Monday, December 5, 2011

Frostbite Festival (10 miles) 2011 - My first repeat race

So, I thought my racing season was over.  I even wrote my end-of-season blog (read it here).  What happened, you ask?  I have NO idea.  There I was all allowing my season to be over, and someone asks me two days before the race, "Are you running the Frostbite this weekend?" 

Hmmmm, I hadn't thought about it.  Why hadn't I thought about it?  Top five reasons:
  1. It's a freaking hard race!  The course has tons of hills.  Hills in the beginning.  Hills in the middle.  Hills at the end.  I'm sure I've mentioned before....I hate hills.
  2. I already ran it last year, and I kind of thought of it as a "been there, done that" kind of a race.  I did it once, now I can call it "done", right? 
  3. I didn't train for it.
  4. It's December. 
  5. It's cold.
For all the reasons listed above, the top one that should keep me from running it is #3:  I didn't train for it.  At the mere mention of the race though, I was suddenly and unexplainably salivating like Pavlov's dog to run it.  Why?  The best I can figure out is to see how much I've improved in a year.  I have not repeated the same race or course since I started running in September 2010.  I have a baseline, but no comparison.

For the next 24 hours, I thought about registering.  I stalked the results from last year.  Third place in my division last year paced at 8:35.  I could do that.  Maybe.  Probability would have gone up had I been training for it.  I still looked at my recent race results (10K @ 8:36 and 5 mile @ 8:01 pace), and thought maybe I could pull it off?  I'm not sure why I allowing "placing" to dictate my thought process on this.  I think since I'm so goal oriented, to have an actual "thing" to represent accomplishment, it just motivates me.

I pulled up the registration page on Friday to discover that I missed the online registration deadline--ended Thursday at midnight.  Okay, that gives me until Sunday morning onsite registration to figure this out.  In the back of my mind, I already knew that I would be registering.  The weather that day was being forecasted with a high of 47 degrees!  That gets rid of argument #5.  It's not cold until it's under 30 degrees for me.  Last year, as of race time, it was 11 degrees with the wind chill.

It was right about that time that an online friend from messaged me and asked me how I was doing since I hadn't been posting much lately.  I told her I was doing okay, and for some strange reason, thinking about running the Frostbite on Sunday.  She messaged me back that due to sickness and injury that she wouldn't be running and offered me to run in her place.  I thanked her for the offer, but I was sure they wouldn't allow transfers. 

However, out of curiosity, I checked the local Springfield Road Runners Club page and the online registration page.  Neither of them said anything about no transfers.  So I emailed the race director, not expecting much.  Imagine my surprise when I had an email sitting there Saturday morning saying they will allow the transfer!  I think this sealed the deal.  I messaged Tara and coordinated getting her bib number and chip from her.

I wake up the morning of the race, and I'm just ready to go.  This will be the first race that Shane is not running with me (except for the women's biathlon--self-explanatory).  It's kind of weird.  I'm going solo.  I'm okay with that since I've ran the race before.  Normally, that idea would weigh heavily on me--doing something new by myself.  I'm weird like that.  Don't judge me.

At the race location, I find Tara who not only gives me her number and chip, she gives me her whole registration packet including the sweatshirt!  I'm floored by her generosity because I've already offered her money--at the very least to split the registration (when I thought I was just getting the number and chip)--and she turned it down. It's an early Christmas present she tells me.  We've never met in person until that moment, and she's giving me all her stuff with no strings attached.  That just doesn't happen in this world often anymore.  I think that I thank her so much that I'm getting annoying, but I go on anyways. 

After running the bag back to the car, I run inside to the 20 person line in the women's bathroom.  I remember this from last year.  The race will be starting in 25 minutes. I am thinking about heading outside to do some warm up runs, and I run into Rick Snow.  Rick has been running with us at many different races this year.  Our after-race picture from last year's Frostbite Festival includes Rick as well.  We talk about pace goals and ours seem similar, so we decide that we are going to start off together and see how that goes.  I had settled on an 8:30 goal pace.  It seems reasonable. 

After a warm up run down the street, Rick and I head to the starting area.  We run into Natalie there.  She just recently started running, and is running the two mile race this morning.  She just ran her first 5K a few weeks ago, and she's coming back for more!  I love when that happens to someone.  That means they are starting to "get it".  Soon they will be addicted too! <evil laugh>

The moment of truth has arrived.  They count it down, and we are off in a sea of people.

Sure, we are smiling now. Just wait...
We are checking our GPS constantly to try to find that right pace, and we are hovering close to 8:10-8:15.  I'm actually liking that pace right now.  Yeah, only 9.5 miles left to go, I'm sure I can maintain it based on the first mile that's mostly downhill.  Ha!  We are able to talk a lot the first mile, and my breathing feels good.  I feel pretty darn good right now!  The first mile consists of getting out of the neighborhood, down a hill and up a slight (in comparison to the others) hill to the first mile marker. This is the point the two milers turn back. 

Mile 1 done:  8:27 pace.  It felt good to me.  I'm hoping to maintain this, but we haven't even gotten into the challenge of this course yet.

This mile of the course is pretty boring.  There are some ups and downs through subdivision areas down West Washington.  We are still able to hold a decent conversation, but I feel like we are slowing down the pace.  Through discussion and re-evaluation, the new goal pace seems to be somewhere in between 8:30 and 8:40 now.  That's where we are pace-wise.  As we finish up the subdivisions and head toward the country roads (and the huge hills), the wind blocks we had with houses are dropping away.  It is blowing out of the west and in our faces.  Thankfully, it's really not that bad, and it's a pretty nice temperature for December, so I'm not complaining.

Mile 2 done:  8:35 pace.  If I can stay here, I won't be disappointed.  However, I see hills.  Big hills.

As we start the (unarguably) worst mile of this route, I'm still feeling okay.  We are passing a few people as others are settling into their paces.  We head down the first big, long hill.  The pounding this puts on my knees is bad.  I'm thinking a lot about form and how to cushion those blows.  We get to the bottom, and DAMN, wouldn't you know it--we have to go back up.  I put my head down and push through.  We've got another big hill after this one.  Back down.  Back up.  Surprisingly, we get through those feeling fairly well.  At least I am feeling okay for now.  I don't even think our paced dropped too bad.  We hit mile three, and the GPS confirms our pace.

Mile 3 done:  8:34 pace.  We are right on it!  I'd like to stay here.

We start into the fourth mile which begins fairly flat over a bridge, but then it heads uphill on a slow incline.  I'm thinking I need to make up some pace on the flats so that I can lose some time on the hills.  Rick tells me that he's just not feeling that pace at the moment, and tells me to go ahead if I feel like it.  I totally understand.  It's hard to run a full race with someone else.  Sometimes people are feeling better and sometimes it's worse.  There are so many factors to lead into whether or not you're going to have a good race day.  Since I was still feeling pretty good at this point, I wish him well, and move ahead.  It's time for some music!  Thank goodness, it will help me shut out this slow incline for the next quarter mile. 

The top of the incline at the corner is about the place we saw the lead runner on his way back last year.  I'm happy to report that I don't see a runner heading back yet.  That means I've gotten farther faster this year, if I ever had a doubt. 

Mile 4 done:  8:40 pace.  I know we dropped off for a while.  I need to watch the pace better.

Coming up to the last waterstop heading this direction, I remember that I brought fruit chews with me to give me some fast carbs. I open the package and start eating a few. My mouth is dry, so they aren't going down well. Thanks goodness for the waterstop! I take a cup and walk a few seconds while making sure every drop counts. If I'm going to get through this, I'd better hydrate, because I'm feeling thirsty--which means I'm probably already dehydrated. I start running again, and I know the end is getting close.

Just past the waterstop, I see the lead runner heading back.  I count several men before the first female.  After her, I start counting how many females are in front of me.  It occupies my mind for a while, at least.  I see several girls who look about 14 years old.  By the time I hit the turn-around, I think I've counted 26 females in front of me.

Mile 5:  8:45 pace.  My slowest mile so far even though it was mostly flat.  Probably due to the walk-through on the waterstop and fumbling with fruit chews. 

Almost immediately after the turn, I see Rick not far behind me.  I give a little cheer for the halfway point and run on.  I am enjoying seeing all the people running.  They are people of all shapes, sizes, and ages.  They all got up on a December morning to run 10 miles, and it's just awesome.  My favorite is a group of white haired ladies all running together--not doing too bad on pace either.  Simply inspiring!

Heading back, I watch my pace better, and I seem to be gaining on people.  I pass a couple that passed me earlier in the race.  They are walking now.  One of them must have hit a wall.  Next I move up behind a younger guy.  He says "good job" as I pass, and I manage to mumble something back, but my brain wasn't ready for conversation, so mostly it was an incoherent grunt.  I'm still feeling okay, still dry, so I grab more water again back through the waterstop.  Hopefully, it will loosen some of the fruit chews still stuck in my teeth.  I think in a normal situation, saliva would help dissolve them.  No saliva equals fruit chews stuck on teeth.  I don't walk through this stop, but I've decided to take some water in each time it's available on the way back.

Mile 6:  8:34 pace.  Better.  This is where I would like to stay for the rest of the race.

I see the Memorial Sportcare vehicle following the final participants during this mile.  Also, the younger guy I grunted at earlier starts to pass me.  I look at my pace, and I've slowed again.  Time to pay attention.  It was like I was daydreaming for a minute or something.  I end up running along side the guy for a while just making sure I keep ahead of him.  I am using him for motivation to stay on pace when an older lady races by me.  I try to keep up with her, but she's pacing fairly fast and starts widening the gap.  Then another guy blows by.  Where are these people coming from?!  We start heading down the gradual slope to the next mile marker.  I feel like I'm stomping my feel down the hill, so I try to step with the least impact as possible.  My knees and back are starting to feel the effects of the day.  I remind myself that I have a mere 5K race to go.  I'm getting closer!

Mile 7:  8:32 pace.  Good pace.  Happy with that one.

Just after the mile marker, I turn the corner and see the hills coming.  I get passed by another female.  She's going at a pretty good pace as well.  Seriously, where are these people coming from?!  Down the hills.  Up the hills.  I'm trying my hill mantra ("Kill the hills"), and it's just not working.  I feel like I'm doing a slow trot up the hills.  I am seriously shocked that no one is passing me now.  There must be a big gap between that last girl and the next person behind us.  I am fully expecting the guy I passed earlier to pass me back up.  I don't turn to look though, and he doesn't pass me.  I keep my head down.  I push through the hills.  Each step is excruciatingly tough.  I feel like walking.  I pass a guy who decided to walk up.  Not far now!  When I finally reach the top of the biggest hill, I am exhausted!  I feel like I just emptied my tank completely.  Uh-oh.  I try to psyche myself up by reminding myself that I'm approaching the next mile marker.  Only two miles left.  Two freaking miles!  That's it! You can do this!

Mile 8:  9:18 pace.  No comment.

I think this is the closest I've come to hitting a wall.  It isn't a total wall because I am still moving, but I feel like I need to just slow down and recover.  I am looking for inspiration anywhere, so I start skipping through songs on the iPod.  I hit a couple that energize me a little.  I crank the volume.  I hope that I don't drop off pace too much.  I get passed by another guy.  Sigh.  I trudge through, aching and tired.  This is where training (and maybe a recent run longer than eight miles) would have helped.  I haven't run more than eight since the half marathon back in April.  Blah.

I see the final mile marker ahead.  I see the cop car in the road not too far from the turn onto Koke Mill.  I see the last hill on Washington Street.  Sigh--hills again.

Mile 9:  8:56 pace.  I'm not surprised.  Not happy about it either, but what can I do?

Not a happy camper!
Come on, Tammy.  All you have is ONE little mile left to go.  Less than 10 minutes and you'll be done.  You have one last crappy hill to conquer.  That's it.  You can do this, right?  Perfect time to get your picture taken, right?  NOT!  I can't protest though. Not enough energy. 

I turn onto Koke Mill.  I see the turn into the neighborhood.  I see the hill.  I guess I'd rather the hill be steep and quick instead of the long a drawn out one on Washington Street.  Kill the hill!  I head into it and push as hard as I can.  I tell myself that I'm almost done.  I tell myself that this is the last big challenge.  I tell myself that I have about a half mile left.  I can do this!  I get to the top, and even though I'm aching, I find a little bit left.  I take the two turns in the neighborhood to get to the straight-away that leads to the finish line. 

Once I reach the straight-away, there is no one near me to race to the finish like I've done on other races.  The last guy who passed me is too far ahead.  I'm going to settle for not allowing myself to get passed, but there's no one right behind me either.  I cruise toward the finish line, and I may have increased my pace a little for the last 50 feet or so, but not much.  I was pretty much all out of gas a mile ago.  I crossed the finish line on sheer will, and other than the triathlon, I have not been so happy to be done with a race.

Mile 10:  8:53 pace.  Whatever.  I'm done, and that's all that counts.  Woo-hoo!

I didn't stop my GPS right away.  My final time on my watch was 1:27:58.  It should be close to that.  At least I know it was probably 1:27 something.  That would make my pace right around 8:42ish?  In the grand scheme of things, I am very happy with that time.  Last year's third place in my division paced just seven seconds per mile faster.  It's respectable.  Again I say:  I'm done, and that's all that counts.  Rick comes in right behind me.  We both improved our times from last year tremendously.  My improvement is roughly 15 minutes faster than last year.

Final official time:  1:27:48 (8:47 pace), 5/13 in my division, 33/106 women, 83/194 finishers.
We're done!!

Even though I didn't even come close to placing in my division, I'm okay with that.  My division (F35-39) seems to be one of the most competitive for women, and it got even faster this year.  The third place finisher came in more than five minutes before me.  These are some fast women for sure!

As I reflect on my race experience, I am so glad I did this race.  I am so thankful to Tara who gave me her spot.  I am grateful for the opportunity to measure how far I've come in a year's time.  I am also very anxious to see where I can go one day when I am able to get in quality training runs as opposed to just running when I can fit it in here and there.  Training for this race would have made a world of difference on those last two miles, I'm sure of it.

Well, this should be my last post of the year.  There's no more races that I'd possibly run and things will get crazy soon with the holiday approaching.  So, as the year closes, I'm thankful a great 2011 and hoping for an even better 2012!   May all your runs be good ones and may you stay injury free!  Happy holidays, Merry Christmas and have a wonderful new year!  Until next time....

1 comment:

  1. Tammy,
    Good job! You sound almost like I did in my first Jingle Bell Run in Seattle. Seattle is very Cincinnati it has 7 notable hills...and the course design people were masochists! It is fun for me to watch your running efforts. Keep it up!