Saturday, February 16, 2008

I Found My Mojo at the River Trail 15K

Today was the big day. My first race of the season and it was a 15k (9.3 miles) at the River Trail. I had been watching the weather closely for the past two days as the forecast was calling for about a 90% chance of rain. Needless to say, I was not looking forward to running 9.3 miles in the rain and cold. But, since the weather in Arkansas is so unpredictable, I knew that I couldn't depend on the weather men and would have to wait till early morning to see what the day would bring.

I set my alarm at 5:30am and was up shortly after. Did my regular routine, coffee, supplements and pop tarts for race food. Well, thats probably not the best race food but that was all I had so it had to do. I figured I would be ok since I had not run for two days and had eaten pretty good so I knew I would have some glycogen stored up for the long run.

After I checked the weather, it looked like it was 39 degrees with mist at the race site. We met Michelle at Team 1 at 7am so that she could follow us to the race. As we were driving through Jacksonville and North Little Rock it started raining pretty good. I told Annette that this was going to be fun today. She kept telling me to think positive. So I did, I was thinking maybe only a few people will show up and all those fast old guys in my age group will stay in bed. Well, when we turned into the soccer fields at burns park, all I could see was cars. The parking lot was almost full. So much for no one showing up. Luckily it was not raining but there was a slight mist in the air.

Early on I decided to wear shorts, a long sleeve under armour tech shirt and my Cabot Cruisers race singlet along with a nike hat. I had run off and forgot my gloves but luckily Annette had some extras. I had a choice of pink or red, so I took the red of course. I really didn't care if it looked weird or not as long as they helped. I got our packets while Annette went to the bathroom then we sat in the car for a few minutes before joining up with the other Cruisers for a quick warm up. Wasn't much since we had a long run but this let us see how our clothing would feel. I felt like I had the perfect combo today. I wasn't going to get too hot and hopefully would not be too cold. I might be in trouble if it started pouring down rain but that was something I had no control over.

The race started and we were off. Annette, Michelle, Bailey and I were in the middle of the pack. As with most races, everyone starts off way too fast. I felt really good. I had wrapped my left foot and heel so it was feeling great. The cool moist air was almost refreshing. There was a slight mist but it was more like a think fog I guess. Not enough to really get you wet but enough that you feel it. After about a 1/4 mile I was leading the girls. I had been kidding them about not going out too fast and guess who was leading the way, me! We wanted to stay around a 10 minute pace starting out but that wasn't happening. At times during the first mile I'd look down and we were running a 9:13 pace. Slow down I thought. I wasn't too concerned because my plan was to walk the water stops and there should be one at mile 2 like it was last year. Well, I got disappointed. When we got to where the water stop was last year there was none. So I ran on. It was about here that Annette, Michelle and Bailey passed me. I knew I couldn't hang with them if they were pushing it and I knew they would be. I kept looking for that water stop but it never came. When I got to the boat ramp I thought it might be there but no water stop. Since I was pushing way under 10 minute miles, I needed a quick break and took one walking across the wooden bridge.

I would watch my garmin and I kept seeing that I was holding under a 10 minute pace. Last year I ran this race in 1:45:00 with an 11:17 average pace so I had in my head that I would be happy if I just did a 10:30 pace. As I kept running, I was staying in the 9's so I kept challenging myself to stay under a 10 minute pace. I'll have to say that at times it wasn't easy but I was hanging in there. Finally just before mile 4 there was a water station so I walked it and drank about half a cup. They really should have had one more water stop on this course so it kind of screwed up my race strategy some but you never know how things will be on race day anyway. I probably should have brought my own. Note to self, always bring your own water on long runs including races.

I kept pushing. I kept setting new goals for myself for each mile. My average pace at this point was about 9:50 so I tried to push to stay under 10. This was an out and back course so at about 4.6 was the turn around or actually we turned on to another trail that came back to the original one. I hit mile 5, still holding under 10. I planned to do my hammer gel at the water stop so I knew this would cost me some time but I would need that push to make it in. When I saw the water stop I really picked up the pace to make up some time. When I got there the guy handed me their LAST cup of water! Even more reason to bring your own. I walked fast, drank, did my gel and took off again.

The 6 mile mark wasn't far and again I was shooting for under 10. I think I made it or was real close. There had been one girl that I would pass and then when I took a quick break she would pass me. This had gone on for about two or three miles. I took my last quick walk break at 10k (6.2m) and she passed me. That would be the last time though. After 30 seconds catching my breath I took off and pushed the next mile hard. I knew there was a downhill coming and hills are my friend, either up or down! Mile 7 was 9:56. I figured out that when I was slowing down, if I would concentrate on increasing my stride more, my speed would jump right back up and it did. This was probably the most enlightening thing about todays run. I knew this but had never really put it in practice or seen the effects. I was starting to tire some. My legs wanted to stiffen up but I would just concentrate on stretching them out more. When I started slowing too much and feeling tired I'd take a 20 - 30 second walk to get my heart rate down and take off again. This did not seem to affect my average pace at all and it made me feel so much better. It was about mile 7 or so that I started changing my goals some. I figured last year I did this in an 11:17 pace so my goal would be a 10:17 pace. This gave me a little breathing room and I slowed down a little. My average still was staying just a little over 10 so then i'd think about if I could hold this till the end. Mile 9 was a welcome sight and I had my PR in the bag and then some. I was feeling pretty happy at this point but I was ready to get it over with. With about .2 left I took one last 20 second walk break and then it was almost a sprint all the way in. When I first could see the clock I think it said something like 1:30+ on it. New goal, beat 1:35:00. That would be a 10 minute PR from last year. With that goal in mind I finished my sprint to the finish line. 1:33:58! Wow, a 12 minute PR from last year. I was pretty happy! My garmin said average pace 10:03.

All I can say is wow. I really didn't expect this. It's not a great time but for me it is. Especially considering my longest run since November was last Sunday's 10 miler. Even better, this felt good. As I was running I would often visualize elite runners and their form. Then I would try to duplicate it. Well, I'm not elite but I think the visualization helped me. Plus just the fact that this is a race and you are here to give it everything you have. The competition is good and helps push one even more. Setting goals and hitting them makes it even sweeter. There is another secret. Just wearing a Cabot Country Cruisers singlet makes me want to push harder as I am part of an awesome team and hope that I can contribute at least a little.

Bring on the Little Rock Half Marathon. Another PR awaits me there! I had really thought I had lost my mojo but today it came back.

By the way, Annette won 1st place in her age group, Bailey won I think second in hers and this was her first race EVER. The other girls in the club also mopped up on awards. Lisa F. finished 5th place female overall. All I can say is guys, if you run with these girls you better be fast!

Here are my stats for today, slow in comparison to some of the Grand Prix Runners but still a PR for me. I'll post more later about the Grand Prix awards.

Total miles - 9.35
Time - 1:33:59
Avg. Pace - 10:03 (10:06 official as I had .05 more in milege)
best 6:05
1266 calories


Susan said...

Amazing! I checked out the results online earlier today, I must admit.

You did an awesome job. I know it must feel great to be back out there!

I watched teh Ironman Triathlon today on NBC and was inspired.

cheryl said...

You said "It's not a great time" WHAT? It's an excellent time, you beat your last year's time by 12 minutes!! Quit selling yourself short!! Look where you were a year ago!! Excellent race report too. I liked your visualization part, I do that a lot. Keep up the great reports and running. See you on the hills Tuesday.