Thursday, September 16, 2010

It's alright because I like the way it hurts

Where to begin, where to begin...well, last week was an absolutely amazing week of training, and I had a whole bunch of firsts happen:
-First 70 MILE week!
-First time racing twice in one week (with a 25K on Monday and a 30K on Sunday, I really ease into it, huh?)
-First time racing in a GBTC singlet
And I am definitely still trying to recover since it should be fairly obvious that a week like that is going to leave the legs a little beat up.  But as the song says....it's alright, because I LIKE the way it hurts! It's a hurt that tells me I've got my mojo baaaaack! Sooo let's start with item #1!

[Side note: I just realized that this is kind of an unintentional 3 Things Thursday too....man, I am just really awesome today :P Also this post is really long because it includes a race report...and I didn't really think I was going to write a full race report of Nahant but it just sort of happened...bear with me.]

So - 70 FREAKING MILES!! I've run 66-68 mile weeks before but 70 just looks so much more impressive, wouldn't you say? I did get a little help from the fact that I raced twice this week, but I could have easily let the mileage slide in between and I most definitely did not. Here's how the week panned out:
Monday: Cape Ann 25K + 1 mile warmup = 16.5 miles...you all heard about that race already :)

Tuesday: 3.4 mile warmup/tempo? @ 7:15 pace with GBTC, followed by 6 miles eaaaasy in Arlington and Belmont with a couple other women who raced on Monday.  The GBTC warmups are hilarious....and by hilarious I mean super crazy fast.  But to me its sort of a...I don't know...badge of honor to stay with a pack during the warmup so since my legs weren't feeling that bad I decided to just stick with the middle pack.  I actually felt really good, but it was nice to run super slow after.

Wednesday: OFF! Mentally, I just needed it.

Thursday: 8.7 mile progression coming in at 7:17 pace overall...felt amaaaazing. I went out in the Newton Hills like the crazy I am and just felt like I was flying through the night.  Probably started out around 7:40 and I wouldn't be surprised if I was hitting sub-7s by the end...thanks in part to my unending need to race people on the res.  Hey, those boys needed to be taught a lesson :P

Friday: Easy 11 with Kelly, who has been my running mentor, friend, coach, and the person who [finally, finally] taught me that running easy IS OK AND BENEFICIAL.  Seriously, I have been running with her a lot this training cycle and we usually keep things in the 8:20s-8:40s...which when I get home and see my pace, I'm like oh wow, we were going so slowww. But I really think this has been incredibly beneficial to my training as a whole in ways I never even realized...because I'm getting in a good deal of longer, 10-13 mile runs, along with my long runs during the week, but I'm still able to nail harder runs, workouts, and races. I guess I'll have to wait until October 17 to see what this has really been doing for me, but at the moment I'm thinking learning how to run truly easy is definitely a good thing!

Saturday: Pre-race 4.3....and I will admit that I was more than likely still a little tipsy from having spent my afternoon at a bar watching the Badger game...but hey, I still got my run in, right?

Sunday: Nahant 30K + 1.5 mile warmup/cooldown = 20.1 miles!

And so, this brings us to race #2 of the week, the Nahant 30K.  I went into this race with pretty low expectations...and by low I mean none.  I really wasn't all that jacked to do the race but I kept telling myself that it would be better than slogging through a long run all alone and I might as well just be entertained and have water and support out on the course.  Since I raced pretty hard at Cape Ann and my legs were definitely feeling the burden of the past week, I was thinking that 8:20s - or basically, just an easy long run pace - would be totally fine.  I had to wake up at 5:45 to meet Kelly and her husband to get to the race, and I was grumpy and sleepy and possibly the least excited to run a race as I had ever been in my life.  Cape Ann was still extremely fresh in my mind [since, you know, it was 6 days before...] and while that race went really well and I was pleased, it wasn't exactly what I would call "fun" at many different points, and even though I was counting on running slower, I just wasn't super psyched to go through all that again.

We got to the start pretty early, wandered around, warmed up, etc.  Probably a third of the field had done Cape Ann because apparently we are all batshit insane, so it was somewhat comforting to know that a lot of people probably weren't at 100%. I actually remembered to buy Gu for this race so I took a Lemon Sublime about 10 minutes before the start [I think no-caffeine is the way to go for me before the race...and this was a really tasty flavor].  Got up to the start with Kelly, other Kelly [who had been out drinking the entire night before and still ran 8:20 pace, she is a champion] and Joy...and then once again without much fanfare we were off...no chip timing again for this one since it was a pretty small race.  We got off the line annnnd immediately I was behind people running slower than I wanted to go! [Remember how I was going to run easy long run pace? Yeeeaaah stay tuned...] I am a cross country girl at heart and I can't stand getting boxed in and stuck behind people where I don't want to be, so I was doing the bob & weave dance for a lot of the first mile trying to find my spot.  We started off running around the building where the start was and then heading off down a long, straight, flat path next to the beach.  I really had no concept of what was going on pace-wise [never do, really] and so I just kept trying to tell myself relax relax relax.
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Right around the mile mark, wow I throw my elbows out a LOT when I run lol.  Both these guys ended up finishing 3-5 minutes in front of me, so I kept seeing them when we hit random turnarounds.  Another absolutely AWESOME thing about this race - the FREE!!! race photography that is absolutely amazing.  This woman is so incredibly talented...so thanks Krissy Kozlowsky for the amazing photos!

So I hit mile 1 in 7:36 which was...ah...lets just say different? than what I expected to see. And as you probably already guessed, I figured whaaaat the heck, yes my legs are tired and this is supposed to be an easy long run buuuut here we are in a race....might as well stay relaxed and just, you know, see what we can hold onto here. 

So then we got off the flatty flat beach path and into HOLY EFFING HILLS.  I need to take a moment to say that everyone talks up Cape Ann as this crazy hilly race of death and no one mentions Nahant.  Let me be the one to break the silence: I thought Nahant was without a doubt a harder course than Cape Ann.  And it's also 3 miles longer.  So whoever said that "oh, Nahant isn't that bad compared to Cape Ann" is a liar mcliarpants...because once again, I was going to spend the next 17 miles contemplating life on some of the biggest and steepest hills I've ever dealt with in a race.

So there were hills and hills and hills.  Obviously it was early, but my legs already felt sort of fatigued - which I realize is what you get when you race on Monday and then just run through the week into another race. And yet I was rattling off some pretty steady, solid splits of 7:46, 7:41, 7:51, 7:53...and feeling generally OK about life.  Not great, but OK.  There wasn't a whole lot of movement/passing going on in the field after about mile 4, so I was just kind of chilling out by myself for a long stretch in the middle of the race. At mile 5 we ran up [another] big, long, steep hill to this gravel path that went around a random patch of grass at the top of the hill.  There was a beautiful view of the ocean from the top, but it was also hilarious because it reminded me SO much of this XC course that we ran in college where you ran up this huge hill onto a huge gravel loop at the top.  I hated that course [maybe because it was 3.3 miles instead of a 5K haha] but how similar this seemed made me smile.
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Running alone on the gravel path just after the 5 mile mark, for the fact that it was only mile 5 I wasn't feeling that awesome, but trying hard to stay focused and relaxed!

So then I ran by myself some more...still staying really steady and consistent even though [or maybe because] I had no on around to pace off of. 7:53, 7:45, 7:42, 7:54. I seriously probably had a 200 m cushion at least in front of and behind me for quite awhile.  We ran up some more hills [by this point, that wasn't even surprising anymore] and into a  3 mile lollipop out & back/loop thing...which was really fun because I got to see Ryan [who was leading], the other GBTC men, and Tara who was leading the women as I was heading out into the loop, and then Kelly, Kelly, and Joy as I was coming back out of the loop - and just getting and giving thumbs up and a little encouragement to people you know within a race is so awesome.  In the loop part of this section, there were a couple absolutely HORRIBLE hills...incredibly steep and the type that I'm sure reduced plenty of people to a walk. Around the third of these hills, I started hearing footsteps and voices behind me...which unfortunately were going to stick with me for the next 5 miles.  It was a girl around my age and a guy who looked in his 40s who I assume was pacing the girl and they were just chattering away like they were out for a stroll in the park.  I wanted to punch them in the face. Like...I'm not trying to be mean, and whatever I realize people sometimes run these races for fun or as a training run and whatnot...hell, that's kind of what I was doing, and I have no problem with some quick exchanges or whatever.  But to hear this girl giggling and carrying on a conversation CONTINUOUSLY for like half an hour just a few meters back from me while I am working really hard was just frustrating, and more than a little annoying.  This is a race, people, and if you are telling your life story to someone you're probably not working hard enough.  OK...rant over...it was just that I literally spent 5 miles with these people either close behind me or in front of me [they went on to finish 50 seconds in front of me, oh how I wish I could have summoned the speed to race 51 seconds faster...] and it was quite honestly a relief when they got far enough in front to be out of earshot.

So I hadn't looked at the course map at all before the race and really had no concept of where we were at any point in time, but at some point I realized that after we got out of the lollipop we were probably going to be backtracking on the course we had come in on.  I was still, magically, holding on to my pace...7:46, 7:49, 7:51 - and seriously every time I looked at my watch I had this sensation of confusion...like, who am I and how am I still maintaining this pace, especially over these infinite, god-forsaken hills?  We went back up the huge hill onto the gravel loop, and apparently the race director wanted us to run the opposite way around the hill the second time around, because the 12 mile marker was set up backwards and most definitely not at 12 miles the direction everyone was going [unless I somehow ran a 6:37/9:23 mile combo lol].  We headed off back along the ocean, which I tried to take a minute to appreciate how gorgeous it was - it was a gray, windy day so the waves were crashing on these cliff things and it was just really amazing.  But of course after about 2 minutes of awesome it was time to go up another hill, and then another, and on and on.  I was starting to get REALLY tired.  The 13 mile marker seemed like it was just never going to appear, and then the thought of having to run 5 and a half more miles AFTER said 13 mile marker was just really a terrible thought. 

Mile 14 was tough, 7:57, and mile 15 was possibly the worst mile you could throw at that point in an 18.6 mile race. As if I wasn't already exhausted from 15 miles of hills, there were 2 absolutely enormous monsters in mile 15.  The first was just steep and long, but the second was the really cruel one - a curving beast that made at least 3 turns before it finally flattened out. That was my slowest mile at 8:10, and clearly for good reason.  3.5 miles seemed like INFINITY, and I tried not to think about the fact that if this had been Monday at Cape Ann, I would have been done by now....

We finally headed back onto the flat stretch by the beach, and I recognized that the 16 mile mark would probably be near where the 1 mile mark had been.  Along this stretch I had finally caught up with someone, dueled a guy in Vibram Five Fingers for pretty much the entire mile, finally winning the battle just after the 16 mile mark.  Mile 16 was back down to 7:51 and now with 2.5 miles left I was caught between the "that's so short!" mentality and "that's an entire high school XC race!" mentality.  I think I fell somewhere in the middle lol.  At mile 17 [7:55] we passed by the finish line and began the cruelest 1.6 mile out and back of my LIFE. I mean, number one, we had just had to run PAST the finish line, and now we were running out, into the blasting wind, on a seemingly endless stretch of path.  I really thought the turnaround was never going to come...and then at the place where it seemed like the turnaround would be, you had to go just a litttttle bit farther - argh.  I actually passed like 3 men along this stretch which was a nice boost, and running down people who were dying at the end definitely kept me in it until the finish line.  Once we passed the 18 mile [7:47] I was like....ok....kickity kick kick kiiiiiick and DO NOT let that woman who you saw at the turnaround pass you! [she finished less than a minute behind me, phew!] And by this point I was so excited just to be almost done, and to have performed SO much better than I thought I would, I was just thrilled.
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Bringing it in to the finish!  You can see someone headed out into the evil out & back behind me

Final time: 2:25:54 (I had 5 seconds faster on my watch with the no chip time, but I think the pace is the same) = 7:50 PACE!!!

7:50 pace, for 18.6 miles, over an incredibly hilly course, at the tail end of a 70 mile week, feeling generally quite relaxed and not like I was pushing it throughout? Did I seriously just do this??? It's funny because after Cape Ann, I was happy with my performance, but after this, I am absolutely PUMPED. I feel like with the combination of circumstances this was actually a much better performance, and one that says even more about my overall fitness at this point. I refuse to jinx myself by talking about goals this time around - the goal is to not think, not worry, not freak out, stay relaxed, and run - but after this performance I'm sure you might be able to imagine what number may or may not be in the back of my mind 4 1/2 weeks from now. I ended up as 14th overall woman and 9th in my age group [oh, sometimes I hate being a 20-29]

So anyway, this week has absolutely renewed my confidence in myself and my fitness, and finally finally FINALLY made me excited about racing this marathon.  It's like this whole summer I was just slogging through, putting in the miles, and forgetting that there was a point to all this....and now I finally see some results and it makes it all worthwhile. And I also think my GBTC singlet makes me faster....just sayin'. :P

Oh, and for your listening pleasure...here is the song that was in my head, literally, throughout the entirety of BOTH races this week...listen at your own risk, you may never get it out of your head.

1 comment:

marathonmaiden said...

Woooooot :) contests on so many firsts! You also look wayyyy hardcore in those pictures. You are a beast :)