Saturday, August 22, 2009
This course is probably one of the toughest 5k's that I've done. The first 3/4 mile is flat through the Regent Square neighborhood, then it's a quick, sharp downhill followed by about 1 1/4 miles uphill. Most of this is on the trails in Frick Park, but a small segment is on the sidewalk. The last mile is a downhill coast to the finish line.
Going into the race, I wasn't sure what to expect since I haven't done any track or sprint workouts since ??? My time in 2006 was 25:46, which put me at 21/77 in my age group. Since the race start is only about 3.5 miles from my apartment, I decided to run there, race and run back - basically a tempo run. I was not feeling so great on the run over -- I felt tired and a bit sluggish and my stride just didn't feel natural. When I got to the race start, I had some Gu and water and did some drills, walked/ran around and talked to some people. While we were lining up at the start, the announcer told everyone that there would be a short delay to start the race, because there was a raccoon on the trail that needed to be removed! I'm glad they realized that, or things could've gotten pretty ugly (even though I think raccoons are pretty cute, I've heard they are not nice...)
After a few minutes, the announcer said that the raccoon was removed from the trail and the race could start. I was able to get out quickly when the gun went off, thanks to staying close to the start line, and I tried to keep pace with the people around me. I glanced down at my Garmin and saw my pace was 6:30/mile! Whoa - I definitely needed to slow down a bit as I was almost positive I couldn't maintain that pace for the whole race! My first mile split ended up being 7:08, which I was quite happy with. The uphill section of the course felt pretty tough, and I was really working pretty hard to try to maintain my pace. I told myself that the race was already 1/3 over and that I could tough it out for a bit longer and I concentrated on trying to stay with the runners around me. We climbed up the trail through the park, and there were several musicians along the way - a tuba player, a trumpet player and I think a sax player. I had my iPod on though, so I couldn't fully appreciate their songs! Finally I saw that the hill was cresting and the downhill part was starting. YAY! I had survived the worst part. The first part of the descent was pretty steep. Between the grade and the loose gravel on the trail, I felt I couldn't really go as all out as I wanted to. The last mile felt much faster than the previous mile, and soon enough the clearing where the finish line was came into view. In a time of 24:12, I was done - a 5k is really short - esp. compared to a half ironman! I ended up placing 15th out of 148 girls in the 25-29 age group... one of my highest rankings. Way to go fast twitch muscles! :)
Friday, August 14, 2009
My dad drove down to Morgantown with me and waited while I set up my transition area, picked up my timing chip, and got my numbers marked on my arms and legs. It was really nice to have him there, since I was pretty nervous! When the sprint races were starting, I noticed a few people swimming around the dock warming up and decided it would be good for me to warm up a bit. The swim was in the Monongahela River, which in Pittsburgh, is pretty gross. I have to admit that the Morgantown Mon seemed cleaner than the other open water river swims I've done. I hadn't swam in my wetsuit since last September, so I had kind of forgotten what it felt like and I'm glad I got in early to warm up and get used to it.
I was relieved to get out on the bike. This is only the fifth time I've ridden my new Giant Trinity TT bike. I was a bit nervous about taking the new bike out for this race, but it ended up working out well. As I started out of transition, I hit the button on my PowerTap computer to turn it on. It turned on, and instead of registering a speed and power, it kept searching and finally flatlined across the screen. I made it search for the PowerTap wheel, and it still couldn't find it. Noooo!!! This is NOT the way I wanted to start the bike! I double-checked my rear wheel to make sure I hadn't put the wrong wheel on by mistake. It was indeed my PowerTap wheel. I was about to resign myself to basing my pace off HR alone, since I had a separate HR monitor on, but I reset the computer and made it do another search, and finally, it registered the wheel and showed my power, speed, distance, cadence, etc. WHEW! Thank goodness. The first lap of the bike went really well. My bike felt great, and I passed a few people pretty early on. This is a relatively small field, so people on the bike were pretty spread out. The elevation profile made it look like the course had two distinct climbs, but the first one was so gradual it barely seemed like a climb the first time through. When I got to the second climb, I actually passed one or two people on it! On the second lap, I could tell I was slowing down a bit. The sun was more over head now, and I was starting to feel pretty warm. The first climb in the loop that hadn't felt like a climb before, suddenly seemed to have an increased grade. At about mile 35, a woman passed me and said "Don't slow down now! You've been my rabbit this whole race so far!" I briefly passed her again, but she passed me with about 10 miles to go and I never caught her after that. Somewhere around here, I reached for my second water bottle (the other was empty already), fumbled it, and dropped it. I had a half-second urge to pull over and pick it up, but a) it was already rolling down the hill and b) I remembered that there were two volunteer stations on the course where they were handing out bottles with electrolyte drink. After a few more miles in the heat, I began to wish I had given up the 30 seconds or so it would've taken to grab my bottle. The aid stations were further away than I had anticipated! The last few miles were really tough on my neck. I have never been in the aero position non-stop for that long! I ended up sitting up for the last few miles simply for comfort. I was not particularly looking forward to running a half marathon at this point, but I was getting antsy to get off the bike.
Starting out on the bike - less than a mile from transition.
As I pulled back into transition at the end of my second bike lap, I saw John cheering for me and he yelled out that I was one of the first 10 half IM women in. I think my jaw almost hit the ground in disbelief. He then asked how I was feeling and I believe my exact words were "I think I'm going to throw up!" (Luckily, I didn't!!) I had a much more efficient T2, grab some more Gu's and head out to the run.
Around mile 6 of the run...
The run course for this event used to be very challenging from what I was told. There had been a very steep hill referred to as "devil's hill" (complete with person in devil costume to chase/motivate runners up the hill!). I was glad that they had revamped the course and changed it to a flat, double out-and-back course on a trail along the river. The first part of the asphalt trail was all in the sun. I didn't know which heat was worse: the heat coming up from the asphalt, or the heat from the sun. After about a mile and a half, the trail changed to crushed limestone and there were some areas of shade. By this time, it was past noon and I was sooooo hot. We've had such a mild summer in SW PA that I couldn't have prepared for running midday on a 90°+ day if I tried! At one or two points I felt a bit dizzy, so I took some walking breaks. After the turnaround at around mile 4, a girl passed me and I noticed she had a 27 on her leg. I remembered she was one of the first people I passed on the bike. She was going too fast for me to even try to match her pace though, so I didn't even try. On the way back in, I alternated some walking in with my runing whenever I felt too warm or my HR was too high. I told myself that this wasn't the Olympics and it wasn't worth having a heat stroke over. (I checked the weather report the day after, and it had been 91° during the run and the "real feel" was 94°.) There was a hose at one of the water stops, and getting sprayed with the cold water felt amazing! Volunteers were handing out cups of ice water at the rest stops, and I drenched myself every chance I got... I think really helped to keep me cool, although as I could feel the water squishing around in my shoes, I knew there would be some bad blisters to follow (and there were). I saw John again at the half-way turnaround and he said I was at about 1:10. Ugh, for 6 and a half miles? I was way behind the pace I had been hoping to run. At the beginning of that second lap, I started talking with a girl running next to me. We introduced ourselves and started talking about the heat and how difficult it was to run in it. We decided we'd try to stay together, alternating running and walking when necessary, to get to the finish line. My quads started feeling sore around mile 9ish and by mile 11 I could feel myself wearing out. I started lagging behind Lisa a bit, and she kept waiting for me and encouraging to keep going. At one point, I think I told her I didn't want to hold her back and that she could keep going and I'd finish on my own, and she shook her head and reminded me we were in this together and with that, I was able to get myself together and suck it up for the last mile. We ran through the finish line together - yay! We were so happy to be done! We really kept each other going on the last lap of the run... I know if she hadn't been there, I probably would've ended up walking much more than I did.
Lisa and I at the finish line