Monday, May 7, 2012

A great race plus over-training

A few weeks ago I ran my first 5 K of the year and Saturday I ran my second, the MOM 5 k in Royal Oak.

As I mentioned before, I was happy with my "Run with the Cops" finish and was really excited that I placed in my age group.  This experience kind of changed how I viewed my racing.  I went online and began looking at other local race results to see if I just got lucky or if I had a chance at placing again.  I found that regardless of the race, my time probably would get me a top 3 finish in the 35-39 age group.This realization had me thinking not only about simply improving my times, but thinking about winning my age group, or maybe even placing overall.

I had a hard time deciding how to handle my training though.  I knew I had to do speed work and I did- though I really struggled through it.  I also skipped my long two runs.  That didn't mean I was not working out, i just wasn't feeling like running.  In fact, I ended up working out way more than I should have. I worked out every day for two weeks, including a spin class the afternoon before the race. Probably not smart. At least I completely splurged the two dinners prior to race day.  On Thursday I got home made potato chips instead of my usual broccoli and Friday I ate a french dip and fries!  It was awesome.

The weather was nice, which was a treat after the Belle Isle race.  I went to the race my myself, I'm not good with spectators.  I found the start, ran about a mile warm up and then did some strides.  I checked out the competition and didn't see that many serious runners. I realized I might really have a shot at winning my age group.

Eventually it was time to line up.  I headed to the front area.  After Belle Isle, I just did not want to get stuck behind a bunch of walkers.  There was a woman standing behind me and I knew she was a real runner.  First, she had race shoes on.  Most people wore training shoes, so she stuck out.  She also was wearing real running clothes and well, she just had a look.  I told her to get in front of me.  She looked at me confused. I asked her what time she wanted to run.  She played it off, all "I don't know, I haven't thought about it".  I could tell this was complete crap and told her so.She asked me, and I said I just wanted to break 25. She said that was her goal as well.  I looked at her and told her she was going to run way faster than that and to get ahead of me.  She did.  She clearly thought I was nuts.

The race started and one girl flew out in front and was gone.  The one I had talked to was close behind, and then there was me.  Holy crap.  I was not supposed to be this far in front.  We were chugging along and I was hurting off the bat.  Within 400 meters I was thinking that I was nuts, that I was going to stall out and briefly thought about quitting.  I quickly realized that this reaction was because I was doing well and was afraid to screw it up.  I got my head together and kept going.

Much of the race was looping on a boulevard, so you could see those behind you.  It was nuts.  For awhile I was like 20th overall and right behind me was a pack of like 50.  I felt like I was in the Hunger Games and being chased by the careers! I was completely panicked.

While I had committed to not quit and try hard, I still had negative thoughts.  I kept thinking that all these people would think I was such a fool when I burned out and everyone passed me.  Then we hit the mile mark at 7:30 and I literally said, out loud, "oh shit".  This was at least 15 seconds faster than I wanted to be.  Add that we were now headed up hill, I knew I was in trouble.

Close to mile two, another woman passed me.  She had the biggest headphones on and was anything but light footed.  I could hear her stomping for the longest time.  I was actually relieved when she passed me.   I hit the 2 mile mark at 15 something and was dumbfounded.  I was still faster than I thought I would be.  Especially because this course was so much hillier than anything I usually run.

At 2 mile I was hurting.  My hear rate was going between 178 and 182.  I was trying to keep it at about 179.  I was gasping and really pushing.  More people were passing me and I knew my pace was really slowing.  I also knew that I still had a chance at PR-ing and I was pretty sure I was still in first for my age, so I just gave it everything I had.

Before the finish, another woman passed me, as did several men.  It was hard, mentally, being passed by so many people and not passing anyone.  At Belle Isle I passed a ton of people, but I don't think I passed a single runner on Saturday.

One great thing about this race was the finish.  You can see if from so far!  When I saw it I decided to kick.  I focused and...nothing.  I think it was the first time in my life that I didn't have a kick.  I tried so hard, all the way to the end, but I don't think you could call it a kick.  I crossed the finish at 24:39!

I saw that the girl who I talked to placed, so I walked up to her.  I congratulated her and asked her time.  She said 22 something.  I knew it.

I congratulated the other two and all and all, I thought they could have been nicer.  They were pretty stand-offish, which I found to be odd.  I was also stuck by the fact that two of the woman were from the Lansing area and the other was from Dearborn.  All of this made me think that maybe they were pretty serious runners as opposed to just being there for fun. As I type that, I realize many of you are going to be "duh".  I don't know what I expected.  I mean, it's a local 5k, not the Olympic Trials, it's supposed to be fun.

I did run into the last woman to pass me as we were waiting for results.  I noticed her shorts as she passed and loved them, so I asked her where she got them (Lululemon, of course).  We chatted awhile and she was super nice.  Turns out, she won the age group above mine, while the top three were 28, 32 and 33.  I could be wrong, but I think that as we get older, we get more comfortable in our own skin and therefore, we just seem friendlier.  I guess that's a whole other blog topic, but worth thinking about.

I've only run 4 non-school 5ks in my life, and never stuck around for results until this one.  I was wandering all over, not sure what to do with myself when I ran into a father -son combo that were at the start with me. The kid was maybe 12 and I knew he had beat me.  I congratulated him and he said he won his age group.  "How do you know that", I asked? Turns out, the results were posted on the other side of the pavilion.  I was thrilled to see that I won my age group.

I cheered for myself and took a picture of the results.  I'm completely comfortable with the fact that I'm a huge dork.

I called my husband to tell him and it turns out he wasn't surprised. Unbeknownst to me, he and Mack (Tommy was with my mom) came up to the race.  Tom said he tried to time it so they would be near the end for my finish.  He said they were about 8 houses from where the race was and he could see some men quickly running by.  He thought they were pretty fast, so he thought he had at least a minute until I got there. He was walking along and there I was!  He saw me round the corner and off I was.  I snapped a quick picture and I was gone.
I'm the one in the orange-ish shirt.  I have no idea who that girl behind me was. just glad she didn't catch me! I am so touched that Tom headed up there.

Getting a PR and winning my age group was awesome.  It was a very hard race for me for a variety of reasons. Physically, I pushed myself so hard.  I was breathing heavy the entire time.  Emotionally, a lot was going on.  Besides the mixed feelings of being in the front of the pack (I placed 43rd out of over 600), something else was going on.

The race is put on to raise awareness for mental health and suicide prevention.  I was running it in honor of my dear friend, Luke Lako, who took his life 13 years ago at the age of 25.  I don't talk about this much, but the race really brought a lot of emotions to the surface.  Sadness, anger, loss, regret.  They had signs every 400 m or so with statistics about suicide, mental illness etc.  I quit reading them after about the 5th one.  It was too much for me.

Still, for some reason the thought of Luke helped me push myself.  This course was so much harder than the Bell Isle one, and I had been working out more than ever, but I was able to run it 50 seconds faster.

People hung pictures, poems and letters in memory of their loved ones.  Pretty moving.
All and all, entire race was a good experience.  I felt the course was well marked and that the staff was helpful and friendly. After the race there was music, bagels, muffins, apples, bananas, Gatorade and water.  The bathroom lines were kind of long and when I wanted water at the 2 mile mark, they only had one person handing it out and the man ahead of me got her last cup.  Not ok. Other than these two things, I think it was a good race.  I especially loved that I was able to pick up my race packet the night before and the t shirt is something that I will wear.  I guess I should also add that I was appreciative that they made everyone look at an example of how to put the timing chip on their shoe.  There's always one idiot who has no idea what they are doing....

Next up- the Oak Apple 10k on June 2 and then the Beulah Firecracker 5k on July 4.  Both races are pretty competitive. For the Oak Apple 10k,   I would be thrilled to place top 5 in my age group and will really try to be top 10.  I also need to finish it in under 55 minutes and will be trying to get as close to 50 minutes as possible. 

For the race on July 4, it's a really hard course.  There is a monster of a hill and then much of the downhill is through the woods.  Still, I hope to run it in the 23's.  Both goals are really pushing it, but what's the point of setting goals if they are easy to attain?

Onto the topic of over-training.  As mentioned, my last "off day" prior to the race had been April 20th.  I was seriously due a day off.  BUT.....I wanted to go out for drinks Saturday, so after the race I went to Nth degree!  Yikes.  I knew during that workout that if I didn't take a day off, my central nervous system was going to flip out on me.  It was crazy that my legs and body felt great, but I could just tell that my heart and CNS was exhausted. I found that committing to take Sunday off was easy, once I could tell that I really needed it.

I think the day off was a great idea and was perfectly timed.  In the past I have had a terrible time sleeping on my off days, usually waking for good by 2 am.  This was not the case last night.  I slept like a baby.

I'm feeling well rested and ready to take on my spin class tonight. 

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