Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Frank Nealon Boston Tuneup 15K Race Report

I wasn't originally planning on racing this weekend (now 2 weeks ago), but when Aly sent out an email seeing if anyone wanted to do this 15K in Upton, I decided it actually might not be a bad idea. I had zero intention of racing full out this close to Boston, but figured that since I was planning to do a long run with 8ish miles of GMP work anyway, why not do it with some other runners around, on a hillier course than I would do at home, and with people giving me water? Add to that the fact that the race was ONLY $25 and I was sold.

Fast forward to race day, however, and I was less excited about the situation. For whatever ridiculous reason, my RIGHT hip (aka, not the one that has been bothering me literally for the last 3 months) started to bother me just as I stopped having problems with the left one. Because the running gods just want to throw every roadblock in my way this training cycle, apparently. It's been more irritating/annoying than TRULY painful and I've been running through it all week, though I cut a couple of runs slightly short. I woke up Saturday with it feeling pretty much par for the course - irritated, especially with hip extension, not excruciating by any means but just constantly there. Was I being an idiot? Should I be doing this? I rationalized that either way I had to do some sort of long run and it would be worthwhile to see what happened. So I headed up to Upton with Aly and another teammate. On the way, it started raining and never really stopped again until after the race. Because of the low-key nature of this racing experience, I had come horribly prepared for any sort of inclement weather situation - no hat, no extra clothes for post race, nothing. Ah well. We got our bibs and swag (adorable soup mugs - a fun change of pace from a t-shirt!) hit the bathroom and then headed out on a 2 mile warmup ending basically right at the start. Then it was go time!

I had been chatting with a BAA master's guy on the line who had asked me what I was planning to run for this race. I told him I was shooting for GMP, or around 7:20s (that's definitely on the fast end of GMP, but whatever, we're going with it). He said he was also doing a GMP run although never specified the pace, so I kind of assumed it was the same and went out with him. I felt nice and relaxed, really like I wasn't putting any effort in, and so was shocked when BAA guy looked at his watch about a half mile in and informed me we were running 6:38 pace. WHOOPS! Time to dial it back. I came through the mile a little quick in 6:56 and had to take a second to remind myself just what my goals were for this race. The question I forced myself to ask for the next 6 miles was: would you be happy if you felt this way at mile x of a marathon? No? Then SLOW DOWN.

I found the course to be really lovely; it's a pretty rural area and there were lots of gorgeous pine trees and farms. There are also PLENTY of hills to be found - the entire course is basically rolling, with 2 pretty rough hills showing up at about mile 2.5 and near mile 5. On the way up the first large hill, I found myself chatting with another older gentleman (guys in their late 40s-50s always seem to be right at my pace, haha) who mentioned that "there's only one more like this". We chatted for a bit; he was also doing the race as a workout with a faster start and then dropping back to his own GMP which was 7:50ish, so after a few minutes we hit the 3 mile and he sent me on my way. One of the delightful things about not really "racing" this race was the fact that I actually felt like it was perfectly acceptable to engage with other runners, which isn't something I usually do at ALL.

Enjoying myself far too much with my standard master's men friends. Ed is the guy who told me about the upcoming hill. Photo by Ted Tyler. 

Aside from mile 3 with the large hill, when my pace had slid a bit (7:28), I was running well under GMP in the low 7:teens. I honestly didn't really feel like actively trying to slow down anymore and so just went with whatever was feeling relaxed, while also telling myself that I was absolutely not allowed to go out at this pace in 2 weeks, no matter HOW good it felt. The mile markers passed pretty quickly and soon we were headed up another large hill (which I had been warned about) to mile 5. A couple of guys were running behind me at this point, and one remarked "oh, I caught you finally, now I can slow down!". The two of them were talking about how neither had gotten enough sleep before as we headed up the hill. I found myself next to one of them while pulling away from the other, and as we passed the water stop at mile 5 he asked me what our split had been (36:08). I then proceeded to spend the next mile chatting with this dude - he asked me how many Boston's I'd run and was impressed when I said this would be my 5th as well was with my qualifying time. He was training to attempt to BQ at Sugarloaf, having missed his qualifier by 4 minutes last year. We chatted for the majority of the mile, which made it go by quite quickly. Eventually he told me he was going to drop back and as I pulled away he yelled "Good luck at Boston! 3:15 baby!". Runners are awesome.

The last 3 miles were pretty uneventful. I ended up picking up the pace a bit because there was a girl who I had gradually started to close in on a bit and I wondered if I could get her without pushing too hard. So my last few miles were 7:08s, which was definitely a little bit of work on the ups and downs. I actually got up RIGHT behind the girl, before we turned onto yet another hill and I told myself that I wasn't allowed to really push it. I was tired and both hips were starting to tighten up, and it really wasn't worth it just to say that I beat her (she looked older than me anyway - that always helps). I cruised into the finish in 1:06:59 for a 7:11 pace (aka, NOT goal marathon pace) and, hilariously, a 5 second PR! Which basically just goes to show how rarely I run 15Ks, but I can't complain about having the story of running a PR in an attempted tempo run.

I grabbed some water and headed right into my cooldown, cheering on the runners coming into the finish line on the way. Eventually I ran into Aly, who had finished about 10 min before me and was out on her cooldown, and we did a few more miles together. I was STARVING by the time we finished the 4 miles for a total of 15+ on the day - I was hoping to do 17 but the cold was starting to get to me and at this point the money was in the bank anyway. The post-race spread was fantastic - sadly we missed the homemade soups due to our cooldown, but there was an amazing table of desserts and other snacks - well worth the $25 entry fee! All in all, this was a fantastic little race, and definitely one that I would do again. It comes at the perfect time to do as a workout (or not), the course is great and challenging, and the people who show up are just really nice! All in all, a good time.

However, THEN there was the unfortunate aftermath of this race, and the reason it took me so long to post about it. The hip issue mentioned earlier decided to rear its head with a full and awful force on Sunday, and still isn't 100%. Last week was essentially a wash - I somehow managed to run 30 miles but they were virtually all terrible. Not gonna lie, there were some tears and some serious frustration with the thought of my entire training cycle completely going up in smoke over this random injury. I immediately went into PT mode, icing, gently stretching, trying not to limp, and working on the core and yoga as long as it didn't irritate things. I took 3 days off of running after the race and then slowly eased back in. Finally, FINALLY on my run yesterday I felt like I was able to run normally, albiet with some level of tolerable tightness/pain. The quality of the pain, though, is MUCH different than it was last week - it now is more of a soreness/tightness vs. a sharp, stop in your tracks pain, and that alone has helped me to calm the eff down a little bit. As if I wasn't already questioning what this would mean for a PR attempt, the weather forecasts have started to come in, and let me tell you, it is looking about as bad as it can be for yours truly. 74 and sunny is the current forecast, which for me might as well be a death sentence. Between these two issues I think that going out at PR pace would be suicidal, and I'm reorganizing my goals accordingly. I think my main goal, as it will always be from now on, is to have something left for the last 10K. But I'm still holding out hope for a change in the never my pre-Boston post will be a post for another day.

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