Saturday, July 21, 2007

Finally, Better Than Expected: 34:06

Oh boy, did I forget how challenging, addictive, exhausting, fun, body-wrenching and educational races are! Where have I been all summer long?

It’s 11:35 p.m. and I’m still reeling from the Winking Lizard 'Shot in the Dark' 4-Miler in Cleveland this evening. The race kicked off at 5:30 p.m. and I was cotton-mouthed from the anxiety of racing again by 5:31!

This race started in the same area around Jacobs Field et al as the Cleveland 10-Miler. But for the first race in my short running life, it wasn’t raining! In fact, it was a pleasant evening and just a bit too sunny for once. I had come to the race in my too-large Paris-Hiltonesque sunglasses and actually ran with them (good thing for me they’re inexpensive glasses, so they’re almost weightless)… and I don’t know what I would have done without them.

We started out on Huron and ran out to Ontario and around Quicken Loans Arena before crossing the big old Lorain-Carnegie Hope Memorial Bridge for what was a ¾ mile uphill climb. Everyone seemed to start this race fast, but I picked a pacer early on and just stuck with her even stride. But the temptation to sprint early with the rest was great… but it paid off later. I hit the mile-one marker mid-bridge at 8:41. Not bad!

In light of my recent back and just plain Gina-inflicted issues, I had aimed to a) finish, as usual; and b) average 9:00/mile. So, I assumed that my first mile would be the fastest (because I haven’t had much in the tank lately) and just focused on getting to mile-two by 18:00. And it wasn’t an easy ride. I was wholly parched, as I mentioned, by the end of the first mile—whether it was from nerves or heat, it wasn’t a good feeling. I reminded myself, however, that I generally stay almost too-hydrated every single day. There was no way my body was dehydrated at this point. It helped me temporarily get past the mental hurdle and I pushed on…

Right when I got pushed! As we were running down Lorain Avenue, I was running on the outside of the group alongside the cars parked on the street. Another girl was running a little behind and beside me, and there was plenty of space on the other side. No one seemed to have trouble passing with courtesy and ease, except for the guy who shoved me into a car. My shoulder smacked a rearview mirror and for a few delirious seconds I didn’t quite understand what had happened.

I continued running (now that I think of it, I hope the car wasn’t damaged) despite being a little lost for my senses. And it was only after a couple minutes that I started thinking about all the nasty things I wanted to say to that guy. Instead, I sought him out in the crowd and passed him, crossing mile two at 17:20 (8:39 split). No, I didn't slug the guy.

We ran down Fulton Road, where I sad to see that the creperie Le Oui Oui CafĂ© was no longer around (Johnny Mango, however, was still OK!), and then turned into a stretch of running directly into the sun. Up to this point I had been able to catch some shade here and there, but it wasn’t an option as we headed down Franklin and West 29th. Thankfully, there was a water stop on Franklin, where I managed to rinse out the dry mouth and pretty much pour water down the entire front of my body. The water that made it to my mouth (one swing for rinsing and a small swing for drinking) helped clear the mental block of dehydration, and I was free to run the forever uphill that was the Detroit Avenue Bridge.

I should mention that shortly after mile-two, my seemingly even and reliable pacer fell off. I slowed down a couple times to make her stay in front of me, but then I realized that it didn’t really make sense. So, I picked a new pacer. She was pretty far ahead of me and seemed to have a good pace going. Until we reached the bridge.

From the moment we turned onto Detroit Avenue, I could see and feel the not-so-subtle grade. I kept spying the middle of the bridge knowing it had to end there… but that never comes soon enough. And it didn’t come soon enough for the larger-than-expected collection of people who had to stop and walk when we were ¾ up the hill! It would be my lazy tendency to just slow way down on an uphill, but I kept my eyes on my pacer and stayed with it.

It was one of those wearying hills that tests your hammies and your general will to live. Granted, it was an anthill compared to the final stretch of St. Malachi—but it was way long and positioned at the stress point of a short race.

I remained focused and was proud of my ability to maintain a steady pace and not let the pain, exhaustion or sun glare throw me off. And I had my pacer to thank for much of my pacing success… until she dropped off as well. Then I crossed mile three at 25:56 (8:36 mile-three spilt) and kept on trucking.

The mile-three marker was just a little past the middle point of the bridge, so it was then that I took the downhill to recover and try to ramp myself up for about nine minutes more of hard running. It wasn’t difficult to calculate that I had about 10:00 to finish my last mile in goal time. While that was comforting, I was really beginning to run out of steam.

I felt like I had the endurance to finish the race strong, but I don’t think I ate remotely enough today to keep up with the energy (between mental and physical prep, anxiety, excitement and, oh yeah, the actual running) required to run a great race. Once I started thinking about my downed energy, I started counting calories that I had to have stored somewhere in my body for that last mile. Where, for instance, had all those cupcakes gone? They had to be somewhere on me to fuel that last stretch, right?

After I cruised down the hill and saw a race photographer, I tried to lengthen my stride and run pretty for the picture. This race, however, was my first shorts-wearing race, and it just wasn’t a good shorts-wearing experience… so, I’m not excited, per se, to see that photo. But my stride should look killer... well, at least for me.

I was excited to feel that my legs weren’t remotely as tired as my mind (boy, was I thanking my lucky stars that this wasn’t a 10-miler—whew!) and my general energy level.

As I trotted up Ontario (it was uphill all the way to the finish line!), I began assessing my vital stats: legs were fine, back was a little weak, my brain was shot and my breathing was a little wheezy from the warm city mug. The wheeze threw me off for about ¼ mile as I was arrested by the fear of an asthma attack, knowing that my stubbornness would never let my body actually stop running to deal with a breathing problem. So, I slowed down and tried to get my breathing in check.

The hardest thing was that I wasn’t winded, just wheezy. Slowing down didn’t really help because I wasn't really tired. Yet the more I wheezed, the more I panicked. The more I panicked, the more I wheezed. I tried to put myself mentally somewhere else and focus on some yogie breathing. It probably would have helped in a longer run, but I started nearing the finish stretch and just turned my focus to listening to people cheering and minutes ticking, not my lungs wheezing.

Besides, I figured they’d be able to help me better if I collapsed at the finish than in the middle of downtown Cleveland. And the faster I got to that finish line, the better.

The crowd noise started getting louder and I could hear the times being read, “33:02…. 33:05…. 33:10...” and I started running fast! As we turned onto Huron and ran past Quicken Loans Arena, I started into a dead sprint toward the finish.

I was neck-and-neck with a girl who had passed me on the bridge and whom I passed on the final stretch. We were both sprinting for the finish, where there were lines of people and a man reading off the times, and I thought I had crossed it first. I slowed down just when I noticed that she was still kicking it. I heard my mom yell, “Go, G! Go!” and I realized that I had another 25 yards to go to the finish line! I’m such a doof!

So, I sprinted the rest of the way (obviously, the other girl beat me), finishing at 34:06 (that’s an 8:08 mile-four split, 8:31/mile average!), a PR and a proud moment… despite the sheepish grin I had as I crossed the timing mats, which I should have looked for in the first place!

Whew! It’s exhilarating just recounting the race!

It was also quite neat to have several pals running the race, including Jeff, who finished his first-ever race in 33:18, and my step-father Philip who ran it in 36:16. It was particularly fun going with Jeff to the race because it made me feel like the seasoned professional—all three races under my belt now! But it's even more awesome that he and Philip had some fantastic races!

Lessons learned: 1) buy a pair of running shorts—enough said; 2) I can run without music, and run relatively well; 3) who knew I had a crumb of focus?; 4) injury? what injury?; and 5) run all the way to the finish, not where you think the finish should be.

Things to work on: 1) drinking on the run—bright side: no stitches for the first time, but it would be nice to get more in my mouth, less down my leg; 2) running in the sun—the heat was a killer; 3) building my distance again—this would not have been a happy blog posting if I had attempted a 10-miler; and 4) starting a little faster—I obviously have some endurance and finishing speed, and I should spread that speed a little more evenly across a race.

The only bummer: Hermes appears to have mixed up some results! My heart sunk this evening when I checked the 4-mile results and couldn’t find my name or Jeff’s in the listing. So, I checked the 2-mile results, and there they were. There’s a whole host of runners whose gun-chip difference is 4-5 minutes, which probably means that we’re all listed under the wrong races. Grrr.

I sent Hermes an email about the mix-up, as high-maintenance as that sounds, and I hope they care! It was my best race yet, and I would prefer to have the correct results posted. There's nothing quite like a personal record!

Now I can’t wait to race again!


Vincent and Jeff... said...


I am STILL so pumped about successfully completing my first race. Thanks for the I probably would have zigged, when I should have zagged, had it not been for your clear description of the race and what to look for as I ran (I brought my passport with me, just in case I ended up at the Canadian border!).

I'm heading out for a bike ride I have TONS of excess motivation to burn off. Damn! That was fun...

And for other readers of this site...I must say that Gina did NOT adequately express her feelings about finishing the race...short of the finish line. Doh! I liked her NC-17 expression of frustration better. Haa haaa...

Bex said...

Congrats on doing so well in the race! And a big BOO for the guy who slammed you into the car. I cannot believe the nerve of that a**hole.

Kris said...

Great job on the race, maybe someday...years from now...I can say I ran around a 8:30min/mi let alone 9min/mi. But you are looking great!

The Salty One said...

On Hermes website it has you coming in with a chip time of 30:06 or something like that. That would be a 7:30 pace, not 8:30 pace! Did you start way way way in the back or is there something weird going on there?

Hermes is TERRIBLE with stuff like results and names and measuring courses and the important things like that. It's nothing personal, they just kind of suck!

Anyway, welcome back to the world of racing. What's up next?

PS Need any zucchini?!

B Bop said...

Congrats on the PR!!!! That's a fun race. Last year for the first couple of miles I was running with some guy that had consumed about 10 beers before the race....He sort of fell apart around mile 2 ;-)

Jim said...

Congrats on the race and nice job on the telling of the tale. Felt like I was running right there with ya.

miss petite america said...

omg! awesome awesome race report! and congrats on your PR! it always amazes me all the details people remember throughout their races. i feel like once i cross the finish line my mind just blanks out from the bliss of finishing!

i can't wait to see the pics form the race!

JenC said...

Yay! I'm so glad the race went well for you. Great job!