Monday, May 23, 2011

If you're going to race twice in one day, one of those races should have beer.

Two race recaps for the price of one!

Four GPx races down, seven to go.

One Growler of beer won.

Saturday was a fun day. I felt justified putting on my jammies and crawling into bed at 10PM Saturday night and not just because I was relieved that the rapture didn't occur. (Or did it? Maybe I need to call my Mom tonight and make sure because if anyone was taken, it was her.)

I'm gonna be honest, I really didn't want to race the Great Harvest Bread 5K. Twilight was horrible, my energy was low all week, I was struggling to fall asleep, end of the school year stress was hitting me hard and I just didn't feel motivated. When my alarm went off Saturday morning, I strongly contemplated just not going. But dammit, I wanted my points. I dragged my feet getting ready and didn't get there nearly as early as I like to arrive before a race. The warm-up didn't help. Crap, I should have previewed this course. It had been a year since I'd run it and I'd forgotten how hilly the first mile is. Ran into Jason during the warm-up and he seemed a lot more hyped for the race than I was feeling. Also saw some of the other usual suspects I always enjoy seeing before races and got a big hug from the man, the myth, the legend, Larry Seavers. Chatted with Rebecca (who I think might have actually been less happy to be there than I was) for a bit before lining up.

Lined up near Jinnie and found out she still wasn't feeling 100% from her nagging hip injury. Jinnie is such a trooper...she ran an incredible time on a ridiculous course for her marathon debut and has raced two of the toughest 5K courses in Charlotte the two following weekends. This didn't stop her from giving me some valuable advice prior to the race. (No, I'm not sharing it with you.)

My goal for this race (other than just getting through it) was to just run a solid, steady race. I knew I didn't have it for anything spectacular and after such a bad time at Twilight, I just wanted to feel good about this one at the end. I ran the seemingly never-ending ups and downs of the first mile pretty cautiously and was happy with how good I felt when I hit the first mile marker. I threw in a couple of surges in the second mile and tried to just lock into a pace I could maintain for a while. As I'm writing this, I realize that this race truly wasn't all that memorable for me. Usually, I can remember pretty clearly what I was thinking but I genuinely can't remember any really positive or really negative thoughts. I just ran and tried to pass people when I could.

The last mile held a lot of turns and some decent ups and downs. I remembered how bad I felt last year on the final hill and made sure to save a little for that. Just as we climbed that hill (weird, I'm still feeling good, I guess I really should have pushed a lot harder in this race), I caught up to a woman that had been ahead of me the whole race. Eff it, let's throw in an early kick. I passed her and made the turn into the shopping center. I remember Stan and Thomas cheering for me here and then Ryan Huff as I made my way through the weird S shape thing they had going (what was that?).

Final time was 22:19....not close to a PR, but a good time I could be happy with. Some really good races out there on Saturday...I hear it was a road PR for Compton which is pretty nuts on that course. Chad deserves a shout out, too...he was one of the first people I talked to after the race and it was cool to see how excited he was about his 3rd place finish. I think a lot of us look up to some of the faster runners in Charlotte and it's always nice to see how pumped they get about a good race, too.

Post race brunch was a lot of fun, too. Went to Big Daddy's with Fred and his two boys (one of them, my rival...I took him down this time), John F., Billy, and Dezi (who is a great runner and a cool girl and I'm glad I got to hang out with her and get to know her better). During brunch, I received a text...

...which leads us to our second race recap of the day!

I knew the Old Mecklenburg Brewery 1k was Saturday and had considered doing it but figured I need to get some stuff done Saturday and I should be a responsible adult and do boring things such as cleaning and doing some things for work. But alas, I continue to be young and irresponsible and easily influenced. After receiving messages from Thomas and Michelle and a phone call from the Patanias, I was done for. I wanted to run again. And I wanted beer.

There's really not much to say about a race that's approximately .6 miles long. Thomas, Chad and Joey held down 1st, 2nd and 3rd place respectively and got heckled a bit for being shirtless. Michelle, Sarah and I held it down for the ladies. I managed to finish in 3:30 which is well under 6 minute pace so that was kind of nice. And now some highlights: Eating Big Daddy's before running is not a great idea. Even if Billy Shue says it is so. Winning beer is the best kind of winning. Girls most certainly do NOT have prostates. Allen probably feels like he knows way too much about me at this point. Chad and Danielle have an adorable dog. John Compton got a haircut and ate a hot dog...this is what winners do after races. Tom and Lo Patania are ridiculously cute. I got mildly sunburned. Laura and I were probably destined to be friends and neighbors.

Oh, and apparently, if you somehow ended up with an extra free Growler, drink the evidence quickly... :) (no, I am not referring to myself.)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Is it conceited if I change the name of my blog?: Skyline 5K Recap

Alright, so it's no secret that I'm hard on myself sometimes. However, for some reason, I feel like I can consider this race somewhat of a turning point. Now, I may fail miserably at Twilight next Friday (I wouldn't be me if I didn't throw in some self-doubt), but after three sub-22 5K's in a row, I'm really starting to like this distance. I commented to a few people on Saturday in conversation (we were actually discussing 5Ks, I didn't just walk up to anyone that would listen and start this topic) that in my limited race experience, I really think that 5Ks are the hardest to strategize. Every mile is crucial. You start too fast, the last mile is sheer hell. You start too slow, you're not happy with your time because you just can't make up enough for the lost seconds. Improvement is measured by seconds. If you lose your concentration or let a negative thought get too prominent, the next thing you know, you want to walk in a distance that most of us would consider a warm-up. I used to hate 5Ks. I still get nervous as hell about them, but I think that's part of the appeal.

Now, let me back up, maybe I just feel this way because a) I just got a shiny new PR and b) of all the 5Ks I've run, Skyline remains one of my favorite courses in Charlotte. Sure, the first mile climbs for close to 100 feet, but if you can pace that mile right, you're set up for a good time. It was a PR by over a minute for me last year (23:37) and my first 5K running sub-8 pace. For someone like me that has had a tendency to die on the last mile, this is a pretty solid course.

April was a pretty busy month of racing for me. I raced three times...Bulldog 5K, Museum Mile and Skyline. I blew a mile repeats workout the week of the Museum Mile due to the heat and last week opted for a tempo run with the Thursday CRC crew from Dowd. Well...a tempo for me, anyway. Conversational pace for them. Caitlin graciously offered to help pace me and she was really awesome, encouraging me to relax and giving me some breathing tips. It was a crazy humid morning so although I hadn't felt great and 7th St. nearly sucked the life out of me, I got it done. I hope to hang with that crowd for more tempos in the future...those are WAY harder for me mentally than a track workout with built-in recoveries.

Thankfully, the humidity lifted and Friday and Saturday were two of the most gorgeous days I can recall in recent Charlotte history. The red singlet has served me well as of late (also took my hair a shade brighter red on Friday) so I went with it again, as well as my trusty bandanna. Added to the race outfit were my new Tifosi shades I won at the Inside Out Customer Appreciation Day. I'm not gonna lie, I felt kind of badass. (And the interminably witty Stan added to that feeling later in the day by deeming me Red Lightning.)

Laura offered to drive and she and I warmed up together before it was time to line up. I got a good spot reasonably close to the front, spoke to a few people I knew around me, and then got a hilarious surprise when Fred Wood introduced himself and told his son that his goal should be to kick my ass. Well, what the hell? I asked the kid (who I'm guessing is about 12?) what he thought he could run and he said he didn't know. Bring it, kid.

I resisted the urge to go out guns blazing because I knew I'd be in for a miserable race if I went too fast in the first mile. My breathing felt great but I kept telling myself to hold back although a few glances to my watch told me I was keeping a solid 7ish pace. There's one little stretch on 7th where it flattens out a bit and I used it to make sure I was relaxed and to recover a bit before tackling the incline up to Showmars. I actually passed several people that sounded pretty miserable on that climb and I was happy to note that I felt pretty good. First mile: 6:59. Perfect. Also, was great to see Lauren and Jay and Megan on the first mile. It really means a lot to me to hear my name being called while racing!

The slight incline down 7th was nice although I didn't feel as good as I would have liked turning onto 5th. I had also settled into an interesting pack. At this point, there weren't any females within striking distance and I was clueless who was behind me so I kind of settled in with a couple guys that looked like they were probably around their 40s. Note to self: 40 year old men are my competitors. I ended up pouring a little water on myself at the water station and kept pushing. Held on the second mile for 6:55.

Looking back, the next half a mile was the hardest part of the race for me but also the part I'm most proud of. I was by myself for the most part and I start to feel some doubts creep in. Why do I do this? This doesn't feel good. Even if I slow down, I'll still have a pretty good time. You know, the usual. But I learned an important lesson during those few moments of doubt because I looked at my watch (yes, I know I wrote in my last blog that I do that too much in the last mile of a 5K) and realized I was still holding sub-7 pace. No, it didn't feel great, but you know what, it was totally bearable. And I knew Elizabeth Ave. wasn't too far off and that I'd be fine once I made it there. So, that's when I started bargaining with myself...hold this pace to the next side street. Hey, there are some people cheering...look fast, pick it up a little. I'm not usually one to berate myself during a race, but the biggest motivator I came up with was...'You're on PR pace and you are FINE. Do NOT f*ck this up.'

That got me to Elizabeth and I was a happy girl. I knew at that point a PR was waiting for me. I saw Jay and Megan again and while I'm sure they got to see me make some pretty ridiculous faces, I was ok with it. It was time to finish up a 6:52 last mile and kick. And kick I did. (Relatively, of course.) My Garmin measured both the Bulldog course and Skyline course at 3.14 miles. At Bulldog, the last .14 was at 6:36 pace. At Skyline, it was 5:55 pace so I'm happy with that. Garmin had me at 6:53 average pace for the 3.14 but more importantly, official race results had me at 6:58 average pace with a new PR of 21:38! I ran my first sub-7 5K and was 15th female overall and 5th AG at a Grand Prix race!

Of I'm just going to want to run even faster than that.

But...dare I say it? I don't think I consider myself slow anymore. I might keep the blog name but hey, I'm open to suggestions...

Monday, April 11, 2011

Running is Weird: Bulldog 5K Recap

After my atrocious performance at the Shamrock 4 Miler, I wanted revenge on South Charlotte. I had considered racing the Racefest 10K on the 16th, but after looking at results from the last two years, the Bulldog 5K seemed pretty appealing to me. I decided I'd wait and see how I felt the week leading up to it. Had a great workout with Anne Marie and Christi last Tuesday and threw down a confidence-building 12x400 w/200m recovery workout then felt good running easy Wednesday and Thursday so I decided to go for it.

I had seen Lauren T.'s name on the registered participant list and figured she had a decent shot at winning so I was happy when she emailed me and asked about running with me and using it as a workout for her. So, I felt confident going into this race. That was one thing I did right. One of my goals for this year is just to learn how to race better. I need to learn to push through when it's difficult. I want to learn more about my limits. But all of this is going to require actually believing I can race well and not being scared to throw it out there.

Decided to go with the new red CRC singlet and the purple bandanna for the race. Got to the church/school parking lot a tad before 7:30am and warmed up by myself for about a mile and a half before changing into my singlet and flats and heading up to the race start. Saw John Chambers and Brian and Kent on my way and said hello and recognized Brad Popple from the relay, so it appeared there would be some competition on the guy's side. I wasn't so sure about the women's side since I didn't recognize anyone. Met up with Lauren and Siobhan (yay for Siobhan deciding to run it, too!) and we stood around and chatted until it was time to get in place.

Overall, this was a well-run race...I especially appreciated the D-tag chip. The only slightly negative aspect (and I shouldn't even complain since clearly there were people way faster than me there) was that there wasn't a clear 'start line' and there were lots of very excited kiddos lining up. Clearly, I like kids since I spend 40 hours a week working with them and the last thing I wanted to do was trip over a small child at the beginning of a race. Lauren and I squeezed our way up front and I noticed a couple of girls beside me that looked like they were probably serious runners. (Also, twins?) There was a speech about the Make A Wish Foundation and a bullhorn and then we were off!

Lauren had already agree to push me in a nice way, but I definitely did get caught up in the adrenaline at first. Several kiddos took off at a full sprint and we tried to keep it relaxed, knowing we'd pass them pretty soon. The first mile felt really great (yes, I know...I hadn't done anything yet, it was supposed to feel really great) and I was surprised when both my watch and Lauren's beeped off 6:40. 6:40 is the fastest mile I've ever run in a race and it felt good?! Weird....maybe this could be a good race after all.

I continued to feel pretty good and the second mile had lots of turns but was pretty uneventful. Lauren and I finally passed this one little girl who had been chugging away for a while. I was super impressed with her! We passed a few guys that sounded like they were really struggling and I still felt pretty ok. Mile 2: 6:53.

This next part is where I need some work: I got scared. A little fatigue sank in and while it wasn't a HUGE incline to start the third mile, it was enough where I freaked out a little. I've crashed and burned in races before and I just didn't want it to happen so I instinctively slowed a little. Lauren was great and kept offering encouragement and once we turned on Rea Rd. I felt a bit better and picked the pace back up a bit.

We passed the Meat House (ha) and the fatigue was really settling in. I was pretty ready to be done and knew I was slowing down a little. We made the turn to head back to the parking lot and my third mile split was 7:24. Ok...a few words about that. I mentioned that I've blown up before in races. I still feel like I blew up a little in this one, but it wasn't on the same level as what I've done in the past. I'm not saying it was ok or that I'm satisfied with this last mile, but I can consider it minor progress that I did find a little fight in me. I didn't die, my legs didn't give out, I didn't vomit....and even if I had, it wouldn't have been the end of the world. I know I can push harder next time.

We hit the parking lot and I threw together what I had left for a kick. My Garmin measured the last bit as .14 miles and I ran it at 6:36 pace to finish in 21:52. My Garmin measured me at average pace of 6:59 but according to official race results, I was at 7:01 pace. The elusive sub-7 race still didn't happen. (I say that like I've been chasing this goal forever...obviously I haven't, but I know I can do it and now I want it, dammit.)

On the plus side, I was 6th overall female, 34th overall in the whole race, but ended up 2nd in my age group and got my first ever award in a race! Lauren, who selflessly stuck with me the whole way, deservedly kicked it in for 1st in our age group and Siobhan wasn't far behind us for 3rd! Go us!

I did feel pretty spent immediately after the race but had to laugh at John Chambers saying, 'What are you doing here already?' at the finish line. 5Ks never cease to amaze me...death feels imminent immediately following and then a minute later, you're fine. Lauren, Siobhan and I checked out the results, saw that we'd swept our AG and went for a short cool-down. Chatted with a few others post-race (including Alana and her Mom, who had volunteered at the race) and got my award, a medal and $20 worth of gift cards to Omega. Woo!

Ok, so that was the race. Overall, I give myself a B+, but I did learn a few lessons. One, I look at my watch too much. Looking at my watch to check the distance isn't going to make the finish line appear any sooner. Two...I need to do a better job of sucking it up when I get close to the finish. Yes, it hurts, but I can get through it. hit the goal mentioned previously, I think I need to run some longer intervals and/or tempo runs. I like running 800s and 400s and they've been helpful but I need to learn to run a mile when I'm tired.

Alright, so now, why is running weird? Well...running has a way of making you feel both on top of the world and yet not good enough at the same time. Back in February, I was absolutely ecstatic about how I ran at Cupid's Cup. But on Saturday, running a time a mere 5 seconds slower (and one could argue that Cupid's Cup is a short course and an easy course) I felt sort of...meh. I wasn't disappointed, but I wasn't overjoyed, either. I just I did ok. It's like...the faster you run, the slower you think you are and the better you want to be. It just makes you want more. I wonder if I'll ever be satisfied...probably not. I think most serious runners I know have an occasional race they're happy with but the majority of races are just works-in-progress. I'm sure I'll peak somewhere, but I know I have some improvement left. I'm hoping I can find a balance between pushing myself and striving to be my best but not being too hard on myself and allowing myself to be proud of my accomplishments. Isn't that what hard work is about? What's the point if you can't ever just...enjoy it?


Monday, March 21, 2011

I said I wasn't going to, but I did it anyway...

Yep, I'm writing a race report from the Shamrock 4 Miler. Not because I think that anyone would care to read it, necessarily, but maybe it can help me reflect on what I did wrong.

All things considered, I ended up with what I would consider a respectable time. A good time...not a great one. A year ago, I would have been thrilled to run a 30:57 for a 4 mile race (and it was, in fact, exactly a 2 minute PR from July's RFYL 4 Miler), but now I know that I could have and should have done better.

So, why didn't I?

Don't worry...this isn't going to be some long laundry list of excuses. I didn't run well because I just couldn't seem to hold it together mentally but there were some things that factored into that. I didn't feel very confident the week leading up to the race. The Sunday before the race, I'd run 12 miles that morning, 4 miles late that afternoon for the CRC St. Paddy's run, and then 5 miles super early the next morning. On the 5 miler, my legs felt tireder than they had felt in a really long time, and I woke up Tuesday morning feeling pretty sore. I felt a little better Wednesday and eaked out a 6:33 mile at the track that night, thanks to Christine's help and encouragement, but cut the workout short. I was also having some stomach issues all week and cramped up on my runs on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Thursday I ended up running further than I'd intended and also realized that while I love the weather we had on Thursday, I don't love running in it. I slept like crap for most of the week, too, the time change really affecting me for some reason. Staying out late Thursday night and having a few beers may not have been the best idea, either.

Anyway, I'm starting to sound like I'm making excuses, so no more of that.

I had a really good dinner Friday night at Laura's and actually got a decent night's sleep but I woke up super nervous. I usually get nervous before races but more so than usual this time. One thing I did feel confident about was my race outfit, which included the new black CRC singlet and a purple bandanna to keep the sweat out of my eyes. I didn't even really feel like eating and only managed to choke down a dry English muffin.

I got to the Stonecrest shopping center around 7:30 and took a little jog around the parking lot to warm up before I grabbed my chip. Ran into Scott in the parking lot and also saw Jamaar and Christi and Matt. Saw Scott again and we did a little warm-up jog before I stopped at my car to change into flats and head up for the race. I lined up fairly close to the start line because I know Grand Prix points go by gun time rather than chip time and this may or may not have been a bad idea for me. I'm not sure...I think starting so close played a factor in me starting so fast, but then again I started close for Cupid's Cup and managed to start out just right. I was between Jinnie and Anthony at the start and knew that they'd both be at least a minute or two faster than what I was hoping to run (sub-29).

I know, I know. EVERYONE started too fast. Well, me too. I felt relaxed and truly felt like I was holding back but I think it was the nerves/adrenaline that got to me. I hit the first mile in 6:48. Now, I'm just going to put this out there. Yes, that was too fast. But I think had this been a 5K, I could have sucked it up. But, I got scared. Too scared. I tried to slow myself down closer to what my goal pace was and was pretty on target for mile 2.

And then I lost it. Mile 3 got to me. I gave up. And I learned something on that mile. I haven't learned yet how to race. I don't have the experience yet. I also need to do some hill workouts and not just track workouts. I need to learn to man up. One think I think that could help is for me to think of something tangible to think about when I feel rough during a race. Clearly just thinking about a goal time isn't enough to push me. I also realized that I'm scared to push myself to my limit. Because I'm not sure what would happen. I'm not sure if I'm afraid I'll puke, hyperventilate, lose control of my bodily functions, or just have my legs give out on me. Being perfectly honest, I doubt that any of those things would have happened if I could have done a better job of pushing through the rough spots, although I did feel fairly nauseous a couple of times.

By the time I hit mile 3, Anne Marie and Christi had passed me and trying to keep them in my sights helped a bit. Then I heard Scott come up behind me. I tried to just hang with him and was able to do so for a while, until we passed Ben, who snapped some pics and yelled at me not to let Scott beat me. Oh, ok, there's my competitive nature again. So, I surged, but it was too soon and I faded quickly. At that point, I just wanted the race to be over.

I realize from looking at the pics Ben posted that my form was terrible by the end. So, that's something...I need to focus on relaxing my shoulders when I'm tired. I carry too much tension up there. While running through the back of the shopping center to the finish, Aaron, Jay and Lauren ran by and I think it was Jay that yelled at me to pump my arms. I did...and that helped. So...another thing to work on. (So many things to think about to be a good runner....BRAIN HURTS!)

My mood did lift a bit after the race. I had a good time having a couple of beers (Thanks, RFYL!) and talking to a bunch of people after the race and then eating brunch at Le Peep (Thanks, Scott!). Met up with Kati and Jordan at Rock Bottom Brewery that afternoon to make fun of people and have a few more beers. Then we went to Rebecca's and jumped in the moon bounce (shouldn't have worn a dress...whooops) and stood in the driveway until after 11PM laughing and talking about everything under the sun (except it was really under the moon and a supermoon at that). It was cool for me to spend some time talking to Rebecca and Jordan about racing and realize that they usually feel some of the same things I feel during a race, they've just learned that they're strong enough to get through it. (Although we really didn't talk much about racing...and I really do want to give Rebecca a shout-out because she just seems to know what to say to make me feel better sometimes.)

I appreciate everyone who has given me encouragement and made me feel better about the race while still letting me know they know I can do better. I WILL do better. I'm learning that racing is about putting it together physically and mentally on race day and sometimes it comes together and sometimes it doesn't. I've learned that even some of the best runners I know aren't always consistent and always learn things from each race. And practicing helps...and changing up your workouts helps. And previewing the race course is a good idea. And I guess if I can still get 815 points toward the Grand Prix Series standings on an off day, it might not be a bad year.

I've made an impromptu change to my planned race schedule, partly because I think I am going to get sucked in to doing the mile race on the 23rd, partly because I don't think I want to do the Racefest 10K right now and partly because I want revenge on South Charlotte after Saturday. Ok...and partly because in looking at the results from last year, unless WAY more people show up, I should have a solid shot at an age group award, possibly an overall place.

So, look out Bulldog 5K, you've been served notice.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Even Breathing Feels Alright...

I've been wanting to sit down and update the blog for a little while now but just haven't found the right time. I had planned on writing a full race recap of Cupid's Cup and then that night went to shit and I just didn't feel up to it.

But...I'm happy about that race and always will be. Sure, Cupid's Cup is an 'easy' course and lots of people got PR's that day but for me, what made that race so great wasn't even really specifically my time, but the fact that I ran that race with confidence, felt great, finished with a lot in the tank, and surpassed my expectations. Metaphorically, that race lit a fire under my ass and left me with the confidence to push even harder. Sadly, the one person that I wanted to be happy for me and impressed just...wasn't. But, such is life.

So, it's been a rough couple of weeks. On the positive side, the 'old' Emily would have likely crumbled under the pressure or sunk deeply into an apathetic state. Instead, I'm happy to say that the modern version of me allowed myself to feel deeply some things I needed to feel and then...found some positive ways to deal. It feels good not to feel apathy. It feels good to want to be good at what I do. It feels good to experience some meaning in life.

On the other hand, not feeling apathy means finding a way to balance the roller coaster of emotions I'm experiencing again at work. I'm learning to hold it together when I need to and then let it out when I'm alone if it needs to happen. Before I started writing tonight, I actually had a little emotional meltdown as I thought about this one kid that's on my caseload. Tears are streaming down my face again as I write this sentence because I'm just so scared and saddened for this kid. And I feel helpless. I know that I'm not the appropriate person to work with this kid. I know that my job is basically to find him the resources he needs and then kick him off my caseload. Not because I don't care about him, but because he needs so much more than I can give him. This kid has a seizure disorder and the seizures were basically controlled with medication...until recently. After a scary episode in my office a couple of weeks ago, the school nurse informed me it was just 'pre-seizure activity' he experienced while with me and was 'nothing to worry about.' A doctor visit earlier this week confirmed that he is actually having seizures and they're now occurring approximately ten times a day. I don't even know how to begin to describe what's going on with this kid, but suffice it to say, it's progress if he participates in an activity. It's major progress if he smiles while doing it. I don't know exactly what I'm accomplishing with this kid, but I know he likes me. And more importantly, I know he trusts me.

So, when the jerking began again today, I felt a little more prepared because hey, I can't cry in front of him like I'm doing right now. He needs to know it's ok and that I'm there to help and support him. The hard part is, he's getting more and more scared every time it happens. Today, in my office, he fell and pulled a box of toys down with him when it happened. When the tremors passed, he jumped up and went straight into my arms. Usually, I have some pretty major boundaries when it comes to touch with clients, but this time I didn't care. At this point, I know that all I can do is keep doing my best and continue working toward getting this kid the testing and resources he needs. Meltdown over...I feel better.

So, the coping thing has been pretty ok. I work...hard. And I run hard, too. My legs feel like trash right now but I'm satisfied. I feel motivated and I like that. If nothing else, I want to prove something to myself this year.

In the meantime, sometimes I just have to remember to breathe.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Me Talk Runner One Day

Date: 02/02/2011 5:45:00 PM
Workout: Aerobic Capacity Intervals
Distance: 3.25 mi
Time: 21:42.00 (6:40 / mi)
Warmup/Cooldown: 3.4 mi
Comments: Feel like I slightly redeemed myself from last week. I made up a workout for myself tonight. Apparently, this is what I do now. Did 1x1600, 2 min rest, 2x800 with 1:30 rest after each, 4x400 with 1:00 rest after each, and 2x200 with :30 rest. I have to work on what my 'goal pace' is on workouts like this. I mainly just knew I wanted to start at slightly faster than 5K pace and get faster with the shorter intervals. Ran with Jessica B., so it's good to have another workout partner. Did some googling on the foot pain I've had the last couple days, sounds like Morton's Neuroma. Picked up a metatarsal pad to put in my shoe and it worked really well. Didn't hurt at all during workout and only a little after. Will throw some ice on it tonight.



Not bad.

Alright, so I just copied and pasted that straight from my athleticore log. A few notes about, I actually care enough to log all my runs and workouts now. Two, I remember reading about workouts like the one I posted when I started running two years ago and thinking...what the EFF? What kind of weird runner language is that? (What does it MEAN?)*

*Thanks to Dusti and Caleb for introducing me to the double rainbow guy.

I remember why I started running. Well, I say 'started running.' It's not like I had never run before and then one day the leg braces flew off and it was magic. I actually went through a phase in grad school where I was going to the gym a lot. I ran on the treadmill, did the elliptical, and went to kickboxing and Pilates classes pretty regularly. But that pretty much went to shit when I moved to Charlotte. So, although I had dabbled in the past, I look at February 2009 as my running debut. So, what were the reasons I started running? At the time, I needed a distraction, something to keep me busy, so that was one reason. I was also trying to quit my nasty habit of off and on smoking. (I had been known to destroy a pack by myself in a night of drinking.) I also wanted to meet new people. While I had some good friends, I felt really stuck in that 'not a kid anymore, but not quite a grown-up' phase and I wanted more friends that I felt like would be good influences on me.

The reasons why I kept running are very different than those initial reasons. Two years later, smoking is a pretty distant past habit (although I can admit I've slipped occasionally but it's been few and far between), I definitely stay busy, and my entire social circle has changed. Somehow, along the way, I even ended up social director for Charlotte Running Club. What I didn't expect was to fall head over heels in love with running. I love competing against myself and pushing myself to faster times. I like not knowing what my potential is just yet. I love how it feels to finish a hard workout or a long run. Racing has become a big deal to me.

I used to think it was nuts how serious people were about running. Now, don't get me wrong, I have a long ways to go to move up to what I would consider the 'next level' of running. But the runner I was two years ago would be in awe of the runner I am today. So, maybe my workout tonight wasn't anything mind-blowing to an elite runner, but I'm proud to say I speak 'runner talk' now.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Fast is relative, too?

What a good weekend!

I haven't written a 'race report' in a while, because I feel like so many are better at it than I am, but I really want to write one about my experiences at the Hot Chocolate 10K in Asheville yesterday. However, in true Emily fashion, I'm going to pull in some other details and also share some lessons I learned from this race and my weekend with my fellow Charlotte Running Club board members.

The weekend started at 5PM Friday afternoon, when Scott picked me up at my house and we hit the road for Asheville. It was an uneventful drive and Scott and I had a good time talking about music on the way up there. I haven't shown my music nerdiness in a while and it was really fun. We arrived at the house just after 7, where we met up with Allen. Allen gave us the tour and Scott, Allen and I ran around the house like we were on The Real World. The first thing we noticed when we walked in the door was a fantastic smell wafting through the air. The owner of the house had MADE US BREAD in the house's breadmaker. Talk about hospitality! The house was just awesome. It had already been pre-decided that the master bedroom would be given to Caitlin and me, because apparently 'dudes don't sleep together.' No complaints here, although we did get some laughs at the sex marks on the wall behind the wrought-iron bed that she and I shared for the weekend. (They were already there, guys, nothing to see here.)

Scott, Allen and I met up with Jay, Caitlin, Matt, Aaron, and Ben for dinner at Asheville Brewing Company. Billy got a bit of a late start and would be meeting us later at the house. The pizza was great and so was the beer (we split a few pitchers of Boogie Down Brown...yum). There was also a comfortable feeling of comaraderie in the air as we joked and talked about movies. No need to get down to business just yet. I knew it was going to be a fun weekend. I commented to Scott and Allen that I appreciated that I kind of felt like one of the guys for the weekend, and it was confirmed that I'm 'cool.' (Whew.)

I showered and crashed after we got back to the house and I slept great. I woke up the next morning, had a bagel with peanut butter and honey, and we caravaned to the race. Scott, Allen and I listened to gangsta rap on the way and confirmed that we are the three whitest people in America. It was COLD outside (somewhere around 22 degrees) but there wasn't much wind and it was a beautiful day. I had opted for capri tights, long sleeve shirt, CRC singlet, two pairs of gloves and a headwarmer and knew that although I was cold at first, this was about right for the temperature.* Also, was wearing my Ronins for the first time in a race. I realized how focused I was on this race as I sat in the backseat of the shuttle on the way to the race. (I was thinking, 'Ahhh ha, hush that fush, everybody move to the back of the bus.') I had ended up telling a few people that I wanted to run sub-49, even though I knew that would be a fairly big PR for me and pretty close to my current 5K PR pace.

*I would be remiss if I didn't mention somewhere that Matt was wearing a short bathrobe that was provided by the house in lieu of warmups.

Packet and chip pickup and bag check went smoothly and I went back outside to warm up. Sadly, warming up before a race is something pretty new to me, too. I had run into Lauren, Boriana, and Sarah at chip pick-up and warmed up for a bit with Lauren and Sarah. We decided to run down and back up (very slowly) the hill that made up the last quarter mile or so of the race. Um...crap. That hill kind of SUCKED. I got pretty nervous and thought about re-adjusting my goal a bit but had heard the rest of the course was pretty flat so I figured surely I'd be able to handle it. I continued a bit of the warm-up by myself and then ran into Allen and he and I trotted around the parking lot a bit.

After drinking a little water and chatting a bit more with the Charlotte crew, it was time to line up. I did something else a little differently at this race and actually lined up fairly near the front. It's time to get some confidence and as it turned out, I started right where I should have been. There were 1000 runners registered, so it was a decent-sized race.

And we're off! First mile was a steep downhill, so I just relaxed into it, opened my stride and let gravity do the work. I knew this was going to be a fast mile but my strategy for the race was to just run by effort level and try not to stress too much about time. After the first mile marker, I was running in a pack with about 3-4 guys. This was weird for me. It felt strange to look ahead of me and only see 1-2 women and lots of guys. I settled in to a pace around 7:45 and realized that while this didn't feel 'easy', it felt better than I'd ever felt running that pace and it certainly felt sustainable for a good amount of time. This gave me some confidence.

The course continued along this one road for a while and around 2.75 miles into the race, the leaders appeared going in the other direction. The two guys in first and second were just hauling ass, it was ridiculous. Aaron appeared shortly after those two guys and it was really cool to see him and be able to yell, 'Go Aaron!' Billy was a few spots back after that, then Matt, then I saw Boriana and Allen as we turned into a park for part of the course. I got so pumped seeing everyone that I picked up the pace a little here and glanced at my watch to see 23:19 when I hit 3.1 miles. Technically, a 5K PR but I knew I wouldn't run as fast on the second half of the course since we didn't have any more big downhills and in fact, that monster hill loomed ahead. It also felt weird to leave the park and hit the turnaround and realize...dang, there are a LOT more people behind me in this race than there are in front of me. Confidence boost #2.

I would say around mile four is where a 10K starts to become a bit of a mental game. Or, it can. A few little doubs began to creep into my head around this point but I'm really proud of myself that I was able to tell myself that my breathing felt fine, my legs had plenty of strength to keep up the pace, and to just zone out and run. I have a bad habit of looking at my watch during races and freaking out a little, but I didn't even look at my watch. I just looked forward, focused on making my stride as efficient as possible...and ran. I could tell I was 'leading' a little pack as I could hear footsteps and see shadows behind me, but no one from our little group passed me. (Although, one little guy that looked like a leprachaun, complete with a beard, did. I bet women run slower because we can't grow beards. Jealous.) I still kept it around 7:40-7:50 pace.

There was one chick that I could see ahead of me wearing a pink jacket and I made it my goal after we passed mile marker 5 to catch her. I started to get nervous about the hill but still just tried to stay in the moment. I did eventually catch the chick in the pink and passed her.

But then....crap. There's a little hill BEFORE the big hill. I wasn't feeling good and could feel my heart rate shoot up. I got scared and nauseous and slowed way down until a guy passed me and patted me encouragingly on the shoulder. This reminded me of how much I love races and how supportive complete strangers can be so I slogged forward. It was around this point that Aaron, Jay and Billy were running down the hill and cheered for me. A quick glance at my watch revealed that I should easily come in under 49 minutes but that I was going to HAVE to suck it up and run to the top of this hill if it was going to happen. Almost there...but then I started to get a little nauseous again and for a split second thought, 'Eff my goal.' Luckily, that didn't last long because Caitlin, Boriana, Allen, Matt and Ben were there to encourage me and I could see the finish line by this point. It wasn't pretty, but I did make it across the finish line at clock time 48:46. Had to bend over and put my hands on my knees and let the nausea pass for a second, then met up with everyone to cheer in Lauren (who ran it in with Sarah and also got a new PR!!) and Scott (who I don't think was thrilled with his time but was happy to have beaten the guy dressed as a penguin).

Pic stolen from Allen...I look rough, but my shoes look cool.

Of course I got some hot chocolate after the race, then it was grub time at Sunny Point and then back to the house to get to business. I'm not going to bore everyone with details but I think we were all pleased with how well the board meeting went. We were able to agree on our mission, come up with our social calendar for the year, and get some preliminary budgeting done. We also had some fun. I'm really glad I got to know everyone a little better this weekend. If one thing can be said about the Charlotte Running Club board, we are definitely all passionate about running and want to promote that.

After business was done, it was time to listen to the Beastie Boys and slide around in our socks. (Ok, that was just Aaron and Matt.) Aaron, Caitlin, Jay and I went to the grocery store for pasta and some of the guys peeled off to go to Nachos and Beer (yep, that's the real name of that place) for nachos and beer and to buy Billy Shue birthday tequila shots. They intelligently stopped after 4 shots and Billy Shue was the man for the rest of the night, inspiring drinking games even.*

*Side note: There were so many good quotes from this weekend that were OH SO INAPPROPRIATE and cannot be shared here. But rest assured, they were funny. I also wish we would have kept a 'That's What She Said' count for the weekend and would like to note that I contributed a couple of the better ones.

This is getting long, so I'm gonna wrap it up with a quick lesson I learned. After discussing how I felt during the race with some of the more elite runners, I realized that they go through the same thoughts I do during a race. And that even when they're happy with their time and obviously know that they're fast, they still finish races wanting more and not being 100% satisfied. I also realized that fast and slow truly ARE relative terms. My time for the race ended up officially being 48:41 and was good enough for 6/84 in my age group and 129/825 finishers. So, for all intents and purposes, I don't think it's conceited of me to say that I ran a 'fast' race. So, the speedwork is already paying off. Maybe I should change the name of this blog...although, maybe not, since I still can't seem to shake the 'I'm slow' feeling. However, I've realized that I had fun during that race and I'm becoming a lot stronger mentally during shorter races and that while half of Charlotte seems to be going distance crazy, I'm not. I think speed can really become a strength of mine and also help me in the future if I do choose to race further distances again. I'm really excited about this year, both as a runner and as a member of the board of Charlotte Running Club.