Sunday, September 28, 2014

When it really is a fun run: Our Lady of Good Counsel 5k 2014

This is just short and sweet, as all as my running late has been:
In continuing my fun fall, I've picked up where I last left off: about 5 days of running per week, 40 miles for the past 3 weeks. This week, I cut it down to 35 miles, figuring take 3 steps forward, 1 step back. That's what I've always done: 3 harder weeks, and then a cutdown week. 
I did cutdown this week, but I also signed up for my church's fun run. I figured I would treat it as a race, again, without doing any real speed work, but just building back consistent running and a base. My church is only 3 miles from where I live, so in keeping green, I ran over to the race on Saturday. It's funny: I've done so many road races of all shapes and sizes. Local races that gather a few hundred people, regional races of a couple thousand, and the international-size Boston Marathon. Each bring their own character, and that even changes year to year. This was as home-grown as you can get. No bibs, no chip-timers, no mile markers. There was also a fun 1 mile run/walk for the kids, and they were all so excited getting ready for it. As I was warming up, I could hear a few of them chattering. One of them said "My mom does marathons..." and then proceeded to explain to the others how far that was, and it was so cute hearing them so impressed. These were also kids who would later cheer for their teachers who ran in the race: looks like they had some good role models. Something to keep in mind for the future. I lined up next to some high school girls and their mom (who asked what cross-country team I was on...she was shocked to learn I was 28) in the front of the oh, say, 50-60 people who were there for the race. With this being a church-sponsored race, it began with a prayer - always a nice way to start the day. And with the ringing of the school bell, we were off.
I had a feeling going into this race that I would do very well, as this race wasn't really publicized beyond our church. And within about 100 meters of starting, I was the third person, not third woman, but third person. Guy #1 was way in the distance, but I spent the first mile or so chasing after guy #2, then passing him strongly with a 6:14 first mile. This turned into more of a solo run that happened to be accompanied by the occasional police officer blocking off traffic or signaling which way to turn. It was a beautiful fall morning: high 50s, sun was shining, and I was running on the streets and trails of my new home in Vienna. Again, I still feel like it's a lot of work, and the second mile (according to my watch) was 6:45, so clearly even pacing wasn't a factor. I finished as the second person in 19:05, but my watch said 2.9 not quite a full 5k. That's 6:34 pace, and the equivalent of a 20:23 5k. I got a $30 gift certificate to Chili's, and then ran home, stretching out the run to make the day's work add up to 9 miles for the day. 
It was what it was, a fun run. Good to remember to support all races: big and small.
And speaking of big: amazing to hear that there is a new world record in the marathon - 2:02:57! I was in Boston in 2011 when the world best was set (2:03:02) and I remember being so stunned by that. Similarly, I was shocked to wake up this morning and read about the first ever sub 2:03 marathon at Berlin - the human body can do amazing things!
I was sad to hear that Shalane Flanagan did not break the American Record at Berlin, despite setting a new PR and coming in 3rd. She put it all out there: telling the press that that was her primary goal, and running gutsy (like she always does) in her best effort. Her post-race remark provides good food for thought for all of us: “This will aid me in future marathons,” she said. “Progress is always good, and this year I’ve dropped four minutes off my marathon time. I’ll look at my training and maybe work on being a little bit tougher in those last few miles. I'll take another shot at some point. Sometimes, it takes a couple of swings.” 
Keep on swinging!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Getting back in the saddle: Navy Federal 5k 2014

The last time I raced was April 27th, and the last speed work session I did was Easter Vigil (April 19th). That was the last time I was on a regular schedule for training, and I've said enough times already that there were enough valid reasons this summer to fall off the wagon. But, in seeing people post on Facebook their progress, and seeing great success from friends, it has been pulling me back into the desire to consistently get runs in. I do have to acknowledge and recognize that it may be the first year that I don't nab any PRs (unless I sign up for some obscure distance that I've never done before) since I started running. I'm making as much peace with that, as much as my type A tendencies will allow. That being said, I decided to sign up for a 5k, certain of completing the distance, uncertain where I stood in terms of time. I figured that while I was absent of speed for 5 months, something still had to be preserved. After all, some of the great pregnant athletes back and were able to regain their speed after months of running slow. I don't know scientifically how much fitness you lose and at what rate, but I figured I couldn't have lost it all. And yes, it probably would make more sense to get some solid speed workouts in (at least some 90 second fartleks thrown in), but I just wanted to race, get a sense truly where my fitness was at, and then go from there.

So, on Saturday I ran the Navy Federal 5k. I ran it last year in 19:59 and came in second. I knew it was a slow course, because that time came after a 19:10 PR and I was in really good shape. I figured since I came under 20 by the skin of my teeth last year, sub 21 was a good A goal, with sub 22 as a reasonable B goal. I threw in a few sprints in my shake-out run yesterday, hoping the legs would remember what a sub 7:00/mile feels like. I was happy that we live close enough that I could run there for my warmup. I positioned myself near the front of the start, saw two women who looked comparable in terms of general appearance, stood near them, and hoped that I wouldn't embarrass myself too much.

Boom! And we were off - in the first minute, as people are swarming around, sprinting like it's a 200 meter dash, and I'm realizing that I am just hoping to hang on. The two women go way out in front of me, one about 200 meters ahead, another about 100. In the first mile, I ran alongside one woman and passed her, and then felt very comfortable in third place. It was a welcome change of temperature - low 60s and cloudy - summer is finally ending! I went through the first mile in 6:29 - whoa! Not setting records by any means, but haven't seen a 6 in months and months. I've run some races where I've been somewhat uncertain of my ability to hold a pace, but there was a big question mark floating above me as I ran - wondering if this was too ambitious and fearing an impending blow-up. Things were relatively spread out at this point, so it was my goal to just pick off guys one by and just maintain this pace. Mile 2: 12:59 - nearly dead on, and looking like I'm squarely in third and able to hit my A-goal. This part of the course has a lot of turns and some hills, so while my pace slowed down, I was making good progress and passing a few guys. The last part of the course (last half mile or so) is part of one of my regular running routes, so I jumped in full-speed, passing 2 more guys in the final stretch and was pretty pleased with my finish:
6:42 pace
3rd woman and 19th overall (out of 808)

Wahoo! While it is the slowest 5k I've run in 3 years, it was less than a minute slower than I ran it last year. I broke even financially, as I got $25 for third place in a big check, a trophy, and had a great morning. I did look ridiculous with all of this in a drawstring bag as I ran home, check in one hand, bag bouncing behind me, but it almost must've been pretty funny to see. It's Wednesday when I'm finishing this, and my legs are still a bit sore - proof it's been a while since they've pushed that hard.
I need to start doing regular workouts again, in addition to just easy runs, but this was overall a great way to ease back into racing. Looking forward to more races this fall!