Mind over matter...Never give up

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Skirtchaser 5K

I had been thinking about running the Skirtchaser 5K for a while, ever since I saw it posted on the RTR website. It sounded like lots of fun...women run in skirts, get a 3 minute head start and then the men chase. I waited until the week of the race and finally decided to register, despite my half marathon coming up the following week. Lots of RTR folks were going, some that I hadn't yet met. I figured I could just do it for fun, but who am I kidding...if I am running a 5K then of course I want to beat my prior 5K time, which just happens to also be a PR.

And wouldn't you know right after I register, like the next day, I twist my ankle on a run at Umstead on a single track trail. I actually heard it make a noise (or at least I think I did, maybe the noise was my brain saying "Oh crap"). It was at around mile 2 of a 6 mile run that ended up really being a 6.8 mile run. It didn't "hurt" but it certainly felt wierd. I dared not take my running shoes off so I changed into my clothes while keeping my running shoes on (a challenging feat, good thing I didn't have jeans to put on!) and went out after the run to a pub and to watch the Canes game for a while with the RTR group. I figured if I skipped that all I'd do is go home and ice and elevate the ankle anyway so what was a few more hours. At least I was still compressing it by keeping my shoe on and putting it up on an extra chair while I ate.

I put ice and elevated it on and off on Friday hoping that since the Skirtchaser 5K was late in the day on Sat it would be ok. I certainly wasn't going to pay such a pricey entry fee (cool skirt and top though that says "catch me if you can!") and not at least try to run the race. I figured if I could walk on it, which I could, running wouldn't be too terrible. So after rubbing on the aspercreme (love that stuff but I try to use it only when needed) and taking some advil I put on my tightest pair of good socks (yes, they were one of my many prizes for placing in my age category in a race) and tied my shoes tight to hold the ankle in. I was running a bit behind schedule and rushed out to the race.

I found a parking spot on a side street not too far from the race start. I managed to find several RTR folks in the huge crowd (probably about 700 people). I picked up my timing chip and wrist band (to be used to get into the block party after the race) and then needed to run back to the car to drop off my ID. During the run back to the car I realized that my ankle was probably feeling ok for the run. Good thing, since I was already committed to doing it!

I'll spare you the standard details of needing to hit the port a pottie line a number of times. Before I knew it, it was time to line up. The women lined up first (3 minute head start) and there were some FAST looking women out there. I got near but not at the front since I could tell these women were serious contenders. I thought even without the headstart they just might win! The race began (ready, set, go, no gun this time) and I just did my best to run hard. I wasn't really setting out to PR but I can't lie and say it wasn't in the back of my head. I ran the first half mile very fast, I'd say under 6:30 pace, which is unheard of for me, so I figured I'd better slow down or someone would have to carry me back. I didn't consciously choose to slow down, it just kind of happened when hitting the hills. Overall my first mile was still under 7 minutes.

I was trying to run closely behind one of the other RTR women who I knew was really fast (thanks Brandi!) so that I could have something to focus on to set the pace besides my Garmin (which I really still do love for pace setting, can't beat it). I slowed down during mile 2 but the overall average was still right around a 7 mm pace. My ankle was ok during the entire time but my legs did feel tired. Probably a combination of the weather, hills and time of day. I also needed more water than just the 1 water stop about half way through since it was pretty warm and the sun was shining. I'd much rather have it 60 or less and cloudy for a race. The first guys started to catch up around the half way point. There weren't too many that passed me though.

By the last mile, I was pretty spent and was so close to beating my PR but wasn't sure I could maintain it. And then I saw that much of the rest was flat or downhill (except for one fairly short uphill in there) which really helped. During this last mile, I experienced a really stupid guy running behind me who decided it would be a good call to run between me and a line of parked cars on my right, when there was plenty of room to the left of me. He actually even in a quite annoyed voice shouted "on your right!". First of all, dude, it's not the Olympic trials...did you really need to pass me on the right with such a narrow passage way to save a few seconds? You weren't in the lead anyway and it's supposed to be a fun race. Not really the nicest thing in a race like this to be so obnoxious as to run the girls off the road. Second, um, what is wrong with the phrase "on the right"...well, have you ever heard anyone say it? Probably not. Why? Because you are supposed to pass on the LEFT! Anyway, enough ranting about rude guy.

I was able to keep up the pace during the last mile and when I saw the 3 mile marker I thought I can certainly keep going for 0.1 miles, so I just gave it what I had. I finished in 21:39, which was a whole 3 seconds faster than my last 5K. So this was a new PR despite the warm weather, lack of water, and ankle. The first time I achieved (that I can recall anyway) a pace of under 7 mm in a 5K (6:59 to be exact!). Not too bad.

I caught up with a few RTR folks before heading back to the car to change. On the way I got to see a little girl (who I just checked for in the race results and see she was 8 yrs old) in a cute little pink running skirt running toward the finish line with her mom in a matching pink skirt. It was the absolutely cutest thing and I am amazed that she ran the entire race at 8 yrs old!

After getting changed, I made a few failed attempts to get my free beer in a can with my two coupons given out as part of the entry fee. The line was crazy long and I then pondered...is beer in a can ever worth waiting for, even if it is free (which when you consider the entry fee it really wasn't "free")? Nope. So I went into the Hibernian and got a Fat Tire ale for $5 and enjoyed that. The band that played was really good but pretty loud (yes, I am old) to try to talk over. I guess I missed the awards ceremony in trying to get dressed and find everyone again. No age group prizes for this race though (I was first in my age group I think). The least they could have done was give out a few pairs of socks! Then they had some games and prizes so I stuck around to watch Ed and Lisa from RTR play a newlywed type of game which was fun. After that Brandi and I grabbed some really yummy but quite spicy thai food at the restaurant right next to the Hibernian. It was a good race although I probably wouldn't run it again (expensive and running a race at 5pm is difficult when you are hanging w. the kids at the pool, etc during the day). And it was a good night, but alas not for hockey...the Canes lost.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Biltmore 15K and my trip to Asheville (PART II)

Other than a few times waking up thinking I overslept, which I did not, it was a pretty restful night's sleep. On Sunday AM, I got up on time and got ready and we headed out to Biltmore. It was a bit chilly at 60 degrees and overcast with a bit of drizzle here and there...perfect racing weather really. The drive up to the Biltmore Winery, where the race started and finished, was slow but scenic. There was a steady line of cars making their way in for the race. But parking was not nearly as challenging as I thought, in fact getting there later than others (bet some crazy runners got there when the gates opened at 5:30am...no thanks!) paid off, since we were directed to a lot even closer to the winery which had plenty of bathrooms, always a big concern on race day.

I probably went to the bathroom at least 3 times in 30 minutes and by the time the race was ready to start I really did have to go again but knew there wasn't time (I was SOOOO jealous of the guy next to me who just ran up and went behind a tree!) The 5K started first and surprisingly there were fewer in the 5K than in the 15K. They took off on time and the 15K line up began. I moved my way to near the front of the starting line as I usually try to do so I don't get stuck behind anyone planning to do a leisurely race walk or jog, particularly a group of folks doing that together who can span the whole length of the road and block you in. I am usually fast enough that I won't get trampled if I stand near the front.

The gun (yes they actually had a starting gun!) went off and I thought two things...one, hope it's not too hilly and two, I really kind of have to pee. The race started downhill and right away I was running at a pretty easy nice pace. I looked at my Garmin and saw I was running around a 7:15 mile. I thought that it must be wrong since I felt so comfortable running at that pace. The first mile was so easy and felt so good I was off to a good start. Mile 2 I think was where the first hill was but still it wasn't too terrible. The cows along the way seemed to be staring at us crazy humans running by. The scenery was beautiful. The course was closed and other than the guys keeping time or giving out water, there was no one along the way. But the road was so winding and scenery so nice that not having spectators was actually fine.

The group spread out pretty quickly. I knew I was pretty far up in the front of the race field but the road was so windy that you couldn't really see the full group at any time. I really prefer that. The psychology of running out in the open on a straight road where you can see everyone out in front of you is challenging for me. I tried my best to run down the middle of the road to cut out any unnecessary additional distance. Early on a woman about my age passed me, which I am always conscious of because I can sometimes place in my age group depending on the race and I missed 3rd by a few seconds in one race last year because I wasn't really paying attention to that and didn't run as hard as I could have. I stuck with her though and eventually passed her again around mile 3.

Water stops were very well placed and they had gatorade too starting at mile 3. I think by mile 4 they had a port a potty but there was no way I was stopping now. If it was a full marathon I supposed I would have but by this time I saw that my goal of 1:15 was well within reach and my ideal of 1:10 was entirely possible if there were no unexpected crazy hills or injuries. I was running by this time with a few men, no women. I could see one woman running ahead of me. Caught a glimpse of her every so often when the road curved a certain way. She was I'd say never really more than 200 to 400 yards ahead. But at that point my goal was time, not to pass anyone.

I was originally running behind 2 guys who seemed to know each other and were running together. I could NEVER do that, you'd always be wondering if you were holding them back or they were holding you back. They were running ahead of me through mile 3.5 or 4 but then I did pass them. One of them said to me "you don't look like your working hard enough" as I passed. I was feeling still very good. And I LOVED having my Garmin, it really helped me keep an even pace. I then came up on two other guys who I ran around the same pace with up until we got to the Biltmore house itself. That was such a great sight, coming around the curve and right up to the front of the house. Big photo op. It was just prior to that (can't recall where) that one of the race volunteers yelled to me "hey you're the third woman". I have NEVER heard that before, EVER. The race times for the overall females last year were much faster than I was running so it never dawned on me that I'd place overall. I was hoping to just place in my age group.

That knowledge brought on both motivation to run hard as well as a bit of stress. I kept looking back to see whether any women were close on my tail. There weren't any very close but as I left the area near the house I thought I saw one or two entering the house area. After passing Biltmore house and heading into the gardens another volunteer reiterated my place (I did think perhaps the first guy had counted wrong or missed maybe a particularly manly looking woman or two in the count along the way!). By this time I was pretty motivated to keep my place. This was right around the time that the downhills and more secluded section of the race started. It was great. I was running on a downhill (not too steep) winding road in a densely wooded area and it was beautiful. This was probably during miles 6 and 7. By far the best part of the race other than seeing the Biltmore house itself and hearing I was in 3rd. In fact I ran this mile (as well as mile 3) in under 7 minutes, which I've never done, not even in a 5K. Of course the down hill had something to do with that!

Then it was back to a more open road once I passed a gate with a sign that said Winery 2.4 miles. So it was only a little over 2 miles to go and I was still feeling pretty good. I decided to really do my best to keep the pace, which was under my ideal time of 7:30 min miles. There were no women that I could see behind me so I was fairly confident I could keep my 3rd place. It was pretty flat by that time and I could see woman #2 in front of me since it was so open. It was still a winding road but she was no more than 100 yards ahead. Early on in the race I did see her actually walk up a hill so remembering that I thought I might have a shot to pass her if there was a hill. How mean is that!? But hey, I've been her before and been passed at the very end so all is fair in racing.

I was feeling strong but not strong enough to pass her now and still keep the pace if she decided to fight for her position. So I held back and kept the pace staying about 50 yards or less behind her. I went back and forth in my head as to whether I thought I could pass her. Only one person, a guy, passed me after that point. I was keeping a good steady pace and kept closing in little by little. But still this more open area was psychologically difficult for me for sure. I finally got to the 9 mile marker and then to the sign that said "1/4 mile left". I decided I was strong enough to at least try to move up to 2nd place. I closed in and I could tell right away that she didn't have more left in her to fight me for it so I said something like "great job" and she did too. And I passed and then worried if I could keep it up til the finish, which was around a blind curve so I wasn't sure where it was. If I have the courage to post a picture from the finish you'll definitely see a big difference between my face as I was in front of Biltmore house vs. right near the finish! I was giving it everything to keep my lead.

In the end the time was 1:08:50, a 7:24 pace. However my Garmin said 9.36 instead of 9.3 miles so it was actually I think a bit faster than a 7:24 pace. I was very happy to be done, to finish under my idea time and to do the unheard of for me...place overall not just in my age group!

Keith was there at the finish but I didn't see him as I crossed since I was just trying to get there. He was planning to take a picture but wasn't expecting me until 1:10 so he wasn't ready when I came around the curve. I immediately went to the the bathroom (I had to go the whole race, but not too terribly badly) and to get changed. We walked back over to get a bagel and happened to be standing around when the two other RTR (Raleigh Trail Runners) who ran the race had just finished. We only had a brief moment to say hello but they needed to keep walking and we went over to ask about the award ceremony since the temp was dropping and we were trying to determine if we should wait in the car or not. Just as we went over to ask they began to announce the awards. The did the women first, which I think is always a nice touch. The first place woman wasn't even there at the time since they started earlier than they had said and she was probably changing or something. I was right there when my name was called and so got my medal and told the director it was a great course. In the end I found the first place woman was 18 yrs old and was only about 40 seconds ahead of me. Not bad for an almost Master's runner!

We then went back to the car so we could leave to shower, check out and come back to Biltmore for the tour, lunch and wine tasting. The tour was great, glad I got the headset like Keith suggested. Lunch at the winery bistro was very good too and we got to taste and buy some wine before hitting the road back to Cary. It was a great race and a great weekend!

Biltmore 15K and my trip to Asheville (PART I)

So this is my first blog. Not sure I know what I am doing here but here it goes....

I started 2009 deciding I was going to do something for me. That automatically brought me back to running. I've been running since I was 13 yrs old. I can't really imagine not running. Even though I've taken months or maybe even years off over the past 26 yrs, I've always gone back to it. It comes naturally because it's been a constant in my life, like an old friend or something I guess.

So on New Year's Day, with a sore injured calf from running in probably too old running shoes for the few months before as well as running at a less than idea weight, I sat down at my computer and decided to plan out my year of running. I planned races I'd run and the training I'd do to get there. All in an excel spreadsheet of course, I love excel in case you hadn't heard!

One of those early races I found and decided to do was the Biltmore 15K. I had been to Biltmore once since moving to NC. It's about a 4 hr drive from Cary. We went when we first moved here about 4 years ago. We took Owen with us and I was pregnant with Grace. We stayed in a nice hotel in the heart of downtown Asheville, a few miles from the Biltmore Estate. It was lots of fun, particularly hanging out in Asheville and also visiting Chimney Rock Park on the way back where we first hiked with Owen in a rented baby backpack. However the Biltmore visit wasn't the best. It was hard lugging Owen and his "stuff" (babies come with so much stuff!) around the estate and I am not a huge history buff so I can't say I enjoyed the tour that much (we didn't rent the headsets since we wouldn't have been able to focus on the info anyway with Owen there).

So this trip we decided we'd visit downtown Asheville and also tour Biltmore if time allowed and the weather was ok. The race was on Sunday AM, 7:20 to be exact. We stayed at a Residence Inn which was fine, good home made waffles included so can't complain about that. And it wasn't race headquarters but just as close so in retrospect it was probably a better location since it was definitely quieter than a sold out hotel with a bunch of crazy runners who probably get up pretty early.

We arrived Friday night. Had dinner at Rezaz, a Mediterranean inspired restaurant recommended by John from RTR (Raleigh Trail Runners). It was awesome. Great food, service and atmosphere. Then we went to a movie, one without cartoons in it! We saw X-men Origins: Wolverine. Pretty good but then again I am definitely an X-men fan and Hugh Jackman isn't hard to watch!

On Saturday I decided to go for a short run. I hadn't been running for a few days and was feeling a bit sore (calf/ankle issues) and was feeling my confidence slipping. So I got up at 8am which is truly sleeping in for me and drove with my map and Garmin 305 to downtown Asheville to run around a bit. It was a good call. I felt good and got in a 3 mi run. The only downside is that mainly it's the homeless of Asheville who are out that early. Sad to see. But I did get to know the downtown a bit, much more than if I was driving.

After a quick breakfast we headed into downtown Asheville to walk around, shop and have lunch. We stopped at the Laughing Seed, a vegetarian place. The menu looked interesting with Indian inspired dishes. It was one of the best lunches I've had. Food was amazing (veggie pakoras, veggie "sushi" and a crisp sauvignon blanc).

We decided to duck out of the town to see another movie while we still could (the kids were at home with Keith's parents...did I mention that!). I wanted to see Angels and Demons but Keith had his heart set on Star Trek and I did want to see that too so we decided on that. It was a great movie. Great casting, definitely great tie-ins to the old series. I never did get into the later series, I always enjoyed the original, right after the Honeymooners on my little black and white 13 inch TV! Regarding the new movie, I won't say more because I don't want to spoil it.

We returned to downtown Asheville to have dinner at The Market Place. We are nothing if consistent. From a list of restaurants we picked this one based on the menu and then realized it was the same place we ate at when we were in Asheville years before. It was pretty good but we were tired from walking around all day. After grabbing a few truffles at the Chocolate Fetish shop, we headed back to the hotel. I layed out all my race stuff and turned in early. (Continued in PART II).