Saturday, September 30, 2006

First 5K, Won an Award

It was a spur-of-the moment decision to run a 5K this morning. On Thursday, I had registered for the "Women of Freedom" 5K in Washington because I thought it was for a good cause- helping victims of domestic abuse. But I had a rough Thursday and Friday, with very little food and sleep, so when I woke up this morning, I figured I should stay in bed rather than get dressed to arrive in DC for an 8:00am race in the cold. My entry fee still went to a good cause.

I had noticed, however, that there was another 5K which was only two miles from my house, that started at 9:00am (The Navy Federal Credit Union 5K). Much more manageable, and I figured the weather would be a tad warmer. So, I checked to see if they had race-day registration and they did. I was even able to use my own Champion Chip!

I arrived at the race at 7:45, registered, and then went to Starbucks for a small cup of coffee and half a scone. I've read that a little bit of coffee is a good idea before a short race. And it was rather cold outside, too, so a warm drink was just what I needed. I'd never had a Starbucks scone before, so it was a morning of firsts.

I arrived back at the race with plenty of time to use the bathroom, stretch and warm-up. I had never run a 5K before, and I didn't have high expectations of myself for this one. I hadn't eaten hardly anything for the past two days and I was severely sleep deprived. It was also very chilly and I was wearing shorts and a thin long-sleeved top. A recipe for catching a cold (but I hope I don't!).

The race started and I didn't really have a "strategy" because I've never done a 5K before. I had nothing to learn from. So I just ran as fast as I could. I was annoyed that I had to stop for 10 seconds to tie my shoe with numb hands during the first mile, but I had no choice. I passed a time clock that read 7:30, but I didn't see a mile marker, so I thought the time clock was just placed there for no particular reason. If I had to guess my pace, it would have been 8:20. The second mile was harsh. There were quite a few hills- although none of them very steep. I passed the 2-mile marker at 15:45, and realized that I was going faster than an 8:00 pace! I was shocked because I felt like a snail-- maybe 8:30 at best! I was so cold and I felt like the chill was paralyzing. I could even see my breath. But the clock time encouraged me to keep going.

Mile three was interesting because we ran on an unpaved trail, through the woods for part of it. I've never run any part of a race on an unpaved course. We also ran up a small flight of stairs, which I found comical, for some reason. And part of the course was on the W&OD trail, which is where I do my long runs. I was rewarded at the end because the last half mile of the race had some downward hills and no uphills. I was flying. After I passed the 3 mile mark, I sprinted the last 0.1 at about a 6:40 pace, finishing at 24:14, a pace of 7:48.

Afterwards, I saw a guy that I had known in college. He had dated one of my sorority sisters and I had dated his brother for a few weeks. It was interesting to catch up with him. "Did you run the Zeta 5K in college"? He asked me. "No," I replied. "I was WAY lazy in college. I didn't even like to walk to class!" I was about to leave, but then the guy I had just met said he wanted to check his score. I didn't care too much about mine, because I used my watch and I knew my time, but I went with him to see his.

I couldn't find my name anywhere, but that's because I was looking too far down on the sheet. I was shocked that I placed 7 overall (out of 164 women) and 2 in my age group (out of 28). I honestly felt like there were so many people ahead of me, and I was such a slow poke. I didn't feel like I was running strong at all--I felt like the cold weather was just zapping me. So, I figured I would stick around for the awards ceremony, because I was actually in it. They called my name and I went up to be recognized and it was really cool. I even got to hug the Navy mascot!

It was a fun race, and a definite ego boost. The past three days have been pretty rough on me, so this is exactly what I needed. It felt great to win an award when it was my first time ever running a 5K

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Philadelphia Distance Run

I ran my 4th half marathon today, the second in a series of two for the month of September. It was the Philadelphia Distance Run, and I was running the race with some of my friends.

A few months ago, I had responded to the "Tell Us Your Story" request e-mail with a dramatically written (but true) version of my "story". They told me they were going to feature me in the race program and they asked me to submit a picture. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they actually did publish my story and photo, along with the stories of about six other runners:

I had a much more positive attitude about this race than the Virginia Beach half marathon. This race was more about fun and friends. I was well rested for this race, except if you consider the fact that I had run a half marathon just two weeks prior, and may not have been fully recovered. It apparently takes 3 weeks to recover from a half marathon, but I felt completely ready to run the race this morning.

In between the races, I had done some short tempo runs, at a pace of about 8:20. I was aiming for a race pace of 8:50, which I thought was very possible.

This race was identical to the VA Beach half. They are organized by the same company, so I felt like I was running the exact same race, but with different scenery. Everything from how the packet-pickup and expo was arranged to how they handled the start and finish. They even used the exact same corral signs. It was a weird sense of deja vu.

The first thing I noticed was that the runners at the expo on Saturday seemed more experienced than those at the VA Beach race. At VA Beach, many people were running their first half, and it seemed to be a huge deal for them. At this race, many people seemed to have the attitude that running a half marathon wasn't a big deal. And it was obvious that most people had run in long distance races before.

During the VA Beach race, I felt like I was a little bit ahead of the main crowd. At mile 3, I could pretty much run at my own pace without trying to squeeze my way through people. At the race this morning, I felt like I was in the middle of the main crowd, and I didn't have my own "space" until about mile 6. I think that the crowd contributed to the fact that I went out slower than expected.

I typically like to start races slower than I finish them, but similar to a 10K I ran in June, I was going slower than I thought I was, and didn't pass the 5k marker until 28:57, which was slower than the VA Beach half. I didn't pass the 10K marker until 56:59-- also slower than the previous race. My split times for 5K and 10K were 28:32 and 56:32. Not a huge difference between the two races, but I felt much stronger this morning than I did at the other half marathon, so I was surprised to see that I ran the first half of today's race slower than the first half of the VA Beach race. But as I said earlier, I attribute some of that to the crowd and not being able to run quite as fast as I would have liked. 

The course was really beautiful. The first four miles were in the city of Philadelphia. I haven't been to Philadelphia in over 15 years, so I had totally forgotten what it was like. The weather was nice, but the sun was extremely bright, and shining directly in my face for part of the first 4 miles. The last 9 miles are run around a river, and it was very scenic, and thankfully shaded in many parts.

As I approached mile 7, I reminded myself that this was where I started to really slow down two weeks ago, so I told myself to stay strong. I ate my Jelly Belly Sports beans at mile 8, and I realized that I really do NOT like the lemon/lime flavor. I had used that flavor before on a training run, but for some reason they tasted better on the training run. It was really difficult for me to eat them because the taste was so gross, but I ate about 2/3 of the pack and threw the rest away.

I felt strong when I crossed the 10 mile mat. My time was 1:31:35, a huge contrast to the 1:34:57 that I did two weeks ago. It was at that point when I "gave up" on the VA Beach race, and I vowed I would not

give up this time. I did get really tired and the last two miles were not shaded. It took every positive thought I had to keep running and resist the temptation to walk. I was staring at my watch, just counting the seconds until I would cross the finish line. At VA Beach, you can see the finish line from almost a mile away. For this race, you couldn't see it until you were at mile 13. Not very motivating.

I had my iPod with me, which I was not using in VA Beach, and it really helped. I had strategically chosen songs for the last two miles that would be impossible to walk to because they are so energized and powerful (playlist below). I pushed myself as hard as physically possible those last two miles and finished with a time of 2:00:50. 25 seconds slower than my Personal Record, which I am kinda bummed about, but a huge improvement from the previous half marathon. I would just love to get in under 2:00 one of these days. Even a 1:59:59 would be nice.

I placed 4296 overall, out of 11,060 total finishers. Interestingly, I placed 4926 at VA Beach, out of 16,136 finishers. My observation that the Philly runners were faster is obviously true, because even though I ran this race faster, my ranking compared to the total amount of runners was in a lower percentile. Afterwards, I met up with my friends, where we congratulated each other on the race: 

All in all, a great weekend, and I will write a blog about my day on Saturday when I get the photos to go with it! 


James Blunt- So Long Jimmy
Jason Mraz- Right Kind of Phrase
Live- Show
Red Hot Chili Peppers- Turn It Again
Tori Amos- Concertina
Anberlin- Glass to the Arson
Jason Mraz- Did I Fool Ya?
Red Hot Chili Peppers- Hump De Bump
James Blunt- Wisemen
Boyz II Men- Motown Philly (appropriate!)
Nine Days- So Far Away
Jason Mraz- Can't Go For That
Breaking Benjamin- Had Enough
Better Than Ezra- Still Life with Cooley
Live- Sofia
Jason Mraz- Did you Get My Message
Coldplay- Square One

Friday, September 8, 2006

13.1-Mile Training Run

For some reason, I've had a great deal of anxiety regarding the Virginia Beach Half Marathon. I ran it last year, and was very happy with my time of 2:00, but this year I was obsessed with beating it by several minutes. Since I ran this race last year, I have run two 10Ks, a 10-miler, another half-marathon and a full marathon. I trained harder for the race this year than last, and I felt much more prepared.

About two weeks ago I had a dream that I arrived at the race without my timing chip. (I had purchased the $35 VA Beach Souvenir timing chip last year to use in all my races). I also dreamt that I arrived too late to the race and encountered all sorts of strange obstacles. I've had many eerily predictive dreams in the past, but I have anxiety dreams more frequently, so I thought these dreams about the race were simply my anxiety.

I was very careful to pack my timing chip and bring it with me. I arrived at my friend's house at around noon yesterday, and then she drove us to the packet pickup, which was a 20-minute drive. Upon arrival, I realized that I had left my chip at her house so it couldn't be scanned in and used to identify me. I didn't want to make her drive all the way back for it, so I just used a rental trip. I know this doesn't sound like a big deal-- my race was still timed. But that's my "lucky" chip and I wanted to use it in all the major races I ran. I was extremely frustrated at myself for having made such a special effort to remember to pack it, only to leave it at my friends house.

That night, I got about 3 hours of light sleep. I tossed and turned all night, and had even more anxiety dreams about missing the race. The previous night, I had only gotten 4 hours, so I was really worried about running 13.1 miles on only 7 hours of sleep for the past two nights.

I woke up at 3:15 and couldn't fall back asleep, so I could have easily left my friend's house at 4:00 or 4:30. However, I didn't think I needed to leave her place until around 5:15. So I waited until 5:15 to leave, thinking I would have plenty of time. We were not allowed to park at the start line. We had to park at a satellite lot that was about 25 minutes away from the start line and 20 minutes away from my friend's house.

Instead of taking 20 minutes to drive to the parking lot, it took me over an hour. The traffic was backed up for miles and was moving extremely slowly. There were no police officers directing traffic, so we were at the mercy of lights that remained red for 30 seconds, let 5 cars in on a green, and then were red again for 30 seconds. I was getting nervous that I wouldn't arrive to the race on time.

I had planned to get there early so I could stretch out, go to the bathroom, and maybe have half a bagel. But instead I was stuck in my car for an hour and my back was killing me as my foot kept switching from the brake to the accelerator every five seconds.

It was 6:25 when I stepped on the shuttle bus, and we were dropped off at 6:50, just ten minutes before the start of the race. My first stop was the "gear check" where, as the name implies, you check your stuff and they drive it to the finish line. I had my car keys with me, my cell phone, and my comfortable sandals to wear after the race. When I got there, they informed me and the rest of the people from my shuttle bus that it was too late to check our bags, and we would have to leave them in a pile at the start line (which was over a mile away from the finish line). So, I left my driver's license, keys, cell phone, and sandals in a big pile of bags, not knowing if they would be supervised.

I had planned to call my friend who I was staying with when I finished the race, but that would now be

impossible. With five minutes until start time, and the lines at the porta-potties extremely long, I didn't think I'd have time to go to the bathroom. And I really needed to go because I had drank an entire bottle of water in my car. So, I waited anyway, and by the time I got out of the bathroom and arrived to the starting area, the race had started, but luckily my "corral" group hadn't crossed the start line yet. Forget stretching out.

And so I ran the race on only three hours of sleep, without having stretched, without my lucky timing chip, and after having spent over an hour sitting in stop-and-go traffic. The weather was nice and sunny, but it was much hotter than last year-- I would guess about 10 degrees warmer, making me extremely exhausted by mile 7, and completely demotivating me. I was trying to average a pace of 8:50, and I was on track to do that until about mile 7, when the course went for a long time without being shaded and the sun was bearing down on me.

I finished the race, but I am too embarrassed to write my time. (Edited to add, years later, I ran a time of 2:06:41). I am proud to have finished 1,834 out of 9,123 women, but I still fared much better last year. I don't see myself as competing with others-- just myself. I was extremely disappointed and depressed. It didn't even feel good to cross the finish line-- I just hated myself by that point. At mile 10, I realized that I would not be able to beat my 2:00, so I stopped caring.

I decided to chalk the whole thing up to a "training run" for the Philadelphia half marathon I am running in two weeks. At least I have a chance to redeem myself. After the race, there was no transportation back to the start line, so I decided to walk about a mile to my other friend's house (she lives just one block from the beach). I had taken off my running shoes and was wearing the free sandals they give you at the finish line which were 4 sizes too big for me. I was carrying my running shoes in the bag that the sandals came in and as I passed a garbage can I had this urge to just throw my running shoes in the trash and say "fuck it".

I obviously couldn't call the friend whose house I was walking to or the friend who I was staying with, since my phone was in a bag at the start line. Thankfully, this friend who lives on the beach drove me to the start line where I retrieved my bag and found all of my belongings safe and sound. I immediately ditched the size 9 sandals they gave me at the finish line for my normal size 5 comfy sandals and breathed a sigh of relief.

She then drove me 20 minutes back to the parking lot, where it took me awhile to locate my car (remembering the location of my car wasn't exactly top of mind this morning as I panicked about making the race on time). I drove back to my other friend's house, showered and then drove home.

I'm still really depressed about the whole situation. I trained really hard for this race and followed all the "rules" for tapering, eating right, etc. I made sure I had plenty of time to get to the race, but I didn't predict an hour's worth of traffic to get to a parking lot. A former boss of mine told me that he once ran a marathon in 3:59, and he's run four since then, but has never managed to beat the 3:59. I worry that I won't ever beat my 2:00, and for some reason, this is very important to me. I do have the chance to redeem myself in two weeks, but considering I really exerted myself today, I am not sure I will be fully recovered enough to put my full effort in. At the very least this race will have yielded some nice photos.