Thursday, July 19, 2012

Races Galore

This blog is not all about races, I assure you that. I just happen to be racing a lot all of a sudden. I don't know how that happened. Just 4 months ago, I was considering throwing in the towel and taking up knitting (not really, but I was getting quite close to that point). When almost every run ended in pain, I came up with a game plan: - I would coax myself to go out for a run every day, run as many miles as I could, nice and easy, and quit before I reached breaking point.
- I would keep up with Metzl's torturous strength training routine a couple times a week, come what may.
I got stronger, and my tendons, while they still reminded me of their existence from time to time, decided to stay out of trouble. So, I started racing...tentatively at first, then gaining a little confidence along the way. The USATF-NJ races fit perfectly into my plan. The spring championship races were more frequent than I liked (there was a race every weekend for 6 weeks straight), April 15 - May 20, but I decided to plow along as long as the body parts held together. After all, I had enough experience with injury to be able to recognize one approaching.

So, I sped through the Cherry Blossom 10K and Stomp the Monster 5K (winced through them is more appropriate).
Next on the list was the Clinton Country Run 15K on April 28 (Masters Men/Women). I was very happy with the way I raced at Clinton. I paced myself and didn't give in to the usual temptations. I finished 38th overall, 2nd woman at 1:01:28, a 6:35 pace. And I won prize money!!! My first earnings. I contemplated quitting my day job, but only for the briefest moment.
Our House 5 Mile - May 6: This was a Championship race for Open Men/Women, the first of 3 on consecutive weekends. By this point, my body was a mass of pain. It was a new experience for me. Normally, my tendons would break down way before I pushed myself to the point where I was this sore. I needed to get comfortable being sore. I told myself that it wasn't too bad. I could get used to the soreness. Maybe even learn to enjoy it. I would get hard-core! I had raced the past 3 races for myself. I would do the next 3 for the team. This sounded heroic in theory. The execution was a lot harder. Our House had the hilliest course I'd run in a long time. And it started at 1 PM. It was a scorcher of a day, so I had no illusions of running a respectable race. People who had raced the course earlier spoke in hushed tones of a killer hill toward the end of the course. They forgot to warn me about the 4-5 other equally giant hills throughout the course. So I puffed and panted and snorted up all those hills, limped up the last one, and squeaked past the finish in 32:50 minutes, a 6:34 pace, 54/385 overall, 13/148 women, 4/18 in my age category. The important thing...our 2 teams of indomitable open women came first and tenth!

Newport 10K - May 12: Another Open Men/Women Championship race. This was a VERY competitive race. As in, a couple rows of Kenyans at the starting line, a separate elite category, results that started at 4:00 pace as opposed to the usual 5:00 pace, over $14,000 in prize money, and more than 1100 runners. It's a beautiful course, boasting views of the Manhattan Skyline, but I wasn't really paying attention to the scenery. I raced as I usually do, till I almost puked my guts out. Thankfully, it was a much flatter course than at Our House. Not very impressive as overall results go, and I kicked myself a little for not being able to drag myself in under 40 minutes (I finished at 40:05 (40:02 chip time), a 6:27 pace, 88/1187 overall, 15/511 women and 3/80 in my age category); but for me, this was a more respectable race than the previous weekend. I managed to run the entire course without stopping to gather my guts in, and felt a little more in control through the race. Our open women fielded 3 teams and we came in second, fourth and tenth. One more race to go, then I would let these sore hips and legs recover.

Run for Rachel 5k - May 20: This was the last open championship race (Women's Championship only) for the spring, so our club members came out in droves to support the team. It's a flat course, so I was hopeful of a PR. I had been to my PT Craig on Wednesday, and he gave me such a solid massage, I was a different kind of sore! The start was not as smooth, and I was lost in a sea of bodies, looking for a way to break out. I finally settled into a rhythm by the end of the first mile, and the rest of the race was uneventful. When you run so many USATF-NJ races, you recognize the regulars and know how well or poorly you are doing by comparing yourself with the people around you. I figured I wasn't doing too shabbily, and kept plodding along. There were a few tiny hills, but nothing intimidating. Knowing that I would not have to run fast for at least a week or two, I even managed a little kick at the finish. I finished in 19:13, a 6:11 pace, 24/451, 7/221 women, 2/19 in my age category. I won prize money again! Not too shabby! Our women's teams came in 2nd, 5th and 8th. And I was happy I didn't have to run another race for a few weeks. 
Towpath Train'ing' Run - June 2, 2012: This is a non-competitve fun run on the towpath we usually do our group runs on. The total distance of the towpath is 34.1 miles. Runners would sign up for any distance from 0.5 miles to 34.1 miles. The past few years, our hardcore ultra runners have beentopping that, starting at 11 PM, running all the way to Trenton, which is 34.1 miles, then turning around and running the same distance back. Insane! As for me, 16.9 miles, which I had signed up for, was a LONG run...since I started racing again, I was sticking to shorter distances. For 2 weeks preceding the run, I tagged a few extra miles to my post-race cooldown...and that was my preparation for the run. The fun part of the train run was when we stopped at 'aid stations' along the way and picked up runners at each station. Your run started, depending on the distance you wanted to run and the pace. The goal was for us all to finish together at the park and picnic together. I've been participating in this event for the past 4 years, and it's always plenty of fun. The distance was harder on me than the races, but I got to run and chat with people I hadn't met in a while, the picnic was fun and everyone went home happy and full.

Lager Run 5K - June 24: I was looking forward to this race, for 2 reasons. No, not for the alcohol, I am not a beer drinker. I had heard that it was a net downhill course, so would be a very fast race. I had also had 2 weeks of speedwork, hills and trails and no racing, so was hoping my legs would be a little more conditioned for speed than I had been at my last road race (Run For Rachel). I secretly hoped I could break 19:00. I knew I would have to run like I never have, really give it every ounce of energy I had. A visit to Craig, my PT, was in order. Craig worked on me the Thursday before the race for almost 2 hours. He massaged, rolled out the tightness, beat on my sore muscles, kneaded every knot out, stretched and sorted me out. When I left his office, I could barely walk. I rested Friday and Saturday. I know most of you veterans of racing would scoff at my wimpy 'taper' before a 5K, but I believe it's one of the things that has helped me race as much and as hard as I have this season. When I embarked on this flurry of racing, I promised myself that I would give myself as much prep and recovery time as I needed for each race.
I was still sore 2 days later. But when I warmed up for the race Sunday evening, I felt the muscles moving like they should, the tightness completely gone. I felt envious of professional athletes who have physical therapy several times a week. What a luxury that must be! The race had a few hills, but was mostly downhill and I could feel myself flying. I let myself go on the downhills, legs pumping as fast as I could. This was a USATF Men's Championship race, a huge race as 5Ks go, with over 1000 runners. Championship races also are competitive. I had a hard race, but one of the more satisfactory ones. I ran as I should, and when I pulled into the track for the last 300 m before the finish, I knew I would come in under 19 minutes. And I did.
18:53, a 6:04 pace, 5/443 women, 2/116 in my age category, 79.67 PLP!!! My long-term goal is to hit 80% PLP, and I came closest to it than I ever have at this race, but couldn't quite make it. It was a good race nonetheless, and one that I will remember for a while.

Sunset Classic 5 miler - June 28: This race was just 4 days after the Lager Run. My hips were still groaning from the fastest race I've ever run (and ever will!!!). But I reasoned that if I survived this race, I would have 2 full weeks of just fun running and VACATIONing out in the West before the next cross country 5K. But 5 miles on hills in 85 degrees, after a LONG workday and being stuck in traffic is brutal. I was spent. I considered stopping a half mile after the start. Somewhere between mile 2 and 3, I thought with nostalgia about pain-free hips and legs; and wondered why I was doing this to myself. I must love punishing myself. I finished in 32:09, a 6:25 pace, 2/207 women and 2/30 in my age category.
Verizon Classic Corporate 5K - July 19: My first race on my company team. I was not too gung-ho about this race, because it was not on my original race plan. I crammed it in, just 5 days before my next XC race. All this racing was exhausting me. I may have upped my soreness threshold, living in constant race-induced pain. And it was a massive race, with 4000 runners! I try to avoid huge races, if I can. The logistics are usually horrendous, and there are never enough porta potties. But after running 12 races in 6 1/2 months, I can't say No to the one race my employer requests me to run. So, I wearily laced up my running shoes again. I didn't let myself get too carried away, though. I did not 'taper' before the race, I treated this as a faster-than-usual tempo run. And it ended up being just that. I completed in 19:36, a 6:19 pace, 48/3781, 3/1757 women. We ended up not being able to field a complete team (3 men and 3 women) because the race was sold out. So much for racing for my corporate team! I did answer the call of duty and I ended up winning an impressive trophy for my office (prizes only for the top 3 men and women, so I lucked out!), so I can't complain! 

Summer Series
The club organizes a series of (4) cross country 5Ks, 2 in June and 2 in July. Race, followed by eating, drinking and socializing. That's what we runners are so good at. I signed up for 1, 2 and 4. The course is 2 loops, starts on grass, runs through a gravel path, up a humungous hill, more gravel path and ends on grass.
June 12: The first was fun. I was first female, which made it even more fun for me. I completed in 19:53, 6:24 pace, 8th overall, 1/31 women and 1/4 in my age category.
July 10: The third was more fun. Not only did I get to be first female again (19:44, 6:21 pace, 14th overall, 1/36 women and 1/6 in my age category), I also was the 'rabbit' for the quarter-mile kids' race prior to the 'adults' races. Man, these kids are fast! And competitive!
July 24: By the fourth race, I was wiped out. I badly needed some time off all this hard running. It may not seem like a lot to a regular 'racer', but my body was screaming. My hips wouldn't cooperate, my legs felt like iron, I was sucking wind. The temperature was in the mid 80s. I also was the 'rabbit' again for the kids' quarter-mile race right before the 5K, and had to run faster than a 6 minute pace to stay ahead of the winner! I usually do a stride or 2 before a 5K, but this was a bit much!
I finished in 20:19, a 6:32 pace, 21/143, 6/43 women. I felt a wave of relief, to be done with all this insane racing. I would take the rest of the week off running and a week or so of simple easy running.            


desi said...

Congratulations on keeping up with so many races. What a great accomplishment for u this summer. Take good care and rest well.

Beth said...

Thanks so much for the words of encouragement on my blog. I really appreciate your kind words and positive thoughts. :) I hope you are having a wonderful summer and running many rewarding miles. It's great that you've been having fun racing and I see that you are still incredibly speedy! :)