Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Oakland Running Festival 5k

It was time to put my big girl panties on. No more whining about how sick I was all winter and not being where I wanted to be physically or mentally. It would have been really easy to just go out and do it with no goals. At the same time I really needed something, anything to convince me that I was strong and I still had it.

Thursday night something about my mental outlook changed. I decided to make a new play list specifically for this race. Normally I just shuffle around my usual "gym" playlist or add a few new songs prior to a race. Last year for this race I ran without music because they discourage it. If you are racing for a top spot you will be disqualified if you run with headphones. Last year the woman who won the marathon totally ran with her ipod. Not that I would be running for a top spot, but I like to be a good athlete. This year I decided I didn't care and I was running with my music. I picked my favorite nine songs making sure my playlist did not exceed 30 minutes. Basically it would be my own punishment if I ran slower than that, I would be out of songs. I even forced my family to listen to the playlist during dinner Thursday night, I had to be sure the flow of songs was correct. I put Pink's "Slut Like You" as my last song. Yes, I would need that to get up the hill before you reach the finish line.

I focused a lot all week on stretching. My body is still kind of unhappy with me and my lack of concern for stretching after swimming and biking. I stretched and foam rolled every night. I also did a nice 30 minute yoga routine for runners hoping to loosen up my muscles. Basically I did everything I should if I wanted to meet my goals for race day.

My goals were simple. I wanted to run sub 30. When I looked at the pace I would need to maintain overall to reach that goal, I got a little scared. At the same time I knew I had to try because nothing is ever earned if you don't at least try. My second goal was to PR. Going sub 30 would be more difficult than earning a PR since my last best 5k time was 30:13.

Race morning came, I did some stretching why the marathoners were lining up. I watched them head out before I lined up. I all of a sudden became slightly flustered about when to start my music. I didn't want to start it too early knowing that I had limited my music selection to fall within the 30 minute realm. I waited until they gave the 30 second warning, started my music and crammed my phone into my race belt. Then were off. I had done a decent job in lining up. I started at the 8 minute mile pace sign. No I would not be running that fast, but with nearly 1900 people doing the 5k, lots of kids and lots of walkers that is where I ended up. it was a good choice as I only had one point the entire race where I had to squeeze between two slower runners, the rest of the course was spent focusing on pace and one foot in front of the other. Ont he other side I wasn't getting passed by lots of people, score one for me.

The first mile was good, maybe a little too fast, but I wasn't going to have a lot of wiggle room to go easy the first mile and make it up later with a hill .10 miles from the finish line. I just needed to maintain a steady pace. Even though I had hydrated very well in the days prior, I should have hydrated the morning of. I was experiencing dry mouth which i typically only get at one race a year in Sacramento. I knew this meant I would need to grab water at the aid station. Sadly, taking something from the aid station causes you to slow down, which is why I normally don't take anything at a 5k race. I downed some water and tried to be polite and not hit another runner with my cup as I tossed it aside, notice I said "tried".

I don't think I have ever looked at my watch so many times during a race. Can you say "obsessive much". When my mile two time flashed, I nearly cried. It was too slow, I would not meet my goal of a sub 30 with that time. I wanted to cry, I really had to fight back tears. I wanted this so badly, much more than I thought I did. I just kept trudging along hopelessly wondering when the slight downhill section would come before the hill so I could get some relief. It felt like the longest 5k ever. I kept looking at my average pace time, it was about 2 seconds off where I needed it to be. My only hope was that I could make it up on the downhill while not expending too much energy because i would need it get up the hill and to the finish line.

I finally reached the section, told myself I was in the home stretch, that I was strong and that I could do this, there was still a chance. I made my way around the corner and the hill came into site. So close, I checked my watch one last time, I felt like I could maybe actually hit the sub 30 but i put it out of my mind and focused solely on getting my ass up the hill. People line the street as you are coming up the hill, which helps, sort of. I was so in my own head I wasn't really paying any attention to anything or anyone. As you reach the crest of the hill you realize, shit, I still have to cross the finish line which is .10 miles away, which seemed like another mile at this point. I did my best to sprint to the line and not throw up as I finally crossed it. Holy hell, that was hard.

I looked at my watch and saw that i had not earned a sub 30 but did get a 5k PR out of the effort. I was bummed, but happy at the same time because I knew I gave it everything I had.

Then I got home and actually uploaded my data from the race. I saw that I had nailed my overall pace goal. I had run the course long. If I had not run long, I would have earned that sub 30 time. I was ecstatic. The idea that I was actually able to maintain that pace for the entire 5k was huge. It felt so good to know that I put myself out there to give it everything I had instead of taking the easy way out. It was also the confidence boost that I needed to keep my head up and keep trying for the rest of the year.

So now I'm on the hunt for the next 5k where I wan officially achieve that sub 30 time.

A few things to note. There were only about two points during the race, where I actually made notice of my carefully thought out music. Once when a Lady Gaga song came on, and again when "Slut Like You" came on as I wondered if the song would carry me to the finish line :) Other than I have to recollection of actually hearing any of the other songs. That's how in my own head I was. "The Hill" must not really be a hill because it barely looks like a blip on the radar on my elevation chart. I swear, it sucks ass!

Race photos, there was only one decent race photo of me and that was before the race! All the others are horrific where you can clearly see what a hot mess I was. Just like last year my bib tore off so I was running with my bib hanging down only attached at one side. In addition to that my face is bright red and I'm clearly dying.

I had a course PR of 1:16! A 5k PR of 3 seconds.

Many props to the folks at Oakland Running Festival. For all of the jokes about running through Oakland fast so you don't get shot, this event highlights what a great city Oakland is. I only wish it wasn't a once a year moment for Oakland.

Official time 30:10
AG results 32/167 (that's exciting)
OA results 484/1820

Now I must focus on my triathlon next month, even if all I really want to do it go out and race another 5k right now.
Drummers at the start line

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

South Bay Duathlon

Last year I volunteered at the South Bay Du, partly because my friend Molly was racing, partly because I wanted to get a close up look at transition as I was thinking about getting into multi-sport. I had a lot of fun, I love volunteering at a races because it's super fun and most of the athletes are super appreciative of the volunteers.

Doing this race was an after thought to my schedule. I had already planned out my spring races but I remembered I had a 50% discount on any USA Productions event (another bonus of volunteering) and my friends were racing, so I added it to the schedule.

As we all know I was sick for most of the winter and this effected a big chunk of my winter training. I knew I wasn't where I wanted to be for this race, but I also knew that I could cross the finish line. I should have prepared more mentally for this race, but I just didn't. I really wanted to go out and have fun and see where I was fitness wise. While I am eager to make progress, I also am trying to keep in mind that I am really new to multi-sport and I'd like to take some time getting comfortable in it and everything that comes with the sport. Adjusting to training 6 days a week and determining how many hours per week I can actually get in has been a challenge for me. With one child only going to school 3 days a week and a spouse who is gone (work/commute) for 12-13 hours a day leaves me with the constant battle of trying to figure out how to get it all in. I feel like in the past month I have nailed down a good routine that my family and I can work with. It may turn out that this year is more about about getting comfortable in the new groove and next year will be more about gains when my youngest gets to kindergarten. I think this explains much of mental shift going into the race.

The only bummer about the race was those of us doing the sprint distance had a 10am start time, which meant we spent a lot of time standing around wishing that we were already out on the race course. After a very long wait we finally got our chance. In my lack of preparedness I realized that I had never configured my display screens for the multi-sport function on my Garmin. This meant that all I could see was overall time and distance for the entire race. My plan (I at least had a couple) was to run 10 minute miles (conservative) for the first run and hopefully be able to run sub 10 minute miles on the second run. That plan went out the window when I realized I couldn't see what my pace was, oops. When I hit the one mile mark my watched flashed that I had run a 9:32 mile, so I slowed down the pace for the second mile. When my watched flashed at the end of the second mile that I had run a 10:05 mile, I felt better, until I realized that I was not all that close to transition. It wasn't until 2.17 miles that I hit transition. There went my plan of a 20 minute run one time.

T1 went pretty smoothly as I swapped out visor for helmet and running shoes for bike shoes and grabbed my bike. I managed to mount the bike without looking like an ass, so that's always a positive. This is the part of the race where my lack of bike training really came into play. There just had not been enough time on the bike this winter and I've only had one outdoor ride so far this year. I knew this would not be weakness  but at one point I said to myself  "you don't belong here today". I never really could get my heart rate down, I tried to relax but I was anticipating the hill that was to come. I knew it would be steep and short. You can see it coming, so there is time to gear down which I did. I passed one woman heading up the hill and then I passed a young boy who was walking his bike up the hill. He had passed me on the first run and he was really making a lot of noise as he did it. As I passed him on the bike he sounded like he was sniveling, I couldn't tell if he was crying or just really breathing hard like he had on the run. I feel really bad, I wish I had been in a better place to ask him if he was okay, but I was afraid to slow down and loose my momentum  and then possibly crash. Thankfully the hill is short followed by a downhill and than you start the second loop. I had survived the hill, but my legs were getting super tired and I knew I had to make it up that hill one more time. I tried my best to ride steady and conservative to be sure I had the legs to make it up that hill again. A runner that I had passed on the first run passed me on the bike just before the hill. As I geared down to my very last granny gear I trudged up the hill and passed her and one other woman, of course they passed me on the downhill section but I felt like it was more a badge of honor to be able to pass them going uphill. There was a huge sense of relief as I approached transition, I really wanted off that bike.

I racked my bike swapped out shoes again and helmet for visor and back out I went. Much to my surprise my legs felt like stumps. Seriously? My legs normally really like running off the bike, sadly, on this day they did not. I'm assuming it has a lot to do with a short course and not much recovery time for them after that hill. I knew right away the run was going to hurt, my right calf was really, really, angry with me. I managed a decent first mile, I even passed the woman who had passed me on the downhill of the bike. However, the second mile involved run/walk intervals. There was a point where I literally just mentally gave up. I knew I was going to come in a couple minutes later than I had anticipated and I just didn't have any more fight left in me. Knowing that the run course was long was not helping my mental outlook either. As I rounded the corner the race photographer was yelling at me to sprint for her... um, if I sprint now I may collapse short of the finish line, but I gave it my best effort and tried to smile. I finally passed these two gentleman who were apparently having a nice chat in the last .20 miles and just focused on one foot in front of the other to the finish line. Of course right at the finish line one of them passed me, but I managed to hold off the other one. DONE.

This is a totally false representation of how I felt or looked on the last run,
I was just trying my hardest for the photographer. 

Overall, I finished pretty close to what I thought I was capable of. Two minutes over my estimated time that can be attributed to the "fuck it" attitude on the last run.

They all can't be great, and I am totally okay with that. I also realize that it is early in the season, and I'm not exactly where I had hoped to be at this point. It's a good reminder that I really need to work more on the bike before my Triathlon in April. Probably need to work on my mental strength also if I actually want it to be fun. The best part of the day was getting to see friends and meet more folks from the Forward Motion Race Club.

It's Tuesday and I feel like I'm still in total recovery mode. My body hates me and I have no cardiovascular ability whatsoever, based on the very sad swim I had this morning. I'm focusing on recovery and eating well (although my body doesn't want much to do with food) to pull it all back together for my next event on March 24th!

Run 1: 21:06
T1: 1:25
Bike: 45:07
T2: 1:18
Run 2: 23:11

 9/11 AG

141/148 OA