Thursday, June 20, 2013

A little race catch up

I can't believe it's been 6 weeks since I last blogged. Life does tend to get in the way of free time, and I've let my blog slip. My family and I have been very busy with the end of the school year, my work, and traveling. Now that school is out and I have a couple quiet work weeks ahead, it's time to get back on the computer.

Running continues to go well for me, although my mileage has certainly slipped the last few weeks. I don't even think I hit 10 miles last week, which is very unusual for me. Rather than feel guilty about it, I'm just going to chalk it up to a step back/recovery week and march forward with more miles starting today (as a matter of fact, I ran 5 this morning, when I don't typically run at all on Mondays). Now that the heat is here for the next few months, I expect my pace to drop slightly, but I will continue to push myself and improve my fitness overall.

On April 28 I ran a 5K (IM OK 5K, benefitting the Epilepsy Foundation) that in past years has beaten me up. Two years ago I had an asthma attack during the race, leading me to an exercise and allergy-induced asthma diagnosis. I still ran fairly well, but I missed out on a PR because of the attack. Last year, several runners went off course, including me, and then I was redirected in such a way as to add over a half mile to my race, resulting in a good 6K time....but not so much for a 5K. This year I vowed to do my very best and I hoped to medal in my age group (which was actually 30-39 for this race).

It really was an awesome race. The course is slightly short, and although my 22:40 time is probably not really applicable to a true 5K PR, I'll take it anyway. I went into the race incredibly sore and fatigued from strength training the week before, and actually surprised myself for holding a steady, fast pace for the entire race despite every step hurting. I'd still like to think of the 22:40 as a good reflection of my ability and my time to beat in my next 5K. I managed to get 3rd in my age group, as well, behind two very talented Boston Marathon runners. It was a great feeling and a big confidence booster!

My next race was the Dam Mile in Georgetown on May 15. One excruciating mile across the Georgetown Dam. At 6pm, in May, which means warm temps for sure. Add the 20 mph head- and sidewinds and it was probably going to be a bit of a challenge. But I'd been running well and thought I had a pretty good shot to beat last year's 6:38 time. I was also hoping to place well in the race, although this year there were no medals. Greg was out of town, but the kids came with me to the race and looked forward to also running. I made sure they had good instructions on which heat they would be running in, paired them up with some friends of mine who planned to run in the same heats, and then I was off in my own heat. I tried to settle into that uncomfortable, fast pace right from the beginning, but not too fast. I never looked at my watch and rather just went by what I thought a 6:20-6:30 pace felt like. I was very much hoping I could break 6:30, but the wind was a bit difficult to race against. At the halfway mark I glanced at my watch and saw 3:11. If I could hold that pace I would run a 6:22, much faster than last year.

I didn't quite hold the pace, and definitely felt myself slowing in the last quarter mile. My friends Tony and Chad were right in front of me for most of the race, and as I tried to inch around Tony within that last quarter mile, he put on the afterburners and pretty much left me in the dust. I should've known there was no way he was going to let me beat him. Chad also continued to speed up and I couldn't quite hang with him, either. I crossed the finish line in 6:32, six seconds faster than last year. It wasn't quite the sub-6:30 I was looking for, but considering how windy it was, I was thrilled. A PR is a PR! I ended up as the 10th woman overall out of 46, 43rd out of 120 people overall, and if there had been age group awards, I would've won. I'd call that successful!

My most recent race didn't quite go as planned. I was both excited about and dreading my 30K trail race at Reveille Peak Ranch. Last year, this was my very first trail race and it was pretty incredible....and difficult....and crazy...and of course I signed up again. (Race report here) This time I convinced my friend Tony to sign up as well, and I knew a few other friends would be there, too...Rain, Red, Charles, Emily...lots of friendly faces. Tony had been injured so this race would really test his leg out, but he planned to stick with me so it would definitely be a lot of fun. Well, until I got bitchy. Then it wouldn't be so fun for him. In all honesty I really thought he'd sign up for the 10k, so it was a nice surprise when he pulled the trigger on the big distance.

Just like last year, the course was going to be long, but supposedly not quite as long. I clocked 20.6 miles last year, or about 33K. This year they estimated 19.5 miles total. The temps, however, were going to be much better. Last year loop 3 topped out at 90 degrees. This year, it wouldn't even hit 80 before we finished. Still warm, and there's no shade out on the granite domes, but I'll take 80 over 90 any day of the week. We even got some drizzle before we started. I was excited!

Loop 1 could have certainly gone better. Somehow, while following a couple guys across the granite dome in the middle of the 6.5 mile loop, we managed to double back and repeat about a mile of it. When things started looking familiar, we knew we'd screwed up. We also watched a poor lady break her wrist in a fall. That course will seriously eat you alive. By the time we crossed the timing mat at the end of Loop 1, we had hit 7.5 miles. Our 19.5 mile journey was now going to take us well over 20 miles.

Well...not so fast for me. As we were running on the dirt path leading up the timing mat, I stepped wrong on a rock and rolled my ankle badly. It instantly hurt and was difficult to run on. Not broken, I knew that...but very very sore. I sucked it up for a couple minutes, crossed the timing mat (1 hour, 34 minutes), said three or four swear words under my breath, and decided to run to the first aid station. As we headed off up the hill at the start of Loop 2, I told Tony I had hurt myself and was unsure of my status. My ankle had no range of motion from side to side, but it was okay when we were on dirt. Unfortunately, most of the loop is granite and rocky and requires the ability to move your ankle from side to side.

By the time we got into the first aid station (at 9.3 miles) I called it a day. Tony was fine, so he reluctantly continued on. I felt terrible since I was the one who convinced him to sign up and he had at least 11 more miles to run solo. The medical staff drove me back to the finish area, gave me ice for my very sore ankle, and I tried not to be too pissed off.

The ankle ended up being just fine after a few days. My guess is that I sprained my tibialis anterior muscle. But I was still smart to stop running when I did. Who knows what kind of damage I could've done had I continued on? Red and Emily both got DNF's, so I wasn't alone in my misery while we waited for friends to finish (Tony did great...4:35 and 2nd in his "old man" age group).

I will run out at Reveille Peak Ranch one more time this year, for a night trail race in August. I do plan to conquer that place one day! Until then, I think I'm taking a bit of a racing break. August will be when I start officially marathon training for my sub-4 hour attempt at Houston. Until then, I'll continue to work on speed, will run my weekly long runs, and will hit the gym for strength training at least twice a week. I also teach core strength twice a week at work. My bike needs some attention and I finally started venturing into the lakes for open water swimming. There may just be a triathlon in there sometime before the end of summer.

So what have I committed to in the coming months?

August 24: Captain Karl's Night Trail 30K at Reveille Peak Ranch
October 6: IBM Uptown Classic 10K
October 25-26: Ragnar Tennessee Relay
December 8: Bryan/College Station Half Marathon
January 19: Houston Marathon
February 16: Austin Half Marathon
April 27: San Luis Obispo Marathon

Just reading all that puts a smile on my face.