Sunday, April 28, 2013

Race Report: Manotick Road Races

Today's Race: Manotick Road Races (5K.. or so they say)

PS: Pics to be uploaded when they're posted.

I was super excited to run the Manotick Road Races. It had the makings of a pretty sweet race. It's a relatively flat part of town, it's 10 minutes from my house on a slow day, and the 5K had the odd start time of 10:50 am (the 10K and 18K races started at 8:40 and 8:30, respectively). I had driven by the signs on my alternate drive to work (the route I take when traffic on the Hunt Club Bridge is insane) and kept counting down the days to run a good local race.

Time-wise, I was pretty confident too. Thanks to Stew Smith's personalized program, I was running sub-8:00 miles on the track and ran a 12:04 1.5-miler the other day. I was also avoiding injury despite a twinge now-and-then in my left Achilles and the hip/core work seemed to be going well. I checked last year's results. Despite not copping to be a race cherry-picker, I do analyze the field from the previous years in the hopes of seeing how I would potentially place. Ever since my first-place finish last year, I've been eager to taste sweet victory in at least my age group. With my goal of running a sub-26:00 race, I would have landed at around 2nd AG last year. I knew this year's field was bigger but I was optimistic. 

Depending on race location and date, either my husband or my dad comes to the race with me. There's a strategy behind this: Kevin keeps me calm, is really supportive, and I can actually feel he's proud of me when he sees me run. With Dad, well... Dad doesn't give a rat's ass how I do. I kind of like that too. Dad is a physicist and refuses to spend a penny on anything. He sleeps on a second-hand Salvation Army bed from the 1970s. His frugality really limits our activities together and I usually have to con him into going somewhere before he goes and admits he enjoyed it. Even when he admits he enjoys something, it's not obvious he's admitting to anything, or enjoying anything. In last year's Canada Day Road Races, I found him reading a book on the Theory of Relativity on a knoll 50 ft from the finish line. He had no idea I had finished, but he happily sat and watched my purse and let me do some cooldown stretches before heading out. Local races have become our thing... he likes seeing me run as it was a pastime from his childhood in Scotland and he's usually willing to go because it's free. On Sunady mornings, however, he visits an elderly family member and, due to the late start time of the race today, he couldn't make it with me. So that left me with mom... within a few minutes of picking her up I was yelling "for F*CKS sake!" because she was shouting that I missed a parking spot and told me to rush to get it. I was already tense. Mom is a good cheerleader but she is a very stressful person to be around and, combined with the cup of coffee I had just downed, the knot in my stomach was getting bigger.

At around 10:40 am, they called us all to the narrow start line. My iPod Nano (4th gen) tragically died in an Iced Tea accident in my purse last week, so I had to make do with my iPod touch. I have a supreme hatred for touchscreen devices. They are not made for runners (as the dismal failure of the Garmin touchscreen GPS watches will attest to). I made a quick race playlist and jammed the clunky device in my Lululemon crops. I wasn't sure whether or not to wear shorts as the thermometer was already hitting 20C and climbing, but my lack of hot yoga and true endurance cardio in the past few months has left me a little more self-conscious about my legs than I'd like to admit to (this will change!). I thought about taking the iPod out and pausing the tunes for a few minutes since it didn't seem like the gun was going to go off anytime soon, but the gaggle of pre-teen girls in soccer uniforms singing Taylor Swift songs made me reconsider. The second song on my playlist, "Hallelujah" by Paramore, had just finished playing as the gun finally went off and I started running to "Last Train Home" by LostProphets. 

The first mile started out just fine. I caught a glimpse of my watch that flashed "7:06" as my pace and put the reigns on my legs. I settled into a solid 8:10-8:30 pace. It wasn't a sub-25:00 pace (my goal for this season) but it was enough to potentially get me a PR for this race. The race was well-marked and my watch read 0.62 as the 1KM sign flashed by. I was optimistic as I hit the 2KM mark at 1.2 miles on my watch. "Finally," I thought, "a race that's properly measured". At 3KM, I generally hit some sort of wall. Today's race was no different, though I noted that I hadn't hit the 9:00-min mile pace on my watch yet so even though I was feeling tired, my "slow pace" has noticeably gotten faster. I gave myself a bit of a boost when I was 2.4 mile on my watch and told myself I only had about 3 laps of a track to run before I was done. 

This is when it all fell apart. My watch creeped closer and closer to 3 miles and I kept winding my way through local roads, with no finish line in sight. I had pumped my legs like a maniac to try and finish on a high note and realized that not only was I now exhausted, but I still didn't know where the finish line was, and there was a (relatively) large hill looming directly ahead. My watch now read 3.2 miles and I was just starting the climb. I'm used to races not being exactly 3.10 miles and I try not to rely on the Garmin too much. With such a curvy race and weaving in and out, I don't expect to run 3.1 miles on the dot, but having gone 0.1 miles past that and still quite far from the end, I started to get disheartened. My watch ticked by 27:00. My goal for the race was gone, as was my goal to place. I had been mentally keeping track of women who looked like they were 20-29 and saw the 3rd person jog by me right around that 3.2 mark. I slowed to a walk near the top of the hill where I noticed parked cars. A good sign. We were near the finish line. My watch was up to 3.3 miles now.... by the time I crossed the finish line, it was at 3.4 miles on the dot. 

I thoroughly believe that the 5K is the hardest distance to run. It's the "beginner" distance, but those beginners usually move on to 10K, half marathons, or even full marathons. Very few people stick around at the 5K and try to get faster. 5Ks toe the line between sprint and paced run; between middle and long distance. It's difficult to settle in for the long haul in a 5K, because by the time I've "settled" (usually around a mile in), I'm a third done. You really give the end your all in a 5K because those few seconds make a big difference when you don't have that many minutes or seconds to play with in the first place. I felt like today I gave it my all, and instead I was met with a course that was a third of a mile too long (adding on a solid 3:00 to my time) and a hill. My intuition was right... I was 20 seconds away from a Top 3 finish. I'm pleased with my overall result (4 of 39 in the age group), but I'm disappointed with the race overall. I think the fact that I did train, I did race smart, and I did give it my all, and lost out due to things beyond my knowledge or control just made me a bit disheartened.

I have my sights set on one local race (Carp) next week or, if I can convince him and give him huge puppy eyes and lots of kisses, I'd like to go down to Washington DC with my husband and run in one of the 5Ks in the Dulles area. I always seem to do better at "away" events. 

I did, however, get some cute stuff from Lululemon after the race. And I have made it my goal to take yoga/cardio a bit more seriously... I'm embarrassed with my body's shape (not necessarily my fitness, though). Onward and upwards.... just no more hills, please!

29:35 or 8:42 per mile
4/39 Age Group
59/261 Gender
136/418 Overall

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Tom Scott Race Report and Injury Update

It's been a little while! A few things to get to today...

Tom Scott Road Races

I went over to Scotland last week to visit the family and run in the Tom Scott Road Race. My uncle is the race director and had mentioned last February that I should come and race. Given my fortunate ability to fly internationally for not a lot of money, I took a look at the flights for around April 7 and decided that I should go for it.

I sort of had an idea that races in Scotland were different. Looking at 2012's results, it was obvious that I was not going to be in the top 20% (where I normally hover in North American races). The age groups are different and people race for clubs, not for themselves. You can kind of tell by looking at this picture:

Racing is a serious thing over there and there doesn't really seem to be a thing called a "fun run". Anyway, I was glad I registered for the less-competitive 6K for both the fact that the guy who came in last place in the 10 mile race was averaging an 11:00 mile (think about it, this guy was running at around 5.5 mph and came in last), and my knee started to give me a hard time after 3 miles anyway.

After staying at the Holiday Inn Express right next to Strathclyde Park in Motherwell (where the race was being held), my husband and I headed over to get registered. Turns out my uncle had recruited most of my family to work at the registration desk so I got a nice visit in with my cousins while prepping for the race start. I was cold and miserable pretty much the whole time in Scotland, so I was bundled up despite the 8C temperatures, and made the mistake of wearing a purple UA t-shirt, my bright Lululemon long sleeve shirt and a new jacket to the race. Some guy from the Motherwell club said that I'd be boiling... he was right. Around a mile in, I was already dying of the heat. You can tell in pictures that I tried to unzip my jacket, but failed miserably when I realized that my race number was pinned to the jacket.

My uncle had advised me that the course was "flat" and I didn't have to worry about hills. Well, this is the same uncle who says "It never rains in Scotland" and 10 miles is "not far". The first 2 miles were admittedly pretty flat and the views around the loch were pretty. I was very grateful to not be running in the rain. However, after 2 miles, the path winded in all sorts of directions, including up (luckily it also went down at some points). I was already exhausted with the heat, so the hills didn't help. I've decided that whenever I get back to running, hill training will be required.

While I had been passing people for the first two miles and holding a steady 8:30-8:45 pace, it dropped off dramatically towards the finish and I struggled to hold a sub-10:00 pace for the remainder of the race. Luckily I broke out of the trees and hills enough to see that I was getting close to the end (and more importantly, that the rest of the course was flat) and I did a little sprint towards the finish line.

Never thought I'd be that warm in a Scottish race

All in all, I was pleased with my overall time of 34:31. It was slightly less on my GPS watch (I think there was an issue with the chip timing - I didn't see a mat at the start of the race). Turns out I came in 2 of 6 in the FSNR category. I don't know what it stands for other than the F is female. I didn't get a prize, though. Overall, I was 12 of 28 women and 37 of 63 runners. I was expecting a lot worse so I'm pleased with my result. And check out that pretty stride!


Injury Report

Well, if you can't tell by the three (yes, three) braces I'm wearing in the race photo, I've got a lot of work to do injury-wise. My trainer kind of chewed me out for not doing non-impact stuff but the truth is, I really wanted to not suck at this race. Now that it's over, I'm a little bit more accepting of the fact that I need to tone down the running and turn up the cross-training/strengthening. I'm okay with that -- any exercise is good. I still want to sneak in some runs on the weekends, whether it be a race or not (to keep the competitive fires burning), but it's going to be 90% cross training at the moment. My left Achilles still gets "twinge"y even when just biking or doing elliptical, which kind of sucks. Right now I'm just focusing on strengthening, starting a new non-impact plan through my trainer, and getting ready for summer where I can hopefully run. Given that we're getting 20 cm of snow on Friday, I guess I'm not really missing out on the outdoor running.