Mind over matter...Never give up

Monday, May 28, 2012

Cary Road Race 10K and 5K April 14, 2012

Cary Road Race Course

I decided to do the Cary Road Race 10K this year as a lead in to the Biltmore 15K in May.  It's close by and a nice course that I am familiar with.  I had run it in 2009 and it was a good event.  Also Owen was interested in doing the 5K so I figured we could both run that together.  I drove separate from Keith to run the 10K and Keith would later meet me there with Owen so we could then do the 5K.  I was not sure what to expect as far as competition but expected the 5K to be more competitive than the 10K.  It turned out that I was wrong however.  I knew at the starting line that there was at least one faster woman and assumed that there would possibly be others as a race in Cary tends to draw a different group than the ones in Raleigh do.

As the race started I was in second place but wasn't sure if I would hold onto that.  The race is just two repeats of the same course and there is a fairly big hill early in the race and then you have to go back and do it again.  But after getting past the hill I felt better.  I ran the first mile in 6:25, so probably a bit fast.  My main goal was just to PR which should be doable since I don't often run 10Ks and the current PR was from the Cary Road Race in 2009 at was around 44 minutes.  Mile 2 was back down the hill so I did that much faster in 6:19 and felt pretty good.  Then the course evens out to be more flat but going out a bit fast in the first 2 miles caught up with me and I did mile 3 in 6:39, so not too bad but definitely slower than the first two.  

Mile 4 goes back up the hill and I was wishing by this time that I had done the 5K.  There was a younger girl in her 20s in a heavy sweatshirt who at this point had passed me, and then I'd pass her, and so on.  But I was basically running as fast as I really could at that point so was more focused on time and finishing than maintaining my place.  I ran mile 4 slower in 6:57.  Since mile 5 is downhill again, I was able to pick up the pace a bit at 6:24.  I was pretty spent by mile 6 and somewhere between 5 and 6 a bug decided to do a kamikaze flight into my throat.  Also another woman passed me around this time and I really felt I couldn't pick the pace back up so I did mile 6 in 6:55, slower than I'd hoped but still my average pace was way better than the last time I did this race 3 years ago.  To my surprise the finish line seemed to come quickly and in fact did because the course was short, by a lot actually.  According to my Garmin, it was 6.03 miles.  I finished in 39:46, 6:24 pace.  A PR by a lot but of course since the course was short it was likely that my time should have been around 41 minutes instead of sub 40.  
Owen right before the 5K start
Owen at the start, with me behind him in the IOS shirt (photo courtesy of Shannon Johnstone)
In the end I came in 4th overall but first masters female.  I quickly went to find Keith and Owen before the start of his race.  Due to the bug incident and pushing the pace, I was feeling quite nauseous but had to run the 5K with Owen and felt better after we started running.  Luckily he was in a very good mood and did a great job running the 5K, talking and having fun the entire way (not always the way it goes!).  He was quite impressed to see a barefoot runner (Shannon's husband Anthony) and also one of our neighbors running the race and he had lots of fun shushing me so he could "concentrate" on his race instead of me talking to him.   

Owen mid-race
Owen nearing the end
Owen ready to cross the finish line
Owen ended up with a huge PR as well, finishing in 34:41.  We got back just in time for the 10K awards for the masters category so I was able to get my gift card and Owen took a few pictures.  I was glad I ran the 10K but moreso glad that Owen had such a great race.  

10K Race Results
Me getting my award
Owen post race
Owen modeling the cool race shirt (after the race of course!)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Second Empire 5K March 25, 2012

Second Empire 5K Course
I am way behind in this race blog update, but since today is opening day at the pool and the wi-fi is actually working this year and it's too cold to go in the water (at least for me, not for the kids of course), I figured I'd try to catch up.

I decided not to run the Second Empire Spring Series because I wasn't really feeling up to committing to so many races in the early spring and I was more focused early in the year on Umstead training and injury recovery prior to Umstead.  But I do have two of the spring races that I enjoy so wanted to participate in those.  The Run for the Oaks was earlier in March, the weekend after Umstead.  Instead of running I volunteered with Owen since I wasn't sure I'd be ready to run quite yet.  We had a great time and got to cheer on a few friends.  In the end I probably would have been less sore if I ran it than volunteered.  Turns out pulling chips off shoes is quite strenuous!

The other spring race in the series that I really enjoy is the Second Empire 5K.  It was my first race in NC back in 2008 and it's a really well run event thanks to Kim Reynolds and her husband.  I have run it several times now and last year I realized that the prizes were really great for this race as well.  It was the day after a tornado hit the surrounding area so the race went on, but fewer people came than usual, which explained my surprise second place finish.  I hoped this year I would fair well but after injury and Umstead three weeks prior, I really just wanted to see if I could beat 20 minutes.  Of course I secretly hoped to place so I'd get the cool race bling.

Owen waiting to cheer us on at the start

We got there early and had some time to hang out a bit at Flying Saucer like we had done a few times in the past.  Then I headed over to warm up just a little.  I saw quite a few running friends that I chatted with, which is always fun and a good way to relax a bit before the race.  And this was the first race I was running as a part of the IOS running team, so a few of the IOS runners were there as well.  As we all lined up at the start, I wasn't feeling too nervous but not too confident either.  I just wanted to get through and beat 20 if I could.  As the race started, and we headed towards the capital building, I felt pretty good but knew I was probably going out too fast.  It turns out I was going a bit fast and the first mile split was 6:11.  That speediness was soon was over however as the second mile, which heads up Hillsborough towards the NC State Bell Tower, is a tough and hilly part of the course.  Surprisingly I didn't feel too bad during this part of the race and just focused on keeping an even pace and not giving into the temptation to really slow down a lot.  I did run that mile slower, in 6:36, but from what I counted at the turnaround at mile 2, I was in second place overall at that point.  So as long as I could maintain my pace I should be able to place.

Somewhere near the finish, looking about to die  :-)
Pretty close after the turnaround I started to feel really tired and just wanted to be done.  However I was able to convince myself that with less than 1 mile to go, I really should be able to hang in there.  Afterall I ran a full marathon only 3 weeks ago so this should  be easier.  I knew I wouldn't catch the first place woman, who was actually the 13 yr old girl who had been winning all the races in the spring series so far.  I wasn't too far behind, but far enough that I wouldn't catch her.  So I just tried to run as steady as possible and when I saw the finish, which you can see from fairly far away, I started to speed up.  I was surprised later when I checked my Garmin data that the last mile was actually 6:12, nearly the same as the first.  It is, according to Garmin, a down hill finish, but I wasn't expecting to be able to pull that off so was pretty happy.  Final results: 19:43, 6:21 average pace and 2nd female overall, 29th of 406 finishers.

Posted results
Keith and the kids were there to cheer me on, so that was pretty awesome. Keith then left to take Grace back home while I waited for the award ceremony and the 1 mile run that Owen was going to do.  But just as the 1 mile was about to start, the storms that had been threatening to come all day finally hit with lightening and thunder enough to cancel the 1 mile.  Owen was a little disappointed but a bit relieved as the lightening and thunder were really freaking him out.  The award ceremony took a little while to get going and Owen was getting impatient and wanted to leave but I told him we at least had to stay for the first part.  Normally I stay for the entire thing to see all my running friends get their awards too, but this time we did bail early due to Owen's crankiness and the storm.  It was really nice to receive a $75 gift card to Second Empire, an engraved glass, and a gift card to Capital Run Walk.  Some of the best race bling in the area....shhh don't tell anyone!
Some of the best local race "bling"!
On the way home, Owen fell asleep from a long and tiring day.  I was glad I ran the race again this year and was happy with my finish.  It was great to get out there to a 5K and see all my running friends again.

Snoozing after a long day

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Umstead Trail Marathon - Raleigh, NC - Mar 3, 2012 - Part II

Umstead Trail Marathon course map from my Garmin
As the race started I felt pretty good.  I felt like I was going at a nice easy pace.  But as I also have experienced with 5Ks, an "easy pace" feeling is always relative to how fast the other runners are going.  I started to look around and notice that there were all guys around me, pretty fast looking guys.  Whoops, my pace was in the low sevens.  I tried to slow down but it felt really slow.  So I decided it was ok if the first 2 miles, which are on the fire road, were faster because having that time "in the bank" was going to be needed once I hit the single track, which is not my forte.  I enjoy running single track in general but am pretty slow in comparison to my road speed and prefer to not have anyone on my heels for fear of taking them down if I fall.  A few people shouted "first female" to me but my reply was "yep let's see how long that lasts" because I knew it would not.  If I had been better trained or not had the injuries or better weather or actually all 3, then maybe it would be feasible (and even then only if all the fast people stayed home).  But I knew it was only a matter of time because I didn't plan to go at break neck (literally) speed on the single track and risk getting injured before the race had even really started.  My second mile at 7:29 pace was on Old Reedy Creek Road and was even faster than the first (7:41 pace).
Not sure what mile this was but likely early in the race because I am smiling (photo borrowed from Shannon)
Right around the 2 mi mark there is a left turn onto Company Mill Trail, the first of 2 single track portions in the race.  My first run on that trail that I can recall resulted in a badly twisted ankle that swelled and turned a lovely shade of purple and black once I took my shoe off.  I've run on it several times since but I try to respect that it's a hilly, very rooty trail.  So I slowed a bit but not as much as I usually do in a regular run.  I let anyone who was close on my heels pass however as it was more stressful to hear them behind me.  Around mile 3, I'd guess, I heard a man and woman chatting as they ran so I knew my "first place" status was soon to be history and was totally fine with that.  Mile 3 and 4 were a respectable 9 mm pace.  Two other women running together passed me on Company Mill as well, so I was now in 4th place.  Still pretty good after the first section of single track.
I didn't even see this sign while I was running, but I did see the "tree of death" and walked through those roots (photo borrowed from Shannon)
Around mile 4 you turn back on Old Reedy Creek for a quick bit, up Graylyn, and then back onto the single track, this time the Sycamore loop.  On Old Reedy Creek was when I saw my RTR friends who came out to cheer me on (Scott, Ryan, Mariana).  I was surprised to really see them so looked around only briefly and wasn't even sure who all was there but just heard my name being called.  At some of the water stops, people I didn't even know were calling my name since I guess in a race this size, they maybe had a list of all the runners by their bib numbers.  So whenever someone called my name in the race I wasn't sure if it was someone I really knew or not.
Me again (in the pink shoes and Zensah sock), still looking fairly cheerful (photo borrowed from Shannon)
As I turned onto Sycamore, I thought about how much I really like this trail, with the creek flowing along side it.  It's very quiet and peaceful and the creek was really full from the rain so the sound of the water rushing by was nice.  Mile 5, which was on Sycamore, was slower at around 10 mm pace, due to the hills and lots of mud.  The next mile was faster and was the part of the course that was the change for 2012.  Usually, according to the race map, the course turns off of Sycamore, goes left onto Graylyn and continues up to the Graylyn gate.  But due to some reason that I can't remember, the course instead this year turns left on Graylyn and then another left into an area where they are constructing a new parking lot.  I had only just recently been to that area of the park on the 10 mi early weekday runs with Daren but that was in the dark so it really didn't look the same during the race.  There was an aid station there so I grabbed some gatorade before turning around.  But this section was a huge mud pit on race day, even more than it was the second day that I ran with Daren and slid on the mud a few feet like I was on ice skates.  This time the mud was so thick your shoes just sunk into it.  There really wasn't any way to run around it, especially since this is one of the turn around points so runners are on the trail in both directions.  So you just run through it and hope your shoes don't come off.

Once you get back on Graylyn, you turn right and then left onto Sycamore to finish the loop.  I knew at this point this was the last bit of single track.  I was thankful because I assumed after this I could speed up a little (which was, it turns out, not the case).  But I also just tried to enjoy it because I discovered that this part of the course is actually refreshingly different.  By this time everyone was fairly spread out and it felt more like going through a nice leisurely run in the woods rather than a race.  No pressure of who is ahead or behind you.  During this part, there were only a few guys here and there who passed me or who I passed.  Somehow I had managed to keep my feet fairly dry until about mile 7 or so, when I zigged instead of zagged and went directly into a huge puddle and my left shoe was then full of water.  In fact it was so wet I actually stopped after about 1/4 mile and took my other foot and stepped on the left one to try to squeeze out some water.  But the damage was done so I just hoped it didn't turn into a blister situation.  Ever since switching to Balega and Zensah socks, I haven't really had any blisters so would not know how to deal with that in such a long race with so far left to go.  Turns out my Zensah compression socks did just fine so there were no blister issues.
Just a sampling of the mud on the trails that day (photo borrowed from Shannon)
Although I was almost wishing away the single track part, the second half of the Sycamore loop in particular was really fun and was the best part of the race for me, though I probably wouldn't have predicted that at time.  The course here is either down hill or flat and miles 7 and 8 were a decent pace for me for single track at 9:18 and 9:04.  After leaving Sycamore, the course turns left back onto Graylyn and then left back onto Old Reedy Creek.  I was back on the bridle trails which I am most familiar with and I can usually hang an 8 to 8:30 pace on these or sometimes faster.  Mile 9 and 10 were where I picked up speed (splits were 8:05 and 8:01).  I remember passing mile marker 9 and thinking, why yes, I can do another 17!  I felt pretty good.  Somewhere around here I also passed one of the women who had passed me on the single track early on.  So I was now the 3rd woman.  I also saw the RTR crew again around this time.  Also at this point was when the rain, which had really been misting or non existent, really started to pick up.  But it actually felt good and I was glad in the end that I wore my hat, which I really don't like wearing but will do so reluctantly when it's raining hard.  But the rain slowed down after about another mile or so.  In the end I was also glad I chose to wear shorts and a tank top.  I would have been way too warm with a LS shirt, jacket or even arm warmers.  Even with the temps dropping, I felt fine temperature-wise the whole way.  At the water stop at the Trenton gate I saw some other familiar faces from RTR (Brandy and Kristine) and I turned onto Turkey Creek.

Somewhere between mile 10 and 11, just after turning onto Turkey Creek, was when I felt the first signs of trouble with muscle cramps.  This varied throughout the rest of the race as to location but I really struggled with it for the remainder of the race.  I usually have this problem in my calves or quads in a marathon, but not so early in the race.  Not sure if it was poor nutrition leading up to the race, lack of rest that prior week, electrolyte issues, being undertrained or just the fact that I ran so much single track and then was trying to run Turkey Creek which is really hard and something I never had done before.  I spent the rest of the race focused on managing this issue.  The good news I guess is that I wasn't as worried about my "behind knee/calf/hamstring injury" but rather about the cramping getting worse and forcing me to drop or slow down and not meet my 4 hour goal.  So I began to fill my water bottles with gatorade at every water stop and drank a lot of it.  So much in fact that I don't think I can look at Gatorade for a while.  I guess it helped but did not eliminate the issue.  I had to adjust my speed and stride to cater to where the cramps were at the time.  They were everywhere from my toes and feet, to my calves, to my quads and inner thighs.  Miles 11 and 12 were still pretty fast at 8:22 and 8:11, despite the cramping.  Of course they were also downhill.  Miles 13 to 15 were slower, ranging from 8:45 to 9:04, but still not too bad considering they were uphill.  I felt better after reaching the end of Turkey Creek and turning right onto Graylyn for my second trip to the muddy turnaround.  I filled my water bottle again with Gatorade and headed back down Graylyn and a left back onto Turkey Creek going in the opposite direction.

I usually don't like road races with turn arounds.  In a 5K in particular it's very distracting.  But in a trail marathon it turns out it's really nice to see friendly familiar faces along the way several times.  Each time I saw Heiko who was very close by, he had a big smile on his face.  That really helped me feel better.  I am sure I had a smile also, at first, but I think it got smaller at each turnaround, with each new leg cramp.  Shannon was snapping pictures along the way and was very cheerful and encouraging.  Carolyn and Jim came soon after.  Carolyn was also looking fairly cheerful despite her own struggles with some injuries.  Jim looked refreshed as if he was out for a 3 mile jog.  I believe shouted something like "holy shit Mary, your in 3rd place!" when I saw him around mile 16 or 17.  By that time I was glad to be past the 16 mile mark, which was where I started to have trouble in Boston.  I just hoped I could maintain a pace to keep me under 4 hours and that not too many women would pass me in the last 9 miles.  I knew that a few were close (the down side of the turnaround at mile 15).  A woman did in fact pass me around this time but my focus was on managing the cramps and I didn't want to try to speed up and make things worse and risk not finishing, so I resolved to let her go without too much concern (ok well part of it was a bummer, but I mostly let it go since I knew I didn't have a choice under the conditions).  Miles 16 to 18 were between 8:55 and 9:10 but since this is fairly downhill, it was much slower than I'd normally run this part of the course if it wasn't for the cramping.  Mile 19 was hilly so my pace dropped to 9:28.  Mile 20 was a bit better at 8:56.  I caught up to the woman who passed me earlier at the rest stop around mile 20 but only because she stopped for a drink.  After this I didn't really try to keep up with her and her lead grew as my cramping continued.

I remember I commented to Brandy at that point that if this was a 20 mile race it would be awesome right now!  Once hitting the 20 mile mark, while I know it's here that the real race is supposed to begin, I felt at least the end was in sight.  I knew the rest of the course very well.  I headed up Old Reedy Creek Rd knowing that there were 3 hard sections still to run.  Corkscrew Hill, which is a tough one for me usually, was first.  Just before Corkscrew, mile 21 goes downhill, passing Reedy Creek Lake. The cramping was getting worse so I did that mile slower at 9:17 despite the downhill.  Mile 22 was only rivaled by mile 24 for the hardest mile on the course.  Mile 22 (9:40) included Corkscrew Hill and the flat part of Cedar Ridge.  I often hate Corkscrew but I usually love Cedar Ridge.  On this particular day, however, I did not.  Even the downhill at mile 23 was hard.  Every leg muscle was cramping now, so the downhill was particularly hard on my quads and hips and I finished mile 23 in 10:29, wondering how in the world I was going to get back up Cedar Ridge.  Mile 24 was where I did the most walking.  I hate walking and usually don't do it because it makes it worse and my muscles seize up.  But I couldn't help at least a few times slowing to a walk and probably letting out a few grunts and perhaps some not so pleasant words under my breath.  A guy passed me and offered words of encouragement which helped a bit.  I was watching the clock now because my current pace (not average mile pace but current) was slowing to 11 and 12 and higher at some points.  I was getting nervous that I'd miss my 4 hour goal.  So I willed myself to run despite the cramping.  Mile 24, at 10:48, was my slowest in the race, much slower even than the single track, which I wasn't expecting.

I was so glad to turn off Cedar Ridge but that was short-lived because Cemetery Hill was soon to follow.  I walked once on Cemetery but knew the end was soon and knew also that I needed to run that mile in less that 11 minutes to feel comfortable that I'd meet my 4 hours.  I ran it in 10:26 even with the bit of walking.  Mile 25!  While my leg cramping was continuing and I was feeling a bit nauseous from all the Gatorade, I was looking forward to the end of the race.  I swear mile 25 felt like it was 2 miles long.  Once I turned right off Old Reedy Creek to head back to Camp Lapihio where the start/finish is, I tried to speed up and was desperately looking for the finish line.  That also seemed like it took forever and I was afraid I'd taken a wrong turn.  I passed the marker for mile 26 and really did my best to run faster.  I ran that last 0.2 mi at 7:38 pace and crossed the finish in 3:56:43.  I was 29 of 169 finishers overall, 4th female overall.  I was so glad to be done and to have finished in under 4 hours, despite my injury (which wasn't really a factor during the race it turned out), the weather, undertraining, or the leg cramps.  I was handed my 4th place female finisher wooden bat plaque (awesome!).  I was also offered Gatorade which I couldn't even look at, got my bat pint glass (love it!) and picked my door prize ticket from the basket, which was membership to Godiva Track Club for 1 year (pretty cool).
Wooden bat
2012 Finishers Pint Glass, complete with bat of course
I wasn't feeling so great stomach-wise from the overload of Gatorade, so I grabbed my clothes and quickly headed to the car to change, wondering how I'd do that, being as cramped up as I was.  Fortunately a woman had "accessed" an empty cabin that was on the way to the parking lot, so she could wait there with her two sons while her husband finished the race.  I asked if I could use it to change and she agreed.  It seemed to take forever to change, as I was moving very slowly.  But I felt much better once I was changed and then I headed to the car to drop off my dirty stuff and get some food/drink.  I called Keith to let him know I had survived and headed back to the lodge to hopefully say hi and thanks to folks who had cheered me on along the way.  I also tried to eat one of the Moe's burritos but after one bite I knew that wasn't going to happen, so I just ate some of the snacks I brought instead.  I left after having a chance to say thanks and goodbye to most folks and thankfully was able to get out of the mud pit of a parking lot without much trouble.  Others who needed a tow truck to get out were not as fortunate.  I was tired, a bit sore and just thankful to have met my goal.  I left thinking, yep, I'd do this race again!

It's over 24 hours later and I really have to say this was a truly great race.  I loved the NYC marathon, I was proud to have made it to Boston, and enjoyed the experience of Marine Corp, but this was completely different than NY, Boston and Marine Corp.  It was really nice to run it in a place that I think of as home, with so many words of encouragement from other local runners as well as the wonderful volunteers.  My sincere thanks goes to the many volunteers who really did a spectacular job.  The race was one of the best organized and most well run that I've been to and I have no doubt I'll run it again. 

Umstead Trail Marathon - Raleigh, NC - March 3, 2012 - Part I

Umstead Trail Marathon course map from my Garmin
I wasn't sure I'd make it to the starting line, let alone the finish line of the Umstead Trail Marathon.  Last fall I was thinking that I'd like to run this race someday and so put it on my 2013 list.  But in late November as the race registration was about to open, I had this crazy idea to sign up for this year's race, despite not having been training up to that point for a race of this distance.  So that probably was strike 1.  But I was excited at the idea of a race that was more for the fun and challenge rather than for a PR or to qualify for Boston.  I was also interested because it was a small race, looked like lots of fun and was on "home turf" where I run every weekend.  Plus the cool t-shirts, pint glass and the possibility of "getting wood" (aka the hand carved wooden plaque that goes to the top 15 male and female finishers) was pretty cool too.
Pint glasses for prior years (borrowed from Umstead Marathon website)
So in December I started to ramp up my running, running more often during the weekdays in the mornings and running longer on the weekends.  That was going well until I felt my upper left calf was pretty sore after a typical 4 mile run on the road just before Christmas.  Then, instead of resting it, I figured I'd just run through it, as I had planned to run Jimbo's Boxing Day Bad Ass Mad Ass Dumb Ass Fat Ass Fun Run (which had a great t-shirt that I can only wear to bed after the kids are asleep!).  Jim really put on a great event.  The goal was to run as many laps as you wanted of a 1 mile loop at a park in Sanford NC.  Turns out I barely made it 2 laps before my calf "popped".  This is a signal to stop, right?  Well, my signal was delayed and I limped through another 4 loops before waving the white flag.  I then was forced to take several days off but when I ran again, things seemed much better.  So the training recommenced.
Best t-shirt that I can't wear around the kids
I ramped up the long runs and did them all in Umstead as training for the race.  Lots of running on Turkey Creek and Cedar Ridge (very hilly) and a little single track here and there.  I ran my longest run, a 22 miler that started out as a 20 miler but I was feeling good so upped it to 22.  At the end I still felt good but made the worst mistake of sitting on the couch with the kids the rest of the day.  I started to have a tendon/muscle soreness behind the left knee after that, likely related to the original calf issue and to not stretching after that long run, but it wasn't bad enough to not run.  So run on it I did.  Until the one day I had another bright idea that I'd better practice some single track running mixed in with bridle trail running.  So I got up early in the pouring rain one Saturday to run 10 miles before joining RTR for their regular single track Saturday run. Well I got about 3.5 miles out, just to the bottom of Cedar Ridge where the water crossing is.  I am a wuss so I turned around at that crossing and was heading back up when again my calf snapped, this time I am sure it was an audible snap (at least in my head it was), followed by a curse word or two from me.  Crap, now I had to limp back to the car another 3.5 miles.  That was painful but I hoped to run it off because walking back would take even longer.  I was at least smart enough to skip the single track run that day and to look into sports med docs the next day.

I made an appointment for later that week and his advice was "do not run on it if you want to be able to run the race".  Strike 2.  Well that was new for me, I never got that advice before.  So of course I followed it...oh wait, no I didn't.  The race was just about 6 weeks away at that point and I planned to follow the advice, but one day as I was heading out to the gym to do spin class or the elliptical or something else that I like much less than running, I saw how warm it was out and decided to just run anyway.  And it didn't feel bad, so I ran again a few more times, short runs of 3 to 5 miles.  That gave me a false sense of security however because when I went to the Inside Out Sports Chase the Grape Run (a run followed by free wine tasting at Sip across the parking lot, first Wed of every month) in early February, they decided to do a hillier than usual route and my behind the knee thing was hurting again.  Also my hamstring had been sore over the past few weeks and wasn't improving.  Uggh, guessed I should follow the docs advice afterall.  I tried water jogging classes a few times.  It was mentally painful for me because I have no patience (that is why I run, because it's fast).  Water running was slow and boring to me and when they mixed in some water aerobics I really felt I was being tortured as I am not a group class kind of girl.  Not that water running is easy, it's not.  I was the last one across the pool each time and women and men much older and much heavier than me were lapping me.  It was a good alternative to running, but one that I'd only do if I was forced to again due to injury.  Same with the elliptical.  I am not a fan.  But I was heading out for a week long business trip and so did the elliptical every day before my meetings.  By the time I returned home, I couldn't stand it anymore and after 1.5 weeks of this I decided to try to run again.  The race was less than 5 weeks away and if things weren't better I'd rather know and drop now.  I was not comfortable just doing water running and elliptical and then showing up on the starting line as my doctor indicated some of his patients had successfully done.

I was also going to PT 2x per week and that seemed to help.  I decided to try a short run one chilly but sunny Saturday, sticking to the ATT which is softer than the road and flatter than Umstead.  That was a great run.  I did 6 miles (probably more than I should have) at sub 8 mm pace (faster than I should have) because I was so happy to be running again I just couldn't help it.  I did 10 miles at Umstead the next day and it went well.  Things seemed to be on the mend.  I ran a 6 mile and 4 mile run that week on the road but this only aggravated the injury again.  So the next weekend I went back to ATT on Saturday and did 10 miles and to Umstead on Sunday and did 18.  Both felt pretty good.  I didn't want to risk running on the road at all now, so I joined Daren and his group for the earliest Umstead runs I've ever done.  5:30 am start (so I got up at 4:30 am) in the dark with headlamps, 2 days in a row, 10 miles each day, around 10 mm pace.  Those runs really helped to finish off my training.  They were followed by a Saturday 10 mile single track run of Company Mill and Sycamore (part of the race course) with Stephane and then a 10 mile Sunday run at Old Reedy Creek, to round out the weekend before the race.  I had my last PT appointment on Monday and I ran only once during the week before the race, 4 miles on the road on Wednesday.  That was pretty much it for my training and either I was ready or not.  I decided I'd rather DNF than DNS, so made up my mind that I'd just do my best and see what happened.

Work was crazy busy that week as were kid activities (tae kwon do, swimming, book fair, etc) so I didn't get much rest that week and didn't eat very smartly (chili, burritos, sushi, chick fil a, etc).  So this would be strike 3 and 4 I guess.  But wait, there's more...

My marathon experience is quite limited relative to many runners I know.  I had run 3 of them before this one, Marine Corp in DC, NYC and Boston.  All three were very large road races that had water/gatorade stops at every mile and the weather turned out to be perfect for all 3 of them (probably because John Williamson did not enter them!).  Well I suspect that John secretly did enter the Umstead Marathon at some point because as the week wore on the weather forecast got more grim.  Lightening, thunder, strong winds, heavy rain, etc.  Strike 5 (I think I lost count now).  And it went from 50%, to 70%, down to 60% and back up to 80% chance of rain in a few days.  Hmm, looks like I'd better learn to swim.  I feared (and a small part of me, just a small part, hoped for) a cancellation.  I was at Myrtle Beach in 2010 for the half marathon when they cancelled for snow and I was not prepared for that race so was totally ok with it being cancelled.  Plus my inlaws live there so it's not like I shelled out a bunch of cash to travel there only to have the race cancelled.  But this time I really did want to run, so figured I'd do it anyway if it was cancelled but others would unofficially run it (depending on the lightening situation).

On Friday late afternoon I picked up the kids from school and we went to pick up my race packet.  We were all excited to see what the Umstead mascot would be this year.  That's another pretty fun thing about this race.  The mascot, which is on the t-shirt, pint glass and award plaque, is kept a secret until the race packet pick up time.  I had put in my guess a few months prior, coyote.  I have never seen one there but know others have seen and heard them.  Other cool choices, as mentioned on the Running Down blog, were copperhead, opossum, bat, and of course the elusive stegosaurus (well just because you haven't seen one yet doesn't mean there isn't one!)  Duck, while kind of lame, would have actually been most appropriate given the weather conditions.  Well that or whale, which was my daughter Grace's guess.  But now she says she was only kidding.  As we sat in the car outside the Great Outdoor Company, my son Owen's final choices were coyote or water snake (also appropriate) and Grace chose bat or deer.  I stuck with coyote.  And the winner....bat!  A totally cool t-shirt and the blue color was awesome too.
Cool bat shirt!
After a trip to chick fil a for dinner (in retrospect not the smartest move pre-race), I spent time prepping my stuff for the race the next day (clothes, food, etc).  I finally went to bed, later than I hoped, with no rain in sight.  Ah, see those weather folks clearly got it wrong, afterall 80% chance of rain means 20% chance of not rain, right?  This happens a lot for our RTR Sunday runs, most folks will cancel when bad weather is predicted and then by the time we start running the weather turns out perfect and these are some of the best runs for those of us who do show up.  And then...at 2:58am, KABOOM!  Huge thunder clap followed by lightening, gusting winds and pouring rain.  Ok, well looks like my "perfect weather for marathons" streak is clearly over.  I slept on and off for the next few hours but kept checking the weather and the Umstead website (not sure what I expected to see there, hopefully the race directors were not up at 4am, but perhaps they were).  I got up at 5:30am and started to get ready and pack all the running gear I had just because I couldn't decide what to wear or bring for after the race.  It was raining but not much thunder so the race was likely still on.

I am sure I was nervous for my other marathons and half marathons, but I was actually physically feeling sick a little about this one on and leading up to race morning.  I woke up at 5am most mornings feeling anxious that week before.  And even on the drive to the park that morning, I think my hands were shaking.  I felt under prepared already but with the weather conditions combined with not being a really savvy single track runner, I was pretty scared.  Once I got there and parked (in a mud pit that I wasn't sure I'd be able to get back out of), saw a few familiar faces (Jim, Shannon, Heiko, Michael, Charles, etc) and was introduced to some other runners I knew of but had never formally met, I felt a bit better.  In fact I almost lost track of time and then realized I'd better figure out what I was wearing (I settled on tank top and shorts, no long sleeves or arm warmers) and do a last minute potty stop.  I did that (ah the beauty of Umstead is you don't really need to wait on the potty line) and was on the starting line just in time.  It was the calmest starting line area of a marathon ever.  No one clammering to get up front, no one jumping into faster corrals (there were none of course) and everyone was still chatting calmly until the start.  This was no NYC or Boston, for sure.

My Umstead race experience - continued in part II.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

2012 Race Calendar and 2011 Year End Summary

Happy 2012!  I usually reserve my blogging for race reports, but in the spirit of setting some goals for 2012, since that’s the thing to do as we end one year and begin another, I thought I’d do a recap on 2011 and a preview to 2012.

2011, let’s review….

I had a few running goals in 2011.  One was to PR, and maybe even run a sub 20, for the 5K.  And the other was to do a half marathon in under 1:35.  I achieved the half marathon goal in March, at the Wrightsville Beach Half Marathon.  A great race and a great mini vacation, a PR and sub 1:35 half.  The 5K goal took a bit longer to achieve, mainly because of the lack of 5Ks in the summer.  I ran a few in the spring and did well but had to wait until the fall 5Ks came around to refocus on this goal.  In the meantime, while I not only didn’t PR but actually ran my worst half marathon in recent history, I had an excellent vacation in California at the Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon.  Great location and great event, I’d like to try it again sometime when I am more prepared.  I refocused on the 5K goal and entered my favorite fall 5K, the Run for Healthier Babies.  But just so I would have a “practice” race, I also entered the Run for Autism.  Turns out I pulled off the sub 20 in the autism race.  I think running more often in the mornings combined with losing a few pounds, the right racing shoes and Zensah socks really helped me to make the leap from a 20:34 PR (Mar 2011) to a 19:55 PR in October.  After similar sub 20 success in the Healthier Babies race I decided to do the Second Empire Series and ran all but one of my fall 5K races in under 20 minutes, proving it wasn’t a fluke afterall.  My current PR is 19:29 in the Jingle Bell 5K.  Another goal I added later in 2011 was to run under 33:30 in the Turkey Trot.  I did better than expected and finished in 32:16.   

Looking ahead to 2012…

I set out with an aggressive race calendar for 2012 when I was originally thinking about it a few months ago, but had to cut back on it some since it was obviously too much to do in one year.  As of when I am writing this, Dec 29, 2011, the only races I am formally registered for are the Umstead Marathon on Mar 3rd and the Biltmore 15K on May 20th.  Unfortunately due to what I really believe was a non-running related Christmas present wrapping calf injury, I am a bit worried about my ability to be ready for Umstead Marathon in time.   I’ll just have to take it easy and see how it goes.  I wasn’t even able to do 6 miles without lots of pain and stopping earlier this week, but rested 2 days and did 3 today with some, but considerably less, pain.  But I was able to do 18 with no trouble in Umstead including Turkey Creek only a few weeks ago, so hoping that this calf thing doesn’t set me back too much.  I would like to run Umstead in under 4 hours but we’ll see how it goes.  It’s not a BQ race and I’d be doing it for just the fun of doing it.  But I don’t want to suffer through it either, so hopefully this injury will heal fast and I’ll be back out there soon.  As for the Biltmore race, I am also excited about that one.  It’s a great course and a fun trip to Asheville and Biltmore.  So far that’s all that is officially on tap for 2012.

Umstead Marathon

Biltmore 15K

Still of course there are some other races I am pondering…
  • March – Run for the Oaks and Second Empire 5Ks.  I’ve done both of these for several years now and I like them but I’ll have to see how I feel after the Umstead Marathon.
  • September – Provided I am in town this time, I’d really like to run the Magnificent Mile, which I’ve never run before.  I’d like to get some speed work in over the summer to train for it.  I'd also like to do the Friesen Run with the Canes again.
  • October – Either the Army 10 miler if we can get an RTR crew to go, or the ATT 10 miler locally.
  • November – City of Oaks Relay, again if we can get an RTR relay team together it would be fun.  And of course the Turkey Trot, maybe the Surfside Beach one this year instead of the Grand Strand Myrtle Beach one. 
  • December – This one really will depend on funding to be able to travel to another race, but I’d like to do the Kiawah Island Half, if not this year, maybe the following year.  

Looking REALLY far ahead to 2013 and beyond some other races I’d like to do are:  
  • Big Sur Marathon in California
  • Covered Bridges Half Marathon in Vermont
  • Oregon Wine Country Half
  • Chicago Marathon
  • Outer Banks Half 

Well that is enough dreaming about cool races for now.  Happy New Year to you!  I wish you a 2012 filled with beautiful trail runs, exciting road races and an injury free year of achieving your goals, whatever they may be! 

P.S. - Update as of Jan 8th, 2012 – I did a 22 mile run today, and felt pretty good so I am feeling better about the Umstead Marathon.  I also have a new mantra to use, thanks to my son Owen’s Tae Kwon Do instructor.  “Goals I set (sir) are goals I get (sir)!”.  I’ll probably leave out the “sir” part but it got me through the last few miles today!

Jolly Elf Trail Run 5K Cary, NC Dec 10, 2011

Jolly Elf Trail Run 5K Course

After running this race in 2009 I swore I wouldn’t do it again.  Of course you’ll note I said that about the Free to Breathe 5K, which I did this year too, but I was serious about this one.  However I didn’t have a choice.  If I wanted to compete in the series I’d have to run it, since I was out of town for 2 of the 8 races and you need to run 6.  I ran a practice run of the course a few months before so I could get familiar with the course again.  And…I got lost on the first attempt, despite having a map with me.  So since I had time and wanted to run farther I did a second attempt and did better but still wasn’t sure I had run it correctly. 

To clarify, it’s not that I dislike the Jolly Elf course, I do like it and do like trail running.  It’s trail racing, especially a race where speed is important, like a 5K, that I am not comfortable with.  But since I had to do it, I figured I’d embrace it and make it fun.  Since this was another holiday race, I figured I’d dress up in my Santa hat again or maybe I’d try a Christmas tree, using a tree skirt and a green shirt with maybe some real Christmas lights.  I checked out the stock in Target and all the tree skirts were too heavy and long and since I only do dressing up when the running is not impacted, that idea was out.  Plan B then was to do a elf theme, since it is the Jolly Elf afterall.  I was also doing some Christmas shopping so was passing by the girls department when I saw it…the perfect red tulle skirt with a sparkly silver waistband.  This would be the inspiration for my costume.  Of course it would only work as a tutu over my running shorts and I had to try it on to see if the waistband would fit.  I then found a green tank top and battery operated Christmas lights to add to the skirt.  I tried on the outfit and the skirt was a bit tight but another store had it in a larger size and they were still open so I was off to Target number 2.  I picked up the skirt and thought I’d check there for an elf hat, as they didn’t have one at the previous Target.  I was excited to find the perfect elf hat, with ears and all for under $5.  And to finish off the costume, as if it was fate, were the perfect red and green stripped, white fur trimmed knee socks, sitting right there by the cash registers!  An elf was born!
Ready to run! 
As the race got closer it became clear that while it wouldn’t be as freezing cold (28 degrees!) as 2009, it was going to be too chilly for a tank top.  On race morning, I tried some other options but felt I needed the green tank to complete the outfit, so eventually decided on a black cap sleeve Underarmor shirt to wear under the tank.  It turned out this was perfect since I was then able to pin the Christmas lights to the tank with the safety pins on the inside of the tank and still had the other shirt under it so the pins couldn’t be felt.  I added the tutu over some short bike shorts, the elf hat, awesome elf socks (over my Zensah socks) and a few bells on my shoes and wrist.  The battery pack for the lights fit nicely into the zippered back pocket of my shorts.  I was good to go!  Keith got up to snap a few pics including one with me and Jangle Bell, our Elf on the Shelf elf.  Owen was up just in time to see me before I left, but Grace was still snoozing when I headed out. 
Posing with Jangle Bell, our Elf on the Shelf
The race start was at 8:30, or so I thought, so I got up early.  But then before leaving I realized the 5K was actually at 9.  Still I knew parking could be a challenge so I wanted to get there pretty early.  Just like last time, I missed getting a spot in the lot by the registration desk by one car.  So I parked in the overflow lot, just like last time.  But since it wasn’t as cold, it didn’t seem as far to walk to get my bib and t-shirt as well as over to the start to get my chip.  I saw several running friends along the way.  Louise was there and Rusty, Rodney, Rusty’s son and Rodney’s brother and another friend were there, getting their elf stuff on. 

I brought my stuff back to the car and ran to the bathrooms a few times, thankful that there was really no line in the ones near the boat house (shhhh don’t tell anyone for next year!).  I warmed up a little and at the start saw Debra and Jeff and several other running friends.  This time I knew what to expect at the start, a big line across the field as there is no starting mat to get a starting chip time and a mad dash across the field to try to reach the turn off to the trail as fast as possible so you don’t get stuck behind other runners.  It was pretty muddy but at least it was warmer so the mud wasn’t frozen over like last time.  And at least I had on shorts and not tights that didn’t have a drawstring like last time, so I wasn’t spending the first 5 minutes of the race pulling up my pants! 

Prior to the start, the race director, gave a very detailed account of the course but the sound system made it challenging to hear.  And the funny part was at the end he was like, “well just follow the guy in front of you.”  Or maybe I just imagined he said that because a few of us were joking while he was describing the course that this was our plan anyway, to just follow the guy in front of us, really only that first guy needed the course debrief.  Still I was glad I had practiced the course so was familiar with it this time. 

As the gun went off (which actually I can’t say for any of the races I really remember how the start went, if it was an actual gun, a horn, or someone just saying “ready, set, go”), I made sure to take off pretty fast to get out there before the left turn and then right turn onto the trail.  Since I knew however that this wouldn’t be a PR and wouldn’t even likely be a sub 20, I wanted to just focus on keeping a pretty steady reasonable pace after ensuring I wasn’t blocked in.  As I did this, I noticed that another woman, Meghan, was pretty close to me and passed me as we turned onto the paved trail about .3 miles or so into the race.  But instead of focusing on passing anyone I wanted to ensure I didn’t go out too fast too soon, so I kept a steady pace.  The course makes a right turn and then goes onto an unpaved path for a bit, then around the baseball fields and turns right again back again through a parking lot and past the original starting area.  It was at this point that I hit a bit of a bottle neck due to some high school kids who started out fast starting to slow down.  This is around the 1 mile mark.  I couldn’t quite get around them and they were spread a few across and chatting as they ran.  Finally they noticed a friend of theirs had dropped from their group so they agreed to slow to wait for her and I was able to get past them.  I passed a few more of them before entering the woods again. 
Trying to weave around the high school runners around the 1 mile point 
This part of the course is more like a real trail.  It isn’t quite single track but it’s more challenging than a typical fire road would be.  This is a pretty fun part of the course and it felt like going for a nice run in the woods because by this point the runners had started to spread out.  I felt really good and had really not been looking at the overall time and distance, only the pace.  I passed Meghan around this point, which I believed meant I was second female overall, with Erin Dillon way out in front.  I kept going at a good even pace through the trail and slowed a bit but not too much as I went up the railroad tie/steps area.  The trail winds through a nice wooded area here.  I started to catch up to and pass a guy who looked like he was in pretty good shape but he did not look like a true “runner” given the clothes he was wearing.  He asked me how fast I was planning to run the race and I told him usually I’d aim for sub 20 but maybe not for this as it was on the trail.  He seemed a bit surprised and said something like he had not run in 3 years and that it must be nice to be in shape.  I am sure being passed by a girl (ok a 41 yr old “girl”), who was fully decked out in an elf costume with working Christmas lights was not something he had expected.  He tried to stay with me for a bit but eventually fell back. 

As I exited the wooded area and back onto the paved trail I saw Winston, a 14 yr old young man who I see at lots of local races who runs around the same pace as I do.  He was keeping a great pace.  He asked what pace we were going and I said around 6:30 or so.  Around this point we reached the 2 mile mark and honestly I was shocked.  I often get to 2 miles and feel “oh my god we are only at 2 miles!” so this is probably the first time I felt “oh my god how did we get to 2 miles already!”.  I felt great and was very happy that was the case. Winston fell back a little bit just after the 2 mile mark.  Not sure if he ever would find this blog but I truly believe he is much faster than he thinks.  I can tell by they way he is running that he definitely has more speed and energy in him but sometimes I think he doesn’t know it and he slows down in the last mile or mile and a half. 
Sprinting to the finish 
Results posted at the race
I was able to keep the pace and even increase it in the last mile a bit.  As we passed the baseball fields for the second time, knew the finish was very close and I was still feeling strong.  I turned off into the wooded area and through to the open field to the finish line.  I even passed a guy or two in the home stretch and as I neared the finish I saw to my surprise that the clock was still under 20 minutes so I sprinted to beat 20.  I finished in a chip time of 19:41!  This was likely due to the course, at least according to my Garmin (and everyone elses), being a bit short.  The race this time was WAY better, both in time and in experience, than in 2009.  And while it was a bit chilly, it was not bitterly cold so I was comfortable staying in my elf costume, with only an extra fleece jacket added on top.
Post race
Me, Rodney, Rusty's son and Rusty in our elf attire 
I hung around for the awards while chatting with friends, taking some pictures and enjoying some hot cocoa.  David from the IOS Wine Run was there and Sarah had run the 5K with Mia, who did a great job!  When award time came, I picked my ornament from the pile and since I was second overall female I also got a pink water bottle and belt.  Since I have a water belt already, I wouldn’t ever use this prize and wished I had gotten the third place award of some nice gloves instead.  But I figured Grace would like the water bottle for hiking, which she did, so I didn’t attempt to trade it in.  I originally picked a dark bluish/black ornament but when I went back up to get an ornament for Linda who had to leave before the awards, I saw a Ho Ho Ho Run Run Run ornament so I got one for her and exchanged my other one for one of those too.  In the end they forgot to announce the winners of the most festive costume, but one of the race organizers told me on the way out that I was one of them so that was cool.  No prize for that I guess, but he did give me a dozen cinnamon donuts to take home! 
Race bling 
The Jolly Elf trail run was a great end to a great fall race series.  I finished 3rd female overall (link to results http://results.active.com/pages/page.jsp?eventID=1988749).  The series was a lot of fun but I was glad it was over so I could move on from the 5Ks to the longer distances again and to focus on training for the Umstead marathon, which I decided to enter just after Thanksgiving.  Not sure if I’ll do any other races before Umstead on March 3rd, likely not but I may.  For now, I am looking forward to the Second Empire awards luncheon on February 4th.  I’ll see all you Second Empire Series winners there!  Congrats to you all, it was great racing with you.

Jingle Bell 5K Raleigh, NC Dec 3, 2011

Jingle Bell 5K Course

This is my 3rd year doing this race.  I am not sure I like the course very much, but I do like the event.  It’s so much fun to see everyone dressed up and with their jingle bells on.  In 2008 I ran this as my second race ever since moving to NC.   I ran the Second Empire 5K in Oct 2008 as my first “comeback” race.  The only running I was doing was on the weekend, usually pushing one of the kids in the jogging stroller.  I ran that in 23:xx.  Not too bad for not really training I’d say.  Then I ran the Jingle Bell.  Owen and Grace did the kids dash that year.  It was very cold however and quite stressful for Keith to watch both kids in the cold while I ran.  So the following year, I went solo but for some reason wasn’t feeling quite so well after the race.  I placed in my age group but asked someone to get my award for me because I was feeling nauseous.  So that year, not so fun.  I did 22:xx but it was not my best race that year for sure.  I skipped the race in 2010 so was happy to return in 2011 to do it as part of the Second Empire series. 
Ready for the Jingle Bell 
I wore my Santa hat for the race the last 2 times, so was planning to do that this time as well.  Last minute before leaving the house I decided to add a little something.  I had a garland that had some bulb Christmas lights hanging from it so I fastened them with safety pins after wrapping them around me.  Pretty festive and unobtrusive.  I don’t mind a bit of dressing up in the holiday spirit as long as it doesn’t’ interfere with my running.   I am not coordinated enough to pull off the real costumed running so you won’t see me running any Turkey Trots dressed as a turkey or anything!

The Jingle Bell 5K starts at St. Mary’s School off Hillsborough St. in Raleigh.  It’s a pretty big event, well organized.  And this year it was even warm enough to roam around outside.  I got a great parking spot right on the campus.  It’s blocked in by the race course but since I was staying until after the awards I didn’t care.  And it was right near the port a potties!  However, the one problem with this race is the lack of potties for the size of the race field.  Sorely lacking.  Not and issue early on, but once the crowd starts to grow, so does the line.  And per usual I had to go again right before the start.  I also knew that for this race I’d better line up early. Unlike the Triangle Expressway Trot, no one would be shy about getting right up on the starting line at this race.  There was absolutely no way the line would move fast enough to get me to the potty before the start.  However as luck would have it I saw another woman duck into a door in the school where the bib and chip pickup is.  So I followed her and sure enough she was heading to an upstairs bathroom that only a few knew about.  There was a line but short enough that I was able to go and get to the start 10 minutes ahead.  Whew!

Before the potty quest, I had gotten my bib and chip and double, triple checked that the chip and bib matched.  The number on my chip was hand written on there on a little round sticker, not like the other chips with the preprinted number.  Not exactly confidence inspiring given my last two races.  But I was surely sticking around for results and awards so if there was any issue I’d be there to fix it at least. 

I saw Pauline and met some of her new friends from work.  She was looking all buff as usual and festive with her cute earrings and red shirt.  I also saw Bill who runs sometimes with our group and we chatted about the Umstead Marathon, which I had just signed up for, since I guess I needed a new challenge now that the Second Empire Series was winding down.  He told stories of miserable looking runners that he’d seen out there last year.  Gee thanks Bill!

So after the potty issue was resolved, I dashed to the start and got right up there.  Before lining up and at the starting line, I saw a lot of the “regulars” (Debra, Rodney, Rusty, Emil, etc) who are running the series and chatted a bit until the gun went off.   I took off up the hill down St. Mary’s Street pretty fast to try to get right out there.  But was cautious to not go out too crazy fast because I have done that in some of the downtown races before with bad results.  I didn’t want to crash and burn around mile 2.  So I consciously had to slow myself down a bit with a goal of trying to run at a more even pace this time.  I noticed that for much of the race I wasn’t too far behind Kimberly but was cautious to try to not keep the pace faster than I was able to maintain.  I finished the first mile in around 6:15, so not too bad. 
Just before rounding the corner back onto St. Mary's Street to the finish 
Running straight down Hillsborough St. isn’t the easiest course.  It feels like you are running forever and can’t wait to get to the turnaround.  Again an out and back course which isn’t my favorite type of course.  But I kept focused on a constant pace and not slowing down but just looking at the current and average mile pace.  I hit the turnaround and was feeling a bit tired but tried to not let that feeling take over and slow down.  I finished mile 2 in 6:20, so a little bit slower but much more consistent pace than usual.  I just had to hang on one more mile.  Since this course turns back on St. Mary’s Street, it didn’t feel quite as bad as just running straight to the finish on Hillsborough.  Unfortunately I had about 2 blocks more to go before the turn then I thought, since the school is big enough that there are 2 more driveway entrances before actually getting to the corner of St. Mary’s Street.  I could still see Kim up ahead and Santa was standing on the corner cheering everyone on.  I gave Santa a shout out and turned the corner.  I knew it was a short way at this point so felt some energy to sprint.  Once I could see the clock I was even more motivated, because it seemed I would not only PR but maybe even come in under 19:30! 
Results posted on race day 
I crossed the finish with a time on my Garmin of 19:31, so hoped perhaps the chip time would be a bit faster.  Later that night when results were posted my chip time was 19:29, YAY!  I was 4th overall female which put me as first in age group since there was no masters category.  I was really happy with a PR and the AG win and was also glad that the weather this year was finally warm enough to roam around outside and enjoy the day and the post run coffee and food while waiting for the awards.  I spent some more time chatting with some friends and then got my award, a $20 gift certificate to Omega Sports.  Another great 5K in the Second Empire series down, one last race, the Jolly Elf Trail Run, to go.
Hanging out with Mr. C!