Sunday, March 29, 2009

Heart Mini '09 - 2 Beats

You always hope for ideal conditions when planning a race. It would be great if it were always in the mid-50's, maybe a little overcast so you don't have to worry about sun burn or annoying glare. How about a nice breeze , but not too windy please? It all sounds great. It's what you always hope for, but rarely get. Today was none of that and worse.

Race morning it was pretty ugly with high winds and rain. Ugh. Gina and I lined up for the 5k. My job for this race was to pace Gina and bring her in to victory. Things didn't go quite as planned. I failed. I was later informed I was a "bad pacer". Still, we had a good race despite the cold, rain and wind. Thanks mostly to the fun race mix Gina had put together. I'll have to work on my pacing skills for future races. I will lead her to a pr. fo sho.

When it came time for the 15K things hadn't really improved. The wind was still blowing and it was still raining intermittently. My goal for the race was to beat my time from last year of 1:05:05. It was my goal, but honestly I had my doubts about running a pr this year. I had a list of excuses: Last year I was training for the Flying Pig Marathon, so I was putting in a lot more miles at this point. I am just recovered from my IT band injury from the fall, so I started training later than usual. I am under some stress, so my head might not be fully in the race...blah, blah. I'm such a self defeaters sometimes. Still, I would give it all I have and if it falls apart so be it.

The race begins...

The race is out and back. We head out of the city on Rt. 50 to a turn around point and come back. It's more downhill on the way out and up hill on the way back. With that in mind I decided to forgo trying to run negative splits and decided to go out a little faster than 7 min/miles to build a cushion and try to hold on up the hills on the way back. I don't know if that's a great idea, but it was the plan. Maybe I'll try for negative splits next year.

The first 5K was a breeze. I kept my pace between 6:45 and 7 minute miles just trying to keep my stride smooth and get into the groove of the race. It was spitting rain off and on which actually felt pretty good. As for the wind..not so much. Once you leave the city and the buildings to block the wind you're out in the open where the wind can be brutal, and it was. At this point though, I wasn't feeling it. The first 5K was a very good 21:17.

The second 5K is an interesting one. I'm out to the turn around at just about the 4.5 mile mark and it's back toward the city. Nothing particularly spectacular about that. It becomes a little more of an uphill battle, the legs start to feel the miles accumulate, but overall things were well under control. The kicker comes at mile 5.8 where I make a right turn off Rt. 50 for a short, but grueling hill climb. It's actually slightly less grueling than in years past. They've pushed the start back a little and the turn around up a little, so it's .20 miles of torture instead of..well..more.

Fortunately I was well prepared for .2 miles or more of torture up Torrence. As part of my training regimen I always include at least a month of hill work. For the Heart Mini that involved a couple weeks on another hill and 3 weeks of doing 1/4 mile repeats on Torrence. Run to the bottom of Torrence, turn around up Torrence. Repeat until you want to kill yourself. So, as I turned to go up Torrence it felt like just another day out running. I shortened my stride, put my head down and gutted it out. It was the least amount of fun you can imagine having. That would be no fun.

Mile 7 was spent trying to recover from the hill. It was my slowest mile at 7:20 and the point at which I started to calculate how fast I would need to run the last 2.3 miles to pr. If I could just keep it under 8 min/miles I should be there! This could actually happen.

Mile 8 was spent mentally preparing myself for the final climb. It is a two part ball buster. You head up a hill that isn't terribly steep, then it flattens out a bit for a few yards. Then, bam!, up a steeper grade to the top. ball. buster.

I hit that hill between miles 8 and 9 and I was hit back smack in the face by a mean head wind. I gritted my teeth and leaned into it. The runners near me probably thought I was crazy because late in the race I become sort of delirious. I'm pretty sure I was grunting, growling like an animal when I wasn't cussing at the wind.

When I cleared the hill I knew I had done it. The final .3 miles felt like a victory lap. A painful, cold, quad aching, calf cramping victory lap. I smiled all the way in while keeping my eye on the clock near the finish line as it neared 1:05. I knew I had about a 20 second delay from the time the clock started until I crossed the finish line, but I pushed it just in case.

I smiled and waved at Gina as I crossed the finish line in 1:04:53. A small margin for improvement, but it felt like a great victory over the injury that plagued me in the fall and early in the year as well as the weather that seemed to do what it could to make the race uncomfortable as hell for all of us. Suck it weather.

We celebrated with a great brunch with some friends of Gina's and enjoyed the rest of the day by doing absolutely nothing. She has her own perspective on the day along with a moment that we can all aspire to achieve in racing. Check it out.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Let The Races Begin!

Finally 2009 racing season is upon us..or me. I'm hoping to kick it off right this weekend with a trail run from one of the Dirt Days Trail Series. I say I'm hoping because I haven't fully committed to the race and may end up scrapping it. Regardless the race season will start in earnest 2 weeks after that with the Heart Mini-Marathon.

I'm looking forward to the Heart Mini this year and possibly taking down my previous 15k PR of 1:05. I'm feeling pretty good about it as workouts have been going well with lots of hills and speed work recently. As long as I can keep the knees and IT bands healthy I'll have a good shot at it.

I'm also excited to be putting the Little Miami Triathlon back on the schedule. I have been asked to join a team this year which will mean partnering up for the canoe. Apparently there are several other teams that we will be racing against. The slowest team buys beer or something. Whatever the stakes it will be fun to get out for some friendly competition on an extremely fun race. It will give me incentive to get back on the bike this year to prepare for race day. The focus has been so much on the marathons in the last year or so that my biking has taken a back seat.

What am I doing sitting here typing? I should be out running my hills.