Thursday, June 11, 2009

Flag Day and its 5K

So, I’ve had much better races than the Flag Day 5K I just ran, but it was all worthwhile because I did get to cheer on E-Speed and Salty to their incredible sub-19 races (typically I just hear about these ladies kicking butt; today I saw them kicking in action)!

Talk about a junky (and not at all smart) lead-up week, though: first five-days-straight running in at least a month left me more ragged and worn than expected, while other life/work stuff beat me up in the head. I guess it happens.

My guess is the extra cycling, aerobics and pilates might have added insult to preventing injury, but my mood weighed the most today. At least the weather cooperated.

Enough crabbing, here’s how it went down: I hitched a ride with E-Speed and made it to Deep Woods with enough time to register, stretch, warm-up and mosey around before the start. My warm-up felt plain poopy, so I trotted a half-mile out and back, prodded my calf to loosen and waited at the start, where I wish the chicas good racing, and used a pin to scratch off the misspelling of my last name on my racing bib.

Cue the anthem, runners set and go.

Obviously, I don’t start toeing the line. But these no-chip races make me anxious about the precious seconds added to my time—I realize I’m not breaking records, but I have my pride at stake! (What’s left of it on a day like today, anyway.)

Lucky for me that negative attitude subsided, even while feeling pretty sluggish, as I tried to take advantage of the first downhill. I rooted on E and Salty around the first hairpin turn, ran behind a slow-moving, exhaust-spewing truck, tried to flee a guy who grunted like he was dying a painful death every 15-20 seconds and was happy to cross mile 1at 6:45.

If only that feeling (and downhills) had lasted.

Well, I momentarily escaped the grunter, despite slowing way down in mile 2. My cardio still felt great—the cycling intervals, in particular, are working wonders—but my legs just weren’t with it. I slowly trotted the water stop (just before tripping over a sewer), downed too much water and picked up a stitch before crossing mile 2 at 14:57 (8:12 split).

Note: by the time I crossed mile 2, the winner was already finished.

Just before heading up some final hills (man, was I pokey up those hills!), I walked for 15-20 seconds to try working out the stitch. While I wasn’t cool with walking in a 3.1-mile race, I was even less cool with the cramp. It didn’t totally subside until after the race; I’ll have to learn to work stitches out on the run in the future.

Slugging up the “final” hill, Mr. Grunter came hurling his agony back in earshot. I knew I shouldn’t have wimped out and slowed down! I let him pass me in the woods, but never separated enough to stop hearing him yelp as if he’d been shot every 20 seconds.


Faked out by a subtle downhill and cheering from what turned out to be a softball game and not the finish line, I sped up a while before exiting the woods. It’s strange the way 3.1 miles feels like such a long haul when you’re running a bad day!

When we actually emerged from the woods, I could see two things: 1) big red numbers ticking down the straightaway at the finish line and 2) mad Mr. Grunter hoofing down the last hill.

As the clock ticked toward 24, I looked through my bag of tricks to see what I had left: Speed? No, I dropped that last week. Endurance? So seven weeks ago. Spite? Ha! An abundance!

I didn’t go into today’s race with a real goal, but I knew I’d regret not outrunning Sir Gruntsalot for giving agony such a bad name. My closing speed isn’t much to write home about right now, but I was able to hoof it down the final stretch, pass Gruntasaurus Rex and finish the last 1.1 miles in 9:01 (8:13 split for the mile, :48 for the 0.1).

My watch time, which accounts for the starting delay, was 23:58 (7:42/mile).

The official time, with added start gap, probably puts me over 24, so this is my time, and I’m sticking to it!

It wasn’t a good race for me (albeit a 5K PR—a perk of having run only one other 5K!), and it didn’t leave me feeling great about much, but the post-race spoils were super, as was the post-race pie with E and David and the opportunity to cheer for the girls.

Now I just have to get back to rest and recovery. I’ve felt pretty creakedy the past couple days, and it’s high time I get back to training like a good girl and trying to make it to Akron sans injury.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

That’s the Stuff

My doctor joked each week that we knew exactly what would make my shin splints and achilles better. I just wasn’t willing to do it. And had I known that two weeks of non-impact with plenty of stretching would have done the trick, I probably would have listened. For once.

But I didn’t.

I did, however, listen to his post-race prescription and tested my rested legs today. What a difference a fortnight makes!

Being the good girl I’m determined to become, I warmed up with yoga moves, dancer’s lunges and dynamic stretches before starting slowly into my first three-miler back. It’s a weird place: I haven’t run in two weeks, but it’s just two weeks removed from being injured yet in decent marathon shape. So, I could have run five, six, twelve miles if I wanted. But that’s not what good girls do.

I woke up my Garmin, which was ready to retire to Florida, and ran a short three-mile route up and down Lakeshore. And while I was wearing the Garmin, I tried not to pay attention to pace. This run was all about shaking off rust and feeling out what’s mended and what still needs to heal.

It was a relief to finally start a run without the crippling grip of dire shin splints and an achilles that just won’t quit. In fact, it was kind of strange to warm-up without excruciating pain: it was the first time since late March that it happened!

Aside from a little right achilles ache and some right calf knots (the original injury was left achilles), I felt fantastic. My legs weren’t fatigued at all and felt strong through each mile. As I stayed strong (but relaxed) the whole run, I could feel how my cardio has benefited from 15-25 miles cycling every day for the past two weeks.

And I must have looked strong doing it too: an older man stopped me on Lakeshore to ask if I was the superstar E-Speed! He and his wife were proud to see that a speedster from Euclid ran so well at the Cleveland Half. While I broke it to him that I wasn’t Ms. Speedy, I promised to pass on the praise. Next time I’ll have to run with E-Speed autographs on hand!

Running home along the lake, I stopped at 3 miles before trotting a cool-down home, where I plugged in my Garmin to check out the splints—mile 1 at 9:24, mile 2 at 8:20, mile 3 at 8:00. Oddly enough, the last two miles felt slower, easier, more relaxed than the first. Now we’ll just see how I feel in the morning!