Monday, December 14, 2015

Race recap: Holiday Run 4-miler

I should subtitle this one as "The race that wasn't a race until about 5 minutes before it started!"  That was literally when I decided I would treat this race as an actual race, and not just another fun run with friends.  Lately, that's how my "races" have all been.  The Run for the Health of it 4-miler on Labor Day, the Donut Run 5K, the Ohio State 4-miler... even the Market-to-Market relay wasn't really a "race" for me.  I haven't set out to run fast since March 22, when I had one of the most amazing races of my life in Virginia Beach.  Since then, injuries have kept me from wanting to push myself.  Don't get me wrong, I have really enjoyed running races for the fun of it... two of them were with my 10-year-old son, and those were amazing!  I also go to pace my friend Molly to an amazing PR at the Donut Run.  So, the races haven't been in vain... they just haven't been for me.  A few close friends knew that I was contemplating racing this one, and one of them said to me, "Feeling selfish lol?"  As a matter of fact, I was! 

I have honestly wanted to do this race ever since I started running in 2012.  It is one of several races that take place each year in my hometown, but the only one that is at Sharon Woods, the metro park where I grew up picnicking, playing on the playground, and riding my bike with my dad and my siblings.  I can recall having to walk my bike up the huge hills on the 4-mile trail, and the feeling of satisfaction the day when I finally was able to ride all the way up without stopping!  Now I would get to RUN on those hills!  I've ran on the paved trail several times, of course, but not recently as the loops can get a bit boring.

I had three options for this race.  I could run it with my friend Tamara, who initially had been the main reason I'd signed up--we were going to race together and get her a sweet PR in the low 32's.  Her knee has been giving her fits since the Chicago marathon, though, so she was going to run it a bit slower of a pace (9-9:30/mile).  I could run it with Molly, and try to help her achieve another PR.  Or... I could go ahead and see what I had in me.  I decided to wait until after my warm-up miles with Felicia to see how my heel felt.  I ended up resting (not planned) the two days prior to the race, which made my heel very happy!  Felicia and I met shortly after 8 AM and were able to fit in 4 miles prior to the start of the race.  I felt good on our warm-up... very good.  Good enough to know that it was going to be go-time for me.  Just before the race started, I popped a piece of "Plow On" gum (something new I'm trying out that I really like--I'll blog about it another time though!) and after a pic with some of my MRTT friends, I headed to the front of the pack.  

Volunteers + runners from MRTT!

Ready to go... see me in purple???
This is a smallish race--under 300 runners.  However, the path that we'd be running on is tight, and I didn't want to get stuck behind people.  I found my friend Jenni who I knew would definitely be speedy (she always is!), and talked for a bit with her and Joan.  I said hi to my friend Tamara's husband Josh, who would be the eventual winner of the race, and got a big hug from my favorite MIT-pacer-dude Steve.  

After the national anthem and the countdown, we were off!  

Here we go!
It was great to actually take off and RUN!  I felt so smooth, so light on my feet.  I watched as Jenni and one other women took off at a pace that was a bit faster than I was comfortable with.  I decided not to look at my watch for the first mile, to just think about relaxing and breathing and my form.  One other younger girl ran by me early on, and at that point I knew I was running in 4th among the women.  The first mile of the race was very flat, and ended at the bottom of the first hill. Sharon Woods is one of the only places in Westerville where you can truly find hills to run.  There are a few big ones, and with a 3.8-mile loop, they can't be avoided in this race.  I peeked at my watch as I passed the mile-1 marker and was elated to see a 7:10.  I felt good, and was kind of amazed to see this time--it was my fastest mile in a race ever!  Kind of crazy!  It was at this point that I was passed by the only runners who would pass me during the race--a speedy pair (male and female) who were chatting it up.  Clearly this pace was an easier one for them than it was for me, as even though I felt great, I couldn't imagine trying to talk while holding low-7's!  I decided I was very comfortable with being 5th among women at that point.

For as wonderful as mile 1 felt, mile 2 felt incredibly hard.  The bulk of the hills were in this mile, and I had to work hard to control myself as we ran down them and not get overwhelmed going back up again.  As I mentioned previously, I know this trail like the back of my hand, so I was very happy when we crested the final big hill.  I was pleased with my split of 7:36 at mile marker 2, especially with all of those hills.  I knew that the rest of the course was nothing more than slight inclines.  Unfortunately, I had trouble during the third mile with my breathing.  The air was so humid!  I focused hard on maintaining a relaxed breathing pattern, but it was not easy.  I remember wishing that this race would magically become a 5K!  I could see Jenni ahead of me still, as well as the younger runner who had passed me early in the first mile of the race.  Jenni had just passed her, and I knew that I would be able to if I stayed consistent.  This helped me a lot during that third mile--trying to catch up to her!  The split for that mile was a 7:41.   Right around the 5K distance, I finally overtook the high-schooler.  I wondered if I could maybe catch Jenni as well, but I just didn't have it in me to push it any harder than I was.  I also realized at that time that I would very likely run a sub-30 minute race, which has been a secret goal of mine in the 4-mile distance for ages.  I was content with that knowledge, and didn't need to push any more than I already was.

We rounded the corner to the finish, and I quickly realized that the race was going to be short.  UGH!  I hate that!  I had been spot-on with all of the mile markers, but that last mile 
ended up only being 0.96.  I turned on my grin for the photographer...

My final split was a 7:03 (which was a pace of 7:22).  I half-considered running through the finish line to get 4.00 on my watch, but instead enjoyed the finishing experience.  I had finished as the 4th overall female, 3rd in my age group (yes, 30-39 year old women are FAST!), and 15th overall in the race out of 277 runners, with an official time of 29:31.  Not too shabby for my return to racing!  This was a 6+ minute PR for me, as I haven't raced a 4-miler since March of 2013 (my 2nd race ever).  Granted, the final 4 miles of my half marathon in March were a 29:27... but I was in the best shape of my life for that race, and I'd laid it all on the line.  This race was more about me gaining confidence in my ability to run fast again, and it gave me exactly what I needed.

After the race, my  heel tightened up almost instantly.  I was annoyed, as it'd felt great during my warm-up and during the race.  I set out to do my two easy miles, joining first Josh for a bit, then Jenni and Joan.  I had 10 miles on the schedule for the day, but I took those last two extremely easy, finishing at the race finish so that I could see my friends and hang out a bit more.  

Jenni and me, after the race
MIT pacers plus me, Molly and Sharon

My takeaways from this race: 

1) I haven't lost my ability to run fast!  I honestly was worried about this, as it'd been so long since I tried.

2) I can go out strong in a race and (while not negative-splitting) still finish strong.  This is a mental thing for me, and I was very happy to prove to myself that I could do it.

3) Running fast isn't my heel's favorite thing.  I'm hoping that the MRI on Wednesday shows plantar fasciitis or something else that I can work with and still incorporate speed starting in January.  I won't need to run as fast as I did today, thankfully, so hopefully it will all work out!

YAY, big ol' PR to finish off 2015!

1 comment:

  1. 35-39 is such a fast age group. Glad I've graduated from that!!! Great job!