2015 Jane Neely 5K – RACE RECAP!

I did not have high hopes going into this race. Originally, this was going to be a goal race and I wanted to put some serious effort into the training. Then, of course, life happened. It took me longer than I thought to get back to it after the marathon, I implemented a new type of training (heart rate), running in the humidity is tough, and I was sick for about a week right before the race. Have I listed enough excuses yet??  Let me throw in one more for good measure; I hardly did any speed work!
In an email to Jen, I told her that there was a good chance this race would be a “shit show”. She told me to have a little faith, and that the week and a half I lost might be a good thing and my legs would be well rested. *Spoiler Alert* Luckily, she was right and I managed to pull out a brand new PR by about 2 minutes!!

Wilbur helping me get ready for the race. He's got his Game Face On. Or maybe that's his Put-Me-Down-Before-I-Cut-You face. Not sure.

Wilbur helping me get ready for the race. He’s got his Game Face On. Or maybe that’s his Put-Me-Down-Before-I-Cut-You face. Not sure.

I ran this race last year and really enjoyed it. It’s super close to home (takes place at Kiwanis Park in Shaler Twp), small, low key and the course is flatish. It’s an out and back with the slightest grade for a little more than a mile that you can’t see but you can feel. THEN at the end there is a monster climb that goes straight up. It’s not as bad as the Frigid 5 hill but it’s still a beast and “that shit’s just mean“.
Courtesy of Google Maps - this is the start of THE hill. The picture doesn't do it justice.

Courtesy of Google Maps – this is the start of THE hill. The picture doesn’t do it justice.

Courtesy of Google Maps - this is the start of THE hill.  The picture doesn't do it justice.

This is part two of THE hill. It levels off for about half a second and then you have this last steep little climb.

The race course was a little different from last year. Last year, we walked DOWN the beastly hill and started on Little Pine Creek Road, ran out, turned around and came back then climbed the beast and finished in the outfield of the baseball field at Kiwanis Park. Thanks to all of the rain, though, the field was way too muddy so the finish was moved behind the park to the parking lot of the elementary school next door. They also moved the start line so that it was in the parking lot right in front of the finish line. So not only did we have to run UP the beast at the end, we had to run DOWN the beast at the start. Normally a downhill start is awesome but this is a STEEP downhill and I lack basic coordination skills so I was worried about tripping and face-planting on the new, slick asphalt.

My goal for this race was to stay in particular heart rate zone (180-188 bpm), and while my average HR was 188, I was sitting at my max (192) for at least a mile and on the last hill I hit 200 at one point. Oops.

The race itself was pretty uneventful. It wasn’t hot out (about 66*) but omg the humidity! It was about 96% at the start and it just felt…soupy.  Once I got down the massive hill (and didn’t fall. YAY!) I started to cruise while keeping an eye on my heart rate. I got into my zone pretty quickly and remember thinking that it was hard. Not impossible, but maintaining that would be difficult. I pushed those thoughts aside and tried to stay focused. The first mile went by really quickly and I made it a point to NOT look at my watch. A few weeks ago, I took away the pace field and replaced it with heart rate, but my watch will still show each mile time for about 10 or 15 seconds. I didn’t want to know what the time was – if it was too slow, I would have been pissed and if it was too fast I would have panicked. Not long after the first mile, I hit my max heart rate. This is where I went off my plan because according to the rules, I should have slowed down or walked to get the heart rate down but that just wasn’t happening. In the back of my mind, I also remembered that you could adjust your heart rate if it was super humid so I used that as my justification. 188+5 = 193 = I’m still OK.
Just after mile 2 though, I started to feel it. I knew that I was slowing a bit but my heart rate was still at max but I didn’t care. Even with the pace field gone, I could do enough basic math to tell that I was going to PR if I didn’t slow down. BUT I still had the hill at the end, and that could make or break me. Then I started the internal battle – slow down a little now, to save some for the end vs eff it, just go and worry about the hill when you get there. This battle went on for a bit, and before I knew it…I was at the hill. So I never did pick a side because I was too busy trying to pick the side. Say what?! I put my head down and just went for it. I passed two people on the climb up, and did a little internal cheer. I had been leapfrogging with one girl for almost half a mile, so to cruise past them was kind of satisfying. Actually. It was a lot satisfying. A half mile before, I came up on this girl who was walking, and right before I passed her she looked back, saw me, and started to run again. Then she would get a little bit ahead of me, and walk until I caught up with her. Then she would run again. This gets annoying, and I don’t know if I’m reading too much into it but it kind of feels like it’s  “oh, I can’t let HER pass me“, because I kind of look like a baby sasquatch lumbering along, and they can’t let the short, chubby girl pass them?! I don’t know maybe it’s nothing but when it happens every time, I start to get a little self conscious. *Side note. I looked up the results and she was only 15 or 16. So I feel a little bad getting mad, but it still irritates me.  Once I got up the hill into the parking lot, it leveled off, so I was able to take a deep breath and kick it to the finish to make sure that the girl from the hill didn’t catch me at the end. 26:05, 8:25 pace 5th place age group. Not.too.shabby.

015

At least 5 minutes after I finished and my heart rate was still high.

My watch registered the course as short – 2.99, but my friend’s said 3.1 on the nose so I’m thinking that my Garmin is just off. Seeing that shortened distance gives me mixed feelings though. Even though my friends that also ran this race assured me that the course distance was right on their watches, I can’t help but feel that I didn’t actually run 3.1, which means my time isn’t actually correct, even though it matches the gun time perfectly (there is no chip timing in this race). I still would have PRd, but it almost feels like I cheated. Then again, if my watch had come up as 3.2 miles I would have been pissed that it was long and that I missed a PR so….who knows.
If there aren't Eat N Park smiley cookies at the finish line, it's NOT a Pittsburgh race ;-)

If there aren’t Eat N Park smiley cookies at the finish line, it’s NOT a Pittsburgh race 😉

My friend also ran this race and finished 3rd in her age group with a 25:15 finish time! We were both a little jealous that the Brentwood 5K had beer at the finish line and this race didn’t so…we brought our own! We enjoyed a much deserved cold one as we popped the hatch of my car and cheered on the other finishers!

Beer from America's oldest brewery seemed appropriate for the 4th!

Beer from America’s oldest brewery seemed appropriate for the 4th!

I’m really happy with this finish time (even with the distance discrepancy), and I’m pretty sure that I would not have been able to do this had I been doing it on my own, rather than with the heart rate monitor. I would have seen an 8:07 mile, freaked, and slowed waaaaaaaaaaay down. This method is really giving me the confidence that I need to reach my full potential and I am really excited to see what I can do. There is lots to do before October but I am ready to WORK!
Did you race on the 4th? How’d ya do?
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Pittsburgh Marathon RACE RECAP – Pt 2

​And we were OFF!! It was finally happening!!
Miles 1-5
We crossed the start line and the whole stretch of road was packed with people. I took a minute to cheer with the crowds and wave and give some thumbs up to the spectators. One of my favorite things about this race are the crowds – I love high fiving the little kids (and big kids) and reading the signs that people made. Before I knew it, my watched chirped for the first mile. Except the mile marker was still waaaay up ahead. I may have done a little weaving but I was on Jen’s shoulder the whole time and her watch was right on. Then it occurred to me: if my mileage was off that also meant my pace was off. Shit. In the past I’ve usually gone with the idea to run on feel but that’s a risky move in a marathon. Starting out too fast would spell trouble in the later miles so I needed to make sure that I was sticking to as close to an 11:00 min pace as possible. If my watch said the first mile was 10:16, hers said 10:53! That’s a huge difference!! She assured me that we were right on track; I tried to settle down but it was driving me nuts not knowing. I would check in periodically to see how we were doing, but I tried to keep it to a minimum because I didn’t want to annoy the shit out of Jen, have her get pissed and push me off of a bridge. We passed her husband Dave and greyhound Django after the 16th St. bridge where Dave got this awesome picture of us.
Favorite picture of the day!!

Favorite picture of the day!!

This is my favorite race picture ever! We continued on through East Ohio Street, over the bridges and through the North Side. I started to calm down a bit and enjoy the ride – still high fiving and cheering along with people. BUT while I had settled in, I still couldn’t help but feel like I was working really hard for the pace. I took my first gel around mile 4.5 ish and my stomach cramped a bit but went away after a few minutes. the miles were ticking by, but while the two of us  normally  never shut up and at North Park you can probably hear us coming before you see us, we were not really talking. I felt bad, but was pretty sure it was a mutual feeling. Talking required a whole extra level of effort that I just couldn’t give.
When the pace if off from the very beginning, it's a problem.

When the pace if off from the very beginning, it’s a problem.

Miles 6-12
We crossed the West End Bridge and it wasn’t just a little warm…it was very warm. We trucked up a little hill and cruised into the West End and there was a huge dance party going on. I can’t remember what song was playing but they were rocking and I loved it!! I apologized to Jen that I wasn’t talking – I felt terrible but it just wasn’t happening. She said it was OK, but I couldn’t help but feel like I wasn’t keeping up my part of the race. What I mean by that was – she was doing all of the work pacing us and I couldn’t even come up with a decent conversation. As we made our way through Station Square and got close to the South Side, she told me to go on ahead. I didn’t want to, and felt like a total jerk for doing it but I knew that I had a long way to go and I just had to put my head down and hang on for as long as possible. We said our good byes and I teared up a little bit knowing that I was on my own. Of course, I knew it would happen eventually and even the day before we had both agreed that at any point if the other person was feeling it to go on ahead. But, I still felt shitty about it. I made it into the Southside and it was another huge party. Even though I knew I was struggling, I was still having a good time cheering with the crowds, high fiving everyone that I could because even if the day wasn’t going the way I planned, I still wanted to have a good time. I took another gel somewhere in here – I think right after Station Square, and right before the South Side (Couldn’t tell you exactly because…Garmin was waaay off). Before we crossed into West End I had been looking for one of my coworkers and I assumed that I either missed them or they weren’t able to make it; then as I was turning onto the Birmingham Bridge I heard someone screaming my name and it was them – I was SO EXCITED!!
Already feeling soooo hot!!

Already feeling soooo hot!!

Once again, I almost started to cry. This was just the boost I needed before I hit the climb into Oakland. As we were crossing the bridge though, someone was announcing that a runner was down and we needed to move over for the ambulance. I saw the person surrounded by EMTs…and they weren’t moving. It was really scary to see and all I could do was hope that they were alright. The sun was out in full force by this point, there was NO cloud cover and it.was.HOT. Just in time to start the beast of a climb into Oakland. I started The Hill and just tried to use the strategy that I had been practicing – pick a landmark, run to it. Pick another one, run to it. It worked, but it was sloooooooooooow going like I knew it would be. A few weeks ago, I heard about a team of people that spend all day running up and down the hill to encourage the runners and I did see them but…there weren’t really encouraging. They were just running up and down the hill not looking at us, not saying a word. It was strange. The amount of effort it took to get up the hill made the heat feel even worse. Then. somewhere on Forbes they were passing out ice cold towels which was amazing. I wrapped it around my neck and kept it there for as long as I could. What’s interesting is that my splits for miles 6-8 are faster than Jen’s, even though we were still next to each other. This still has me all kinds of  confused and irritated that the ONE TIME I need this watch to be accurate it was shitting it’s pants. 

No idea if these are close to accurate, but I felt like I was working harder than an 11:25 pace

Splits

Miles 13-18
To be honest, these miles are kind of a blur. They all faded together as a lump of hot, miserable scorching miles. I knew it would be warm, but the sun was relentless and there was very little shade. My new goal became to make it each fluid station. I’d given up on mile markers, since my watch was so far off. It was disheartening to hear my watch beep for mile 14, 15, etc and have to actual  sign not even in sight yet. Around 14.5 or so, I started to really feel it and even though it killed me to do it…I started walking. Earlier it had just been walking through aid stations, but now it was a necessity. I was starting to feel tired, lightheaded, fuzzy and a little nauseous; this would be the theme for the rest of the race. Run as best you can until you think bad things are going to happen and then walk until it goes away. Sometimes that feeling went away quickly….sometimes it didn’t. Somewhere in these miles, I grabbed another icy towel that had actual ice cubes in it and, even though this is beyond gross because who knows where that ice came from and how many grubby paws touched it…I ate it. The ice not the towel. It was SO good. I finally felt like I was cooling off a little!! THEN at an aid station (maybe around 17? Not sure) they were handing out FULL CUPS OF ICE!!! It was like manna from heaven! I munched on that for over a mile and it was glorious!!  Eventually though, the towels warmed up…the ice went away and I was back to square 1. Then the aid stations stopped passing out towels – they must have run out because the street was full of them but there were no new ones to be found. I also decided at some point, that I NEEDED an ice cold pop after the race. Diet Pepsi, Diet Coke…didn’t matter as long as it was fizzy and cold. I had my phone with me so I texted the tall one to demand ask that he grab one for me.
Ice cold diet pepsi sounded amazing

Ice cold diet pepsi sounded amazing

Despite all of this though…I was still enjoying myself. I knew that if I let all of it get to me, I would completely unravel.
I took another gel somewhere along here…mile 15?  The crowds were still cheering and encouraging us – passing out orange slices, water bottles, spraying us with garden hoses – the support along the course was amazing. Fire hydrants were opened so we could run through and get cooled off as well. I have to say, I know that these miles are through some of the “rougher” sections of Pittsburgh, but the way we were treated was like  members of their family. Residents set up their own water stations with Styrofoam cups and little kids handing them out, people passing out FULL SIZE water bottles out of coolers, candy, oranges and cheering their hearts out. I’d heard this section was had great crowd support and I was NOT disappointed. Anytime I started to get overwhelmed, I remembered that my stepdad was with me and that he would help me get through this.
Not sure what happened at mile 18, but it gave me a little extra pep in my step!

Not sure what happened at mile 18, but it gave me a little extra pep in my step!

Miles 19-23
Despite my run/walk strategy that I had to implement, I was still on track for a PR! I missed the 4:50 pacer pass me, but I knew really early on that today wasn’t a 4:50 day. That time would have been tough in ideal conditions, and it was getting hotter, and sunnier, and did I mention HOTTER?!  As we got close to mile 20, I looked behind me and saw a stick with some balloons and my heart sank a little. I knew it was the 5 hour pacer; I tried to pick up the pace and start running again but I couldn’t.  He was gaining on me and after mile 20 he finally caught me. I was disappointed, but kind of knew that it was inevitable. As he was passing me, he offered me a chocolate chip cookie!?  I looked and he had a huge bag of them – it was so bizarre! I politely declined because the thought of eating a cookie right then made me want to hurl, and he looked a little offended. Sorry I’m not sorry – who eats cookies at mile 20?   Around mile 21 or 22, we ran past an Aldi’s and they were passing out FREEZER POPS!!! Whoever had this idea should get a VIP wristband into heaven because it was brilliant. I knew that some more of my coworkers would be at the Church Brew Works which was coming up soon so I tried to get my shit together so I could look strong when I ran past. Then I started worrying that I was so far behind my goal, that they might have left thinking that they missed me. I made my way into Bloomfield and it was the biggest party I’d ever seen. It lifted my spirits a bit and I started looking for familiar faces. I FINALLY got to the Brew Works and saw my coworkers who went NUTS as I went past!!
Despite the look on my face, I was happy to see them!!

Despite the look on my face, I was happy to see them!!

I was so excited, even though my face doesn’t really show it. I thought this would be just the push I needed for the last 5K. HAHAHAHA. Right.
Some miles were painfully slow, but it was that or pass out.

Some miles were painfully slow, but it was that or pass out.

Miles 24-26
At this point, I was STILL on track for a PR. It wouldn’t be anywhere near my 4:50 goal, but a 5:22 would still be a PR and I’d still be happy with that. From my obsessive readings of Kim’s course description, I knew this would be tough despite the boost I got from my cheering squad. There is NO shade and very few spectators. I thought that I could keep pushing and run it in but that wasn’t happening. I saw a girl down just past the 25 mile marker and my heart absolutely broke for her. To be THAT close and have to stop is brutal; I’m not sure, but I doubt they let you back onto the course after they have to treat you, but I could be wrong. I didn’t want to end up like her, so I knew that I still had to be smart about this. Most people probably think It’s just a mile. Run it, you pansy. But that just wasn’t the case, and I wish it would have been that easy. I finally made it back to downtown and I started to look for Jen. I knew she would be by the Kaufman’s Clock but again, downtown stupid over here, so I wasn’t exactly sure where that was. No worries though, because I could hear her cheering people on WELL before I saw her. Girlfriend was working the crowd hard and people were going nuts! We saw each other and it was the biggest boost ever!! Even though it was Mile 26….I still didn’t know if I would make it. It was that hard. Once I saw her and her husband and got that last boost I needed, I knew I that I could keep going. Tall One had texted me a few minutes earlier and let me know that he got a spot near the finish line at Wood Street. Of course, I had no idea where that was so once I made the turn toward the finish I started looking for him.
pgh marathon 24-26

I tried so hard to run the last 3 and I just couldn’t

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I was scanning the crowds, and this is one of the many times that being tall really comes in handy because I spotted him almost right away, along with my Mother in Law who was really getting into the cheering and going crazy!! It was FINALLY time to start the big sprint to the finish and I gave it absolutely everything I had left, including NOT letting a girl finishing the relay pass me at the end. Doesn’t matter the situation – when it comes to the finish line I do NOT want to get passed. I’m just a tad competitive.
I had just enough in these legs to sprint

I had just enough in these legs to sprint

I crossed the finish line, stopped my watch, got my medal and nearly lost it. I couldn’t catch my breath, and walking was a challenge. Everyone knows the finish line rules – if you stop walking, you go to the Medical Tent. That’s the last place anyone wants to be, and an incredibly nice gentleman started walking with me to make sure that I didn’t collapse. He kept telling me “Keep walking. Breathe through your nose out your mouth. keep walking, if you stop I have to take you to the tent. I don’t want to have to do that. Keep breathing” he was wonderful and stayed with me until he was satisfied that I was OK. I hobbled my way out of the finishers area to meet Tall One and his mom and it was brutal. I was so hot, it felt like my body was on fire! All I wanted was something cold and I was so looking forward to my cold pop! BUT by the time I got it from Tall One it was warm 😦    Still delicious and fizzy though. We looked up my official finish time: 5:25:35….a new Personal Worst.
I look like death, but I FINISHED

I look like death, but I FINISHED

To be honest, I’m not even a little bit upset about it. It was a TOUGH day with really challenging conditions that we were not able to prepare for. Disappointed? Yes. We all know how frustrating it is to spend so.much. time training and preparing for a specific goal only to have something completely beyond our control dictate the outcome. This is why they say the marathon is the perfect metaphor for life – you are always going to face obstacles and adversity and this shows you that you can overcome whatever life throws your way. Regardless of the time on the clock: I finished a marathon.
I think this post is long enough, so I’ll do a Pt.3 to talk about my post race thoughts, next steps, etc.
 I KNOW I have a much better time in these legs, and I just need a way to find it.

Pittsburgh Marathon – RACE RECAP Pt. 1

I’m breaking this recap into several parts – I’m already pretty wordy and this doesn’t need to end up rivaling Ulysses.
Saturday
The day before was pretty uneventful – quick shake out run, and a trip to the expo to get my bib, race shirt and VIP package that I won from the Pittsburgh Marathon back in January, then back home to nap, watch Miracle (one of my FAVORITE movies ever) and get my things for the race together.
Race shirt. NO that is not a baby bump under the shirt...I'm just chubby.

Race shirt. NO that is not a baby bump under the shirt…I’m just chubby.

I decided a while ago that I wanted to wear purple to honor (for lack of better word) my step-dad – it was one of his favorite colors and it’s the color for (among other things) pancreatic cancer awareness – the disease we lost him to last August. He also would have turned 65 this month, and I still just miss him terribly.  The original plan was also to cut out one of his pictures and put it my shoe as another sort of silent tribute to him. After I got the picture I set it down on my bib without realizing it, went to get the tape and when I looked the picture fit so perfectly on the front that I had to leave it there.
002
Once my bib and tank were ready to go, I loaded up the kangaroo pouch, charged the iPod and Garmin and ate my pre-race dinner of ravioli and garlic bread. Desert was a slice of strawberry bar from Giant Eagle – delicious. I’d been hydrating like a champ all day, but had a small cup of decaffeinated green tea and one more glass of water before bed.
Pre-Race
I woke up early (3AM) to start getting ready. I wanted to make sure I had ample time to get the system…moving, eat breakfast and get myself to the parking garage. Breakfast was my standard cinnamon raisin bagel with peanut butter and coffee. I started checking the weather report and it was already 50 degrees. If you remember, I’d been freaking out over the damn weather report and even though I said I felt confident about the race, deep down, I knew that this was going to pose a problem. I don’t mean to say that I had a bad attitude going into the day – totally opposite, in fact. I was still excited to run! I was looking forward to seeing my co-workers that would be out on the course cheering, looking forward to running the first half with Jen, and while I knew that a 4:50 finish time would be rough I was still very hopeful that I would get a PR. Didn’t matter if it was a 5:22 finish time…a PR’s a PR.  I also wanted to get down to the race as early as possible; I was driving myself, and Tall One was going to come down later to see my finish. The last thing I needed was to get stuck in traffic or not be able to find a spot! I parked and started my walk over to the VIP area at the Westin. I will NEVER get tired of just how gorgeous this city is no matter what time of day.
This city... <3

This city… ❤

I got to the hotel, got in line for the bathrooms right away (I can’t tell you how clutch real, flushing toilets and running water were) and then headed to upstairs to the VIP area – there were sections for the SCRR group and for people that purchased (or won!) a package through the race. There was a great spread of food set out, but I just wanted a glass of water to sip while I stretched and snacked on a Clif Bar that I brought from home. I found a quiet little corner to sit in to stretch, eat, and wait for Jen. We grabbed a pre-race picture and decided to head to our corral around 6:30 before they were closed at 6:45 and  stopped for a quick picture from the race photographers.
Let's Do This!!

Let’s Do This!!

We got to our corral,  and decided to get in the port-o-potty line…just in case. Our line was the slooooooooooowest, and while we were waiting the National Anthem was sung, the wheelchair division was off and so were the elites! And we were still in line…6+ people back. I made friends with the guys in line behind us and forced one of them to get our picture taken to humor another race photographer. She asked another guy in line if she could take his picture and he was kind of rude and shitty to her. Then my new best friend in line behind me also declined (politely, though) and she looked like she might cry. I felt really bad so I guilt tripped him into taking a picture. 
Yes, I .....borrowed this from the race site.

Yes, I …..borrowed this from the race site.

Our corral started moving forward and we realized we wouldn’t make the start. No biggie – there was no point in letting that get us worked up. So we start a corral back…big woop. Jen and I were both worried about starting out too fast, so maybe it was good to start further back so we didn’t get caught up in the crowds. However, when I read her recap I realized that starting 10+ minutes later meant that it was warmer when we started. That kind of ended up being a big woop. Our turn for the pottys FINALLY came and we made it in and out in record time, wished our new buddies good luck and made our way to the start. we took a few selfies and sent them to my friends…photobombed a few people in front of me taking selfies, took a deep breath and was ready to tackle 26.2 miles of the city.
Still blissfully unaware of what lay before me.

Still blissfully unaware of what lay before me.

Pt 2 will be posted in another day or so. Depending on how wordy I get, this may get stretched out to 3 parts. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

2015 Spring Thaw – 10 Mile Race Recap!

Spring “Thaw” my a$$.  There was absolutely no thawing to be seen; when I got to North Park around 8:30 to meet Jen it was a whole 3 degrees, and maybe 9 degrees at the start.  It was entirely too cold to even think about taking pictures, so this recap is going to be lotsa words and maybe 2 pictures. Sorry I’m not sorry. As per the usual, I was a bit under dressed – my biggest mistake was only wearing one pair of socks. I lost feeling in my toes during our warmup walk from the Skating Rink to the Rose Barn and didn’t regain feeling until I was partway through the race. We got to the Barn and had some time to kill before the race started so we were able to meet Chelsea and Nichole and catch up with Steff, which was so great to put real faces/voices to blogs & Twitter!

Stole this from Jen's blog!

Stole this from Jen’s blog!

About 35 or so minutes before the race started we walked over to the Boathouse to check Jen’s bag and then we spent a few minutes inside the OTB restaurant trying to warm up, but were kicked out about 20 minutes before the start, which was totally understandable – we were taking up a lot of space and were bad for business. As we stood around trying to stay warm (didn’t work – I lost ALL feelings in my toes) Jen and I went over our plans for the race; this was a long run for Jen so she was going for a moderate pace – not a long run pace, but not race pace either, and I decided to use this as a test and race it. I was hoping to start out with the 10:30 pace group for the first 5 mile loop and spend the second loop chipping away at my pace. My biggest problem in races is starting out too fast, then fading HARD in the later miles. This is something I really need to work on and will be a huge factor in whether or not I meet my marathon goal in May. The plan there is to run the first half with Jen at around a 11:00 min pace, and then tackle the second half where I will hopefully work my pace down to the 10:50’s (or better). As someone who has HAD (spoiler alert!!!!) never negative split a race this is going to be tricky, which is why I’ve been trying to incorporate that into our long runs and why my speed work is typically a progression run. So I figured this race would be great practice. I lined up with the 10:30 group, and after the Nation Anthem (not sure what recording they used, but it was a really good version!) we were off!!

Loop 1 – I stuck to my plan and started with the 10:30 pacer and got just a few steps ahead of him. For some reason, I felt better having him behind me, than next to me. I could NOT feel my feet at all. It was very much like running on concrete blocks, and it actually hurt a lot little bit. Luckily, the sun was shining and that really helped me warm up. I stayed just ahead of the pacer and was surprised at how quickly the first mile marker, and water stop, popped up. I skipped the stop but made a mental note that I would use that stop the second time through after I took my gel. I was feeling good, the sun was shining which helped with the cold and I started to cruise. I was torn about looking at my watch or just going and I finally decided to take a peek. I didn’t want to get too far off of my plan, whether that was subconsciously speeding up or slowing down. My pace looked good…a little faster than I planned, but my breathing was very controlled and even and my heart rate didn’t feel like it was out of control so I stuck with it. Somewhere around mile 3, I regained full feeling in my toes and feet which was a relief. I had actually started to get a little concerned. This first loop went by very quickly before I knew it we were on the closed part of Ingomar making the turn onto Babcock. I could feel myself slowing down here and was a little concerned but not much – there was still A LOT of race left, and I was coming up on the rollers along the back of the lake loop. As we neared the Rose Barn and turn into the Boat House, I heard some heavy footsteps and saw that the 10:30 pace group was literally steps behind me. I was really disappointed to see them; yes, it had been my plan to run with them for the first half, but I thought I had ditched them a few miles ago and that I wouldn’t be seeing them again.  Initially, when I saw the pace group, I admitted defeat: You started out too fast again. Maybe you aren’t ready to run that kind of pace for any kind of miles. Meh. Even if you just stick with them for the next 5 miles, that will still be an OK time for your first 10 miler. And here is where I had my breakthrough.

Looking at the splits, I really slacked off for a couple miles.

Looking at the splits, I really slacked off for a couple miles.

Loop 2 – We cruised past the finish line to start our second lap around. The negative thoughts were still swirling as I took my gel (Gu Rocktane – Strawberry Kiwi. SO GOOD! Tastes like a skittle!!) and tried to thaw it out a little before I ate it. Somehow that must’ve distracted me just enough. The first thing I told myself was to not let the pacer pass me. Just keep him behind you. Even if it’s half of a step…do NOT let him pass you. I decided that was a good plan for now; I started taking my Gu and we went past the tennis courts where there were two ADORABLE huskies playing in the snow! They gave me a nice little boost, made me smile and my mind started working again: This part of the lake loop has always been a struggle for you. You HATE running past the tennis courts – that’s why you don’t do it anymore. Just get through this stretch and you’ll be at the water stop. Get a drink (water should be nice and cold!), and get to work. You feel fine. You’re really NOT tired. And that’s what I did. I grabbed some water, and indeed, it was wonderfully cold (I loooove ice cold water!) and refreshing. I took a deep breath, and focused on what lay ahead. My iPod was on fire and playing some really good music, so I started up the rollers that made up the next couple of miles. I checked my watch, realized that I was making progress on my pace and still feeling good. My heart rate still felt good, my breathing was perfect so I kept going. I was at about 6.5 miles so I started playing the numbers game. Really, you are SO close. You have half a mile and then not even a 5K, and you KNOW you can rock that. Just take it one mile at a time and don’t get too far ahead of yourself. Start focusing on some people in front of you and start reeling them in. Before I knew it, I was running past the field (I think that’s the JC Stone field? Not sure, but it’s by the bathrooms with running water!!) and at that point there’s only about 2 miles left. My internal cheerleader sprung back into action. Nice work, home slice. You have this little climb up Ingomar, then a nice downhill. You can grab some Gatorade and get ready for the last mile of hills. You have this in the bag. Just keep bringing that pace down, keep the breathing even, and you’ll be FINE. I’m not ashamed to admit that I listed to Eminem’s Lose Yourself on repeat at least 3 times during miles 6.5-9. It was just what I needed to hear and really kept me in the zone! Right before mile 9, there was a water stopped and I grabbed some Gatorade. I made the turn onto Babcock at mile 9, started to bring it home. I turned some Taylor Swift on (you can’t listen to Shake It Off and NOT run fast) and really went to work. There is that awesome flat section before you turn onto Pearce Mill Rd so I used that to give me some momentum. I made the turn and put my head down and just went. For a minute I thought maybe I started to speed up a little too soon – my breathing was getting heavy and the heart was starting to pump. Then I reminded myself that it’s a race, and it’s supposed to feel like work. I kept pumping my Baby Sasquatch arms and getting up over the hills. Finally I crested the last one, and started on the downhill where I opened up my stride and went for it. I made the turn into the Boat House parking lot, made that last turn and kicked it into high hear. I heard the announcer congratulate the 10 minute pace group, and I was a little pissed that I had JUST missed them. I’d been looking for them during the second loop and never saw them.  I saw the finish line and gave a final big kick and crossed the finish line in 1:40:24/ 10:02 pace. My Garmin recorded 10.1 miles which made my unofficial pace 9:57. Heck. Yes. MAJOR negative split!

Big time negative split

Big time negative split! Check out sprint at the end 😉

I got my medal, which was ADORABLE, found Steff, who finished a few minutes before me, and Chelsea crossed the line just after I did!  We hung out and talked about our races until I saw Jen making the turn to the finish! She finished strong and met her race goals as well! This was her first double digit run of training and she rocked it! We grabbed her checked bag, and regrouped back at the Rose Barn with pizza, and soup. We also got to recap with Nichole (and meet her husband and ADORABLE son!), who ran a solid 15 miles! All in all, this was a pretty great day, despite the frigid temps!

Very excited to add this medal to my collection!

Very excited to add this medal to my collection!

I am incredibly happy with this race. I’ve never done a 10 miler before so this was an automatic PR, but it’s a GOOD PR! I struggle with pacing myself, with sticking to a plan, and just racing in general. This was a huge confidence boost going into the second half of marathon training as well. The weather has had a major impact on training so far – lots of treadmill runs (where I’m always slower), and lots of what I call “resistance runs” – running in the snow, slush, slop, ice, etc. All of that has slowed my paces, and it’s been hard to get an accurate reading of where I am in my training. I’d even started to worry that I’m behind, and that I won’t be ready on race day. This race showed me that I’m just where I should be, and that as long as I stick to my marathon plan, I should be able to pull off that negative split.

Did you race this weekend? How’d it go?

2015 Frigid Five Miler – Race RECAP!

This was a last minute race – Jennifer and I had planned to run 8ish miles on Sunday at North Park to begin with and when we saw the race was going on at the same time we figured “why not?”. I also heard that there were pancakes and hot chocolate at the end…how do you say no to that?! That’s right. You don’t! We registered on Friday, and came up with a strategy for the race: make this a progression run at race pace. Start in the 11:10ish range and work our way down to a 10:50 pace. I am horrible with my pacing during races and it normally always comes back to bite me in the ass, so I wanted to practice starting out conservatively. This race definitely lived up to the “frigid” part – 17 degrees at the start with a wind chill of 9! Then again, compared to yesterday….it was almost pleasant. Almost.

Pre-race hashbrown selfie!

Pre-race hashbrown selfie!

The race starts and ends at the Lodge on North Ridge Road at North Park, and a pre-race email warned that there was limited parking up there so we parked at the skating rink and walked up the hill to the start. Realizing that we would later have to RUN back UP that beast was a little unsettling. After some warm up stretching, we made our way to the start line and found the 11:00 pacer. We were pretty excited to see that pacers were available and thought that it would be a good idea to stick with him for a bit. I’m pretty certain that I will be using a pacer at the marathon, so I wanted to try running with one today.  Our pacer said that he was going to bank some time early so that when we hit the monster hill at the end we would be OK. After seeing that hill, I figured that was probably a wise strategy.

The elevation profile:

Hold me closer, Tony Danza.

Hold me closer, Tony Danza.

The first mile of this course is pretty level; a few up and downs but nothing major. We stuck with the pacer* for the first mile, but then started to pull away from the pace group, but only by a few steps. I was feeling good as we started down a slight downhill just before the second mile, and we were still ahead of the pacer. Our pace was still in the mid 10’s, and I was feeling good but I kept thinking about the hill at the end and wanted to save something for that. Somewhere in the second or third mile there was a water table set up, but….no one was there! There were containers and cups, but no one manning the station. I joked that it must be self serve, but it was definitely strange. Maybe they didn’t have as many volunteers as they originally planned on and decided that this was a non-essential stop?

The miles ticked by, as they always seem to when you have good company, and we kept up a really speedy pace for the first 3 miles but it was starting to take it’s toll. Conversation wasn’t flowing as much and we started to focus more on our breathing and form. I started to feel awful because, once again, I didn’t stick to the plan, threw the paces out the window and it was going to cost us. The pacer was still behind us but was inching closer and closer. The last water stop was right at the start of North Ridge Road, just after mile 4, so we walked through that and started the climb. This hill was wicked, and was almost like you were running in place. We went with a run/walk to get ourselves up to the top and about halfway up the 11:00 min pacer finally passed us. We kept him in our sights though, and  seemed to get a second wind as we rounded the last turn, kicked it up a notch (passed a few people!!) and sprinted across the line in 55:15/ 11:02 pace. SOOOOO close to our 11:00 goal! When I realized how close we were to our goal, I didn’t feel as bad but I still couldn’t help but think that if we had held back somewhere else on the course, we would have had juuuuuust a little more to give at the end. That is something that will ALWAYS be a struggle for me, and something that I really need to get under control before the marathon. I can (sort of) get away with that in a shorter race, but that will (and has!) come back to haunt me in the half and full distances.

frigid pace

Not too shabby!

After the race, we went into the lodge to warm up and I grabbed some pancakes and hot chocolate!

Delicious. Also, Garmin gave me an 11:02 pace, vs the 11:03 FitSnap gave me so I'm gonna take the 1 second back ;-)

Delicious. Also, Garmin gave me an 11:02 pace, vs the 11:03 FitSnap (and Daily Mile) gave me so I’m gonna take the 1 second back 😉

All things considered, I am really happy with this race. I definitely still need to work on pacing myself but that will always be a work in progress ;-). I am really proud of Jennifer for gutting it out at the end and really grateful that she didn’t get mad when I nearly ruined it for us! This was a solid effort all around, we were only 3 seconds off of our goal pace, and this was a great way to kick off marathon training for me, and half marathon training for her!

*I don’t want to sound like a bitch, but I was not happy with this pacer.  I’ll talk about it tomorrow in my weekly recap….maybe I’m just way too sensitive about being a slow poke, but there were some comments made that really rubbed me the wrong way.