Sunday, July 24, 2011

Stampede in the Park 5k and a lesson learned

So we did this one last year and it has the dubious honor of being my slowest 5k ever.  This year, I finished in 29:03, good enough for a 7th in my age group, but third finished in 28:11, which I should have been able to beat easily.  So now I'm kicking myself for not pushing through and going for a faster time. Oh well, live and learn, right?  This is a good lesson about goal setting.  I won't go into another race without a time goal that I'll push towards.  I'd like to think that if I'd had the Garmin (mine bit the dust, so now I'm waiting on my replacement and Haakan and I are sharing his, and he had it for this race) it might have made a difference, but probably not.  Next year I will seriously rock this race.  The speedy pants I'm married to placed 3rd in his age group and won a coffers mug, which I will shortly be filling with coffee.
At least I look cute, right?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Summers races and plugging away

Summer is not my prime time as a runner.  I'm starting to realize that when the mercury and humidity rise, I kind of go into running stasis, just kind of trying to preserve the routine until the weather cools down.  This is not a time for PR's, so what little success I have, I'll take.  Just doing better than last year (which, if you remember, was horrendous) feels like a huge accomplishment.

The first race of the summer was the Father's Day 10k down on the North Shore.  It's a nice race on a fairly easy course, but it's usually hotter than hell and unfortunately I went into this year's race just coming off a nasty summer cold and definitely not feeling 100% despite the easy week the preceded the race.  I was also challenged by the joys of being a woman, and I almost didn't even start the race, but I figured if it was really horrible I could either DNF or just walk it in.  I won't lie, there was some walking involved (there pretty much always is in these summer races) and it was pretty miserable, but I definitely did better than last year and finished in 1:01:13, which actually makes it a 4th best 10k, so not as crappy as I was thinking it was, especially given that while we were standing around waiting for the results, I started to see stars and almost passed out, which is pretty sad when I think I placed like 20th in my age group .  Haakan took this little movie of me getting close to the finish line in my bright yellow top and snazzy little running skirt.
After the Father's Day race, I got back to the training, just plugging away and trying to keep up with the mileage and long runs so that I can go into the Columbus Marathon as well trained as possible.  Over 4th of July we took a nice vacation out to Montana to both visit my dad and to go to a college friend's wedding, and I had three runs, including a 10 miler, to get in while we were away.  I got the first run, 5ish miles of speedwork, done at the Kalispell, MT city park.  It was not a bad route, exactly a mile around this cute little park with a lake (unfortunately there had been some MAJOR flooding in the park and all the standing water meant it was mosquito heaven).  I managed to hold my own, despite being at a higher altitude than usual and pretty worn out from just getting to Montana with three fidgety children.  And I got to see this little guy like 3 or 4 times as I ran past the little pond.
Montana turtle
After the wedding was done, I got in two runs in Victor, where my stepmother's family has a cabin.  First up, the 10 miler.  There just so happens to be a paved bike and walking trail that follows Route 93 and will eventually go all the way from Hamilton to Missoula.  Right now there are apparently some places where it's not been finished, but it was possible for me to get dropped off right on the edge of Victor (downtown Victor was all torn up with road work) and just run towards Missoula.  The benefit of this - it was relatively flat, it was paved, there was no road traffic and very few places where it even crossed roads (not that anyone drove onto those roads, anyway).  The drawbacks - there was NO shade, not even a little bit, no water, and nowhere for a bathroom break. Also, those little rolling hills felt like freaking mountains in the heat and the altitude.  In case you were interested, it's exactly 5 miles from the road where I got dropped off to the Stephensville sign.  So I ran those five miles, turned around, and ran back.  The run back was a bit more scenic, but it really wasn't what I'd call a pretty run, since you're next to a 4 lane highway the whole way.  I did see some cows and horses, and a baby deer, so it wasn't bad.  And I got it done, which is the name of the game.
Pretty mountains outside of Victor, MT.
After the 10 miler got done, I also still had a 6 miler to get through (it should have been 8 miles, the hubby forgot that he'd scheduled an increase in mileage for me, so I had a little catch up to do when we got home) and decided the best way was to run the 1.5 miles from the cabin up to the trailhead and back, twice.  This actually wasn't too bad of a run.  Again, it was hot, I'm not great at hills, and the altitude was getting to me (and it wasn't even that high!  The moral of the story here is that I'm a big wuss).  But it was kind of cool to run up and back, and it was definitely prettier than running on the flat and shadeless bike path in town.
Bear Creek, running very high and very fast.
Once we got back from Montana, there was again no rest for the weary and I got right back into things.  I was up to 16 miles for my long runs, so after I'd done a few up at the Highland Park reservoir, I decided to branch out a bit and came up with this route that would take me through 4 city parks for a total of 16 miles.  There were some wicked hills involved (those were mostly walked), but I was pretty pleased with it, as the stretch through Schenley Park was particularly pleasant.  The first time I did it, before vacation, it wasn't too bad (the last 2 miles through East Liberty and into Highland Park always kind of sucks because it's a gradual uphill that just feels plodding and slow), but the last time I did it, my Garmin totally died halfway through.  Well, it actually went crazy scrolling through screens, beeping and not responding to the buttons, until I smacked it with my water bottle and it finally turned off.  It was really hot that day since I'd had to start later than usual and the rest of the run turned into a bit of a death march.  It took me close to 4 hours to get through it and I walked a lot.  No shame, it was tough and I finished it.

This brings us up to summer race number 2 - Annie's Run, put on by the Greater Pittsburgh Road Runner's Club.  The premise of the race is simple enough.  Show up at 6am, run for 6 hours, whoever covers the most distance wins.  The course was a 1.25 mile loop at the Upper St Clair park and had two wicked hills - one you run up, one you go down.  I walked the hill on the way up.  It was REALLY steep.  Haakan and I engaged the services of a fabulous babysitter so we could do the run together, and we had no intention of doing the whole 6 hours.  My plan was to do 16 miles, and Haakan was going to do 11.  But he ran so much faster than me that he had lapped me twice by the time he finished his 11 miles, so he decided to just do the rest of mine with me, which would take him to 20 miles if I did one extra lap (and it would bring me to 17.5 miles).  I briefly contemplated doing an even 20, but I was ready to go home by the time he was finished, so 17.5 miles it was.  It was a pretty low key event and a lot of fun.  After this, he's all psyched up to do the full 6 hours next year.  It took us around 3.5 hours, which I don't think is too bad given that it was hot and hilly, and I'm a wuss when it comes to both.

Since I'm a glutton for punishment, I agreed to do a 5k with my sister the next day.  The money raised was for sarcoma research, which is a good cause, and it seemed like it would be a pretty good course, so sure, what the heck.  At 6am when she picked me up, I was beat, and it warmed up really quickly, but it turned out to be an ok race.  Something I've been learning is that during the summer I need to totally reconceive what a good race looks like.  Everything is slower and more effort, so the 28:49 finish is really not too bad, good enough for my 5th best 5k, amazingly.  And, since I gotta love an event listed as "run/walk", my stats for this race are fantastic!  I finished 10th out of 74 in my age group, which might be my best stats ever.  However, even if I'd beaten my PR, I would only have placed one place higher in my age group, so clearly I need to get quite a bit faster.  If I could get my 5k time to 24 minutes or faster, I could actually compete in my age group.  Hopefully PR's will be coming down come fall, since I'm doing relatively well for it being such a hot summer.