Saturday, March 5, 2011

Opening up a can......

This morning was my 2nd year running the Little Cow Harbor 4 Miler. Wingman and I ran it last year and we liked it so much we made a point of going back this year to do it again. The race director and organizers do such a great job putting the whole race together. The course is challenging, the race shirt is a nice long sleeve shirt, great goodie bag, outstanding volunteers, and of course a great post race spread. But before you can celebrate your race, you have to get through the course.

Thursday I had my 3 mile run test and while I put up great numbers for it, I knew I could not run them today. Thursday was a nice flat run. Also, after my run I had some gnawing hamstring issues. Right where the hamstring starts at the base of your butt hurt every time I took too big of a step. I walked gingerly Thursday night and all day Friday. When race morning came along, I agonized over which pair of running shoes to wear - lightweights or regular trainers. I wore the lightweights for Thursday's run (hadn't worn them since January) and I wondered if they would be any good for this race. About ten minutes to the start I went with the lightweights. I did an easy warmup so my hip/hamstring would loosen up. At the start line I felt confident that it would hold up.

This race doesn't have any major hills to it but it is a rolling course. When the siren went off, so did I. I knew a PR would be difficult to achieve on this course so I gave it no more thought. The first half mile is mostly gently rolling downhill. I didn't try to weave in and out of the crowd. I knew in enough time that I would get some space. And once we came upon the first incline, things opened up. I just kept my focus and stayed relaxed. Nice and easy up the hill. I vaguely remember some parts of the course from last year so I knew a flat section was coming up. But too bad mother nature had different plans. On the flat was a nice headwind. For real. I saw the one mile marker ahead and I checked the garmin for my 1st mile pace. I was surprised at how fast I came through that mile. I knew I would slow down a little but it was all about hanging on.

By now I was feeling pretty loose and ready to open up some more. But we came upon another rolling section. At this point I had to try and just hold my pace instead of dropping it down. The wind and the hills was not making it easy. By the time I got to mile 2, my pace had slowed. I remembered just before mile 3 we'd have a nice downhill leading into a flat section to make up the time. I didn't worry about it and noticed that I was starting to pick people off. Hmm, this is totally new to me. Usually I get picked off in races. At this point it was a game. I would find someone and try to reel them in.

As I came upon the downhill section around mile 2.8, I saw a young girl that looked like she ran track. With my tunnel vision laser focus, I picked it up a little and made my pass. Hasta la vista baby.

I was running like a woman possessed. The thoughts of getting a negative split in this race filled me head. It wouldn't be too hard to do thinking back to what I ran the 2nd mile in. When the 3rd mile came up, I saw the times had come back down again. That 2nd mile was just a bad memory. 

Next up was some guy running in a red shirt. It caught my eye like a bull to a matador's cape. He was a little up the road, but I dropped my speed some more and reeled him in. I made my pass and now it was a matter of not letting him pass me. Suddenly this sickening feeling came over me. The last quarter mile is uphill. No way I could keep up this pace going up that hill. Also, fatigue was setting in. When the start of the last hill came, I almost came to a complete stop. I was moving so slowly that I thought I was going backwards. What makes it worse is there are two quick turns to break up your momentum - a left then a right. When the right turn came up into the parking lot of the school, all I wanted to do was lie down in the grass. I have no idea why, but that's what I felt like doing. But I HTFU'd and made it to the finish line in one piece. I looked at my time and noted it was 4 minutes faster than last year. Not too shabby an improvement. The course measured out a little over miles (~4.1) so the pace listed for me on the results (4.0 miles) was actually slower than what my watch showed. 

I did a quick cool down and waited for the Wingman to finish. After he crossed the line, we hit the food lines. There was a ton of fruit, cookies, rolls, and awesome chicken & rice soup. I treated myself to a chocolate chip cookie and a honkin' bowl of soup that had chunks of chicken in it. I think Wingman even had a second bowl. We checked our race times and I saw that I finished 6th out of 41. Not a bad way to run my first race since I've aged up to a new division. I'm like the spring chicken in the division.

We went into the gym where the raffle had been picked during the race. They have a poster up with race bib numbers listed next to prizes. Turns out I also won a $50 gift card to Eastbay Sports. As Charlie Sheen would say "WINNING!!!" I did a bit of stretching to work out the hamstring and then we headed home.

Though I did not get a PR today (wasn't trying for one) I am pleased with my race. I faltered a little at the end, but I felt solid throughout. I had two hard runs in 3 days and I put up great numbers for both runs. Especially this one being a hilly run. I'm not much of a hill runner but I hung in there and gave it all that I had. I am eager to see what the next few weeks of long running will bring. Running fast over a short distance is OK, I want to excel over some longer distances. The half marathon in April will be my first real test of it. 

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