Saturday, August 18, 2007

Nothing Else to Do on a Saturday Morning But Win My Age Group

A couple months ago, I wondered how the hoopla I made of races affected my performance. Race after race I’ve described in gory detail how something in my terrified-of-running subconscious arrests my legs at race time. Salty recommended that I casually enter a race someday—without the mess of countdowns and gear-ups that generally precede race day. Now there’s an idea!

Someday several months later…

I woke up around 7 a.m. this morning, thinking it was a work-week day. What a relief to be wrong! After a couple 5:30 a.m. swim practices, I was actually wide awake. My training plan for today called for a 5K at race pace, so I had a Think Thin chocolate fudge protein bar, hopped in the car and headed to Hudson, where the Vertical Runner email mentioned the Joseph Monastra Refuse to Lose 5K race would kick off at 9 a.m.

First and MainFor the first time, I took a real pre-race warm-up run. I’ve “warmed up” for races past, but it was typically a 25-yard jaunt that had more to do with leaving the car or finding a bathroom than gearing up my muscles. I wound through the First and Main area, thinking about the race and, of course, some cupcakes…

See: I had just vowed two weeks ago that I was swearing off dessert foods until I ran a race with an 8:00/mile pace or better. It’s been rough. My body just wasn’t feeling up to snuff this morning, so I wasn’t hopeful. Both of my hammies were tight, my lower back was hinting at some future discomfort, and the energy that pushed me to drive to Hudson had subsided. At least I’m sticking with my training plan, I thought.

I had expected to feel a little tight: the past week included the sprints and intervals that I’m not accustomed to doing. Results of good training take time and practice. All I wanted to do this morning was run my assigned 5K at a “race pace.”

Nine o’clock finally rolled around and we shuffled toward the starting line. Somehow, I ended up in the very front. The Hermes starter announced we would begin in about two minutes at the sound of her bell.

Thirty seconds later something like a secret starting gun sounded and we all took off! Hermes woman fumbled for her bell and rang it right away. We started off running down a slight hill and for two whole glorious seconds I was winning the race. Ahh. Good times.

After those first two seconds, the typical surge of people sprinting past me at the beginning washed by, and I tried to start this race a little faster than usual. My legs had cooled down since the warm-up, but I could definitely feel the difference between my typical racing legs and the ones I had today! Was it the "casual" race, the lessened hoopla, the intervals? Maybe the allure of cupakes?

1878 Victorian/colonial in Hudson villageThe real obstacle for this current house-hunter: Hudson village. Not only are the houses historic, pristine and gorgeous, some of them are for sale! For the first half-mile, I was trying to stay focused and to keep up a faster-than-usual pace, but there were houses with turrets, curvy trim and for-sale signs! What’s a girl to do?

Well, I remembered what happened last time I got caught up in race-time house-hunting (ahem, finished nearly last in cycling), unglued my eyes from the sideshow and thought about my stride, my extension, my follow-though. I only had 3.1 miles to work with here!

I was only feeling a little bit tight about five minutes into the race, so I took my pace up a few notches—just outside my comfort zone. And then I wondered: was I running faster or was my body just not up to snuff? My thought was that it’s only a 5K—even if I get pooped, I can still jog it home, right? It was the first time I’d raced a 5K (last week’s tri leg was a bit different for me), so tackling it took a little playing.

The group had spread out by the time I could see the 1-mile marker down the road, and I was surrounded by a bunch of kids (not including a nine-year-old girl named Jessica who kicked the race in 21:52!). At first I thought I was running uber slow to be at the kids' table, but I looked down at my watch and then passed the marker at 7:41! That’s a minute off my typical first mile. Woo hoo!

Confidence renewed, I tried to stay focused on my pace. The first two miles were mostly uphill, and I was looking forward to the run back and some down-hills. So, I was pretty disappointed (as were several other people I could hear cursing the course) when we veered away from the downward route back. Darn it! My mind and legs were so surprised by the turn of events that the next uphill was a killer for me. I slowed down way too much and crossed mile two at 15:56 (8:15 mile-two split).

So, I can’t lie: at this point I’m thinking that cupcakes are out of my reach and all I really want is a cup of Gatorade and a nap. I had lost my pacer (she took off on the hill that killed my spirit—it wasn’t even that big!) and I didn’t have the mental energy with which I had started. Lucky for me, I knew that I had the physical energy to finish strong. So, I mentally smacked myself back to reality and just tried to stretch out my legs and keep a strong stride.

Mile three passed without anyone calling out the time, and I didn’t even want to check my watch. With about an eighth of a mile to go, a ten-year-old kid with shaggy hair came flying up from behind me! Greg, who used to work at Kent State and had already finished the race, was cheering us from the sidelines. I looked at him and said, “I’m getting beaten my a little person!” So, the kid turned on the jets! Way to go! I sprinted after him, but he finished two seconds ahead of me (he probably helped me cut a few of my own seconds).

My final time: 24:22 (pace - 7:50/mile; last 1.1 mile - 8:26).

I hadn’t realized it at the time—my mental math was wrong—but I was totally cupcake-worthy! While I knew that my time was in the 24:00 area, I didn’t have a clue how/where I had finished. I talked to a couple of people (including Vince from Vertical Runner—he’s like a celebrity—whom I thanked for hooking me up with a killer pair of shoes) and then headed home.

Once I was home, I checked for results. Nothing. I had some breakfast, did some work, talked to Neil, made lunch, and by noon, still nothing.

Finally around 2 p.m. the results rolled in: I found my time and that I had won my age group! Yeah! I’ve never won my age group, and have never expected to win it… accordingly, I didn’t even stay for the awards! I wonder what I would have received? Anyhow, Neil played “We Are the Champions” for me—changing the lyrics, of course, to “Gina is the Champion… of her age group!”—and that was reward enough. How awesome!

Admittedly it was a small race with a slower pack than most of the events I’ve entered. But I’m still proud… and I still picked up cupcakes! So, there were some additional rewards.

1998 VW JettaI bought a new-to-me car today (a 1998 VW Jetta GLS, which is the car I drove and loved before I gave up driving for a spell), and once the former owner, Emily, dropped it off, Neil and I packed in for an inaugural drive and for a cupcake run.

The cupcake order: seven chocolate lava cuppies for Neil and "Main Street Chocolate Fluff," wedding white and half-baked cookie dough for me.

What a day! I had two cupcakes and will have to freeze-save the rest for my next goal. What can I say: the cupcake-carrot on a stick works for me!

By the way: it turns out that we all started at the sound of a police-escort motorcycle backfiring instead of a secret starting gun on the grassy knoll. Ahh, Hermes.


Neil said...


In the words of Ice Cube - "Damn right it was a good day!"

B Bop said...

Congrats on the AG award G!!!!! I ran that race last year (in a monsoon)....and the course was a little long; probably close to a 6K. So, unless they rerouted it this year, you were more than deserving of dessert!

kelsalynn said...

Way to kick some ARSE girlfriend! Dang! You should be totally proud of yourself. And I love your comment about "mentally smacking yourself back into reality!"

jkrunning said...

Congrats to you! What an awesome day. Those cupcakes sound awesome!

Jim said...

Woo Hoo. Awesome job G! Inspiring story. I can' wait to do another 5K meself, once the weather breaks down here in N.C. and folks start scheduling them again. The closest I've seen so far is in early October (Unless I want to drive 3-4 hours and who wants to do that? Not me fer shur.)

Did you wear your HR monitor during the race? It's a good way to see what your HR gets up to when your pushing it. Gives you a nice gauge to train by. said...

Running for cupcakes! I am right with you. A good brownie, cupcake, or cookie can change your life. And your story proves it! Great run today!

Creative Pup said...

Congratulations Gina!

Well I suppose it was a good thing that I did not show up on Sunday to see you run since you decided to go running a day earlier, much less a different race and location. DOH!

Congratulations on your run and for winning your very first age group. We are most proud!

I sure hope you get your prize!

Nevenka said...

Congratulations Ginica,

Soooooo, now I see what you get from my side -- love of dessert. Mama is proud of you.

Love the car. Nice house

Mama loves you.

The Salty One said...

Awesome! You are improving at a nice rate!! You should feel very very proud! You deserve the age group win. Slow field or fast field, a win's a win.

Not that I'm all great or anything, but here are a couple funny coincidences: I'll have you know I drive a jetta and check out these results from a couple of years ago:

A lot can happen in a couple of years with consistent smart training. Never forget that. Put in the work and be patient and you're body will reward you. You'll be regularly winning your age group or more sooner than you think!!

Congrats on the house hunting too!!!

sue said...