Sunday, March 13, 2011

So that's what a race feels like

Two weekends ago I did my first race of 2011. This is a local 10-miler, which is pretty much the longest running race I'll consider doing these days, and it's pretty hilly. Here's what I said about it a week or so in advance on the discussion board for our triathlon team:

I'm doing it if the weather isn't a disaster and if the roads in Shutesbury have lost their covering of several inches of ice.

For the record, the weather was kind of a disaster--snow storm that morning--and the roads had lost most of their ice and replaced it with a mixture of slush, snow and mud. My husband was leaving for Iowa that morning, and I had a babysitter lined up to take care of the kids during the race. This was complicated by the fact that our regular babysitter is training for her first marathon, so she was doing the race as well. (Note to self: pick lazier babysitters.) Babysitter #2 (who is no slouch herself, athletically) called the night before at 10:45 pm to alert me that she was throwing up and had a fever. (Note to self: pick babysitters who don't work with children regularly--in fact, better if they avoid all contact with other humans and human germs.) So the morning of the race I waited until a civilized 8:30 am and called my friend Nancy to ask if I could bring the kids to her house before the race. I did a really fun warmup of shoveling wet snow and slush off our driveway, ditched the kids at Nancy's, and headed over to the race, which conveniently starts and finishes a couple miles from our house. Clearly the whole "I'll do the race if the weather isn't bad" thing was a total front. 

This is the 3rd time I've done this race. Last year I had a pretty good race (for me) and finished just under 1:19. To me the worst part is the last mile and a half. Right before the 9 mile mark you head up a pretty decent hill, then turn a corner, pass the 9-mile mark, and go up some more. Then it's a quick downhill on your already-shredded quads, followed by a long uphill that starts steep and gets more gradual as you go on, then gets steep again just because it can.  This is followed by a quick downhill to the finish, only you have to run around the parking lot of my daughter's elementary school before you're done, in one of those finishes where you run right by the finish line, stare longingly at it, and go on for another 200 yards or so. Here's the elevation profile of the end of the race:

I'm not sure what all that bumpy stuff is about in the flat parking lot at the end--maybe they've updated google maps to include all our local potholes, one of which ate my hubcap the other day.

Here's what I looked like last year at about mile 9.25:

Understand that, as bad as I look there, I knew the camera was there, so this was my "photo face." Which gives you some idea of how bad I was hurting at that moment.

This year I followed the same overall race strategy: run conservatively for the first 5 miles (which gets you through the majority of the uphill parts of the race), then run as hard as I could for the last 5 miles. According to the race photos this year, I also adopted a new strategy based on the idea that if I closed my eyes at about mile 8.5, the big hill in front of me might disappear:

That didn't work, by the way.

I finished almost exactly 5 minutes slower than last year. Judging by the times of other people whose training I suspect is more consistent than mine, I think 2 minutes of that can be written off to the road conditions, which leaves me about 20 seconds per mile slower than last year. This seems sort of reasonable, given that my run volume and intensity are both lower this year, in an effort to keep base building longer and peak for the end of August. If it sounds like I'm rationalizing, I am.

How did it feel?  Painful and awesome. It was fun to have that feeling of pushing myself close to the edge and hanging on, since my workouts right now are more on the mellow end of things. It was fun to be out there racing with a lot of other crazy New Englanders, even if most of them appear to be training for a spring marathon and kicked my a**. Including Babysitter #1. It was not fun to have such painful quads afterwards that it was 5 days before I could walk down stairs normally, but this is what I get for racing 10 miles without having run longer than 8 beforehand (and that 8 was an outlier for me in terms of distance). And who am I kidding, really--I think my quads felt that way last year, when I had been running more.

On the home front, our yard appears to be the home of a major North American glacier.

But look closely!  What's that strip of greenish/brown stuff at the edge? Could it be. . . our lawn? (For those of you who know us, or who have seen our yard, you know I use the word "lawn" loosely.) We have some weird microclimate going on wherein our snow levels are at least twice as high as the levels down the hill a block away. In other parts of town the snow is almost completely gone after the brutal rains of last week, but our glacier is persistent. (I tried floating this microclimate theory to one of our neighbors yesterday, and he clearly just thought I was crazy.)

To wrap up, my husband just reminded me of another fun intersection of triathlon training and home life, in which he went to put lotion on our 5-year old and instead started coating him with chamois cream. Allegedly (because I wasn't around to witness this), he realized his error and wiped him off before the menthol starting doing its thing. Not that I want to think too hard about why one would want a tingle from one's chamois cream, come to think of it.

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