Monday, November 28, 2011

Well, THAT was a good week...

First off, I just have to say it's been a REALLY LONG TIME since I had a great race. Like 2 1/2 years. Either I felt bad, the weather sucked, I was sick, my head wasn't in it, I was helping a friend, I had an asthma attack, I went out too name it, it happened to me. And it's been eating away at me for a very long time. I'll have phenomenal training runs and come race day, just completely fall apart. I NEEDED A GOOD RACE.

When Greg and I decided to take his parents up on their offer to fly us to Southern California for Thanksgiving, I immediately looked up the Thanksgiving Day race that we ran 3 years ago. I got a 5k PR at that race and to this day that time still stands as my fastest 5K - 24:40. I loved the quick, easy course and the fact that it was on Thanksgiving - what a perfect way to start off a day of gluttony. Surprisingly I discovered that the race had grown in the past three years, from about 300 people that inaugural year in 2008 to over 1500 participants. They also had added a 10K distance, which totally thrilled me and Greg. We both prefer the 10K distance leaps and bounds over the 5K distance and the more calories we burned Thanksgiving morning the better! I immediately signed us both up and let our parents know about it in case any of them wanted to sign up. Greg's dad did the 5K with us in 2008 and decided to do it again this year.

I've been having some pretty great training runs lately and was feeling confident. My last couple long runs have been challenging because of humidity and warmer temps but I managed to push through discomfort in both and finish well. I knew that I could wrap my head around any discomfort in a race and battle through it. Would it be enough for a PR? My fastest 10K time was 53:45, which I accomplished in 2009 at the Capitol 10K in Austin. Could I break an 8:39 pace? I thought it was certainly possible. The weather forecast was calling for high 40s, no wind, overcast skies. Race start was 7:30am. It's an out and back route, which I love for short races. There really was no reason why I couldn't try for that PR.

At the beginning of the race my goal was simply to break 55 minutes. Anything better than that would be a bonus and if I was feeling great and on pace at 4 miles I would push for a PR. But I wasn't going to force myself to try to accomplish something beyond that day's abilities. I knew I could do 55 minutes, though.

My goal was to run the first mile in 9:20 and then move to 9 minute pace for another 1.5 miles, then dropping to 8:40 for another 1.5 miles, and then just seeing what was in me for the remaining 2.2 miles. My first mile ended up being 9:07 but it honestly felt more like 9:30. This was GREAT. I tried not to increase my speed for the next mile but managed an 8:53. I didn't feel that fast at all. It was during this second mile that I noticed that this course was a bit different than the flat 5K course - at the turn off for the 5K racers there was a hill. It ended up being about 1.5 miles of slightly rolling hills. Not too bad, but it still required some strategy. I'm a pretty good hill runner, so I made sure I maintained my pace as best as possible without overexerting myself on the uphills, and took advantage a bit on the downhills. I noticed that at the point we would be turning off the road and onto the trail (at 4.5 miles) to the finish would be a pretty good downhill and I kept this information in the back of my mind. For the third mile I just maintained my pace without looking at my watch. I really wanted to run this race on feel and not know what pace I was actually running. Mile 3 was 8:42 and I was feeling really good despite a side stitch that was mild but annoying (and ended up sticking around for 2.5 miles). I hit the turnaround at 27:35. I quickly calculated that I would need a 26:09 to break my PR by a mere 1 second. That was quite a bit faster than my first half and I wasn't sure if I could do it. With only 3 miles left, however, I figured I had nothing to lose and would increase my speed just a bit.

The second half of the race was a combination of feeling great, pushing myself, hurting badly, and being so excited I could burst. My fourth mile was an awesome 8:29 and I knew at this point I didn't need to slow down and could maintain for the last 2.2 miles. If I at least maintained I would be well under 55 minutes. If I could push I had a shot at the PR. When we went down that hill and onto the trail at 4.5 miles I decided I had nothing to lose and would just go for it. Mile 5 was 8:30 but I actually didn't even look at my watch to see that split. I caught sight of my time with a mile left and saw I was under 46 minutes. With a good surge for that last mile I could do it.

I thought that last mile was never going to end. My legs were okay, but I was breathing hard. I knew I would likely puke when I was done. I ran as fast as I could without bonking, tried to go faster, but got into a decent rhythm. I saw my mom on the sidelines with about a tenth of a mile left but couldn't even summon a wave. I glanced quickly at my watch and knew I was going to break my PR. I was so excited but so ready to cross that finish line!

Look at my good form! Yay! I'm not slouching and my arms aren't crossing in front of me
A couple seconds after crossing I stopped my watch, moved over to the side, and just tried to calm down. I had stopped my watch at 53:35, a good 10 seconds better than my PR. I had run the last 1.22 miles in 9:52. I didn't end up puking but I couldn't really function either. I knew I had given everything out on the course and couldn't possibly have gone any faster. I was right about my training - it had enabled me to have the confidence to not give up and to believe in my ability. It probably took a good 10 minutes for my breathing to get under control. Greg, my mom, and his mom all were worried about how hard I was breathing!

(Side note: see those turkeys running behind me in the photo above? They passed me during the first mile and they were right in front of me for the entire race. During that last mile I decided there was no way a couple of turkeys were going to beat me. You can see I did pass them.)


My official time ended up being 53:33. The first thing I thought of was my buddy Jeff, whose 10K PR was 53:33 as well. We stuck around for the awards since I thought I remembered that the third place finisher in my age group last year had been in the 53 minute range. It was possible I had placed, so I knew it was worth it to see. Unfortunately they weren't posting the placings before the announcements so we had to wait about 15 minutes for them to get to my age group. I didn't end up placing, but I was still pretty happy.

We checked our times later and discovered that I was actually 8th out of 49 in my age group - that was a FAST group of women! I placed 50 out of 279 women and 152 out of 500 10K racers. I beat more men than beat me. Win! Greg placed 6th in his age group, as did Ed.

Speaking of Greg, he also got a PR. He forgot to charge his Garmin the night before and it died about a half mile into the race. He had to run blind, not knowing how fast he was going, having no idea what his time would be at the finish (there wasn't a finish clock). He ended up posting a 45:58, which beat his old PR by 1:09. I told him before the race when he saw his Garmin battery was low that he would be fine. He knew what the right pace felt like and he would be just fine. He needed to trust his body. I think he probably got a better time without the watch that if it hadn't died on him. Part of the reason why I'm trying to train without looking at pace this year is to allow my body to push itself without freaking me out. I was so proud of Greg for such a fantastic race. He ran it so fast he thought I had crashed since it seemingly took forever for me to cross the finish line. I guess 7.5 minutes can feel like forever when you're waiting for someone!

He looks awesome!
Ed also did very well, running a 27:37 in the 5K and breaking 9 minute pace, a similar time that he ran 3 years ago. I'm shocked he only placed 6th in his age group, however. There are a lot of fast 60-somethings out there!

You know what else was really great? My mom was there to cheer me on!

I was on a high the rest of the day, bugging everyone around me with "Guess what? I GOT A PR!" every five minutes.

The awesome running week didn't stop there. I had 8 miles on my schedule for Saturday, a nice step down from the usual double digit long runs and the last single digit one before the marathon in January. I still planned on running the 8 miles even though it was only 2 days after the race. My legs were a bit fatigued but not bad at all. An easy 8 miles, maybe at about 9:20-9:30 pace would be fine. Greg planned on running with me, too.

My friend Karen texted me right before we started our run to say she had run a 1:13. I really wasn't planning on running faster than a 1:15, but of course now I had in my mind that I better not be any slower than 1:13. Damn Karen.

It was a very nice morning, around 50 degrees and clear, although the marine layer creates humidity. The run started very well, if a bit fast. Our first two miles were in about 18:37. I figured we'd just maintain that pace for most of the run. I was feeling pretty great, though. At five miles I thought of slowing for just a little bit, maybe running about 9:40 and then pushing it for the last 2 miles. But I got a second wind and didn't slow down. Mile 6 was in 9:00, mile 7 in 8:38, and then I had in my head that I could actually get a 1:12. I figured I could push for that last mile. Greg had the same idea and thought he was covertly speeding up to see if I could keep up. He didn't realize I was intentionally speeding up as well. The result was that our last mile was in 8:01 and I actually broke 1:12, posting a final time of 1:11:51. That was my fastest 8 mile run I'd ever done. I had never broken 9 minute pace, and I had run 8:58. ANOTHER PR!

Clearly, Orange, California is a great place for me to run fast. I ran 14.22 miles while there this week and averaged 8:49 per mile.

Needless to say, I ran really slow this morning.

1 comment:

  1. I love Orange! Such a cute little city :) Congrats on those PR's! What a great confidence boost. You are doing to do sooo well at your Marathon!