Saturday, May 26, 2012

Passavant 10K - 2012

Shane is still injured and not running regularly.  I'm doing okay running by myself on my lunch hours, but it was still so much better and consistent when he was running too.  I'm also running slower with no one to push me.  The Passavant 10K in Jacksonville is coming up soon.  The race junky that I've become has decided to sign up for it.  It's a flat course, and I'm ready for a new 10K PR.  My time at Abe's Amble last year was okay, but I know I can beat it now. 

The Tuesday before the race (I hadn't registered yet), I was doing some short intervals in our cross-training class at the YMCA.  Stupid, competitive me, I was keeping up with the guys with sprints the whole way.  This severely wore me down.  The final interval, one of the guys says, "Hey, let's go all out."  Sigh.  Could I say no?  I think not.  Ready, set, go, and we race about 200 yards in an all out sprint.  I tried to keep up with him, but he was so fast.  I didn't lag too far behind, but I could'nt have caught up if my life depended on it.  When I stopped running, I really felt the pain.  I pulled something.  Bad.  Butt muscle.  Gluteous.  Whatever.  It was killing me!  The worst part was I was I still had to jog back to work from here which is about a mile away.

After some extreme Googling, it looks like I have piriformis syndrome.  Crap!  I was looking forward to running the Passavant race, and now it seems like a lost cause.  I'm hoping this is temporary. 

I do a lot of resting and icing over the next couple of days, and on the deadline for online registration, I decide I should be healed well enough by Saturday.  It's still hurting of course, but I'm taking a chance that with two more days of healing that I'll be okay.

Friday, I'm feeling somewhat back to normal.  My pain in the butt is nearly gone, but slightly lingering below the surface.  I'm not sure how an 8:00 pace is going to go. 

Saturday morning comes, and it's a HOT one!  By 7:00 a.m., it's already over 80 degrees outside.  The race doesn't even start for another 30 minutes.  I am by myself today, I'm not sure I even know anyone racing except for a few from the DailyMile website that I haven't met in person.  I park, get ready, and warm up by running around the parking lot and getting some of my race nerves adrenaline burned off.  I end up running into a couple people I know during pre-race annoucements.

We head over to the starting area and it's pretty congested.  The start/finish line has an arch over it, so everyone has to run through it to get started.  I head back through the crowd of people already in line and try to pick the runners that look like they might be around my pace.  I don't want to judge a book by a cover, but I think some of these people have no idea, and they are WAY to close to the starting line.  Eh, I'll just jump in where ever I can squeeze in.  Not long after, we're off!

The race starts heading downhill under an overpass.  The crowd is moving fast, but thinning out just a quickly.  We start winding through a neighborhood, and I'm keeping pace decently.  For a short amount of time, I'm running right next to "Boston Billy", Bill Rogers who has come to town to support the race among other things. 

Mile 1:  7:54, a bit faster than goal pace.

Shortly after the first mile, the piriformis injury starts a slow ache.  Crap!  I back down the pace a bit and start worrying if I'm going to be able to run the full five that I have left to do.  I'm now running somewhere in between 8:20 and 8:30.  An 8:00 pace for the rest is definitely not happening today.  I'm focusing on staying on minimum pace while worrying that I might be doing worse damage by running injured. 

Mile 2:  8:22

Mile 3:  8:35 - dropping pace big time!

I hit the turn around at the half way point.  I've made it this far, I need to keep on pushing.  My pain has gotten a little worse than initially, but it seems to have leveled out for now.  It's so hot today too!  It's making everything a struggle.

Mile 4:  8:32, just over two miles to go.  I can do this!

Right about this time, someone who could be in my age group passes me.  I've decided this is the person I'm going to race for the next two miles.  In seeing the runners ahead of me on their way back earlier in the race, I know that I'm still doing fairly well as far as female runners go.  I set the cruise mode behind this runner and stick close. 

Mile 5:  8:20

Just a bit over a mile left!  The route is deceiving because I knew we were back on the main street leading back to the start/finish area.  We take a turn into a neighborhood, and some nice folks have a sprinkler spraying into the street to cool off runners. It's amazing feeling and so welcomed! It energizes me a bit.  As we take another turn, I decide that it's time to pass the girl I'm following.  I think she is running out of steam anyways.  We've been slowing down a bit.  Less than a mile left to go, and I'm feeling more numb than in pain right now. 

Mile 6:  8:22, so glorious to be so close to done!

I start to lengthen my strides and pick up my pace at bit. I pass a couple of more runners as we get back on the main road with the finish line in sight.  I give it all I've got to get across the finish. 
Official results:  51:32/8:21 pace - A new 10k PR!
I quickly look around for a first aid tent or something.  I need to get some ice on my backside!  Ouch!  The last kicker really did it.  This is painful!  After looking around, I see nothing, so I ask a volunteer handing out Gatorade if there is first aid to get ice.  She says she doesn't know, but gives me a bunch of ice out of the Gatorade tubs in plastic wrappers from the drink cases.  It will have to do!  I stick the ice down the back of my pants and head off to get some food. 

I'm checking out the results as they are posting, and I'm floored when I come up 11th female overall and 2nd in my age group!  I'm so excited and I wish I had someone to share this with!  I wish Shane was here!  While I didn't do as well as I could have, or should have if uninjured, I'm thrilled with these results as you can imagine.  I walk to my car to get my phone so I can at least text Shane to let him know.  I also down a few ibuprofen to hopefully assist with the pain.

I hang around and receive my 2nd place medal.  I'm smiling through the pain.  So, my thoughts on this race is that I am definitely doing it next year when I'm healthy.  I love the flat course with not a lot of turns.  I'm sure I can improve on this time quite a bit.  Hopefully next year Shane will be able to run it with me.  When you don't have loved ones to share your joy, it's just not as sweet somehow.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Part 2: Three half marathons, three states, three months?!

Maybe you remember last December when I asked the question in a previous blog of whether or not I could run three half marathons, in three different states, in three months.  I can tell you now that the definitive answer is YES!  <big smiles>

I noticed this year I didn't get as nervous before a half marathon because it was no longer an unknown.  The adrenaline rush wasn't quite as big or noticeable.  Like most addictions, you have to do a little more each time to continue to get the same high. 

This year, each half marathon had a different "feel" and different challenge.  My runner's high wasn't from nerves.  This year it was from running a much anticipated race and the largest I'd participated in at that time (Moab), or from a new PR (Springfield), or from an amazingly fun time helping to pace and support a friend running her first half (Cincinnati). 

Each race had it's own thrill....some more positive than others.  If you start feeling complacent in your running, pick a race and run it with a different mindset. If you are falling short of PRs, help a new runner do something he or she never thought they were capable of.  You will experience joy through them.  If you are still a new runner, hit the speedwork training to get a new PR.  If you are just feeling blah, pick a destination race and road trip with a group of friends to spice things up!  Or if the pressure of racing is getting to you, go for a run without gadgets or GPS and just enjoy your enviroment.  Take some time off and get back to basics of why you fell in love with running in the first place.

Going back to the fact that just a few months ago I thought three half marathons in such a short time to be an impossible task.  A year and a half ago, I thought ONE half marathon seemed impossible.  So do me a favor--pick something you previously thought was impossible--then go out there and prove yourself wrong!  ;)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Flying Pig Half Marathon 2012 - Cincinnati, OH

I signed up for this race back in October 2011.  I chose this race because I was planning to meet someone from my online moms' group.  I can't explain this well enough to anyone from outside of the group to make it sound like we're not weirdos, so I won't even try.  I'll just say we've all been in contact through the internet since we were pregnant with our babies that were born in or around June 2008.  We've grown to be very close friends even though many of us have not met in person.  We talk about everything from families, kids, health and exercise.  Some moms were already runners, others have started couch to 5k plans, and others are still thinking about running.  It's kind of cool how many runners are now in the group.  It's not strange to hear talk of PRs, long runs and speedwork at any given time.   

So, after nearly five years of knowing each other, we all look for opportunities to do "meetups".  The Flying Pig Half Marathon in May 2012 was one such opportunity. It was a good halfway point between one of the running moms and me.  I also have family in Cincinnati, so it seemed to be a great choice.  I registered not knowing that two months later, I would get in to the Canyonlands Half Marathon in March 2012.  I really only planned to do one half marathon, maybe two, if I included Springfield's.  Turns out I was doing three of them that spring...the Flying Pig being the last of the three.

In the time between when I registered for the Flying Pig and a few weeks before the race, a couple of things changed.  First, a mom (Claire) who originally laughed off the idea of being able to run a half marathon when we started talking about it decided the Flying Pig would be her first half.  Then the other mom (Amanda) I was originally planning to run with suffered a stress fracture in her leg and was told to lay of the running for a while.  So, it is just going to be Claire and me.  Claire's husband is registering as well.  Shane is not registering.  He is still trying to get over the plantar fasciitis.  It's such a stubborn injury!

The morning of the race came REALLY early.  Considering that the race start is 6:00 a.m., Ohio is one hour earlier due to the timezone for us (so 5:00 a.m.), and we had to get up, drive downtown, find a place to park and get to the starting line, we have to get up at 3:30 a.m. central time.  Ugh.  After hitting the snooze on my phone (I wasn't sleeping all that well in the first place), I decide to get moving.

Shane is going with me to cheer me on and possibly join up with us for a little while along the course.  No, he's not banditing the race--I call it mobile cheering.  He will take no running resources from the course and sue no one if anything bad happens.

We arrive downtown and it's still dark.  Traffic isn't as bad as I imagined for 33,000 racers plus supporters, and finding parking isn't bad either.  Now, the tough part--to try to find Claire and her husband Matt.  I told Claire that I would run the race with her.  It would be great to support and pace someone through their first half.  I have already run two halfs {or is it halves?} this year, and this one is so hilly so I'm not getting any type of PR anyways. My goal was to have a fun race experience and get state #3 in my quest for half marathons in as many states possible. 

It's getting closer to race time and we do not see Claire and Matt at the general meeting area we picked {later to find out we were ON the bridge, they were UNDER the bridge}, so we give up and head toward the starting corrals.  At that moment, I almost feel relief.  My competitive nature kicks in and I suddenly want to run my own race.  I battle the need to attempt a PR with every race.  I hate that my brain operates that way, almost selfishly, and I just can't truly enjoy the experience.

Just as we are reaching the starting corral area, Claire and Matt find us in the crowd.  I'm happy to see them in spite of the thoughts I just had.  We head back to the starting corral and shove through the crowd waiting for everything to start.  Shane gives me a good luck kiss and we separate.  I don't know when I'll see him turn up on the course, but I'm thinking it will be around mile six.

There are so many people here!  As far as you can see--people.  I can't even figure out how far back we are from the starting line.  After the national anthem, we get ready to start.  Matt is a fast runner, and prior to a recent injury, he had his sights on competing to win.  His starting corral was A.  We're now back in E.  Initially, he wants to hit start on his GPS and get running, forgetting that there's about 15,000 people between us and the starting line.  It's kind of funny.  The crowd surges forward.  We stop.  Slowly forward again.  Then stop.  Eventually we get moving at a consistent walking pace.  It takes us nearly seven minutes from the start of the race to cross the starting line.

As we start off, we have to get into a reasonable pace in this crowd.  We are going a little fast for what Claire has been training for, so we attempt to get it under control.  It's crowded at every turn, but also pretty awesome to be running with a group this large.  Crossing over the first bridge into Kentucky is something I will never forget.  We are in a sea of runners as far as you can see.  Just amazing.

We wind back and forth across the river.  At one point, someone breaks into a verse Doo Wah Diddy, "There she was just a walkin' down the street..." and everyone around us is singing together...{doo wah diddy diddy dum diddy doo!}.  This is so funny, and probably a first for Matt.  I'm sure he has not been in a race where the runners all around him broke out into song.  It has to be such a wildly different experience than he's used to considering he would normally be running alone or nearly alone with the lead runners. 

After crossing back into Ohio, I hear someone yelling my name in the crowd.  I look over and see my aunt and cousin cheering me on!  That's so cool that I'm hundreds of miles away from home, yet this is the first time I have had family cheering for me on the side of the road at a half marathon. 

Around mile six as I predicted, I see Shane on the side of the road.  He jumps in with us and joins our group conversations.  It's awesome to have people to talk to during the half.  All the previous ones I've done, I've been alone with my thoughts and/or music for two hours.  This one is just flying by!  It's like I'm catching up with an old friend over lunch or something. 

It is about here that we start the ascent that the Flying Pig is famous for.  We will be gaining nearly 400 feet in elevation in just over three miles.  Claire is pushing through quite well even though she is having a little rougher go of it up the hills.  We get through a couple miles and are rewarded by an amazing view of the river valley at the top of a hill.  There's one more hill after this and then we begin the descent back to the river.  As we reach the final peak and head back down, I am careful to not let my knees take the full impact.  We will be going downhill for several miles and it's fairly steep.  This is rough on the knees and hips.

The course support in this race is amazing.  There are bands and musical acts, people in costumes, clowns, Elvises {or is it Elvi?}, lots of people along the course and lots of signs.  My favorite sign reads: "You have been training for this longer than Kim Kardashian was married!"  I had to laugh--as sad as it was true.

As we near the finish line, Claire is really giving it her all.  She's tired, but still doing wonderfully!  In the last mile, Shane peels off as to not get caught up in the finisher's area.  The crowds are growing thicker and louder as we approach the river.  At each turn, I look for the finish line, but not seeing it yet.  My GPS passed 13.1 already, but I'm sure we didn't run the tangents very well today.

Finally, we are next to the river and the finish line is in sight.  One final push and we all cross the finish line together!  I am so happy for Claire, and so thrilled to be a part of her first half marathon!  It's almost as if I get to experience my first over again--just through her eyes.  If I hadn't found them in the huge crowd of people that morning, I would be standing here alone without anyone to celebrate with.  Running with someone really changed my whole experience.  It may have been slower than my normal half marathon, but this was by far the most fun racing experience I have ever had.  Usually, I'm praying for it to be over.  Today, I just got to enjoy myself, the scenery and the company.  It was a great day!

Official Time:  2:13.42

This was a very cool experience.  What this race taught me is destinations races are so much more fun when you are not "racing" them.  In Moab, I was worried about this arbitrary pace that I did not properly train for that I made myself miserable, hating nearly every second of that race.  Yes, the race ended up being a PR for me (for three weeks), but I spent nearly the whole race wishing it was over.  I enjoyed some aspects of it, but nothing like this.  I finished 13 minutes slower than my Moab half, and I regret nothing of that.  Time and PRs are not everything.  Sometimes you just have to relax and enjoy!  From now on, destination half marathons are for enjoyment, not PRs.  This makes me want to run half marathons again and again. 

And I think I will.  Which state is next??