Mind over matter...Never give up

Monday, November 7, 2011

Free to Breathe 5K Raleigh NC Nov 5, 2011

Free to Breathe 5K - "New" North Hills Course

I said I'd never do it again.  The Free to Breathe is one of the toughest courses I recall running since I started running races in the Raleigh area.  It was an uphill finish to what I recall being a not so scenic course, though I have to say all I really remember is the uphill finish.  This was on the NC State Centennial Campus and I ran it in 2009.  Actually I also recall that I had to park really far away and probably logged more mileage to and from the car when I did this race in 2009 than in the actual race.  Still it was a well put on event and for a good cause (lung cancer research).  So when I heard that it moved to North Hills I was optimistic that the course had to be better, couldn't be worse, could it?  And if I was going to run the series I had no choice but to run it since I'd already missed the Magnificent Mile since I was out of town and would be away again for the IOS Turkey Trot.

Free to Breathe "old" Centennial Campus course, for comparison - elevation visually not so different and the last mile is at least a 30 ft higher climb in the "new" course
Again I didn't pre-register but waited until race morning to do that.  I was pretty sure that I'd do it though since I had done 3 races already and while it was supposed to be cold, it was sunny and dry out so there was no good reason not to run it.  So I got up early and headed to North Hills.  I got a parking spot right in front of Harris Teeter, very convenient it turned out for avoiding the port a potties.  It wasn't too far from the start.  I got registered quickly and hung in the car a bit longer to eat some cereal and keep warm.  I met up with Linda and was able to give her the award I picked up for her from the last race, as well as get a few pointers on the new course...uh oh, another uphill finish.  Oh well, too late now.    

I warmed up and saw a few of the "usual suspects" who are running the series.  It's nice to see friendly faces in the crowd and have folks to talk to before and after the race.  It was also a nice change to have a bagel place right at the start/finish.  Usually there isn't a place to grab food after a race that is so close.  Now that is mighty convenient, almost worth running uphill for...almost.  This week the 1 mile fun run was first as well, just like the Monster Dash.  Then the 5K group lined up.  The "little" girls from last week skipped this race, thankfully, so I had a better shot at placing higher up!  I got up near the front of the starting line and chatted until the start.  

It was an uphill start which wasn't fun, but I tried to gain some ground there since I knew it would also be an uphill finish so I didn't want to start too slow.  I have to say I felt really good all through mile 1, with a split of 6:14.  Mile 2 was even better, winding streets with rolling hills and more down than up.  I kind of knew I was going maybe faster than I should since sometimes the current pace read under 6 mm pace (like 5:40) but since I had my Garmin on current pace I couldn't really tell overall how much faster it was until the end of Mile 2 when the split read 6:06.  Opps, maybe a tad too fast.  But still I felt pretty good so I wasn't too worried.  

That is until reality struck and I saw proof that "what went down must now go back up".  The third mile was truly awful.  No break from the hill, it was just up, up, up.  And believe it or not, it wasn't my legs really or breathing that were the issue.  But my arms were killing me, probably sore from trying to pump faster with no success to get up the hill.  I couldn't wait for mile 3 to end.  I talked to myself out loud (like a crazy person) to convince myself not to give up and not to lose it now.  I wasn't falling behind necessarily, or at least no more than anyone else.  I could still see Kim and Rodney ahead.  In fact I passed a few people early in mile 3, so I was running that mile comparable to the rest of the field.  But I knew I was slowing a lot so I just tried to go as fast as I could despite my sore arms.  I even removed my arm warmers in the last 1/2 to 1/4 mile hoping that would help in some way...it did not.  

Once I got to 1/4 mile left (there was a sign at 1/2 mile to go and 1/4 mile to go), I at least could feel the end in sight but physically couldn't see the clock until very close to the finish line, since it was around the bend.  By the time I could see it, I knew I didn't PR or even make a sub 20.  It was 20:15 when I passed through (20:14 chip time).  I was first and foremost glad it was over and secondly I suspected I was 3rd overall which was pretty cool, so I wasn't too disappointed.  Still I wished I had beat the clock to another sub 20 but knew that it was due to the course.  In fact in comparing the times with other runners who had run the last few races, it was very clear that this was a tougher course.  Even the first woman finisher had a time difference from the last race to this one of nearly 1 minute, so I didn't feel so bad.  

After the race I got changed quickly (at the handy dandy Harris Teeter), chatted a bit with Rusty, Rodney and Kim, and grabbed a bagel and hazelnut coffee (my favorite) just in time for the awards.  I was 3rd overall which was pretty cool.  I got a nice medal, similar to the one from 2009, plus a $15 gift certificate for a Road ID.  A great idea and I'd highly recommend getting one if you don't have one, literally it could save your life and certainly will help your loved ones to worry about you a bit less while you are running or biking.  But as luck would have it I already have 2 of them, so not sure I'll be able to use that gift certificate but hey it's the thought that counts!  I wished Rodney and Rusty luck in the City of Oaks Full Marathon which they were running and headed for home for another fun filled day with the kids.  Except for that last mile, the course was actually really fun and it's a great location.  So next time I just know I need to do some hill work to prepare!

Race Bling...3rd Female Overall
After thinking about this race and what I'd do differently, aside from hill repeats, I decided to update one of my Garmin screens to show current pace, lap pace (pace of the current mile) and overall pace all on one screen.  I am still debating whether to have the 4th spot on the screen show overall distance or overall time.  I am thinking I'll go with the time.  Hopefully this will help me to pace myself better without having to toggle through screens which it turns out is really hard to do at race pace.  I just hope I can keep all the data straight while I am running!

Monster Dash Raleigh NC Oct 30, 2011

Monster Dash 5K Course
I wasn't planning to run the Second Empire series this year, but after a pretty good performance in the first two races of the series (both sub 20, for the first time ever) and with Keith's unsolicited encouragement (which maybe he'll regret after a few weeks of this!), I decided to consider it.  I still played it by ear and didn't pre-register for the next race though, which was the Monster Dash on Oct 30.  I was on the fence even as late as the Friday before the race.  However a trip to Target to get a few things after having had a glass or two of wine at dinner resulted in the purchase of a Halloween costume.

Dressing room at Target...seemed like a good idea at the time
Since I was not going to trick or treat in it, the only occasion to wear it would be the Monster Dash.  My liquid courage  did wear off the next day however and I was wondering if I should just skip the costume or the race all together.  Owen and I were already signed up to run the 2K fun run as part of the Cross Country Challenge in Raleigh that day.  I figured it would be a fun way for him to get a mile or so in towards his goal of 26.2 miles by Nov 20th for the school marathon.  So I wasn't entirely sure I could make it over to the Monster Dash in time since the fun run was at 11am and the Monster Dash started at 2:30 and I had to bring Owen back home before I headed over there.

Owen did a great job running the Cross Country Challenge and he liked running over the 2 hay bales.  But he was disappointed in himself for coming in at the back of the fun run pack.  There were only about 7 kids total in the run and I was proud of him for getting out there and doing it, no matter what his time was.  He was pretty upset but he felt a bit better when I agreed to stop for donuts on the way home.  We jumped in the car right after the fun run so we'd have time to stop for donuts before I had to get changed and head out for race #2 of the day.

Owen ready to run the Cross Country Challenge 2K 
Owen running in the 2K
I got dressed in my "pink witch" costume, which Grace helped to pick out because it was pink of course.  I liked it because it didn't seem too bulky and it matched my Zensah compression socks.  Yes, true it did not match my Asics, which are bright yellow.  But in my defense, I forgot I had donated my perfectly matched pair of hot pink and black Kinvaras the last time I bought new shoes at RRO.  Bummer!  So I was stuck with either the yellow Asics (super lightweight but more stable that the Kinvaras, called the Speed Sky, they are awesome!) or a very heavy pair of low mileage Saucony Hurricanes, which I hardly wear because they are too heavy, thus why they are low mileage.  I decided on the Asics since I was already taking a risk of adding to my time by wearing a costume.  I just couldn't bring myself to switch out the shoes too.  Sorry Steve (aka Fashion Police), fashion is important but not enough to risk a PR for!

Pre-race photo
I arrived at Cameron Village where the race starts with plenty of time to spare, which is a good thing since I had to park quite far away.  My face was probably as bright pink as my costume, since I felt embarrassed by the fact that I had to walk so far wearing it.  I got a few looks from folks who clearly weren't aware of the race today.  But as I got closer I felt better seeing other runners, at least some of them were dressed up.  Whew!  I registered and brought my stuff back to the car and by that time I saw a few RTR running friends there (Linda, Larry, Mandy) and several other running friends from the IOS wine run (Louise) and from the local races (Rodney and Rusty).  Larry's costume, the Gingerbread Man, was really awesome.  I still don't know how he ran it it.  It was even better than last year's hot dog costume, he really picks the good ones!

The 1 mile fun run was first, followed by the start for the 5K.  As I lined up I chatted a bit with Debra and Kim who are also running the series.  I noticed that most of the usual front runners, male and female, were not in costume.  Uggh, hopefully I wasn't impacting my time by dressing up.  But it was kind of fun to be dressed up.  On the starting line, and do mean right on it, there were several little girls probably between 10 and 13 years old.  They were right up in the front and weren't budging.  There were quite a few surprised and concerned looks from the crowd.  Discussion started in the crowd about how they probably should move back.  One guy did finally caution them they may want to move back, asking if they were planning to run sub 7 mm pace.  They all turned around said "Yes!" in reply, with a confidence I have to admit was surprising but admirable.  As the mom of a little girl I was kind of thinking "you go girls!".  Their reply got a few laughs from the group and then I said to the guy, "hey watch, they may just show us and be right!".  Honestly thought I didn't really believe it and just hoped I wouldn't trip over them since I was directly behind them.

The race started and the girls took off fast, as did most of the group up front.  The course takes a right turn after about a block and then really is an out and back after that.  I felt pretty good and kept a consistent pace for the first mile or so.  Nearly all of the girls were still going strong after 1 mile, and I believe nearly all were still in front of me.  Surely they'd slow down soon, right?!  I just tried to keep an even pace and not worry about it too much.  As I reached the turnaround, which is the part that is very hard for me, I had a tough time focusing.  I am always distracted (and not in a good way) by the rest of the pack of runners coming towards me once I reach a turnaround of an out and back race.  It's always distracting to me and I always struggle.  It's nice to get a shout out from friends of course, but it's hard to really focus on the race with other runners coming at you.  I much prefer a loop or winding point to point course for that reason.  By mile 2 I was still on pace for a sub 20 and all but one of the "little" girls had dropped back.  I was amazed they held on for so long and have to say I admire how well they ran and that they showed us they weren't kidding when they said they'd run sub 7 mm pace.  I kept my sights on the one remaining girl ahead of me and on Rodney, who I see at most of the local races and first met on the way to the Boston marathon, who I could see but couldn't seem to catch.

Not sure where this was but I'd assume somewhere in mile 3 from the look on my face, too bad I didn't bring my magic broom to ride to the finish on!
That last mile was very tough and quite painful but I didn't do too much worse in mile 3 (6:32 vs. 6:18 and 6:22 in miles 1 and 2) which was good because that's usually where I fall apart.  I slowed in mile 3 but not badly enough to miss another sub 20 thank goodness.  The course turns the corner back to the start with about 1 block to go, which I couldn't wait to get back to.  I sprinted as fast as I could and realized that I was probably close to my PR from earlier this month (19:55 chip time).  In fact it turned out that my chip time of 19:53 in the Monster Dash was now my new PR.  Guess I should have worn the pink witch costume, complete with hat which was still intact, sooner!

Approaching the finish!
Can't believe the hat stayed on!
It was a tough last mile and not my favorite course but yet it was a new 5K PR so I was quite happy.  This race was larger than the others I'd just run (Autism Run and Run for Healthier Babies), with over 700 runners in this one.  Overall I was the 8th woman, as opposed to 4th in the other two races.  In this race, only the 1st overall finisher (male and female) received an award separate from the AG (age group) awards.  Usually it's the top 3 overall and sometimes even the top 3 masters.  But not the case here, so I placed second in my age group.  The award was a $15 gift card to TAF, which I am saving in my collection so I can get some more Zensah socks, which seem to have really helped over the last few races.

It was good to see some my friends at the race and it was very nice to chat with some others (Debra, Kim, Emil) that I hadn't had an opportunity to speak with before.  I was really happy with my new PR and glad in the end that I did wear the costume, as it made for some interesting photos and didn't seem to hurt my time.  Still, I certainly won't be one of those runners that dress up for races that are not on Halloween weekend (I am still bitter that Elvis and Winnie the Pooh faired better at the NYC marathon than I did), but it seems to have worked this time around!