Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Striders Memorial Day Half Marathon - 5/30/11

When I planned a trip to go visit my sister, brother-in-law, and three month old nephew, Colton, in Salt Lake City, I checked to see what races were going on in the area. I found two, one on Memorial Day, and one the following Saturday. I registered for both. Four days before the Memorial Day race, I got an email from the race director saying that it was canceled. Now for me, besides the disappointment factor, it wasn't a big deal, but I felt awful for all the people who put in some serious training in order to run it, especially for those who it was going to be their first. Being that my heart was now set on running a half marathon on Memorial Day, I checked to see what else was out there. Thankfully, I found another one in Syracuse, UT. The best part about it was that there was also a 5k for this event which meant my sister, and friend Maura, who was also visiting from Texas, would be able to join me.

Syracuse is 45 minutes away from my sisters house in SLC, and being that my race started at 6:45a, we were on our way by 5:30a in order to allow time to check in and pick up our bibs. The entire way there it was pouring, and it was definitely cold out. Having checked the hourly weather report, I knew that there was going to be a clearing around 7a that would last only about an hour. Sure enough, after we picked up our bibs, the weather cleared and the rain stopped. This was a small race, and the proceeds went to benefit the NO MORE VICTIMS foundation which is a charity organization set up to help kids who have fallen victim to sexual abuse.

I parted ways from Kim and Maura and went to wait for my race to begin. The race start was a big orange cone, no frills, no chip mats, just a guy saying "ready, set, go" over a megaphone. All 139 of us set off through the farmland of Syracuse, UT. Over the first three miles, I was freezing. Thankful it wasn't raining, but I was numbed to the core. My hands hurt pretty bad, and I couldn't feel my toes. My pace started out strong and I decided I'd try to keep it going as long as I could. We ran along country roads that were lined with horses on one side and cows on the other. It had rained so much leading up to the race that the sides of the road were basically swamps. Eventually, we found ourselves running along a nice, paved trail and I finally started to thaw out a bit.

This was an out and back course, and like last weekend, I was at mile six when the I saw the leader running back toward the finish. I'd been monitoring my splits and I was managing to keep my pace well under an eight minute mile. I tried to count the number of females ahead of me, but I somehow lost count, but I knew there were only a few. It was a few miles later that I realized just how bad I needed to go to the bathroom. This actually started at mile two, but only got worse as the race went on. When mile ten hit, I actually debated using the portos, but I knew I was on track to kill my PR, and break my goal of 1:45 easily, and I just wasn't willing to risk losing the time, so I sucked it up, and pushed on.

It was around mile nine when the skies began to get dark and the hail started. The hail was small, and I actually preferred it over rain since I wasn't getting wet. At mile 11, we came upon Jensen Nature Park which is were the finish was. We'd make one big loop around it before reaching the finish. As we crossed a small bridge to begin the loop, there were a number of spectators there waiting to cheer on their family and friends, including Kim and Maura, who had already finished their race.

Those last two miles were tough. Mostly because I had to go the bathroom so bad I couldn't think of anything else. In the last mile, I was passed by two women, one of which I knew I could overtake again, but couldn't increase my speed because the faster pace made me have to go the bathroom even more. It was torture. TORTURE. About a half mile to the end, there was a puddle at least ten yards long that we had to cross. The water came well above my ankles, and we all sloshed through it, coming out on the other side with soaked socks and shoes. I made the final push to the end knowing I was going to be extremely pleased with my finishing time.

that's me crossing the finishing line

I crossed the finish with a 1:42:14. That's a 7:50 pace. I'd easily broken an eight minute mile. Happy couldn't begin to describe my emotion, but nature was calling (LOUDLY), and I literally ran to the bathroom. After, I was finally able to relax and revel in my time. The thing that I was so pleased with is that I was able to keep my pace so consistent. For miles one through ten, my pace ranged from 7:40 - 7:55, with only miles eleven and twelve dropping to 8:10, and 8:11 respectively, before I once again picked it back up and finished the last mile in 7:58.

When I got back from the bathroom, I noticed Kim and Maura both wearing medals around their necks. Turns out, they both placed third in their age groups for the 5k, and neither had any idea, until they checked their standings. They told me that I was the sixth female runner to finish, so I knew we had to stick around for the half marathon award ceremony in case I was going to place in my age group. At this point, it was raining and freezing once again. We stood under an overhang, shivering, while eating gigantic costco muffins. When the award ceremony finally started, I took second in my division. We all felt pretty good leaving with medals around our necks, and I was once again reminded how much fun it is to run races with family and friends

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Hellyer Half Marathon - 5/22/11

When I discovered one of my favorite trail race organizations was putting on an event on a Sunday (non-soccer day), and that there was essentially no elevation gain as it was on a paved path through Hellyer County Park in San Jose, it was an easy decision to run it. It was even easier to convince Annelyse she wanted to do it with me, which really only took me asking. While I'm excited to get back into true trail running, I'm just not there yet, so I knew this would be a perfect compromise until I'm ready to tackle the 2,000+ ft gains seen on most trail races.

After having to take it really easy on Saturday because I'd been feeling sick for the past two days, I was surprised to find myself feeling generally well on Sunday morning when I woke up. I was relieved, as the last thing I wanted to do was have to bow out of the race. Not only do I look forward to races, but it was also the first race Annelyse and I were running together. The medicine I took Sunday morning managed to clear up the slight congestion I still had left, so after morning coffee and a snack, Annelyse and I took the hour drive down to Hellyer County Park.

We arrived early enough to go through pre-race rituals - pick up the bib, go to the bathroom, get the GPS watches ready, and check the clothes. Not long after, if was my turn to start. I was running the half marathon, and Annelyse was running the 10k which started 10 minutes later. I lined up with the small field of 213 runners doing the half with me. After some general instructions on the course, we were off.

One of the things I really like about smaller races is you don't have to spend a lot of time trying to break away from the pack since it usually spreads out quickly, and this race was no exception. I went out a little faster than I'd like and ran my first two miles at around a 7:40 pace. This didn't completely surprise me as that's the pace I was doing my training runs at, but I had to remind myself that this wasn't my usual eight mile run, and that I needed to slow it down. The next two miles, I dropped my pace slightly, keeping it at around a 7:53 m/m.

I was feeling good at this point, and the residual pain I'd been feeling in my foot as a result of my surgery wasn't bothering me at all. The path we were running on was paved, but a good portion was bordered with dirt on the sides, which I tried to run on as much as possible since I knew it would be easier on my foot. The trail we were on was the Coyote Creek Parkway which had a decent amount of shading from the sun, and ran throughout the park alongside creeks, lakes, and open grass areas.

This was an out and back course, and it was at mile six that the leaders started to pass us heading back toward the finish. The person in first was actually a female runner who would later go on to finish in second place overall. While I like loop courses the best, I usually don't mind out and backs, and it does give me the opportunity to see what place I'm in. By the time I got to the turnaround point a half mile later, I counted seven females ahead of me. I had no idea if I was going to be able to hold this position or if I'd see a big slow down in my pace for the remaining half of the race. My training runs were topping of at eight miles, and the only time I'd run over that was the half marathon I did in mid-April, so I wasn't sure what to expect.

For miles five through eight, I held an eight minute pace consistently, but sure enough, mile nine is when my splits started to drop, though only about 20 seconds per mile. Despite the fact that I slowed down a bit, I felt pretty confident I was going to be able to stick with that pace despite seeing the girl I'd been following starting to push further ahead of me. And then, it must have been around mile 10, that the girl who had been trailing me finally caught me. Obviously she was able to hold her pace, and I couldn't. Ultimately, I was OK with being passed, I just wanted to finish in the top ten.

It's always at mile 10 that I start to do the math in my head to try to figure out what my time will be. While I knew I was running the race fairly fast, it didn't really dawn on me that I was on track to set a PR until then. I even had a bit of padding built in in case my pace dropped considerably. I finished the last four miles at an average pace of 8:20. As I rounded the corner to enter the area where the finish line was waiting about four tenths of a mile ahead, Annelyse, who had already finished her race, was there waiting for me. It's not often I have my very own fan cheering me on along the course, and it felt pretty awesome. I ran as fast as my tired legs would possibly carry me over the grass toward the finish.

I crossed the finish line with a time of 1:45:41, an average pace of 8:04. I couldn't believe it, but that was only 42 seconds off of my ultimate goal of breaking 1:45 (under an eight min/mile), which I was hoping to do in August of this year at the Giant Race. Annelyse told me I needed a new goal because I'm going to break it much sooner. I'm still not convinced, but it definitely seems like an attainable goal now. I was so focused on the 1:45 goal, that I partially forgot that I'd just set a PR, beating my last one by 2:36 minutes. I didn't set out to do any of this, which is probably why it happened and felt so good, and hopefully impressed Annelyse just a little along the way too.

Brazen races always have the best spread of food at the aid stations and at the finish. There were bagels, fruit, candy, sweet rolls, and one of my childhood favorites, It's-It ice cream sandwiches. Annelyse and I split a vanilla one while sitting out on the grass in the sun watching the rest of the finishers come in while we analyzed each of our races. Before we left, I checked the leader board to see if I'd placed. I knew I was the ninth female finisher, so I thought there was a chance. Turns out I placed third in my age division and received a special medal. It wasn't even 11am when we headed back to the car, yet I'd already had the ideal morning. I can't wait for more.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bay to Breakers 12k - 5/15/11

I debated whether or not I should even write about this since my participation was hardly that of a runner. Ultimately though, it was a race that I took part in, so here goes my half-assed write up. Having done the whole drinking and dressing up thing in previous years, I figured I should actually run it once, and what better one to do then its' centennial. It was a good thought, but the problem was in the execution. By the time I decided this, the only corral open was the second to last walking corral which had an estimated finishing time of over two hours.

Knowing that I wasn't actually going to get to run it for real, my excitement level for this race was low. It didn't help that the weather forecast was cold and wet, and that I knew it was going to be a complete shit show. However, I was going to run it anyway, especially after one of my friends talked some sense into me and told me it would be fun no matter what, and that I needed to have a better attitude about it. So I did.

I met Emily at her house, and Rob kindly drove us to our 8:15a starting location. As we were driving down to the Embarcadero, you could already see runners in the actually "running" corrals, which started at 7a, running through the park nearing the finish. It kind of made me laugh that we were still 20 minutes away from even starting the race, and here people were already finishing. That was supposed to be me, but I had no one to blame but myself.

I think we started the race around 8:20a with the masses. Emily and I started off in a light jog, and not 10 minutes in, we ran into some of our old soccer teammates and friends who we had planned to meet up with after the race. We stopped to chat awhile, but being that they were walking, Emily and I eventually pushed on, running where we could. We decided not to dress up because the goal was to actually run it. I had thought about dressing up in my "Where's Waldo" costume anyway, but was glad I didn't when I saw them all over the place. Waldo was pretty easy to find that day.

As we neared the Hayes Street hill, we started to catch up with all the crowds of people, and by that I mean all the folks who were dressed up and drinking. It started to get really thick with people just hanging out listening to the music from all the house parties. Not many people were running, and those of us trying to were basically running on the sidewalks to try to avoid everyone else. When we came into Golden Gate Park, it spaced out slightly because most of the drunks were behind us at this point. After running into a co-worker and stopping to say hi, we cruised to the finish with a speedy chip time of 1:36. That's a 13 min/mile. Awesome.

While the race didn't turn out like I had planned, I did end up having a lot of fun. I'd say we walked half of it, and ran the other half, and the part we did run was slow. It was a nice change to be able to walk/run a race at such a casual pace. Being a part of it all, enjoying all the costumes and the craziness, and getting to catch up with Emily, made it worth it. Out of all the people in costumes, I was a fan of the guys who all dressed up as bacon and then flopped themselves on the ground every once in awhile to sizzle. Emily's favorite must have been the muppets with the exceptional costumes. After all, who doesn't like a giant Beaker. And thankfully, the naked people were at a minimum this year compared to previous years.

After the race, instead of hiking all the way back up to the middle of the park where footstock was going on, we went and grabbed some sandwiches and I enjoyed some of Rob's fantastic IPA while hanging out at the animal farm (aka Em and Rob's house). I think the birds and Sunny were happy to have us there. Had I not been oncall, I may have had more motivation to participate in all the festivities, but that combined with a few previous late nights really just made me want to take a nap. And that's exactly what I did. Perhaps one of these years I'll actually get my act together and register early enough to really run it, but maybe this isn't a race I'm meant to run.