Saturday, December 10, 2011

Run at the Rock

Well, redemption day finally arrived.  A tad melodramatic, perhaps (okay - definitely), but this is probably the most amped up I've been for a race in a while.  This really isn't saying a whole lot as I still got the better part of a decent night's sleep and was chatting with people on the starting line until 1 minute before the gun, but I had been thinking about the race for the past couple weeks, and had been legitimately concerned about the health of my newly temperamental and angry hamstring for the past week. I even adjusted my final "speed" workout backward one day to give the hammy a little more time (but still wanting to tune up the one fast twitch muscle fiber I possess in case I should need him - I call him Zach).  Yup - I actually THOUGHT about the race beforehand and executed a reasonable and logical workout plan in the week leading up to the race.  I'll admit that a little more activation of my sympathetic nervous system before a race might be beneficial, but this tends to backfire on me big time (for a brief run-down, see this previous post), so this level of preparation was really pushing the envelope of my running karma.  Also, I have to compensate for Ronnie, who has enough weird nervous energy and pre-race crazy for both of us (why do you put on clothes you're not going to run in only to change into - yes change, not strip down to - your running clothes when we get to the race?).  I feel that by my being more low key about things, we have the right amount of energy if you average us... which would be awesome if we were entering a 3-legged race.  Or maybe that would be terrible?  Regardless, we competed individually at this particular race, so it's a moot point.

Back to the story at hand, though (sort of). We loaded into the car and arrived at the surprisingly frigid Cedarock park (yes, that's right... Cedarock... we have a multi-year conversation going about whether it's Cedar Ock or Ceda Rock because we can't allow Cedarock to be one word...yes, our marriage is based on nonsense like this).
This just can't be one word
Facebook had alerted us to the fact that we would be seeing some friends here, and it didn't take long for us to spy friend #1 all decked out in her Canadian best maple leaf hat and mittens (I wish I had a picture to post here - Canadia would be proud, Kim!!). We then proceeded to pick up our numbers and powder blue sweatshirts and speed walked back to the car to huddle for warmth between bouts of warming up and trips to the bathroom line (at least we knew we were hydrated!)

Arriving at the starting line, we were greeted by a sea of orange and blue BCTC singlets and a number of other friends out to enjoy a challenging course on a lovely day. As the race director counted down the minutes to the start, those of us who had no business on the front line inserted ourselves somewhere in the middle of the pack and we were off! As I bid my faster friends adieu and trotted off down the road toward the woods, I heard the unmistakable sound of jingle bells and looked back to find that I was being chased by a 6'2" elf with surprising foot speed. For a minute I felt like I did in my first marathon when a marine carrying a 4' American flag blew by my bonking self at mile 18, but as he darted around the 10 people ahead of me as well, it became abundantly clear Santa had given him a good dose of mad running skillz for early Christmas and I moved my thoughts back to my original "starting the race" plan (try not to do anything stupid).

These are some of my friends... I am much farther back....
... closer to this guy
I had a vague recollection of my PR on the course being somewhere in the 2:05 range, so my goal was to be as close to 2:00 as possible (who doesn't love a nebulous and thus highly achievable goal?). As I
checked my watch at the few mile markers I saw, though, it appeared I would be going through the halfway point around ~62 or 63 min, which was puzzling because I felt like I was moving along pretty well. Fortunately, I was able to drop a sub 6 min 7th mile to get back on track, going through the 7-mile mark a little under 61 minutes (or perhaps that mile was a little short? ...hard to say...okay, not really...that last mile was more than a little short). The second loop was a slightly stickier, gooier version of the first loop, but with more new friends, including new friend Mandi, who is also running the Uwharrie 40 and looking at a summer 100. I think I may have conned her into accompanying me on some Umstead runs between now and then... fingers crossed that she wasn't just trying to get me to stop talking.

As I made my way up the final hill toward the finish, I glanced at the clock at the finish line to find it hovering around the 2:04 mark, meaning I may or may not have PR'd on the course. So much for instant
gratification. As our merry band reconvened, we made our way to the food tent and scoped out the finishers list to find that our friends had a very productive day, with David Roche setting both the
7- and 14-mile course records (encumbered by a shirt, even!!), and many others netting overall and age group awards. I know it's kind of jerky to say, but it's nice to have a bunch of friends around cheering each other on as everyone picks up their awards. Mandi and I ended up finishing 1-2 in our age group to join the merry band of Run at the Rock giant mug award owners (someday, we'll all have to get together for giant coffees!)
this picture does not do justice to the giant-ness
of these mugs
For those who care, I matched my previous PR on the course. To the second. I was initially a little irritated at this, but two voices of reason pointed out the following: 1) I would be REALLY irritated if I
had been 1 second slower than my previous PR, so I should look at the glass as half full, and 2) I was in pretty solid running shape when I set that PR, so I should take this as a positive sign of progress. So
I say thank you to my two voices of reason, and I do feel less irritated, but that doesn't mean I'm not still thinking of all the spots where I could have gutted out a few more seconds. That's healthy as long as it's motivational, right?

So, to sum up, it was a lovely day for a run, a good course, and I feel more or less redeemed. The only downside to the day was Mandi may have sacrificed a pinky finger to the trail gods in an attempt to test gravity and get a close-up look at the terrain as she made her way down a muddy hill :(.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Skinny Turkey Half Marathon

After the Shut-in disappointment, I was pretty determined to redeem myself at Run At the Rock, so I trained really hard (for the whole 4 weeks between the two) with an eye to realistic pacing and some pseudo tempo runs (run one of my "long runs" each weekend a little shorter and with fast people).  It seemed like a decent strategy, but I still wasn't super confident in my ability to pace myself with any level of intelligence.  SO I decided I should do a tempo run with known mile markers just to check in. The Godiva Thursday run would have been ideal in this regard, but alas, this little revelation occurred the weekend of Nov 19... you know... the weekend before a certain pesky eating holiday that meant no Godiva run.

Inexplicably, my mind drifted to something my running enabler friend Doug had mentioned during the week prior about a Thanksgiving half marathon in Extreme North Raleigh.  I had initially rejected the idea as silly because the course involved two (different) out-and-backs on ROADS and Extreme North Raleigh is FAR.  But alas, it would probably be the best way to get a feel for how hard I should go out (effort-wise, not time-wise) at Run at the Rock, so I went ahead and signed up with the goal of finishing out my regular training week and running 8:15s for the first 10 miles and seeing how things went from there.

My regular training week ended up being a little harder than normal thanks to a second hard-ish long run Sunday (to try out my awesome-tastic new hydration vest) and a more intense than expected speedwork session Weds morning (who put those two giant hills in that second 2k?), so I was feeling a little sluggish and beat down Thurs morning, and I was definitely apprehensive about my ability to even maintain 8:15s.

Luckily, the first two miles are downhill, so maintaining 8:15s was SUUUPER easy... also, so was maintaining 7:45s... heh.  heh.  uh oh.

Fortunately, I was able to rein myself in to a couple of miles in the 8 min range and didn't feel too much worse for the wear.  The next couple miles involved some hills (including ascending the mile 2 hill) and some disgruntled gentlemen who weren't super excited about being passed by a girl.  The second half(ish) of the race wound through a nice older Wakefield neighborhood with some good rolling hills and then wandered up a straight road I never caught the name of only to turn around in front of some old gas station/store and come back to the start/finish (where we would need to re-ascend the mile 1 descent).  In the back of my mind, I kept track of all the downhills on the way out so I would know what I would have to contend with on the way back (did I mention there were two giant hills in the second 2k of the workout the morning before?  I was beginning to think this might come back to haunt me as the hill counter kept ticking upward).  I figured the leaders would be coming back at me about the time I hit 8 miles (their 10), so I was a bit gratified when I breezed by the 8 mile mark with no leaders in sight.  About half a mile later, I saw a familiar wiggly gait coming up the road toward me following the lead bike and went to high-five my lovely husband, Ronnie, who was apparently winning the race!  This was almost a beautiful moment except instead of the expected "good job!" or "love you!" I heard "Are you okay?" escape his lips.

Ummm. Hunh?  I think so... So then there were a few moments of deep self-examination upon which I concluded that a) I was fine, b) Ronnie was probably delusional from being in the lead, and c) this was definitely going to get mentioned a BUNCH of times in the coming weeks!

The rest of the race went pretty smoothly - I made it up all the hills (though I did feel the legs a little bit toward the end) and did not do anything heroic and stupid that would jeopardize my ability to obtain sweet sweet redemption the following weekend.  The only slightly disappointing bit was I missed my "stretch" goal of feeling good and finishing under 1:45 by 2 seconds.  TWO. SECONDS.  Sigh.

Also, I would find out the next day that I may have slightly strained my hamstring with the combo of back-to-back hard-ish runs and launching off at 7:40 pace on a cold morning with no warm-up.  You'd think I'd learn at some point, but... well... no - you wouldn't think that at all.