Friday, October 22, 2010

Holding steady

I've had a few race-free weekends now, which feels kind of weird, but the running overall has been going quite well.  It's like Charlie hit 5.5 to 6 months and something just clicked with my physically and suddenly, I was on my way back.  As time goes on I just feel like I'm getting stronger and stronger, and it's cool to have gone through a pregnancy and birth and be back to where I was, fitness wise.  I'm even a few pounds below my pre-pregnancy weight, and I've really never felt better.

I've been getting up at 5am to run 3 or 4 mornings a week, and surprisingly it's been going really well.  The kids are so unpredictable, it's great to get the run out of the way and not have to worry that someone's going to not want to run with me, or scream bloody murder the whole time (that would be Charlie), or that it's going to be pouring down rain or something.  Poor Charlie had croup last week and I forewent the 5am run in favor of sleep, since we'd been up with him all night, and I did manage to get in 6.5 miles with him asleep in the jogging stroller during the day.  Poor kid was so tired, and the cooler air is supposed to be good for croup, so it was win win.  I was surprised that my pace with the jogger was about the same as my pace without it.  I've been averaging between 10:19 and 10:30 for my easy runs, which is actually a big speedier than they should be according to the McMillan Pace Calculator, but I have a hard time slowing down.  It's always been a problem for me, and the cooler weather just makes it easier for me to run faster.

I did my 3 mile tempo run yesterday at 9:00 pace, and I'm kind of wondering if I might be able to set a new 5k PR at the Freaky 5k next Saturday.  I think whether or not I PR is going to depend on a lot of factors, not least of which is whether or not I run it in costume.  Haakan and I both had the brilliant idea that I should run it dressed as Wonder Woman, but I have yet to find a costume the right size (this is where I could rant a little bit about vanity sizing, but I'll spare you since I normally don't care, it only bugs me when *my* size isn't in stock).  Got any other brilliant ideas for a clever costume?  I may have to try another costume store and brave the hoards of kids and teenagers this weekend, though my hopes aren't high.  I'm thinking if I can find a Cat Woman mask, I can just wear my black running tights and black long sleeved top and call it a day, but believe it or not, I haven't seen Cat Woman at the stores!  I've seen every other permutation of superhero gone slutty, but no Cat Woman.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Gen runs back to back 5k's and lives to tell the tale

This is the first weekend in a while that I haven't had a race to do, so I thought I probably should write up a report of the 5k's I did last weekend.  Yes, you read that right - I did TWO 5k's last weekend - Run Shadyside on Saturday and ZooZilla on Sunday.

I signed up for Run Shadyside in advance or I probably wouldn't have done it.  We had a miserable night with Charlie, poor kid kept waking up all gassy and upset, and I was NOT a happy camper when 6:30am rolled around.  It was cold that morning, too - probably around 40 degrees - and I was just not feeling it.  I drove over there in a heavy fog that lifted *just* as I drove out of my neighborhood (the race came within 1.5 miles of my house, so yeah, I could have easily walked there, but like I said, it was cold!), and things began to look up when I was able to easily find a parking space.  The nice thing about Run Shadyside, other than the relatively flat and fast course, is that it starts on Walnut Street, so I was able to duck into Starbucks and get a cup of coffee before the start.  "Were you out running or something?" the barrista asked me.  Ummm, no, I'm going to be doing a 5k with the other 800 people outside in the street!  Seriously, they were a little clueless in there, especially since the place was full of people in running gear with race bibs on.  I considered getting a doughnut and running the race John Belushi style (little chocolate doughnuts, anyone?), but thought better of it.

The race started basically on time and my goal was just to finally break 30 minutes.  I've been trying all summer and it's just eluded me.  Haakan thought I'd be able to do it easily, though I had my doubts.  I set out to keep a reasonable pace for the first mile, but that mile came up fast and I ended up finishing it right around 9 minutes.  And I felt good at the end of that first mile.  "If this continues," I thought, "I'm going to break 30 easily."  The second mile marker came up right at the corner of Center and Highland, and we ran back into that mist I'd driven out of earlier in the day.  I still felt pretty good and now I was starting to get excited.  I was potentially going to come in pretty well below 30, I just had to hold it together for another mile.  And then I saw the 2 mile marker, about .25 miles away from where it should have been, and I began to get worried.  I didn't want to make my final push only to find that the finish line was a quarter mile farther away than I thought it was going to be.  But they put the finish line in the right place, thank goodness, and amazingly, I tied my PR of 27:54, which I set back in the Ikea 5k last year when I was 16 weeks pregnant.   Had I been smart enough to check my watch on the final turn, I might have even surpassed the PR, but given that this was a pretty flat course and didn't have the wicked first mile downhill that the Ikea 5k did, I considered it a pretty significant victory.  We went out for pancakes and there was much rejoicing.  Horray!

Sunday morning I was supposed to do the ZooZilla 5k.  If I haven't mentioned it before, this race strikes fear into my heart.  It starts with a lap around the Pittsburgh Zoo parking lot (about .75 miles), then goes UP the gigantic hill that runs next to the zoo, up to the hairpin turn, down a little ways and then up the service ramp INTO the zoo itself.  Once in the zoo, you run UP past the polar bears and aquarium, and then it's all downhill, past the bears, monkeys, elephants, lions, tigers, snow leopard, back on to the road at a service entrance, and back into the parking lot for the finish.  I am NOT an uphill runner, which is rather unfortunate for someone living in Pittsburgh, but whatever.  Haakan had placed very well in this race a couple of times (I think he said he was third in his age group last year - came home with a little gorilla for the kids, it was pretty cute) and thought I was making too much of the hills.  Having done some speedwork on that hill, and having had to take a pit stop in the weeds to pee because I about wet my pants from the effort, I was a little leery of the race.  But whatever, Haakan was my coach, he thought I should do it, so I dutifully drove down there (it was cold again!), signed up, and waited for the race to start.

I was amazed to discover that most of the people I spoke to had no idea what the course was like.  There were some scared faces when I pointed to the road and said "Ummm, yeah, you run up THAT hill", which made me feel like I was at least a little bit prepared for it.  The worst of the uphill was .58 miles from bottom to turn around, and if I could just hold it together through that, I knew I'd be ok.  Haakan had said, "Maybe you'll PR!" as I left the house, and I laughed him off.  Not in this race, I thought.

The first 3/4 mile around the parking lot was fine.  I was keeping a good sub 9 minute mile pace and feeling good.  My goal was to keep the uphill at around a 10 minute mile and hopefully come in under 30 again, and it was pretty cool to pass so many people on the way up.  A lot of people had gone out way too fast and were paying the price on the hill.  I'm glad that I'd run it before because it definitely didn't feel as bad as it did the first time I ran it, and Haakan was right, it really wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.  I managed to run the whole thing and turn around at the hairpin, and when the downhill FINALLY came after the aquarium, I was beyond thrilled with myself.  I felt like I wasn't going all that fast through the zoo, but I must have been.  There was a girl ahead of me in a white hoodie who I kept wanting to pass, but she stayed right in front of me.  I had the foresight to check my watch right as we made the final turn back into the parking lot and I saw that I was WAY under my PR.  Holy cow, I had a chance at a PR in this race and it took a second for the shock of that to wear off.  I dug down deep and pulled out the last bit of speed I had left and I floored it for the finish line.  I finally overtook hoodie girl right before we crossed the finish line and set a new PR of 27:13 on what is probably the most challenging course I've ever run.  I placed 11th in my age group, which is pretty good, though had I posted this time last year, I would have come in 4th, which about knocks my socks off.  We had some really speedy people this year, though, but I'll take it!

So, summing up, last weekend I ran back to back 5k's tied then obliterated my 5k PR.  Yes, I am very proud of myself!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Gen and Haakan run a GREAT Great Race

I just love the Great Race 10k.  Seriously.  If the Ikea Half Marathon is my happy half, the Great Race is my happy 10k.  Well, last year's Great Race, when I was 18 weeks pregnant and it was pouring down rain, was actually pretty miserable, but the year before that was AWESOME - I set a PR so far beyond what I've done in any other race that I swear, I must have run through a wormhole or something.  Haakan also broke 40 minutes in this race last year, so I'd wager it's a favorite of his, too.  Even those he's Mister Speedy Pants, he decided to run it this year with me.  He did still get a super nifty elite number and seeded position at the start, but he stayed back with me and the hoi polloi, and probably had a better time (at least I hope so!).

It was a great day for a race - cool, sunny, not pouring down buckets of nasty rain like last year.  It was just plain nice.  We gave my neighbor Val a ride to the start, and it was lots of fun chatting with her while we waited for the race to begin.  I saw a guy dressed up in a banana costume while I was waiting for the porta potties, which is always amusing to see.  As usual, the races started late, and we didn't actually hear the gun.  All of a sudden it just started moving, then slowed down to it's usual slow crawl to the start.  We placed ourselves excellently and were right where we should have been (though it did take us 5 minutes to pass the start!).  Haakan's usually way up in the front so this was the first year he got to hear "Shout!" like four or five times while we moved at a glacial pace towards the start line.

We took the first mile pretty slow, around 10:40is if I remember right (I actually forgot my Garmin so I had to rely on Haakan to know what pace we were going - I chose ignorance for most of the race).  Right as we're heading down Forbes towards CMU a group from the air force catches up with us, complete with flag bearer and that fabulous chanting.  It was like something out of a movie, and very cool.  Once we stopped going downhill they passed us pretty quickly and we didn't see them again.

I didn't notice a whole lot else for the rest of the race.  we kept it under 10:00 for the remainder, and I only really felt like we were pushing it at the end when Haakan said we had a good shot at breaking 1:01 (our goal going out was 1:02).  I did pass a girl of maybe 7 years old on the big hill on the Blvd of the Allies and I remember thinking she was a trouper for doing so well.  I think she was running with her dad.  I'm really looking forward to being able to run with the boys, if they want to.

So in the end, we finished in 1:00:54 and I felt great.  I really pushed it at the end, though man those last .2 miles were harsh!  We got to see Val finishing up, too, which was cool, since I never see anyone I know at the finish line.  And as always it was nice to have Haakan as my running partner.  Perhaps the best part was coming in so far under our goal time.  In retrospect we probably could have easily brought it in under an hour, but who knew at the time?  The goal was to have a good race experience, and we definitely did.  And it was even my second fastest 10k ever (which it still would have been, even if we'd pushed harder, since I don't think I would have beaten my 2008 Great Race time of 55:14).

Here's us, the happy couple, basking the glory of a fabulous race!