Monday, March 12, 2012

It's All Uphill from Here: Four Courts Four Miler

I have always been confused by the phrase, "It's all uphill ( or downhill) from here."  What does that mean?  Does uphill mean that we are climbing to a peak and things are going to get better?  Or does it mean that as we go uphill, it's going to get harder?  Likewise, does downhill mean that it's easy?   Or is downhill mean bad, like heading into a valley?
On Saturday, I ran the Four Courts Four Miler in Arlington as part of my short distance racing series.  It is an out and back course - check out the hills.  I did a lot of practicing with hills in preparation for finishing with a 2 mile climb: lately, all of my long runs have finished going uphill.  Yet, Sarah also referred to that last hill as "soul crushing."  Yikes!  Still, I was rested from my trip to Florida, I was excited, I was ready.
Although on race morning, I was lucky I made it to the start in one piece:

  • I dropped one of my lucky "V" earrings on the carpet as I was getting ready and it took 20 minutes to find.
  • I realized a few blocks after I left my apartment that I left my pocket rosary at home and had to run back to get it.
  • I dropped off my bag before my warm-up.  Normally, when I finish my warm-up, I strip down to my race outfit and change into my racing flats.  But on Saturday, when I went to pick it up, all of the bags were just tossed in a giant heap with no sense of organization.  1500 people were running this race: I tried to sort through the bags to find mine, but after 10 minutes, gave up.  
  • Not only was I running without my facing flats (which I know I've only been using for 6 months, but now I absolutely love them), but I was running without my trusty pink visor - something I've worn in every race for almost 3 years.  
So, needless to say, I was a little unnerved at the start.  I knew I was going to take out the first two miles (the downhill) really hard, and then just do my best to hang on as I made my way back uphill.  It was sunny, windy and a little chilly.  I hopped and jumped around, ready to go.  And with the gun, we were off!  I just did my best to fly down the hill.  I used to be really bad with downhills, and really just "brake" and slow down.  Now, I am learning to be more aggressive on them.  I went through mile 1 in 6:08 - what?  Sarah told me not to freak out with that first mile split, so I just went with it.  I got through 2 miles in 12:40, and was pretty pleased.  But, at the turnaround, we were running into the wind, and it immediately became evident how hard that climb back up would be.  Luckily, at the turnaround, I bumped into an old MCM buddy of mine, Brian, who I haven't seen an a year.  We yelled and waved, but that was it.  And it was all uphill from there.  I am pretty good on hills, but this was a whole other beast.  I could not believe how tired I felt as I was going up the hill.  I managed to pass some people, but I was just going all I could to move forward and upward.  Seriously, this was more challenging than the Newton Hills and Heartbreak Hill in Boston.  In that final mile, my sense of pushing for a goal time went out the window, and the only goal was to just cross that finish line.  And I did, but it didn't feel pretty.
27:03 (6:46 pace - talk about a positive split)
8th woman (out of 873)
3rd in age group
45/1511 overall
I was exhausted when I finished, but I still went and did my 2.5 mile cool down (ended up running with the girl who came in 7th, and we commiserated about how hard that race was).
Cheers!  Happy St. Pacers Day!
There was a big after party, which I decided to go to, even though I was a little bummed.  I was so glad I did, because I found out I came in 3rd for my age group!  They gave me a Pacers pint glass, which is cool.  And, I bumped into my friend Brian, so we were able to catch up.  At that point, Sarah (my coach) texted me to see how it went.  I wrote back, explained the racing flat debacle and how hard the race was.  She texted me back and said that the winner (who is a 2 time Olympic Trials qualifier and a teammate of hers) ran this race at a pace slower than a 10k last month.  That was actually a big relief, because I also ran this slower than my 10k pace.  It was a hard race!  And Sarah concurred, saying that it was important for me to get out and race, but the time was not indicative of my current fitness, and that there was a reason why we hadn't made this a goal race.  
So, in the end, I was pretty pleased with my performance, once I was reassured that this was a hard race for everyone.  Additionally, I do tend to get so caught up in the numbers, that I need to remember that yes I am doing a great job, and that not every race is perfect.  We don't always get perfection or dream races.  If that was the case, the ones that went really well wouldn't feel as significant.  And, I need to remember that a lot of people only dream of that time, and I am fortunate to have already reached that kind of pace.  Yet, I will not be complacent.  I am harnessing all of my energy for the Scope it out 5k in 2 weeks.  If I can take out a couple miles under 6:30 pace, I am looking hopefully at cracking that magical/mythical 20 minute barrier.  
So, it looks like it is all uphill from here - in a good way!

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