Monday, February 17, 2014

Granville 15-mile Winter Run Race Recap

I honestly don't think I could have scripted yesterday's race any better than it went.  I'm not sure if it was because of the training leading up to the race, the friends who accompanied me, or if the stars just happened to align, but... "everything is awesome!"
 The current movie hit "The Lego Movie",where everything is awesome!

A 1 PM start-time for a race isn't very typical, but I am lucky enough that the half that I ran in November had a 2 PM start, so I had some idea of how to eat pre-race.  I had my customary breakfast (2 scrambled eggs, 2 pieces of toast) at 7:30 AM, and at 9:30 AM I had a bowl of Cheerios.  I had re-read my blog entry about the half, and noticed that I said I probably could've had more to eat, so I made the choice to eat a banana at 11:30, and another one shortly after 12.  I felt great the entire race, fuel-wise, so I think I nailed it on that front.

My running buddy Jen picked me up at 11:15 and we headed out to Granville, which is about 30 minutes east of the city.  We have had so many fun long runs together, and the conversation is always great, so the drive flew by.  The race started and ended at Granville Intermediate School, which was totally awesome because they had the cafeteria open for the runners and spectators prior to the race.  It was a typical (for this winter, at least!) day in central Ohio... snow was falling, and the temps were hovering in the 20's.  As Jen said, it was only fitting for the type of winter that we had... anything but cold and snow would almost seem unfair!

 Random Ohio winter picture... although Granville is this pretty too!

Several of our MRTT pals were also doing this race, which was great.  It was a like a big party prior to the race starting.  We all hung out, hydrated, snacked, and used the restroom several times a piece (another perk of the school being open... indoor bathrooms!).  At around 12:50 we donned our hats/ear warmers/balaclavas and gloves, and headed out to the starting line.  The race itself was a 7.5-mile loop on the roads around the school.  It is a lollipop-shape, where you do half a circle (about 3 miles), then a short 1-mile out-and-back, and then another half-circle back to the start.  There is the choice of a 3-mile, 7.5-mile, or 15 mile race; most of my friends were doing the 15-miler.  

Photo: Pre-race with some MRTT gals :)
Jess, Tamara, me and Jeanne-Marie (Jen is superstitious about pre-race pics!)

The race started right on time.  Jen, Jeanne-Marie, Tamara and I were at the starting line together, but we all had our headphones on and were in race mode.  I did run side-by-side with Jeanne-Marie for a couple of miles, but soon I was by myself.  I knew what I was in for, since I'd studied the elevation map a bit, and of course Jen had warned me about the hills, but I was still pretty surprised by how quickly they came... and came... and came!  The real hills didn't actually start until around 2 miles in.  Then we hit the "stick" of the lollipop, which was a gradual incline to the turn-around, and a decline back out. 

The course tricks you a bit at that point, with a nice gradual decline for about a mile or so. I took my first GU during this part of the race, just before mile 5.  That was smart, because the real fun begins at around mile 5.5... there was this relatively short hill (only a tenth of a mile) that was steep (28 feet gain), and it was pure slush.  I think it was the hardest part of the race, hands down!  I kept feeling like I was going to fall down, as I had no traction whatsoever... or even just slide down backwards as I ran!  Crazy... once we got past that hill, the next mile-plus was essentially all up-hill.  The "monster hill" was in this part of the race (right before mile marker 6.5), with a gain of 44 feet in just under two-tenths of a mile. Thank goodness we've been doing those weekly hill sessions on Wednesday mornings, because I never would've made it up!

The final mile of the loop was downhill as we headed back towards the school.  I was feeling pretty good at that point.  A few women flew by me, and I called out to them, "Are you doing the 15 mile?"  Of course, none were, which is why they were flying by me... they were finishing their races!  I was very happy with my splits for the first half of the race:

Mile 1: 9:26
Mile 2: 9:21
Mile 3: 9:18

Mile 4: 9:11
Mile 5: 9:07
Mile 6: 9:14 (those darn hills!)

Mile 7: 9:04

I stepped over the finishing pads at almost exactly 1 hour 9 minutes.  This was exactly where I wanted to be, and again, I was feeling pretty awesome at this point.  I knew what was ahead of me, of course, but I realized that most of the runners had stopped after the first loop, and I could tell the runners ahead of me were not in as good of shape as I was. The goal at that point became to see how many people I could pick off.  I'd see someone, focus on them, and as soon as I'd pass them, it was on to the next person.  That is my favorite part of racing... passing people!  I am so glad I took the race out relatively easy, so that I could really race the second half.  The wind picked up during the second half of the race, and it was pretty fierce in the flat areas of the course.... so much so that I commented to two guys who I was passing that I actually preferred the hills!

I took my 2nd GU right after mile 10, as I was approaching the out-and-back part of the race again.  I was excited for this part, as I thought I might see a few of my friends as I was heading back towards the loop.  I really had no clue how anyone was doing.  There were virtually no spectators at this race (I had fun waving to the volunteers, though!), so honestly I was just looking forward to seeing some friendly faces.  I did see Jeanne-Marie just as I was heading back onto the loop, and was able to give her a quick high-five.  I later learned that Jen was right behind her, and Tamara was dealing with some awful stomach issues.  At the time, though, I was so into my race that I couldn't focus on much else.

The annoyingly-slushy hill wasn't any better the second time around (couldn't someone have shoveled it, for crying out loud?  It was only 0.1 miles!), and I was thrilled to be over it.  It was at around that point (mile 13) that I was ready for the race to be DONE. I checked my watch at 13.1 miles and was happen to see that I had ran it in 1:58:50, which is my 2nd-fastest half ever.  I couldn't wait to get to the top of that "monster" hill, though, and look down at the school for the finish!  It was right around here that I was passed by the only person who actually passed me during the entire second loop (I passed 11 people total during that loop... of course, that one person passing me really bugged me!).  I tried to get him during the final two miles, but he had ran a race very similar to mine and just out-kicked me. 

As usual, I was overcome with emotion at the finish.  I choked up immediately upon crossing the finisher pad and the tears started to fall.  I wanted to collapse from sheer pain, but I knew that if I stopped moving, I'd cramp up, so I walked in circles and chatted with the girls at the water/Gatorade table at the finish line.  I really wanted to see my friends finish, but I did get cold waiting.  It was worth it, though... Jeanne-Marie and Jen had a great race to the finish line!  We went inside at that point, and met back up with Tamara and Jess when they came soon thereafter.  

Photo: We did it!! No finisher mug... or medal... but we rock!!
                                                                               Jen and me, post-race (foggy camera!)

Here were my splits for the second half of the race...
Mile 8: 8:58
Mile 9: 8:58
Mile 10: 8:59

Mile 11: 9:03 (mostly uphill)
Mile 12: 8:35 (all downhill)
Mile 13: 8:41 (downhill except for that darn slushy hill at the end of it!)
Mile 14: 8:49 (all uphill)
Mile 15: 8:16 (downhill)

My Garmin time was 2:16:28 for 15.17 miles, which is a 9:00/mile pace.  Officially, I ran a 2:16:24, and placed 46th out of 76 runners (14th out of 28 females, 2nd in my age group--only 6 women though LOL). 

The most disappointing part of the race?  No finishers' bling.  I wasn't expecting a medal or anything, but in past years they always gave everyone a nice mug.  This year: nada.  And only the 1st place finisher in each age group got a prize.  So I walked away with empty hands... almost.  My friend Melanie (another MRTT group member who was running in the 7.5-mile race) had a friend there who represented a local car dealership.  He gave both of us awesome purple windbreaker-type jackets.  They are very cute and I am going to consider it my "finisher's prize" :)

After the race, we skipped out on the soup, got 5-minute massages that were totally, well, awesome!... and then Jen and I headed to a local joint for burgers.  They were not the greatest burgers, but we both would've eaten just about anything at that point.  Running makes you VERY HUNGRY!!! :)  It was fun to chill after the race and rehash everything that had gone down.  I'm lucky to have such a great friend to share it with.  I definitely will do this race again next year.  It makes me feel... awesome :)

Up next on the agenda... it's time to increase my miles!  My first full marathon is just under 9 weeks away, and I need to not only increase my long runs on Sundays, but also dial up my weekday miles.  I'm excited about it, though.  I love training so much more than racing.  No races planned in March, although my son Joey's soccer team might be running in a 5K race, and I will likely run with him if they do.  April will be busy, though, with the Xenia half marathon on 4/6, and then Glass City on 4/27.  Bring it on! :)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Ready for spring

If I were asked to rank the seasons in order of preference, winter would never come out on top.  I love the fall, and the spring is great too.  Winter and summer are just too extreme for me.  I do enjoy the relatively unscheduled nature of my summers, with being on break from school and most of the kids' activities also on hiatus.  However, from a running perspective, I have to say that winter would top summer any day for me.  I really do hate running in high temps/humidity.  

Taken after my 5K PR last July... happy but HOT.

That all being said, I am completely over winter.  We've gone from a polar vortex in early January with wind chills as cold as -40 degrees, to another less intense cold spell (the wind chills were only around -20, but the actual temps were around -10), to Mother Nature dumping 8+ inches of snow on Central Ohio.  All in a one-month period.  I am grateful for Jen, my awesome running partner who doesn't mind running in snow/cold, and for the treadmill at the gym when the conditions simply don't allow for me to get on the road.  Not sure how I managed to rack up 124 miles in January, but I'm pretty darn proud of that, given what I was running through!  I am well on my way to my goal of 1000 miles this year.  In fact, if things stay on track, I could go 1400 for 2014.  Not saying that's my goal... yet :)

Our coldest run together yet--it was -8 degrees out this day, and there was no snow falling... that was FROST on our masks!

Training is going well for my next race, which is a beast of a 15-miler out in Granville in 10 days.  I ran my half out there in November on a relatively flat trail.  This race is the complete opposite... full of hills, both big and small.  It's a 7.5 mile loop that I will run twice.  My new running pal, Jen, persuaded me to give this race a try.  I got the elevation map in an e-mail the other day, and I have to admit, I got scared!  
The elevation is in green underneath the actual map... zoom in to get a better idea of what I'm in for!

Holy hills!  However, I have been running hill repeats at 4:30 AM on Wednesday mornings with anywhere from 1-5 other women for the past two months.  We run a mile, do a few hill repeats, run a few more miles, and do a few more hill repeats before running a mile to end it.  For me, it's not the hills so much as it is getting through the rest of the day when I'm waking up before 4 AM.  I've gotten accustomed to it, though, and love my early morning posse of running friends.  

Other than running the hills on Wednesdays, I've been incorporating two faster workouts on Mondays and Fridays (one intervals, one tempo or progressive run), and of course one long run per week on Sundays.  My Monday and Friday runs are solo, and Jen and I do the Sunday runs together.  For the past two weeks I've been lucky enough to fit in a "bonus" fifth run (short and easy) on Saturday morning with Jen as well, which is really just icing on the cake.  I absolutely love running with her; we have amazing conversations and the miles literally do fly by.  

I've also added in some core/strength training twice a week (30-40 minutes each time).  Nothing big... planks, squats, leg lifts, and random core and arm videos that I find on YouTube.  But I really do feel this is helping with my core strength.  I can feel it in my stomach/abs when I am running.  So, in sum, I really do feel like training is going well, and I am excited for Sunday the 16th!  I've never ran a 15 mile race before, so this will be a PR in time as well as in distance for me.  My race plan: take the first 7.5 miles out at a relatively easy pace, and then do what I can on the 2nd loop!  I hope to negative-split it like I usually do on my races.  I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a time goal.  Sub-2:20 (which is a 9:20/mile pace) would rock, given the hilly course and the winter weather conditions.  I'm fine with adjusting that mid-race, though, depending on how I am feeling.  I will update after the race! :)