Monday, October 20, 2008

Feel the tide shifting and wait for the spark

So I officially had an amazing weekend. Not only did I run my first decent race since last cross country season, but I also ran my longest run ever - 14 miles! - and beat my half marathon PR in the process. Kickass? I think so.

So first, the race. Since the guys race was at 10:30 and West Salem is a good 2 and a half hours away, we had to leave at 6:30 am, meaning I was up before 6. Some last minute advice from the BF (leave early so you don't have to tire your legs out biking fast to the union, take some of my raisin bran crunch so you have something good to snack on, and run fast :)) and I was off. Nicole and I finally got to reclaim our posts as "token girls" in a van filled with boys on the drive up. It was incredibly foggy -visibility was terrible - and I slept/sat with my eyes closed as much as I could since it was damn early and I was nervous.

We got to the course around 9:15 and it was COLD. The fog was still ridiculous, and we learned that they had changed the course from last year, so we decided to walk the course and check it out. I absolutely adore the LaX course. The first mile is completely flat, a loop around a field, then there's a smaller loop and you head into the lower part of the course. The entire first 2 miles are either flat or downhill, although its kind of made up for by the fact that the 3rd mile is mostly hills. This definitely isn't a negative split kind of race, but you can go out hard and not worry about the hills until you get there. At one point a deer came bounding across the golf course through the mist which was about inspiration to run fast! Then it was time to warm up and cheer on our boys.
Start of the boys race, running into the mist

And then it was our turn. I think the difference between my race at LaX and the past races this season was that I actually WANTED to race. From the minute I got up, I was ready to kick some ass. And, since the LaX meet has to be perfect, by the time our race was ready to go the sun had come out and it was an absolutely glorious day. We got kicked out of our box by some stupid team from North Dakota (bitches.) and so got to start the race on cement - awesome! But none of that mattered once the gun went off. The first mile was absolutely INSANE. 444 girls pushing and shoving and falling and getting spiked...mayhem. The beauty of the first mile on this course is that its flat and crowded, so its really easy to be so wrapped up in not tripping over someone that you don't even realize that you're almost done with the first mile. As we came through the mile mark, MILEY CYRUS was playing over the loudspeakers...I'm pretty sure I actually cracked a smile over that. I went through the mile in 6:27...ummm....yeah. Like I said, its flat, and you zone out, and you don't realize that that was a ridiculous pace to go out in, but whatever! I was pretty close behind our lead pack of Claire, Laura, and Tali at that point, but they started pulling away soon after.

I started falling back a bit during the second loop, but really I think I was just settling more into my actual pace - you know, not kamikaze 6:27 pace, haha. There was a lovely downhill where I passed quite a few people, and I came through the 2 mile in 13:17...yes, that's like 45 seconds faster than I did at Parkside. I was still feeling pretty awesome at that point and was enjoying zoning in on girls ahead of me and picking them off...something that I haven't been able to do all season! Things started falling apart a little bit when we got to the dreaded "hill of sand" as I so deemed it my freshman year (when I ran 3 minutes slower than I did on Saturday, haha). It's a hill that isn't terribly steep, but its long, and the terrain is this ridiculous mud/sand that sends you sliding backwards as you're trying to go forward. Jade passed me at that point looking really strong, but I was holding my own still. At the top of the sand hill came my point that I have in every race where I just really want to quit - all good feelings from the past 2 miles were erased and I slowed down a LOT for about 30 seconds. In retrospect, this probably cost me a PR, but I got it together pretty quickly because I knew the 3 mile was coming up, and I was over the last of the bad hills. I started trying to pick people off again around the 3 mile, and came through the 5K in 21:35. This was when I heard Dallas screaming at Nicole that she was only 7 seconds behind me, which I think gave me a bit of extra motivation because come hell or high water I was not going to let her beat me. Just after the 5K Karin came up on me and passed me. I passed her back a couple minutes later, and we headed for home running pretty much together. I've never had that happen in a race before - that someone from the WTC is running with me near the end of the race - and it was honestly pretty awesome and kept me going. We turned for the final straightaway and I tried to kick as hard as I could - my legs felt like they were about to fall off at that point. She outkicked me a little bit and ended up beating me by a second and a half, but I was still absolutely ecstatic when I crossed the finish line - I had FINALLY run a good race! My official time was 25:49, a bit slower than my PR on this course last year, but considering the races I have been having so far this season, I was more than happy with it.

I think the best part about the race was the fact that I felt like I was actually competing - picking off people, not being content to let people pass me, trying to relax and maintain. Really the only time when things fell apart a little bit was at the top of the sand hill, and I know that by the time nationals roll around I'll be able to push through that better.

So I was pretty much dead, but at the same time ready to celebrate by the time I got home, so the BF and I split a 6 pack of New Glarus Staghorn and then went out to a friend's party and to the Nitty Gritty. The night was topped off by a triple order of bacon/taco Topper's Stix...ah yes, I needed to replenish those carbs.

Well after a night of drinking, I wasn't too thrilled when my alarm went off at 8:30 to meet Claire at the union at 9, but a few swigs of Gatorade and I was out the door for what turned into an absolutely epic/awesome run. We decided to go to the Arb, which is absolutely fantastic in the fall, and go explore some of the trails off the loop.
My favorite trail in the Arb. Aren't I lucky?

We ended up exploring on the other side of the tunnel that goes under the beltline for about 35 minutes, and then ran the rest of the loop and along Lake Wingra. I ran back to Regent and then back home, for at total of ~14 miles in 1:50 (It's runs like these that make me wish I had a Garmin). So pretty much...I beat my half marathon PR on a long run, and I also ran the furthest distance I've ever run...after a race and a night of drinking. Bottom line: I'm awesome.

And finally, to top off my fantastic weekend, I was at work yesterday and found someone to work for me on Friday...meaning I will be racing at the Oshkosh Open on the flattest course ever. And after this weekend, I have some confidence that I can put together an awesome 5K race...I'm so ready. I don't know what I'm going to do about our home meet yet, I feel super guilty not going so I might just have to suck it up and run there it as a workout or whatever...we shall see! Pretty much it depends on if the BF cares about not going to the game... I honestly don't, especially since the Badgers are sucking the big one this year.

And finally, something completely non-running related, here are the Octoberfest beers I have tried so far this year:
-Flying Dog Brewery Dogtoberfest
-Bell's Octoberfest
-Capital Brewery Autumnal Fire
-New Glarus Brewery Staghorn
-Blue Moon Harvest Moon
Dogtoberfest is my favorite so far, followed closely by Autumnal Fire which is just amazing. Harvest Moon is great too because its a bit different than the other Octoberfests. I'm sure there will be more to come...there are just so many to try! And after all...apparently 1 beer with pasta the night before (among other things....;)) is the recipe for a great race!

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