I know, I know. Combining two race reports is a little cheap. But it’s hard to get gung-ho about rewriting a report after WordPress eats it. So here we go.
December 31, 2011 – Great New Year’s Eve Run (Ohio)
On New Year’s Eve 2011 I ran my last race of the year with NB, my good friend Keeley, Keeley’s sister and their mom. Keels’ boyfriend Dave, photographer extraordinaire, was kind enough to take pictures.
It was a 4 p.m. race, so fueling was interesting, especially given that my mom’s fiance bought a TON of bagels and pastries. But I still had a small amount of oatmeal a couple hours out, and brought along a GU roctane for pre-race. We drove about 25 minutes to the race site, a rival high school to where I went – also the biggest high school I have ever seen. It was basically a caste. Packet pick up and a mini-expo were in the cafeteria, which was replete with flat screen TVs and high ceilings. Seriously. Swank.
We had a lot of sitting around time, and eventually whiled it away with Keeley and Dave, the latter of whom started to go nuts with the camera (like I told him to).
About 10 minutes to start, we took our fuel, readied our Garmins and iPods, and headed outside for a very short warm up jog before lining up at the start. I had been sorta-kinda hoping for a PR (previous PR is 23:42, on a course with a huge downhill at the start, the rest a flat out-and-back) but the city where the race was is notoriously rolling, so I wasn’t holding my breath.
The race began, and off we went. NB took off, and Keels, her mom and sis enjoyed the sights will I was somewhere in between. I went comfortably hard for the first mile, taking note of a pretty significant downhill in the first half mile that I knew would really hurt on the way back. This course was definitely rolling. I was making up for the uphill slowing by cruising the downhills and the flats, but I had a feeling I wouldn’t PR, but still hoped I could go sub-25. At the top of a cruel hill, we turned off into a development and saw the lead bike and frontrunners churning in singlets, shorts, armwarmers and gloves, kicking along at 5 and change minute miles. NB and I (badly) high-fived as we passed each other in the neighborhood, and after I made the turnaround (and had to stop to tie my shoelace just before – damn new shoes!) I waved at Keels and her family. Mile 1 passed in 7:47, with mile 2 slowing to 8:05. Damn. No PR at this point, but I kept charging on.
Mile 3 was starting to hurt. By the time I got to that hill I’d been dreading, I gave in: I walked. Just before the top I kicked back in and then pushed until the end. I pushed, and pushed, and ended heaving and gasping for breath, ending in 25:15 by my watch.
We all ended with smiles, feeling significantly better after than we did during (isn’t that always the way? Especially with 5Ks). Not a bad way to end the year.
January 8, 2012 – Frigid Five Miler (PA)
This was our second running of this race, and our third timing having to run the Dreaded Hill (we’d run it at the start of that Halloween 10K we did. Sucks no matter what, but being at the end, when you’re tired, it REALLY sucks). It’s a very hilly course, but the first three miles are rolling with a net downhill. Mile four is a bit rough, and then mile five has the last 2/3 mile straight uphill. You don’t even get to crest and come down a bit to the finish. You’re still charging it as you cross the line.
We drove with our race buddies Rob and Cas, and met up with a couple other friends, Matt and Maria, as we warmed ourselves in the cabin. Last year it had been about 11 degrees, and the year before (when we weren’t there to race it. Or at least I wasn’t) it had apparently been a -7* windchill. This year it was mid-30s and sunny. Not really “frigid” by most standards. Last year I took it easy and enjoyed it (48:03 by my garmin). This year I wanted a course PR.
As usual, I took my pre-race Gu Roctane about 15 minutes to the start. We did a little jogging to warm up, and jumped around to keep the blood moving. It wasn’t that cold, but standing around it got to be so. Before we knew it, it was time to roll!
My plan was to try to stick to my cruising speed, which is about 8:30 miles, so I could have some room to crash and burn on the last uphill. The first mile was pretty rolling but I felt good, cruising it at a perfect 8:34 (btw, I think the course was a bi short. Or the first mile was. If memory serves, seems like the start line was farther forward this year than last, so my garmin was beeping after the mile markers, rather than before as is typical of GPS devices. At most it was short .05 mi, but still). There was one girl I tried to keep with since she seemed to have a metronome inside her and was cruising along very smoothly. We passed and re-passed each other at intervals, occasionally drafting off one another. It was a strange, companionable competition, yet teamwork. I enjoyed it.
Mile 2 has some intense, quad-crushing downhills, and I tried to cruise and enjoy them, clicking off the second mile in 8:17. I worried about my speed, but still felt pretty good. Mile 3 was also a lot of downhill, and I crushed it in 8:04. Shit.
At mile 4, as with last year, I started to hurt. Last year I thought I was bonking. This year I recognized that it was because I”d gone from two miles pretty much downhill to flat and slightly climbing. There is a decent-ish hill halfway through the fourth mile that killed me, and I walked a bit, then told myself to stop being a sissy, suck it up, we had the big hill and we needed time in the bank for that one. Mile five was respectable, but slower: 8:47 (my goal HM pace).
Mile 5 began with dread. I had a third of a mile to try to cruise and enjoy, but my mind was already grinding up the hill. As it came into view and we curved onto it, I pulled down the brim of my cap and told myself: here we go.
I kept my arms low, tried to focus on my breathing, keeping my knees up so I didn’t trip, staying relaxed. I made it farther than last year, but I walked. My pacer girl came into sight, and we both took alternating walk breaks. Passing and catching up with one another. Once when our breaks overlapped, I gasped out to her, “this hill” and she gave a tired smile and nodded. “Yeah,” she said seriously. “This hill.”
I kept pushing. I kept taking breaks, but I tried to keep them short, and as I saw we were rounding the final curve and Rob came into sight (he’s a good sport and cheers everyone else up. He’s wicked fast) cheering me up, and NB just past him, I knew I couldn’t give in. I just chugged and chugged, not able to muster much of a kick at all, just glad to pass the line with a weak celebratory smile, pushing STOP to see my glorious course PR: 43:41.
And I managed to get some swag! I snagged 3rd in my age group (20-24), though the first two gals put me to shame, both in the 37 minute range, so I felt a little sheepish about claiming my award. I also won a raffle prize: two reflective slap bands, which I’ve been loving on my dark winter morning runs.
Anyone curious about the elevation profile should check out my garmin stats. Pittsburgh hills are unforgiving bastards.
Next race is at he end of February. I promise to be better about updating between now and then!