing that, thinking he was running too fast and eventually laying off and not placing at races because he got too wrapped up in the time instead of just racing. So, I settled in with these two guys. It was pouring rain and windy. I figured at the very least I could use these two tall guys to block wind and draft off as long as I could. I stole a glance down at my watch to see we turned the first mile on a 5:52. Woah! That first mile didn’t feel that fast at all. Ok, well stop looking at the watch for the rest of the race and focus on using these guys for as long as I can and keep running hard. The course was an out and back and when we hit the turn to come home it felt like someone had set off a grenade in my lower back/pelvis. I don’t fall asleep when I run but I certainly get into a rhythm and kind of zone out…but that pain brought me right back to reality. Holy mother did that suck! So I told myself “deep breath, compose yourself, you’re only looking at another 12 or 13 minutes of racing so grit your teeth and get this done”. 
As I looked up at the course it dawned on me that we were running a downhill out to the turn and now we were steadily climbing our way back up it for the trip home. I hate hills, no matter how big or small and I know it’s a mental thing with me. One of my biggest “off season” things to train is hill work and learning to love them but that’s not gonna do me any good now. I just wanted to stay with these guys and see how what I had left in me for a kick to the finish. We hit the 2 mile mark and they started to pull away. I realized that if didn’t bear down, this is quickly gonna get out of hand. I was already having the “well if I don’t come in top 3, there doesn’t seem to be anybody in my age group around me so I’ll get that” chat with myself. Nope! Not gonna do it, just eat it and run as hard as possible. As we neared the end, I guess there was some confusion as to where the correct turn into the finish was and there was a bunch up of runners. The only thing I could think of as I closed was that I had no intention of not giving everything I had. I’ve laid off the gas in the past but not today. I looked around and it turned into a flat out foot race to the finish. Thanks goodness for the slight downhill into the gate because I was running on vapor with folks closing on my heels. It took all I could do to remain standing. It wasn’t a PR but it was MAX effort and it landed me in 2nd overall and 1st in my age group. Not a bad day, not a bad day at all. Hopefully I can carry some of that positive energy into the Army 10 Miler this weekend…

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The BAA Half Marathon...the first time I've felt fear

Rarely do I have the sinking pit in my stomach on race day. Ok, well to be clear, rarely is that pit there because of fear. Normally its just race jitters and my overblown expectation to land on the podium once the dust from the race has cleared. That however was not the case when I got up on Sunday morning.
Because my "aggressive training and racing schedule" forced a trip to the doc with a no running for 3 weeks prognosis (I've run a whopping 12 miles in that time…What? Did you really think I was going to do NO running in that time?!), most of that time either spent on my back or in the pool, I was extremely concerned about running the 13.1 miles. Not just running but…finishing. Would my back/pelvis even hold up on the run? Would running it hurt me even more? Maybe if I hadn’t signed up for the Inaugural BAA Medley at the beginning of the season (running the BAA 5k, 10k and 13.1 which got you special race numbers and a medley medal after completing all 3 races) I probably would’ve seriously considered going back to bed, but J and a number of friends were running and I don’t do well with letting people down so I just told myself that no matter the time…I just needed to finish. 

Ran into Kelly (the cute, bubbly, homeless-woman-dressing, multisport athlete known as @sallaboutme on twitter) and Matt ( a local running bud) at the start, chatted a bit and headed into the start corrals. Now I figured the best thing I could do was to get as far back as possible so I’d be forced to slow down and just run because of the mass of humanity in front of me and I’d remove all stress of running fast. The gun goes off and the slow crawl to the start begins. About a half mile in I realize that I have to pee like race horse (oh the times I miss the in-water start of a triathlon or the comfort of the saddle for easy relief but peeing on yourself while running, which may be the most difficult thing to do, is frowned upon in polite society when you’re older than 2 or younger than 65). We’re starting in the Franklin Zoo and I figure I’m screwed since you probably can’t pee in the bushes here…until I see a group of guys doing and figure it’s ok. Operation “mark my territory” over and back into the field I went. 

The start was nice and smooth, mile 1 and 2 went 8:18 and 8:04 respectively. The run felt easy and downhill, which a number of people said out loud…only to have another runner point out that the first few miles were indeed downhill…and that we’d have to run back up them to the finish…oh joy. As the course flattened out my legs started to feel good and mile 3 went by in 7:28 followed by a 7:13 mile 4. It was then that I saw Matt coming back toward me, the “I’m gonna just chill this race guy” had already hit the turn and was 1.5 to 2 miles ahead of me. What…the…hell?! Well, I now have motivation to get through this race and the thought of just finishing vanished. I HAD to catch Matt. The next few miles I just focused on form and trying to speed up: mile 5-7:16, mile 6-7:08 (where I took a Citrus Clif Shot gel for a quick sugar/caffeine boost), mile 7-7:05, mile 8-7:13. I’ll be honest and tell you that those miles were kind of a blur. I spent most of the time looking down at my watch to see pace and kept telling myself “don’t slow down…don’t let anyone pass you…and where’s Matt”. I turned mile 9 on a 7:00 flat and figured with the next turn being at mile 10 I’d surely see Matt again and be able to see how much I’d closed the gap…but no luck. Not only did I not see him but the run was catching up to me. The legs were starting to feel like I hadn’t run mileage in a while and I was getting hot. Due to the expected cold weather I was running in a light weight long sleeve Under Armour shirt, t-shirt, lululemon shorts and Zensah compression sleeves. That ensemble worked when the clouds were out with a light breeze but when the sun popped out…it was warm. At one point I considered ripping off the sleeves of the shirt just to cool off. Instead, I grabbed water from the aid station, took a quick swig and poured the rest of it down my back. Miles 10-7:12, 11-7:24 and 12-7:33 couldn’t come fast enough. At one point I thought I didn’t need to push, this isn’t going to be a PR so why don’t I just lay off a bit and relax…and then I realized that I didn’t want this run to last any longer than need be. I just wanted it to be over!
I honestly thought I was picking up the pace (granted the last few miles were uphill and running through the narrow paths of the Franklin Zoo) but the time says different. I hit mile 13 on an 8:03 pace and I was about to pop. The last .1 miles has you running into a stadium to run/finish on a track (aka Olympic style) and when I hit the comfort of the track I just pumped as hard as I could to be done…crossing the finish in 1:44:20 with a 7:57 average pace. A land speed record it was not but it wasn’t too shabby with no training. I’d love it if I really felt that way…instead…I see that I was able to turn around 7 min miles in the middle of the race and wish I could’ve held it. You know…those unrealistic expectations I have…and the what ifs: what if I started farther up in the corrals and didn’t have to deal with maneuvering around people the first few miles, what if I didn’t have to stop and pee, what if I would’ve dressed lighter. Ugh, the hindsight just kicks my butt after every race. I spent the race trying to catch Matt...and finally did... at the finish (he ended up with a 1:42, strong work!). But, but, but I can feel good that even with my back injury and the break in training, my level of fitness was still good enough to pull off a sub 8min pace half mary. I do feel better and although I spent the rest of Sunday on my back or sleeping, the run felt pretty good. Now to ramp up for the Army 10 Miler in two weeks.