Sunday, March 16, 2008

Kicking Off With a PR

One of the advantages to being a running neophyte is that I’ve run so few races that I’m often hit a PR when I run. Plus, going from “only run when chased” to “training for something” has helped move me up the ladder of improvement.

Up the final hill at St. Malachi. Ugh.And Saturday’s 42:57.30 in St. Malachi’s 5-mile was part of that trip. Achieving my goal to beat last year’s time (45:03) puts me in decent shape for my next 5-milestone: 40:00 in the Hall of Fame 5-miler in July. But first races first…

It’s about time my deductive reasoning kicked in: warm-ups, I learned last summer, are a good thing to do before a race. I took a two-mile run before the gun from St. Malachi to downtown Cleveland and back. Whatever caused it, my calves were super sticky after the warm-up, never really loosened, and I’m still stretching to get them back to normal as I type.

The tightness upped my anxiety for a few minutes—thinking my calves might tighten or tear—but I just sucked in race-day air and marched in place near the start for 10 minutes before the race. And within those 10 minutes, the sun pushed through the clouds and burned away some creepy fog just as the race began.

What Neil and Nino did while I was running five miles. Fast.St. Malachi’s route was different this year, but started with the same big downhill and ended with the same dreaded uphill I loved/hated last year. Aiming to run a hair under 9:00/mile, I tried to find a comfortable pace to run and a pace I could maintain for the entire race.

My training runs have been between 9:30-10:00/miles, so I figured I’d push just a touch above training runs. And I did.

So, you can imagine my surprise as I crossed mile one at 7:48. Really? (It was mostly downhill.) I felt fine and still fresh at the marker, but I was a little nervous that I was pushing too hard. Yes, yes, I realize you’re supposed to push hard during a race, but I’m just warming up to racing again! Last time I race, I had a semi-broken leg!

Paranoia crawling all over me, I slowed down. A bit. The second mile had its hills and straight-aways, and aside from some pretty big potholes, it was pretty uneventful. I hit mile two at 16:20 for an 8:38 mile-two split.

After the race, I was amazed at my elbow sweat, which was steaming in the cool air.I could explain enough what near-perfect weather we had for this race. Whew! It was probably in the lower 40s, sunny with most of the morning’s fog burned by the sun. As usual, I overdressed (read last year’s report to get the litany of layers I wore for race one) and had to do some major hokey-pokey to take off my fleece and keep it bunched up around my core. I was burning up. In fact, after the race I was amazed at my inner-elbow sweat, which was steaming up in the cool air.

Another dressing note: I opted for my old Mizunos for this race. I’m beginning to think I should have gone with my gut on my shoe purchase and not taken store advice about buying up a half size. These new Mizunos just feel so clunky and huge. Perhaps it will be nice in the summer when my feet are more likely to swell, but these shoes just aren’t swell right now. Oh well.

Around 2.5 miles I walked through the water station (last year, I ran with my first-ever water and had the world’s worst stitch for the whole second half of the race) and turned onto what had to be the second steepest hill in Northeast Ohio. At least at that moment it was. A few people were walking and the thought of walking was all that crossed my mind.

Actually, it wouldn’t have been as bad a hill if I hadn’t been heckled the whole way up. What appeared to be a homeless guy on a bike was riding along side the race, saying, “Wow, I bet you’re really tired now, aren’t you” and “This is one steep hill; your legs have to be killing you” and “good thing I have a bike to ride on the way down; you don’t” the whole trek up. He was just lucky the hill was in my way.

The best thing about steep uphills is they’re often followed by rolling downhills to aid recovery. This route didn’t disappoint. I road the downhill and used gravity as my best friend, cruising into mile three at 24:40 for an 8:20 split.

I was really surprised that my mile-three came in so fast, downhill speed or not. And somehow I still had plenty of gas in the tank (OK, that wasn’t really a surprise; I eat like a growing adolescent elephant before race day).

My inexperience in racing, however, triggered all of my fear reactors and I slowed down again. For some reason I started panicking about not having enough to trek up that last hill—my Everest. Mile four wasn’t rife with hills or obstacles, but I still jogged it out in 9:00, hitting mile four at 33:40. I’m such a wimp!

Needless to say, slowing down mile four a few seconds didn’t really affect my last quarter-mile climb. What did help, however, was seeing my cheering section—mom, Nino and Neil—waiting at the turn before Mt. Everest. Just thinking about the last stretch made me want to start walking, but seeing them waiting helped me skirt my inner wuss.

Mom booked up the hill to the finish.The best part was coming up the final hill and seeing them again!

My three amigos sprinted up the hill to meet me near the finish. And as I crossed Nino and Neil on the sidelines, Neil yelled, “Look! Your mom’s running too!” I turned to look down the hill and there she was, booking up the incline (she’s a little stiff in one leg from a dramatic rollerblading accident a few years ago) and yelling, “Go! G! Go!” I think she actually ran it faster than I did!

I ran with whatever I had left up that stupid hill. As I crossed the finish in 42:57.30 (that’s an 8:17 split for the last mile), I laughed to myself about how my first-race energy powered me up the hill last year.

I remember seeing the finish and kicking it into sixth gear, cruising past everyone on the hill and running faster than the interval sprints that fractured my leg last summer.

But this year I just didn’t have that extra umph! And I realized that I need to find it. That Hall of Fame run ends with about a mile of winding incline, and I have to be ready with some tricks up my sleeve. Or else.

Congrats, again, to everyone who ran this year and thanks to my super-special cheering section who not only rallied me up the hill, but had a dee-lish bratwurst from the West Side Market waiting for me at the finish. Now, that’s love.

Speaking of love, here is a gratuitous photo of my mom's two pups, Harley Tango (papillon on the left) and Lucy Cha-Cha (rat terrier on the right). Neil and I have gone puppy crazy, so I wanted to share the dogs we cuddled all weekend.

Harley and Lucy
Harley and Lucy are rumored to be quite the little runners and should be setting some under-14 records any day now. I don't see any marathons in their future, but I'm thinking they could take me in a 5K.


tracie said...

awesome race!!!

well done report too! :)

i'm sure if you keep things up training wise you'll be great at the hall of fame race.

Nevenka said...

All of us sooooo proud of you G!!! The 3NAmigos had a great time as well!!! Eating, running and funning!! We love you sooooo much!!!

miss petite america said...

go gina! go gina! go, go, go gina!!

*shakin' my ass on account of you kickin ass!*

B Bop said...


I would have thrown some gu at the heckler.

Congrats on the PR.

triguyjt said...

sorry i missed bumping into you..but from your version..i remember the "heckler " for part of the race....

came in 42:20..beat my we finshed pretty close...
great job g.!!!

fun report....
how did you do that effect with nino clearing the snow??

TrainingtoTri said...

Awesome race report and OMG those puppies - I want to eat them, they are so cute!

Dana said...

Great race & report. Way to get your PR on! Those pups are too cute.

Jim said...

WTG Gina! You're on the right track: must be the brots.

So, I know you're not at Kent anymore, but I've got them winning it all this year! OK, not really. Just their first game then bowing outto Kansas.

As much as I'd love to see a UNC-Duke final, I've got UNC topping Memphis for the crown. (I ambitiously have Duke making the Final 4, yeah right.)