Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving Day Race Report

Sometimes how you feel during a race is inexplicable. I've gone into races well prepared and sometimes something great happens, other times things go as planned, occasionally the wheels fall off. When I know I'm unprepared the result is usually as expected, but every once in a while something unexpected happens. This is one of those inexplicable races. It wasn't the best 10k I've run. I was almost 2 minutes slower, however considering the shape I've been in over the last couple of weeks it should have been 10 minutes slower.

It started about 10 days ago when I was taken to the emergency room having a hard time breathing, with a high fever and some other not so fun symptoms. I found out I had the dreaded H1N1. It was one of the most unfun nights I've had maybe ever and I've had my share. I did have the good fortune to leave the hospital that night with a prescription and orders to stay at home away from the rest of the world. I spent the next week taking Tamiflu, cough medicine and Advil while waiting for it to pass. As luck would have it I did get the vaccine which probably helped my recovery.

I was able to get out for my first "run" on Thursday. I couldn't take sitting in my apartment anymore. I went out for a slow walking, shambling run in which I had to stop every now and again to have a coughing fit. At least I was outside again.

By race day I had gotten in a couple more runs including a slowish interval session the Tuesday before the race to get my legs warmed up. I didn't have high hopes for the race, but I was determined to show up. To add to the odds against a good race I had to work Wednesday night before the race. I had been on my feet for 12 hours. I've run on mornings after my work shifts before and it's usually not good. My legs are usually tired and stiff.

So I rolled up to the starting line Thursday morning with conservative goals. If I could I wanted to hit some 7:30 minute/miles, and if things weren't feeling good I would just back off and enjoy the morning. And a beautiful morning it turned out to be at race time. It was clear, sunny and cool, a perfect day for racing.

The gun sounded at 9 am and 15,000 plus runners and walkers were off! The first few miles were all about being conservative. When you're running in such a large crowd it's very easy to get caught up in the excitement and take off too fast. I didn't want to get caught up and then pay for it late in the race. I found a pace where I felt comfortable and stuck with it. For those first few miles I tried to keep it around 7:15 minute/miles. You know...conservative.  I felt good. I mean I felt really good, but I forced myself to hold back. I always felt one breath away from a coughing fit with the cool air.

The course starts in downtown Cincinnati just outside the football stadium up through the city and back across the river into Newport and Covington, Kentucky looping back around to the stadium. We hit the halfway point in Kentucky. Everything still felt good. I held a steady pace. I watched some pull ahead and others start to drop back as they were worn down by that early rush. Damn I feel good. Is this possible? The other shoe is going to drop soon. I know it.

It wasn't until mile 5 that I let myself believe that I really was going to pull this off. The proverbial shoe never dropped. This was really going to happen. With 1.2 miles to go I finally opened things up. That last 1.2 miles were amazing. I clocked my fastest mile during the final stretch as I let loose and smiled to the end enjoying the sunshine, the crowd, the feeling of my legs pumping and the cool air in my lungs. It may not have been my fastest 10K or my fastest Thanksgiving Day Race, but it felt really great. It has me excited about racing again.

Friday, November 06, 2009

750 on the run

With my 7 mile run today I reached one of my major goals of the year. Or is it my only goal of the year? I can't really remember. Since it's the only one I can remember let's say it's my most important goal for 2009. Drum roll please....I surpassed 750 miles today! *Signals balloon drop and confetti cannons explode*!!!  Woohoo! As you can see from the photo above I was tracking my progress with a challenge group on Buckeye Outdoors.

I first mentioned this goal on a blog post back in April. It was just a means to keep me motivated and running throughout the year. It appeals to my competitive nature and totally worked. Maybe if I started it a little earlier I could have topped 1,000 miles. There's always next year! Next year I may use my iPhone along with a Nike+ chip and take on some challenges over there. I tried it out for the first time last night when I forgot my Garmin and borrowed Gina's chip for a run. While not the most accurate device, and far more simplistic than all the information the Garmin can provide I could totally get sucked into the social aspect of the Nike+ site.  Check out my one lonely logged run.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Halloween '09: Run Like Hell

It's time kids. Dress up as your favorite super hero/character/rock star/slutty whatever. In my case it's my favorite rock star, but more on that later. This year Halloween kicked off with one of my favorite races: The Run Like Hell! This is my 4th running of the race and it has become very near and dear to my heart. I've run it in costume, just run it, and even volunteered on the Cystic Fibrosis committee that puts on the event. If you've never been out for the race check it out for sure.

This year I just went out to run the race. It was a last minute call since I worked the night before (until 7 am that morning) and the weather outlook wasn't so awesome. As the afternoon went on it stayed very warm and there was no sign of rain. I was feeling pretty good after getting some sleep, so I ran on over to the race site and signed up. This turned out to be more of an ordeal than I had anticipated.

After signing up for the race I decided to stop by the Running Spot and pick up one of the 100th Anniversary posters for the upcoming Thanksgiving Day Race. In my haste to get in and out I accidentally locked my keys in my car! I was flipping out. I walked up to my car, and the keys were hanging out of the ignition...mocking me. Luckily, after a chance meeting with my girl Gina she came to the rescue with the assistance of AAA. Thank goodness. If not for that it was pay a locksmith or break the window and pay for that. I considered breaking the window.

I made it to the race site with 5 minutes to spare. It gave me just enough time to squeeze up near the front. The street was packed behind the starting line and I didn't want to get caught in a mass of costumed bodies. Even though I haven't been doing any real training for 5k racing and didn't have any particular goal in mind there is a part of me that can't help but think about the top 50. I had come close a few years back. If I had a good race I might be able to crack it.

The beginning of the race is downhill. As usual with most races there is a mass sprint at the beginning and the key is to not get swept up in the sprint. If I can hold back I will definitely be seeing many of these people once we hit the cemetery and the massive hill to the top. If I didn't see them there I would probably see them on the hills after the cemetery. There is only one race that I have done that is more hilly, The Reggae Run, and that's because it is all hill. The Run Like Hell is a series of hills with one mammoth one in the middle. The only good part is the downhill finish.

I felt pretty comfortable during the first part of the race. I kept a steady pace at the beginning and didn't worry too much about if I was passing anybody or if they were passing me. I just wanted to let the pace flow. I had plenty of time to punish myself on the hills...and were they punishing. Once we hit the cemetery we were  plunged into darkness. So we're battling up hill and then back down on a foot path in the dark surrounded by other unpredictable runners. It's not really the best setting to set a blazing pace. But no worries, it's a fun run right?

By the time we left the cemetery I was feeling pretty wasted. The climb up just about did me in. Working 12 hour overnight shifts seems to have taken its toll in terms of endurance. I'm not sleeping a regular sleep schedule and I can tell it's effecting my running. Even on training runs I often feel exhausted by mid-run. I just tell myself it's good training for tough races and push on, but still it's not helping. So, after leaving the cemetery I hunkered down and just kept up the best pace I could for the remainder of the race. I put the top 50 and my time out of my mind I would just enjoy the run. How often do you get to race at night surrounded by 3,000 other costumed runners?

So I let it go until the last 1/4 mile or so. I wasn't going to roll over and give up. As we topped the last hill I knew we had one turn left and a downhill straightaway to the finish. I stepped on the gas and finished strong as any self respecting competitor would. My official time was 22:19. It's a good time, but not my best. I ran a 21:21 in '06. I found out later I just missed the top 50 again! I'm not sure exactly by how much since some runners paid for chip timing and others didn't, but I know I was close. Next year it's on...for real.