Sunday, June 24, 2007

Familiar Ground

I ran the Ashburn 4-mile Twilight Festival last night at 6:30. The race started and finished in the parking lot of the building I worked in during 2003 and the first half of 2004. Next to my former office building is a Gold's Gym, for which my company haid subsized my membership to. Of course, I retained my Lifetime Fitness membership for the weekends. But during the week, I would workout at this Gold's gym during my lunch break or after work. I stated waking up earlier and earlier, so I began going in the mornings before work toward the end of my career at that company.

Before the Race
As I drove up to the race start, all the memories started flooding back. The company was bought by Sun MicroSystems shortly after I left, and most of the employees were told to work from home, and only come to the office occasionally. My sister still works there, and apparently nothing is the same anymore. I resisted the urge to look through the building window.

I had debated over which shoes to wear all week long. I have my standard Adrenalines, or my new Axioms, which I wore for the 5K. The Axioms are lightweight and designed for speed, but they provide very little support. They hurt my feet after two miles, and resulted in temporary shin splints after the 5K. I decided to go ahead and wear them, because I had done 4 miles worth of interval work earlier in the week, and I was fine afterwards. I knew I would probably regret it the next day, but it might be worth it to run faster.

There were quite a few people for such a local race-- there were over 750 finishers. I therefore had no hopes of placing, and was just aiming for a goal of under 31:00-- I wanted to average a pace of 7:45/mile or less. But when I got to the race, I wasn't expecting great things:
  • The race was at 6:30pm, and that's usually when I wind down my day. I am definitely a morning person.
  • It was still hot and sunny (about 75 degrees)
  • My left leg had been hurting all day for no apparent reason
  • I was still iffy about using my Axiom shoes. 
Given all that, I began to wonder why I even bothered. After all, I sacrificed my 14-mile training run this morning to do this. The only other person I knew at the race was my UPS delivery man from work. He delivers me all my shoes and running stuff, so he knew I was a runner. He had told me that he was running this race, and I said I was also registered. It was great to see him out there with his wife. He was aiming for a time of 32:00-- an 8:00/pace. It was his first race, so I was excited for him.

The Race!
This race was a two-loop course: 2 miles each. It was good because you knew what you were getting into for the second half. And there was a timing mat at the halfway point. The race started and I told myself to go slow. I wanted to start slow and finish fast. So, I ran at what seemed to be a fairly easy pace, but was shocked to discover that my first mile was 7:22. Shit! that was too fast. I told myself to slow down, and I did a little bit.

I took notice of my surroundings and I was running in a very familiar area, although it was much more developed since when I worked there 3 1/2 years ago. There was a whole new shopping center, and I ran on roads that didn't even used to exist.

My second mile was 7:54, and I passed the halfway point mat at 15:16. I passed my car and wanted desperately to change my shoes. The Axioms were killing my feet, and I could tell that shin splints were starting to form. I was mad at myself for wearing these shoes, and risking injury for a 4-mile race. I told myself I could just stop the race and walk, but my body kept on.

It was hot and the heat was slowing me down, even though I was well hydrated. My last two miles were about the same pace of 8:05, and I had a very strong finish.

Official time: 31:18
Pace: 7:49/mile 

I wasn't really pleased with this. I thought it was okay-- just mediocre. I missed my goal by 18 seconds, and my 5-mile race from March had been run at an average pace of 7:44. But then again, the March race was 30 degrees cooler, and in the morning.

Your bib ticket got you a pulled BBQ sandwich and a beer, but I passed on both and just opted for the bun. I wish there had been bagels. I went into the Gold's gym, where I flashed my old membership card at them and changed my shoes in the locker room.

After the Race
Inside the locker room, I remembered trying to shower and change as quickly as possible during my lunch break. I looked over at the scale. I remembered obsessively weighing myself on that scale, and I remember when it read 99 lbs. I didn't dare step on it now.

3 1/2 years ago, I was living for that number, and not much else. Had I run this 4-mile race back then, I probably would have averaged an 8:30 pace, which is decent, but definitely not as strong as I am today.

After changing into my more comfortable shoes, I decided to do a recovery jog on the treadmill for a mile. I wanted to keep the blood flowing through my legs, and I also wanted my mileage for that day to be at least 5, since I had taken the day before off.

After the treadmill run, I went back to my car and almost drove away. I felt some post-race depression/disappointment. The race was over, I missed my goal, and I knew my legs would be hurting for the next few days. BUT-- I wanted to see how the UPS guy fared.

I went back over to the Festival area and saw a free massage tent. I've never taken advantage of the free massages at races, but I did last night. The massage therapist was incredible. He knew exactly where I hurt, and really did a great job of getting the perfect spot. I've had quite a few massages in my life, and this 5-minute one was by far the best, so I am going to start using him now.

While standing in line for the massage, I received a comment that I typically get at races (and secretly love): "Do you run for school?" I reply with a smile, "I am 28!" I love that I can still pass for a 20-year-old, though.

After my massage, I started walking around, looking for the UPS guy. I didn't see him, but they were giving awards, so I decided to watch. When they started giving out awards for my age group, the 1st place winner had a time that was only one minute faster than me. So, my ears perked up for 2nd pace, and they called my name! I was shocked. As I said, this race had over 750 people, and I wasn't all that pleased with my performance. I went up to the announcer and I received a really nice Mizuno Duffle bag.

Anyway, the bag is really nice, and I'll probably use it for the NYC half marathon and VA Beach half marathon. I then saw the UPS guy and he was happy to see me with my award. He had averaged an 8:20 pace and was pleased with that.

I made my way back to my car and drove the familiar route home. When I got there, I took all the ice from my ice maker and put it in the bathtub along with cold water from the faucet. This ice bath lasted all of 4 minutes because it was so uncomfortable. I hope it helped! I looked at the results, which were already posted online.

I finished 2 out of 66 in my age group, which is twice the size of my age group when I ran the 8K a few weekends ago (also placing 2nd). Looking at the age group above mine, there were six runners who came in under 30:00. I am NOT looking forward to turning 30 and having to compete with that! On the plus side, maybe it shows that people get faster after they hit 30.

I fell asleep wishing I had done better in that race, but then, all of a sudden, I started laughing out loud. I brought home an award, and I was still not pleased? Damn! Talk about being a harsh critic. With that thought, I drifted off to sleep.

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