Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Monday, October 22, 2012

Hidden Forest Trail Run

For some reason, I felt the need to do another race for the third weekend in a row. I was feeling like I had mostly healed from the half marathon and knew some others that were going to run the Hidden Forest Trail Run at Independence Oaks County Park, so I decided to go for it.

One aspect of the race that was appealing to me was the price. They offered a no t-shirt option for $7 ($10 late registration like I did) or the race with the shirt for $17 ($20). I went without a shirt, though they were nice, long sleeve shirts (some women I knew at the race commented that they didn't like the colors). Based on our family's finances, I am becoming increasingly price conscious when it comes to racing. It's hard to harp on others spending money when I am spending on "non-essentials" like racing (I see it as the cost of maintaining fitness, but that's another topic). The race was run by the Riverbend Striders, a group out of Flushing, MI (suburb of Flint), who put on 8 - 10 races yearly. This race is the southern-most of the races they organize. Apparently, because they aren't trying to make a bunch of money, they can keep their race prices reasonable.

The main entrance to the park was closed because of construction, so we had to take a detour to another park entrance. This detour was on a dirt road and with the recent rains, it was quite bumpy and messy (I still need to wash my car). The registration took place at the Twin Chimneys pavilion, which, in fact, does have 2  fireplaces and chimneys. It was a warm place to hang out and stay out of the drizzle. Happily, the rain stopped prior to the race.

I decided to run the 5.5 mile race as a training for some future 10k. All 3 race distances (2.5, 5.5 and 8.5 miles) started at the same time and with a good amount of runners, the starting line was a bit of a cluster.For some reason (perhaps the detour), the race started late too. Anyhow, once we got going, I was running with a couple of my Brooksie Way running buddies and one encouraged me to just run around the pack and go. After hesitating for a moment, I took off along the side of the trail and passed massive amounts of people (this race had enough people that they should have asked people to line up by pace).

Even though I was passing people, my pace wasn't what I was hoping for and, once we hit the hills, that pace went out the window (it has been months since I ran on a flat course). I struggled a bit more than I was expecting, but started to feel better around mile 3 - before I went the wrong way. There was a fork where one direction when ahead and the other to the finish chute. It wasn't marked well (unlike the rest of the course) and when I was getting near it, I shouted to the volunteers asking which way to go for the 5.5 mile race. Instead of saying "left" or "right", she said "straight", so I continued straight from where I was on the path. Unfortunately, this was the wrong way and sent me towards the chute where the 2.5 milers were finishing. I was ticked and considered just going through the finish and being done. Instead, I ran back the way I came and went the right way. It probably cost me about a minute and, more importantly, I just felt deflated. Running is very (mostly?) mental and I was not mentally strong about the wrong turn. It probably took about a mile after that to quit worrying about the wrong turn.

The second loop was much hillier than the first, with a couple redonkulous hills. I caught several people during / after the hills and started to feel a little better as a result. I had one runner who was probably a tenth of a mile ahead of me with less than a half-mile to go in my sights and my mini-goal was to catch him. I came close and, if I would have done my madman sprint at the end, I would have caught him, but I didn't want to look insane, so I just cruised down the chute to the finish.

My finish time was 42:56, which was just 30 seconds off my goal for the day. I was cool with that considering the wrong turn, but it was less so when I found that, even with the extra distance with my wrong turn, the course was about .25 miles short according to my Garmin. After waiting for some people to finish, we headed back to Twin Chimneys to view the results. The age group awards were plaques and I wanted one, if only because I have medals, ribbons, certificates and trophies, but no plaques. I was prepared to be angry if my wrong turn cost me one, but it didn't. I finished 5th, out of the money, and even if I didn't make the wrong turn, I probably wouldn't have placed any higher. I'm still not fast enough to expect to win anything, but well... I want to win. :) A couple of the people I met at the race did win something and I am happy for them, they did great!

Despite the wrong turn and not winning anything, I enjoyed the race. Hopefully, they can work out a couple kinks, but it was nice to have a local trail race with a good turnout. This won't ever be a "goal race", but if it works out that I can participate in the future, I will likely do so.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Race report - MSP Fall Colors 5k

I haven't posted in a while, mainly because my laptop broke. Sure, we have another computer, but that is al the way in the other room. I can run 13 miles, but gettting up and sitting at the desk is just way too much to ask. Well, I finally broke down and got a new laptop (it would have cost almost as much to fix the old one), so I am back and comfy on the couch.

Anyhow, I ran races the last 2 weekends. They weren't anything spectacular (both the races and my performances), but I enjoyed them anyway. I guess I'll hit the first race in this post.

I was not at all ready to run the MSP Fall Colors 5k the weekend after the Brooksie Way Half Marathon. I was not "healed up" from the race and my legs, while improved over the previous couple days, were just not right.  However, when there was an opportunity to run with a free entry from Renewal by Andersen Detroit, I jumped at it. As another bonus, a couple of my Brooksie Way teammates were going to be there.

I got there early and it was cold! Luckily, the rain was holding off or it would have been miserable. I signed up, got my stuff, tried to find people and attempted to keep warm. Before the race started, there was a nice ceremony as a tribute to officers that had fallen during the year (the purpose of the race was to raise money for Thin Blue Line, an organization which helps families effected by loss or injury of state troopers and other officers). I am NOT complaining about the ceremony it was very nice and honored several officers who had passed while on duty or otherwise. However, from purely a running standpoint, it wasn't ideal to stand mostly still for about 20 minutes in the cold.

After the ceremony, we all walked to the starting line. We thought we were at the back of the pack, but once we got there, we found out the race was going in the other direction, which was a bonus. After some goofing around and getting things ready, we started. It wasn't a road race, but not quite a trail run either. The course was a bit hilly, especially early. Almost immediately, I knew this wasn't going to be a PR day. The course was too hilly, terrain a bit tough and I just didn't have "it".

Late in the race, I started catching some people, but I didn't follow through and once I caught up to them, I was too tired to really try to pass and was content just to cruise to the finish. I ended up finishing a little over a minute off my PR. Others that I was with did well.

My favorite part of the race was the Affy Tapple (caramel apple) at the end of the race. OK, Affy Tapples. I ate one and, because it was so cold, it was as hard as a rock. It was still good and I grabbed one more when I saw they were packing up with many apples left. The second one didn't have nuts on it and was not as good... but it was still good.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

I Love It When a Plan Comes Together - Brooksie Way Half Marathon

On September 30th, I ran the Brooksie Way Half Marathon and it went exactly as planned, but in some ways it was different than I thought it would be.

I arrived early and got a primo parking space near the porta-potties (not too close thankfully) and was near the race start. This was much better than last year, when we had to take the shuttle in. I wandered around for a while, looking for people I knew and hung out in various tents to keep warm. It would be ideal running weather, but not so much ideal standing around weather.

I found the majority of my Brooksie Way Half Marathon teammates before the race as well as Jeff from Detroit Runner and Matt & Janet from Faster Than a Turtle among others. Once we got ready to go in the corral, we were talking about what we wanted to do in the race. I told everyone I planned to keep between a 8:10 to 8:20 per mile pace, going a little faster at the start and to hang on through the hills to finish below 1:50, my goal from the start of the year.

Soon, the race began and, after the first half mile cluster, things loosened up and I began to hit my stride. I have never felt so good during a race in my life. I was running about 8 min / mile pace for the next couple miles, but I felt like I could have gone so much faster. I think I would have PRed any distance this day and had to reign myself in as not to overdo it.

Felt pretty good  for the first 6 miles and then felt the first signs of fatigue in my legs. It wasn't bad and came later than usual, but I thought to myself "So, this is how it's gonna be for the rest of the race." If only I were so lucky...

Paint Creek trail was nice and then you turn onto Tienken, where the hills start. Taken alone, each individual hill is not that bad. They're long but not ridiculously steep. What gets you is that they go on and on for about 4 miles with little relief. Sure, there are the downhills, but they don't make up for the uphills and serve a role in the tiring of legs. By mile 11, I had my energy, I was breathing well, but my legs were in pain. My whole upper leg hurt somethin' fierce. Thankfully, there was no injury, just pretty bad fatigue - even more than I felt during the Crim race.

Dunno what's up with the A-Team Theme

While early in the race I had delusions of grandeur, reality was coming down pretty hard at this point. I just kept pushing so that I wouldn't see that 1:50 pace group, whom I chose to cruise by early in the race, pass me up near the end. I never looked behind me and, to my delight, I never did see them. Heading up the final hill leading to the finish, I saw the clock and it said 1:49-something. Last year, I charged up that hill like a madman. This year, I didn't feel like doing that, knowing that I would beat my goal. Those couple seconds didn't matter to me at that point.

After finishing, I scarfed some oranges and other food down. Boy, did I hurt. That was the surprise of the race. Because I felt so good early, I think I was in shock that I felt so bad late. Beating my goal was supposed to be like a coronation, instead it felt like I had run the gauntlet.  I hadn't hurt that much after running since...well, last year's race, when my knees ached horribly (this issue has since been corrected with proper footwear).

I met up with most of my team after the race and just about everyone had a great race and set PRs. We headed to the team tent where this year, there was actually much food and drink. The drink was good and the food was decent (too much carbs - need carbs before a race, not after), but I was satisfied. Spent some time with my teammates, who are now my friends and then made the trip home, where the recovery began.

My official time was 1:49:09, which I am very happy with. My mind tries to play the "what-if" game. What if the course was flatter? What if I would have went faster when I felt good early on? What if I ran more miles and my legs were more prepared for the hills? And so on and so forth. Successfully, I managed to shut off the "what ifs" and am just happy with how I did. 

I knocked off 15 minutes from last years race and 7 minutes from the spring, on what was an easier course. I had a plan and executed it well. I went from being to the bottom third of my age group to to top third in a year. I beat a goal that I thought would be the hardest one of the year. I am content but never satisfied and that is a good thing.