Sunday, July 29, 2007

Another Race and a New Pair of Shorts

Well, in the words of Jim Carrey in “Liar, Liar”: I’ve had better.

But first, the important stuff—running shorts. After last week’s running-short catastrophe, I made my way to Dick’s in Canton on Saturday evening to find something more suitable for racing.

The current selection of shorts I wear are good for 2-3 miles before they creep up in all the wrong places. Plus, the material and flow of the fabric just isn’t conducive to fast, undistracted running (as it turns out, I’m not really suited for fast, undistracted running either, but that’s a different story), and the pants I had been wearing are semi-lethal on 90-degree summer days. So, Neil took me shopping.

It was great to see the vast selection of running shorts at Dick’s. While the help at the store is never stellar (what do you mean which shoes are good for running?), running shorts pretty much explain themselves. I checked out the shape, fit and material on about 15 pairs of shorts, and walked into the dressing room with six.

As I tried on each pair, I ran in place, ran with high knees, jogged with big kick-back, bent, stretched, and tried to reenact any movements I might actually attempt in my shorts. Don’t ask what the people outside the room thought. After my extensive and scientific testing, only one pair passed: New Balance Sequel running shorts.

The shorts are a good length, have inner lining and use the “Lightning Dry” material that is New Balance forte. And not only did they move with me and stay put when/where needed, they also happened to be totally on sale. Original price: $25; Gina price: $9.97. I was pumped, so I bought three pairs! (I won’t lie, I would have bought more, but they only had three smalls left. But I wonder what my local Dick’s might have left?).

Neil navigated the fireworks/FoodFest traffic back to his parents’ house in Jackson Township. We had pasta for dinner with his family and then played poker until 11 p.m. I slept all right and woke up at 6:30 a.m. with a little bit of neck pain, an icky stomach, minimal energy and even more minimal desire to run. At least Neil took the 6:30 a.m. wake up time well!

It was such a bummer to wake up in that manner because I was ready to run a 40-minute 5-miler the night before! Bummer. But I put on my new shorts, tied up my shoes and got ready to head out to the Hall of Fame.

We arrived at the HOF at 7:30 a.m., picked up my packet, made a bathroom stop and wondered around, trying to get pumped to the tune of NFL Films music. The kids race was fun to watch—one kid blew the rest of the pack away by about 30 seconds—but that was where I saw the race finish line. It was at the top of a long, winding hill. And I spent the rest of the morning trying not to psych myself out for the race.

Neil and I headed back up the hill toward the 5-miler start, but had to make another bathroom stop. This is where it gets fun: according to the Web site, there were around 1400 people… and two bathrooms. Two. We were so lucky when we arrived early and four people were in line… but this time we waited about 20 minutes! And with about 5 minutes until start-time, there were still another 50 people waiting.

So, I approached the start and, for once, tried to get a little closer to the line—this race was using chip-timing for the finish… but not the start. I found a semi-decent spot, collected myself, tried to up my energy and ignore my stomach. Next thing I knew, we were off!

Twenty-seven seconds behind the gun, I crossed the start line and started my watch. The usual rush of people went past me, and I tried to run my own race. I spent most of the first mile trying to fight my mental and physical fatigue. And thanks to the HOF race route planners, the first mile was pretty low key and simple. But as Gina’s first miles go, I came in around 8:41. Same as the last race.

But I didn’t want to finish the same as last race! I picked up my pace a little and tried to stretch out my legs, breathe easy and traverse the variable hills in mile two. It helped that my shorts stayed in place and were almost negligible (and that’s what I want in a pair of shorts—I want them to be something I don’t even have to think about during a race!) the whole five miles. I checked my watch as I crossed mile two at 17:00 (mile-two split: 8:19).

And I was back on track to reach my 8:30/mile goal. We hit a water stand right after the marker. I oversipped a half-mouthful of water and ran for a bit trying to swallow bit-by-bit. By the time the water was down, I was admittedly out of breath! I slowed down and tried to catch my breath and get back on track just as we ran into a collection of hills through the park.

The park run was nice—scenic, tree-shaded and lined with some people support. What wasn’t nice was the cut-off menace who plagued miles 2-4 of my run. By the middle of mile two, there was plenty of room for everyone to run. Sure, there’s some navigating around runners, but some people don’t quite grasp the concept of general courtesy.

We were just winding through the park where jockeying for position wasn’t really necessary. But five times this guy ran up, cut me off and slowed down. I almost tripped on his feet every time, and it took my back to that ROTC guy who was messing with me at the rec. track. So, I just moved away and passed the guy. Then he would do it again. My only consolation is that he didn’t slam me into a car mirror, and it made me think that I must have a “please take out your race-day angst here” written on me somewhere. Oh well. I’ll just bring my brass knuckles next time.

Next we climbed up a few hills to the McKinley Monument, the mile-three marker and another water stop. First, I have to say that I was really impressed with the water, EMS and other support at this run. I didn’t care much for some of the people and the hills, but the support was awesome. Come on: there were three water spots, ambulances galore and annoying kids squirting you with SuperSoakers (OK, I didn’t dig that last part). What more could you ask for in a 5-miler?

I crossed the mile-three marker around 25:58 (mile-three split: 8:58) and carefully sipped my water with moderate disappointment at my slowed-down pace. It was this same spot in the last race that I started feeling energy-sapped and wheezy, so I had to get myself out of my mental slump to push past what has now become my mile-three malaise.

Mile four was mostly straight with some hills and all sun… and it was all I could do to keep myself chugging along. Perhaps next time I’ll bring some GU to suck down at 2.5 miles until I get out of my funk. As I did last time, I tried to mentally remind myself that I had plenty of energy and calories to go on, but I couldn’t change my mind.

Unfortunately, my exhausted mile-four in this week’s race wasn’t the 8:08 I clocked at the Winking Lizard. I crossed mile four around 35:12 for a disappointing 9:14 split.

But there was only a mile to go! I looked at my watch and figured that I could chug along with anything I had left and still make it close to my goal. If I wanted to meet 8:30/mile, I would have to run a 42:30, which wasn’t going to happen at that point. Yet I could still try.

Little by little, I picked up my pace and tried to focus on the strength of my stride, just moving forward and ignoring how dizzy I was beginning to feel. I was passing people left and right, and could start to hear the finish-line crowds cheering and the finishers’ names being announced. As we were taking one the final turns, I was running next to a guy who was huffing and puffing and on the verge of stopping. I turned to him and said, “Come on, dude, we can do it!” He smiled and just booked it to the finish!

His leaving me in his dust was almost enough to energize me to an all-out sprint to the finish, but then we hit that stupid hill I dreaded at the beginning of the race. It was brutal.

I tried with each step to pick it up and sprint to the finish, but gravity just wasn’t my friend today. Nor were my legs and energy level. But as I emerged from the tunnel, I could see the finish. The official clock read 43:44 and I had to kick it into a higher gear. I pushed up the rest of that hill and crossed the finish with an official-clock time of 43:58—that’s 43:31 adjusted for the gun-start difference, one minute over my time goal, ~8:42/mile pace and 12 seconds over my goal pace... but it was 8:19 final-mile split.

So, like I said, I’ve had better. Not a better 5-miler (about 1:35 faster than St. Malachi in March)... but better races. It did, however, make me think about a couple things:

  1. Am I ready for a race a week? It was a difficult week because of last Saturday’s race, the late Tuesday night, no sleep all week and super-stress at work. I need to figure out if I am ready yet for so many races or if I just let external factors slow me down. I’d like to figure that out in the next couple of weeks—I’m under the impression that I can do the GC Tri and the Perfect 10-Miler one week apart.
  2. How can I improve my diet? Aside from the mild cupcake addiction, I’ve been a lifelong healthy eater. I know all about what’s healthy, what to eat, how, when and why. No myth-following or trend-loving here. But I obviously need to learn how to eat for race day. I’m a high-energy person every other day of the week… now how about race day!

I don’t feel that I’m back to my pre-sciatic shape (last Thursday’s seven-mile run was much rougher than it should have been), so I’m trying not to be too hard on myself. But it didn’t seem to harm me last week. Ah well.

My goal is to finish this 5-miler in 40:00 next year. And Neil has said that he will run it in 40:00 next year too. We’ll see about that. But he really did run the 5:00/mile for boyfriend support. And that’s more than enough for me. Although running the race next year might be worth the early morning, bathroom lines and long wait. What do you think, Neil?


Neil said...

40:00 for 5 miles hmm?

If by that you mean I get to:
- wake up at 6:30 am on Sundays
- wait in line half an hour to pee
- eat energy bars and goo
- AND smell spring fresh when I'm done?

Oh yeah, sign me up.

Remember what I told you - "If you want to decrease your time...just run faster." That one is free, the next one I'll charge for.

As long as you wear those cute shorts I'll be the first one at the finish line - even if I skip the race to meet you there.

JenC said...

Sounds like you still did well on a tough course. Those hills by the monument are butt kickers! I'm from Canton, but didn't know they had a HOF 5-mile race. Maybe I'll try it out next year.

As for GCT and the 10-miler, it is totally doable, but you may find that you rock one better than the other depending on the rest you get before each. You don't have to be a rock star at every race - some are good just for the experience.

I'll be volunteering at GCT, so maybe I'll finally get to meet you!

JenC said...

Oh, and I had a cupcake yesterday and thought of you. I stepped out of my usual favorites and tried a blueberry/lemon one. It was okay, but definitely worth a try.

Jim said...

The image of you running in place in the Dick's Sporting Goods dressing room is priceless. I need some new shorts myself, so thanks for the research. Hopefully I can find those nifty New Balance shorts in men's style.

Good job pushing yourself during the HOF race - especially the last mile, and a hilly one to boot. As for running a race a week, listen to your body - not all of us recover as quickly as others. Blame it on our genes. Just make sure to refuel with carbs, protein, and fluids within 30 minutes after workouts and races. It helps with recovery.

I'm sure Salty will have some valuable insights into pre-race meals. My deal is I have a high-carb meal the night before, a small high-carb meal on the morning of a race (at least a couple of hours before race time) and I sip energy drink and water up until about 15 minutes before race start. And of course, proper warm-up is key.

The Salty One said...

Question #1: Well, it depends what you want to accomplish in your races. If it's just a matter of getting experience with races then I think you'll be fine. If you expect to run/tri your best possible time, well, probably not. It's one thing if your training volume is high and a 10 miler is 10% of your weekly load--then you can expect to race close to your best racing two consecutive weeks. Us mere mortals can't do that though! But, if you keep your expectations in check I think you can do both races just fine.

Question #2: Well, there is no magic diet. You need to make sure you're getting enough protein for muscle repair. It's also important as a female athlete to make sure your getting B vitamins and iron. Red meat is a good choice, although somewhat gross to this former vegetarian (although I have learned to deal with it just fine). I try to eat a lot of easily digestible carbs before long races and workouts: pasta, pretty much. I stay away from dairy, fatty foods, really fibery foods and things like that the night before. Before a big race I'll eat a bagel or some toast and drink some gatorade. Before long runs I'll maybe just have a banana or something small. It's all a matter of personal preference, really. Before shorter races I am not as worried. It's hard to run out of glycogen in a 5k! Just eat whatever will make you most comfortable--not hungry and that does not upset your stomach.

PS I have a brown thumb! Mrp is the grower and I am the cooker of the vegetables!

The Salty One said...

PPS Awww. Neil is a dear!!!

DaisyDuc said...

Well nice job on a strong finish for the race and inspiring another runner!!!

You will be fine racing back to back weekends! You just may need to not be so hard on your time goals!