Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Silly steeples

Tuesday is usually my day off, but it was so gorgeous today that I felt like I had to do something, so I decided I would try to get on the track and do some steeple practice since that's the next thing I'm racing. Buuut I totally forgot that the break I have between classes is right during the actual track team's practice so I couldn't get on the track (well, technically, we - and by we I mean anyone who isn't a member of the UW track team - can never get on the track anyway...but that's another story. It's easy enough to jump the fence.) So I ended up McGyvering a steeple workout that worked out surprisingly well! First I ran to the slanted situp boards on the parcourse thing and did some practice on the lowest one running up to it, not stuttering, jumping off and continuing to run - it was obviously quite a bit lower than the actual steeple but just kind of getting the general feeling in my legs. Then I got up on a higher board and practiced just jumping off - this one was closer to the actual distance from the top of the barrier to the bottom of the water pit, and my landing is my big problem so I was trying to land on one foot (which is hard!) I was planning on just running the rest of the way around the UBay fields back to the Nat, but all of a sudden something else caught my eye...there is a sort of fence set up around the edge of the field with posts every few meters. The posts come up about to my knee and they're situated on the side of a little if you were to jump off them, you would be jumping extra distance down the hill. See where I'm going with this? So yes, I got more than one awkward look as I ran across a street and jumped off a tiny post. And seriously - it was a GREAT approximation of steeple - at least what I remember it being like. A bit shorter than the real thing obviously, but still, the impact felt similar. I also realized while doing this that I think if I'm going to try to land on one foot, I'm going to have to take off my left (weaker, or at least not dominant) leg. When I take off my right, I can't land on my left without basically breaking an ankle but landing on my right is fine. I think that anything I lose from taking off of my non-dominant leg is going to be more than made up for if I can actually land on one foot and get my ass out of the pit, so this is a good thing to know!

So it was a fun time. I actually seriously considered trying a similar drill except actually into a flooded gulley thing, but I decided it wasn't worth the possibility of accidently killing myself on a random stick and turning my XC spikes into a muddier mess than they already are. I was laughing pretty much the whole time - seriously, I think I've completely accepted my running weirdness. Last night I had dance rehearsal after practice and I was walking around campus in my spandex shorts - and I thought to myself that only someone who's used to racing in almost nothing would just not give a crap about wearing that little in public. I mean hell, if fat coasties can wear long spandex, why shouldn't I show off my runners legs in short spandex? I mean, it was also 50 degrees and raining. But whatever...

Fun fun stuff. I'm really busy this week with my Optima dance show so I have been and will be dancing up a storm - which is quite a workout in and of itself. It's a good thing I'm a distance runner, because 8 dances basically back to back is kind of insanity...3-4 minutes of pretty much nonstop craziness. It's like 800 repeats! Lol...yeah...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

That one race

So I'm cranky about a number of things right now, one of which is how much my race sucked yesterday. I always have one race every season that just sucks ass, and frustrates me, and my legs just refuse to move, and I spend the entire time KNOWING I'm going to run a time much worse than I'm capable of and there's nothing I can do about it. The Loras Open 5K was that race for this track season. I could see it coming a mile away -my legs felt like crap all week, I was completely not in meet mode when I woke up Saturday morning, and ironically enough, I felt good during the warmup (you would think that would be a good thing, but apparently not in my world). And the thought actually crossed my mind, with all this crap going on "huh, I haven't had my 'bad' race this season yet". Boy. I'm glad I thought that, before I went out and ran practically my slowest time of the season, and by far my crappiest feeling race. It sucks when you think about how much more effort you have to put in to run a crappy time - when your legs are dying and its taking every ounce of your effort just to keep moving forward at a slow pace, and the entire time you know that this isn't going well and there's just nothing you can do. Its frustrating as hell. And its frustrating to know that you're in 19:54 shape, probably even better shape than that, and go out and run a 20:32. UGH. I knew it was going to be bad when I went out in 6:13 and already felt like shit...then the rest of the race was basically just a struggle to survive and keep moving and not completely fail. I was really cranky right after the race. In the grand scheme of things I know its fine, we had a ridiculous week of training leading up to this, and I already broke 20 so I know that I can do it - one crappy race doesn't mean I suck, and of course there's gotta be THAT one race every season. But that didn't stop me from feeling frustrated and annoyed with myself for not being able to run better somehow. The sad part too was that it was my best race of the year, placement wise, and had I actually run well, I would have actually been in the top 10.

I don't want to dwell on it too much because I know a million different things contributed to it sucking and I can't make excuses for myself, but it still makes me cranky. Its hard having a limited number of times to race and I really don't want to end my 5K season on that note. The twilight doesn't have a 5K so I'm doing steeple which will be really fun, and I'm sure I'll PR, but since the 5K really became my love this season I'd really like to get one more crack at a really good time at the end...which I could possibly run at a last chance meet the week after Twilight. I don't that stupid? There's always the chance I'd do even worse. But I feel like after a good taper and NOT dancing every second that I'm not running, I could pull out at least a 19:45. I don't know. All I know is its time to back off - my legs are starting to poop out on me. I know that racing a 5K every weekend all season was probably dumb, I realize I should have jumped in a 1500 or something some weekend, but why - when every weekend up until this one I've been improving? Whatever. But tapering is sounding good, and hopefully my legs will stop feeling like bricks once I stop putting them through so much torture for a little while. Claire and Brittany didn't have good races either, and Brittany has been doing the same hard workouts, while Claire has been training for a freaking marathon - that can't be easy! So I think we all agree that its just the point of the season where the training starts to get to us...but after 2 weeks of taper, that training that got to us this week will be stored in our legs, ready to explode into our best times of the year...or so we hope.

Saturday was also our dual with the Illinois club, which was strange but definitely added some excitement to the meet, even though we ended up losing due to the fact that we don't have sprinters...and they do. So they cleaned up in the 400 and even though our guys ran great races in the 1500 and 800, we ended up winning the 15 but not by a huge margin, and we couldn't pull out the 800 - but what can you do when everyone we have running the race has already run a 1500, and most of their guys are fresh? Then there was the 5K - what a ridiculous mess. There was a huge downpour like 5 minutes before the race was supposed to start, and so there was all this confusion, and they said there was going to be a 10 minute delay. So a couple of our guys are still milling around or hiding under trees outside, but once they announced the delay Zach and (we thought) Ben went inside. Well all of a sudden, they're lining up to start the damn race! So of course our entire team was freaking out because 2 of our fastest runners weren't there...Claire ran inside to get Zach who had to sprint down the track throwing off his sweats to make it to the start line, but we still couldn't see we're all freaking out yelling "Where's Garbe??" and Dallas went and yelled at the ref that if they had called a 10 minute delay, there was no way they could start 2 minutes later without everyone there. It turns out Ben was at the line, so everyone made it and it was fine (although it definitely cost Zach his kick), but it was just stupid the way it worked out. Mostly it was just the ref being an ass...whatever. The guys raced really hard but it didn't end up being a big enough margin for the 4 x 4 to not matter...and we had no confidence in our 4 x 4, but nevertheless, it was EXTREMELY exciting. It reminded me of high school - when you're always fighting for team titles and sometimes it all comes down to that 4 x 4 under the lights. It was a great race - I haven't screamed so hard for our team - ever, probably, and we were seriously ahead for awhile, which was amazing...but then...their stupid actual 50 second 400 runner closed, and with that combined with a bad handoff to Jeff, there was nothing he could do. Its funny because all of the guys in their relay were fresh or had only run the 400 earlier, and we had one guy just coming off the 5K, two guys who had run an 800 and a 1500, and one guy who had run an 8K at Crazylegs that morning, then run the 400, and was then doing this. So the fact that they only beat us by a few seconds was pretty respectable.

Well, I really wasn't planning on this being this long...but when I get to rambling, there's no stopping me I guess. I'll sign off for the weekend with this video that I discovered and absolutely love. It makes me really happy and I think just really captures running just for the love of it. Screw bad races. I can deal. There's still nothing like running. :)

Onwards from AKQA on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Looking forward

Not too much to say legs are still feeling crappy, whether as an after-effect of Monday's death march or from the insane amounts of dance I'm putting myself through, I don't know, but either way, I attempted my first lower body ice bath last night (painful, but not terrible...I'm guessing the water could have been colder) and tonight I will be Sticking the shit out of myself. While enjoying a Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA...yum. But today, I actually am trying not to think about my race on Saturday because regardless of what happens I'm thrilled with my season. Today I signed up for the Madison Half-Marathon! A lot of WTC people are doing this race, which will be a lot of fun, it goes right past my house, and I'm pretty sure every inch of the course I've run on before at some point in my life. What better way to wish myself happy birthday/I love running in Madison than to run a race on my own stomping grounds? So I'm pretty excited. And I can all but guarantee I'll PR, most likely in under 8 minute pace if things go according to plan. Sweeeet. Did I mention I love running? There's always something to look forward to, and when you're in good shape it feels like there's nothing you can't do.

Also...I may be doing a spint triathlon June 13? Would someone please explain to me how I go about doing this? The BF is really excited because its in his hometown and is really gung-ho about me doing it...I guess, if all else fails, I just completely suck and say "hey, it was my first triathlon!" And then probably get addicted. Because that's just how I roll.

Well, Drake and Penn Relays are this weekend, so it will be cool to see how those go down. Its kind of fun actually following elite distance running to some degree (thanks, and kind of being able to cheer people on, especially since distance running in the US has been improving so much lately. I didn't actually get to watch the Boston Marathon, but it was cool to hear about Hall and Goucher...even though I especially wanted Kara to pull it out, it's still damn impressive for both of them to get 3rd.

I'm nervous for Saturday. I haven't had a chance to think about it too much because I've had so much other crap going on, but I really feel like I have a lot to prove now (and isn't that funny, how now that I've actually achieved my end-all goal that NOW I feel like I have to prove something?). I've been so cranky this week because my legs just haven't been feeling good, but I'm hoping that when I get out of bed on Saturday morning, I'm ready to race. I KNOW I'm ready to race, and this will probably be my one chance to compete in a field where I actually have a chance of placing decently. There are a few WIAC schools coming, but most of their faster runners will be at Drake, and other than that its a lot of smaller schools without many good runners. So here it is: my chance to RACE. Last week, I ran a 19:54 by myself...lets see what I can do when there are people to pass, people to race with, people to beat.

Also, its supposed to be windy. Why is the weekend of April 25 ALWAYS WINDY?? Sigh.

Monday, April 20, 2009

It's a beautiful night for a PR

This is what was running through my mind as I laced up my spikes and strided out on the football field at St. Mary's Minnesota. All of the ridiculous nerves I had last week at Platteville were replaced by complete calm. I wanted to run a good race, but at the same time, I knew I could do it. I wasn't expecting anything, and I knew in the ridiculous field that worrying about place wouldn't even be an option, so I just felt confident that I could run my race, and that's what I was going to do. The night air was cool, calm, and there was an electricity to running under the lights that just got me pumped up. "It's a beautiful night to run fast."

But first, the ridiculousness that came before...
We left the Union at 11:30, one of 4 cars that were making the 3 hour trek to Winona. I actually wasn't thinking about the race much at all on the way there, and I was glad I brought a book (The Kite Runner, which I've been planning on reading forever and am just now finally getting around to) because it was a looooong drive. We got to the track about 15 minutes after the meet was supposed to start...and it hadn't. We heard that they were starting late...then there was another announcement that they "would know in 10-20 minutes when the meet would be starting". As it turned out, the starter wasn't there. He was in Lacrosse. I really don't know how that works, since pretty much the ONE thing you need to have a track meet is a starter with a gun...but keep in mind that this is the first track meet this school has ever held, on their brand new track. Which was gorgeous, by the way...I love the bluffs along the Mississippi.

I took some pictures since I had nothing better to do while sitting around in the was like 75...HOT! I remember being yelled at by Fischer to get under the bleachers and out of the sun in high school...and that's when I was running the 100 hurdles. I feel like the sun sapping your energy is more of a problem when you're running a 5K. Ohh well. The meet eventually got underway (an hour late), and soon it was time to watch the men's steeplechase. A couple WTC guys were running this without having so much as run over a hurdle before...and the results were say the least...

Awesome? Yes. And he didn't even end up getting last! So the meet went on. Some more super sweet WTC PRs, especially from Jade who ran a 4:53 in the 1500...holy SHIT she's fast! I was trying really hard to stay hydrated, since that always seems to be a problem for me at meets, and especially in the heat. Brittany and I spent a lot of time refilling our water bottles in the SMU "Student Center"...which looked more like a crappy hotel lobby. They also had a bizzare display focused on their bubbler being a member of the SMU Athletics Hall of Fame, which Brittany and I thought was absolutely hilarious. There were also some absurd last names of people, the highlight of which was a couple of guys in the 100 with the last names "Yerhot" and "Wockenfus"...except it sounded like "Rockinpuss". Somehow this escalated into a bunch of us deciding that a great name for a movie (porn?) would be Yerhot Rockinpuss & the Bubbler of Glory. Yeah, don't ask me. Track meets make us act like we're on crack...its science.

So fast forward a few hours of ridiculousness to ~an hour before race time. Annnnd now is when I start getting nervous. Brittany and I went out on a warmup and my legs just felt crappy, I felt kind of dizzy (which I'm starting to realize might be a nervous thing, since I think its happened to me before every race this season). Then of course, I had to pee (apologies for the TMI, but this is definitely a major nervous problem of mine)...and OF COURSE, there was no toilet paper. Standard luck. Speaking of bad luck, the next thing that happened was sad but kind of hilarious. So last week at Platteville, they didn't have hip numbers above 19, so I had to wear 2 2's for 22...not only were they shitty hip numbers to begin with, but when you have 6 inches of sticker on your hip things just get crazy. So I was all excited as I walked up to the check in table because I saw that they actually had numbers for the 20s! I said something about it and explained to the lady about the week before. Well as it turns out, they did indeed have numbers in the 20s...
except 22.
Which of course, happened to be my number.

I was laughing so hard - I mean seriously, how does that even happen? They at least ripped the 2s off of some 29s so the numbers were a little smaller, but it was seriously hilarious.

I think that's what finally ended my nervousness. As I started doing strides I realized, hey, my legs feel kind of GOOD! The weather was perfect, we were under the lights, and that's when I started thinking - It's a beautiful night for a PR.

We got on the line, the ref was being an idiot and thought it was the 3K (seriously, who WAS this guy?), a LaX girl made some comment about how he was an hour late and then....bang. We were off.

The first mile went by pretty fast - I was actually kind of hanging on to the back of the pack, and one girl was even behind me. Annnd then we hit the mile. At 6:05. Shit. I know I said I wanted to go out fast but...that's not what I meant. But what's done is done, and I had no choice but to keep going. The stupidity of that first mile hit me about halfway through the second. All of a sudden I simultaneously got a side stitch (again!! why??) and felt my legs start seizing up. Oh. No. This is not happening. The entire second mile was really unpleasant. The one girl from wherever (St Mary's maybe?) I had been in front of passed me, and I was noooot feeling good. I came through the 2-mile in 12:40. 6:35 for the second mile = FAIL. I was concerned about that, but I tried to focus - my plan was that if I could get through the 2 mile in under 12:45, I could break 20. So I bore down. I heard Dallas yelling at me that I had to run a 6:30 mile to break 20. Wait a second...that means I have to SPEED UP? That's when I started getting concerned. But I knew that if I didn't get this because I was a moron and had to follow the crowd and go out in 6:05, I was going to be so incredibly pissed. And that I just had to do it - for everything. For all of the hard work that I've put in since January, because I knew I could, and because this dream that seemed absolutely impossible at the beginning of the season was on the verge of happening. 800 to go. It was starting to get bad legs were tying up, and I started feeling like I was going to puke...and yet I continued to try to speed up. I was running completely by myself now - and in a way, I feel like that's how running should be sometimes, just you out there, fighting yourself as your only competitor. I looked at my watch with 400 to go, and I don't honestly remember what it said, but in that moment I knew, just knew, that I had it. I pulled out one of the best kicks of my life, speeding up and then absolutely pulling the trigger with 200 to go. I sprinted out every ounce of life in me...and then I hit the finish, slamming my stopwatch. I looked down and saw the beautiful, beautiful numbers:
[official time 19:54.62...but who's counting]

The point is, it started with a 19.

So yes, I dropped 24 seconds from last week. And silenced my own doubts that there was no way I would ever be good enough to run under a 20 minute 5K. As I said - I know that this is by no means a fantastic time compared to everyone else running the 5K in D3. And most likely, I'd be placing higher if I was running the steeplechase. But at this point, I don't care. I think I have accomplished more this track season than I ever have, running-wise. I picked a goal that I basically figured was impossible, somehow realized that it was actually a possibility, and I did it. I have one more 5K to race on Saturday, but regardless of how that goes, the season is a success. But while we're at it, I might as well try to drop some more time....

On a less exciting note, I had a really hard time with tonight's workout. It was most likely the combination of 8.5 hungover miles @ 7:15 pace yesterday [note: I'm an idiot] + dance performance last night + work @ 6 am this morning + legs all of a sudden remembering that, oh yeah, I PRed by 24 seconds on Friday = suckfest. The workout was 5 x 1000 @ 5K goal pace (which is now a complete mystery to me, since I never even considered goal times under 20:00, but apparently has now been upgraded to somewhere in the 19:40-19:30 range).
1: 3:52 (19:20 pace)
2: 3:59 (19:55 pace)
3: 4:01 (20:05 pace)
4: 3:58 (19:50 pace)
5: 3:52 (19:20 pace)
I can't decide whether to call it a win, fail, or draw. My legs felt like shit, and I wanted to throw up on the last 2, but then again, my last 2 were also faster and I somehow pulled a fast one out at the end. The 3rd one was the worst - it was one of those deals where I start thinking about how crappy I feel and how slow I'm going, wonder why I can't go faster, and it makes me freak out, hyperventilate, and thus feel shittier. But anyway, all things considered, I guess it went OK.

I'm just going to stop rambling now because this has gone on forever...but yeah, running. Running is sweet.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Still in disbelief

Last night, at the Phil Esten Challenge at St. Mary's in Winona, MN, I ran a 19:53 5K. It was a 25 second PR, and I still am in complete and utter disbelief that I did it. I realize that just breaking 20, in the grand scheme of college 5K running, is not that spectacular, but to me it is a milestone that I never, ever, in a million years, believed I would be able to achieve. But I did it. I did exactly what I wanted to do: get out fast (although, I have to admit, I went out like 10 seconds faster than planned), get through the 2-mile in under 12:40, and then I managed to pick it up on the 3rd mile, which has NEVER happened in my life. My splits are ugly, but they work: 6:05, 6:35, 6:28.

A more complete race report is coming, because the entire experience of the meet itself was just ridiculous and hilarious, but I just needed to put this up because I am so, so happy. And so proud of myself for not giving in, and just DOING it. And even though this was supposedly my "goal" for the season, I honstly never believed it would happen. But I guess, during that race, some part of me knew it could. And I did it. :)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Flashback: Tosafest Run For ALS 2003

Since there are so many moments in my running career that happened way before this blog, I think once in awhile I'm going to take some time and create some mini race reports based on things I remember or things I wrote down at the time. Somewhere I wrote an entry on diaryland or something about this race, but unfortunately that's long gone - but I think especially in light of my newfound love for the 5K, this race deserves special mention. Why? Because it was my first 5K, first road race, and first distance race EVER.

I really wish I could remember what exactly possessed me to do this race, but in all honesty I have no idea. It sounded fun? You got a t-shirt? I seriously don't know, but somehow I found myself on the starting line that warm September day. I surprisingly didn't make the faux pas of wearing my race t-shirt during the race - I vividly remember giving it to my mom after I picked up my packet. I also recall being involved in an extremely awkward conversation with my [creeptastic] 8th grade history teacher who also happened to be the middle school cross country coach, asking me when I decided to take up running. Truth was, I hadn't. I was a junior in high school, still a year out from even thinking about running any sort of distance, and I guess I was just there to have a good time. I remember my goal was to run it in under 30 minutes...gotta love that now my goal is to run a 5K under 20. How times change...

The thing that I remember impressed me the most was just the atmosphere, and its something that I still love to this day. The camaradrie and way that everyone involved, no matter how fast or slow, supported eachother and just the excitement of lining up with hundreds of other people. [Side note: that's my one major reason I love cross country over track]. The race itself...I mean...what do you really say about running a 5K on no training? It was hard. It hurt. I got passed a lot. I actually took a water cup at the 2 mile water stop [yes, it was hot out...but in a 5K? I was such a newbie.] I thought about walking but I didn't. The same feelings I get sometimes now when I race...except at a much slower pace. The course was basically an out and back on a parkway, and on the way back it dipped down under a bridge to the finish. I had been running a little ways behind this girl for awhile, and as we went down this hill I vividly remember "You're a spinter! She looks like she could be in your age group, and you could pass her! Sprint!" So I sprinted, and I did indeed pass her. I finished the race in 28:26, a 9:09 mile pace. The funniest part of it? The girl WAS in my age group. And I beat her by 3 WIN MY AGE GROUP. Let's think about this for a second - I haven't won my age group in a 5K since. But yet, with a 28:26, I won the 15-19 female AG that day. I have the paperweight to prove it (its actually pretty sweet). Moral of the story: run races when everyone who's on the high school cross country team can't. :P

I told this story to some people in the club a couple weeks ago and they thought it was hilarious! I think people who have only met me in the past couple years just assume that I've always been as much of a distance runner as I am now. But I think it makes me even more proud of my accomplishments to know that I wasn't - that once upon a time, I wrote a story called "The Mile Of Horrors", that I once ran the 5K in 28:26. And now here I am shooting for a sub-20 5K and running 50 miles a week. I guess the point is that I had noooo idea what I was beginning when I signed up for that race 6 years ago. And also that I just like to reminisce and ramble. Anyway...I still wear the shirt all the time. It's the most ridiculous shade of yellow ever and has a really awkward running person on it, but I love it all the same.

So another 5K on the track tomorrow at St Mary's...which I'm going to keep calling LaX because that's where its supposed to be. It's supposed to be like 75 out which is INSANE, and while I'd say my optimal running temp is more like 60, its still going to be a great day to PR. I will have no one to run with, seeing as the next person seeded in front of me is seeded at 19:37, but you know, I know what splits I want to run. I don't need other people to run them for me. I just need to go out, run my race, and kick some ass.

6:15. 6:29. 6:30.
I can do this.

Monday, April 13, 2009

"Hey, at least we don't have to do an Ironman"

Well, I still seem to be working in the PR department.

20:18.45 at Platteville on Friday. And maybe this means I'm finally doing it right, but this was no cruise around like the last 2 races have been. It. Was. HARD. And yet, it wasn't so hard that I don't think I can run 19 seconds faster sometime in the next 3 weeks.

It was a looooong day...we left at 2, got to Platteville around 3:30, and the meet started at 4. Watching one of my teammates race the steeplechase for the first time with a raging hangover was pretty entertaining (he gave up getting drunk for Lent, and it was Good he HAD to get drunk on Thursday night, apparently), and watching the SP chick who tripped me at Carthage go completely under in the steeple pit didn't exactly make me sad either...does that make me a bad person? ;) Anyway, the rest of the meet leading up to my race wasn't too eventful. All of my insane nerves that had built up the past week I think had just kind of reached critical mass and gone away, because I wasn't really feeling nervous, I was actually just feeling kind of crappy. My legs felt sluggish and I was cold and I just wanted to get the damn thing over with already. We had quite the crew warming up - the 4 of us WTC girls and a couple girls from Wisconsin who were also at the meet. It's cool that some of the girls on the team are really nice people and actually give us credit for doing what we do. Then it just seemed like we were waiting foreverrrr...putting on spikes, doing strides, hopping around, saying ridiculous things (I had a dream on Thursday night that I was doing an Ironman, and Brittany and I decided that while the 5K would probably suck, it wouldn't be as hard as an Ironman. Which is a good thing...haha). Finally - time for the start. Under the lights...I haven't run a real race that way since high school....

WTC vs WTF...the faceoff

From the moment the gun went off I just didn't feel right - the whole first mile my legs felt crappy, and I just felt panicked - like I was running at some ridiculous pace I couldn't possibly hold, or I was pushing with all the effort I had and it just wasn't fast enough. And that's not a good feeling to have when you're in the first mile of a 3 mile race. I came through the mile at 6:20, with Brittany right behind me - I had loooong lost sight of Jade and Claire (so much for staying with Jade...). After the mile mark I finally started to relax a little bit, or at least I managed to get my mind working enough that I could tell myself to relax. I was running behind Wartburg girl #1 for the whole second mile...I finally decided to put in a surge past her, and about 200 meters later she sprinted past me. Damn. Although I was mad to have wasted the energy on the surge, I fell back into rhythm and by this point was finally getting into it. I came through the 2 mile at 12:56, 5 seconds faster than last week, and I just told myself to hang on.

The 3rd mile of the 5K is when I just stop thinking...the 2 mile split is really the last split I think about, and after that its just autopilot. I had Wartburg girls #2 and 3 behind me for awhile, and then they passed me with about 800 to go. I decided to start picking it up a little bit with 600 to go, a little more with 400 to go, and absolutely kicked it in with 200 to go, and I tried and tried and sprinted my life out but I could NOT get past those 2 damn girls...I was a little cranky about that. Other than the finish I just have random flashes of things happening throughout the race - Dallas screaming ridiculous, yet really helpful things on the curve leading into the home stretch, some kid playing random notes on a kazoo on the other curve where it was dark and otherwise quiet, an Oshkosh girl with glitter in her hair for some reason (really, this is a track meet, not a pom competition), my number flying off about 3 laps in and most likely hitting someone in the face (these hip numbers were really crappy, and since I was 22, a number which doesn't exist, I had 4 separate 2's plastered to my body, 2 on my leg and 2 on my chest. Ridiculous.) It was cool running under the lights, and I was really happy about PRing again, especially since I had just felt so...not good going into the race, and even throughout the first half of it.

By far the best thing that happened at the meet was during the 2nd heat of the guys 5K. They're lining up, and all of a sudden all of our guys are going "where the hell is Zais?" Well, as it turned out, he thought the start was on the OTHER SIDE of the the gun is going off and he's sprinting across the infield (where the javelin is going on, by the way) throwing off his sweats. He got to the start about 10 seconds after the gun and proceeded to run his first lap in 68, catching the field 300 meters in. He went on to run a 15:46, complete with an utterly INSANE kick where he passed some 6 guys in the last 200 meters. Did I mention the guy is insane? So it was pretty fantastic haha. We also didn't make it home from the meet until 1:30 am...and then I got up and ran 12.5 miles with Brittany at 9 am on Saturday. We mileage whores are a special breed.

So what now? Well, this week is another Friday meet, technically hosted by LaX but actually being run at St. Mary's in Winona, MN. After this race, I really believe I can break 20...actually I'm going to stop saying that because "break" numbers and me tend to not get along. So I'm going to break 19:59. :) I have a plan - go out just a little faster, slow down the same amount (or less would be fine too, but I mean, I'm giving myself some leeway here.) My splits this past week were something like 6:20, 6:36, get my goal, I want to run 6:17, 6:28, 6:30...then close in less than 45, which I assume I could do. 3 seconds faster first mile, 8 seconds 2nd and 3rd...I guess it would be possible to throw some of that time onto the first mile too, but then we're getting down closer to what I would actually race a mile in at this point. This is me thinking out loud and babbling it out on my blog...its probably a good thing no one really reads this.

Anyway...bottom line: I think I can do this.

Today's workout was pretty hard - 6 x 800 @ 3:07-3:13 (5K goal pace) w/ 1:30 recovery jog. But I didn't fall apart (direct quote from my coach: "I thought you guys were going to fall apart, but you didn't!") and there it is - I ran the distance under the pace I want to run. Now take away 7:30 of rest, and we're in business. :)

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Under pressure

Back in high school, especially senior year, I used to get ridiculously nervous before races. My nerves actually caused me to run badly on more than one occasion (case in point: sectionals), or I would run crappily in prelims, barely make it to finals, and then calm down enough to run well because I'd already run a race. Obviously nerves ruining your race can be a big issue in the 100 hurdles, when one screwy step out of the blocks can spell complete disaster. In high school I wanted to be good, I wanted to be the best, I wanted to WIN and I knew I was capable of it, and every race I felt like I had to prove myself. I remember spending study hall every day with my friend Jeff looking up meet results while he looked up stats from his tennis opponents...that and playing texttwist...and we both constantly gave eachother crap about how obsessed we were with our respective sports. In high school I didn't drink, didn't party, didn't really do much besides my sports/activities, and in the sprint, track was IT - all that mattered. School was a joke, dance kind of fell by the wayside, and it was all track, all the time. And so running well was all that mattered.

When I got to college, all of that kind of disappeared for awhile. I was so ecstatic just to be racing that I couldn't have cared less what times I was running. When I eventually switched over from hurdles to distance, my nerves were related more to the fact that I knew the race was going to hurt like hell than actually worrying about running well in it - sure, I wasn't thrilled when I had a bad race, but I didn't really expect to have a great one either. And that's pretty much how its been the past couple years - going into races nervous about the pain, and most of the time coming out with a result I'm moderately happy with.

PRing on Saturday has, apparently, changed all that.

I am 100% FREAKING OUT about my race tomorrow. I honestly haven't felt this way since high school - that sense of nerves and wanting so badly to run well and not knowing whether its possible. I've been checking the heat sheets obsessively, hunting down past races for my competitors, trying to figure out what I should take the first mile out's ridiculous. And the fact that I feel this way about the 5K...well, that's just insane. Yet when I take 2 seconds to stop geeking out about the race itself and try to figure out why exactly I'm so damn nervous about it all of a sudden, its not actually too hard to explain why.

#1 - I have come to terms with the fact that yes, I am, and will be forever, a distance runner.
For the longest time I think I've thought of myself as "hurdler turned distance runner". Distance was like this weird thing that I just kind of did, and hey, if I could be OK at it, that was cool, because I was sick of getting worse at my 'real' events. If I did bad, it was easy enough to just be like "oh, well I'm not really a distance runner anyway". Yeah, that works when you're running the 800. Maybe even the mile. But choosing to run an effing 5K on the track? I can no longer try to tell myself that I'm "not really a distance runner". Because...I am. You don't do that if you're not a distance runner. And I think I've been denying that for awhile, and all of a sudden it's hit me that I am no longer, in any way, a sprinter...I'm all distance, all the way. And I think I'm still kind of in awe of myself for that.

#2 - I'm not used to PRing in the middle of the season. Or the beginning, for that matter.
Part of my deal in college has been switching events when I start to slow down at one. I haven't run the same "main" event 2 years in a row, which in a way is probably stupid but let's not worry about that for now. And in all of these (and cross country too) I PRed in my last or second-last meet of the season. It made sense - I went a little backwards from the end of the year before at the beginning of the season, got better throughout, PRed in a race after the whole season of training, and then it was like "ok, sweet season, peace out." I spent the whole time trying to get back to where I was the year before, and then get slightly better. But now, I PRed in the second damn race of outdoor. I still have 4 more meets to live up to, or hopefully improve upon, that. And that's what scares me - because my times are starting to get sort of legit, and because I actually dropped a TON of time just to start things...I want and need to be able to keep that up. And I think that's a BIG factor in my nerves.

#3 - I didn't start running this race just because I sucked at a different one, and I genuinely love running it.
I totally could be running the steeplechase right now. Maybe even should be. And I never thought that going up to the 5K instead of down to the 1500 would be the best decision I could make this season. I kept switching events because I didn't like getting worse/not improving, or that I wasn't really good at them to begin with, but I switched events this time because I want to and I genuinely think I can be not just mediocre, but at least "good".

So yeah? Pressure much? So anyway. I'm nervous for my race tomorrow. I'm nervous because there are a lot of really good girls in the race, I'm nervous because I don't want to run slower than last week, I'm nervous because Jade is in the race, I'm nervous, nervous, nervous. But I guess the good thing is, in a 5K, nerves can only help you. I'm not going to trip out of the blocks, if anything, I run my first mile 5 seconds fast. Which, if I want to drop time, is probably a good thing anyway. :)

carpe diem. the time is now.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Breaking the curse - Oshkosh Invite race report

Up until Saturday, I seriously thought it was impossible for me to run well on the track at UW-Oshkosh. It's a gorgeous track, just built my freshman year, but for some reason, I've had crappy luck with my races there. From hurdles to the 1500, it just never has quite worked out. So I'm happy to say that after 4 years of trying, I have finally broken the Oshkosh Curse and run a freaking awesome race at the Oshkosh Invite.

The day honestly didn't really start out that well. I was feeling kind of tired and out of it despite getting a ton of sleep the night before - not having to leave until 10 (an absolutely luxurious time compared to the usual 7 or 7:30) was pretty awesome. When we got to the stadium, the weather was pretty much the best I've ever seen it for this meet - relatively warm (like 50), sunny, and not absurdly windy. It was definitely breezy, but nothing like the ridiculous windstorm we had to deal with last year.

I was definitely really nervous the entire day - probably partially because I always seem to run like crap at this meet, partially because after looking at the heat sheets I was afraid that I was going to just about get last. My legs felt like bricks on the warmup and then my stomach started tossing and turning as I was doing strides - I seriously felt like I was going to puke. Not exactly the most ideal feeling to have going into an over 3 mile race...yeeeeah. But much as I always want to stop time in the middle of the 200 heats and just postpone actually doing the race forever, it doesn't work that way, and soon we were on the line, 29 girls in the 5K (what a HUGE heat). The gun goes, we go.

The first lap or two of the 5K I never really know what the hell is going on or think about much...just kind of getting over the initial adrenaline surge and get into a pace. I went out in 45 for the first 200 which seems to be pretty standard. The first couple laps I kept telling myself to not worry about the leaders, since there were girls in the race who run 17 minute 5Ks...this was not the time or place to do something stupid. I focused in, but it was tough to get into a rhythm the first few laps because there were a surprising (to me anyway) number of girls right around my pace. I got stuck behind a pack for about half a lap, got irritated with running on their heels as I always do, and put in a little surge to pass them, then focused on the next pack, which I soon was directly behind agan. I passed them but this time it was a little tougher to pick up the pace enough to get passed, and I think I got passed back by a couple of those girls later on. But anyway. I came through the mile in 6:20, which was right where I wanted to be - I knew that I went out too slow (never thought I'd say that!) last week and that I was going to slow down regardless, so I could pick up a lot of time by pushing it a little the first mile. Once I semi-passed that second group, the people I couldn't pass started pulling away from me, but I pulled away from the girls behind me (some Kim girl from St. least that's who I heard people cheering for vaguely behind me). There were WTC people scattered all around the track cheering, the most ridiculous of which was Dallas who alternated between yelling "here we go Audrey, here we go (clap clap)" and yelling my splits in the second half, which I was pleased to hear were 2 seconds or so per lap faster than last week.

I hit the 2-mile in 13:01 to my shock and awe - that is by far the fastest I've ever opened a 5K. And it was in the instant that I heard that time that I pretty much just thought to myself - "fuck it, I am PRing today!" So the entire second mile, I've been slooooowly reeling in this Northern Michigan girl. At first she seemed way too far for me to get her, but I guess by some combination of her dying and me not, all of a sudden I was right on her shoulder. I know you're not supposed to pass on the curve, but I didn't feel like sitting behind her any longer - I surged and passed her, of course sealing my fate for spending the rest of the race listening to "Go Jess! You can catch this girl!" Um, no, sorry Jess. You actually can't. I was still feeling really strong (seriously, who AM I?) and kept pushing. At some point with like 1200 to go, all of a sudden Dallas was on the other side of the track screaming "now's the time to put in some EFFORT!" I almost started laughing...yes, because I'm not trying at all right now...haha. Anyway, the last 1200 I never really think too much. It just kind of happens...I'm running, running, thinking I've put some distance on Jess and hoping she doesn't appear out of nowhere...running...running...just willing my legs to keep going onward. I looked at my watch for the first time all race with 400 to go and saw 18:58. And with that, I knew it - if I could just make it through this last 400 meters in some sort of slightly reasonable time, a PR would be mine. I kicked. The last lap seems to drag on forever, and then I'm in the final stretch...I cross the finish line, slam my watch (of course, there's no clock anywhere in the vicinity) and look down in anticipation.

Despite gasping for breath and feeling like I'm about to fall over, I'm pretty sure I just yelled "YES!!!"

So I was giddy for the rest of the day. Still am, actually. We watched the men's 5k, the 4 x 4, and the 10K, which included a dude projectile vomiting as he sprinted down the home stretch, and the guy pacing him being like "it's ok dude, don't worry about it, just keep going". At least it was the home would you like to run even a 400 with puke all over your face? Classy.

So sub-20:30 5K = accomplished.
Suddenly, my goal of sub 20:00 doesn't seem so absurd. If I keep dropping time like this...I'm already thinking about what splits I need to run to get at least sub 20:15. I am such a loser, and I care not one bit.

Oh, and here's the song I had in my head for the entire first mile of the race:

Ummm....sometimes I don't even know.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

I am in love with the 5000 meter run

Results from the Oshkosh Invite:

Women 5000 Meter Run
Name Year School Seed Finals Points
1 Mitchell, Ayla Uw-Oshkosh 17:02.36 10
2 O'Grady, Megan Uw-Eau Clair 17:25.00 17:28.83 6
4 Southworth, Jenna Winona State 18:40.00 18:20.37 5
5 Smith, Steph Winona State 19:20.00 18:26.04 4
6 Kangas, Laura Michigan Tec 19:25.35 19:33.18 3
7 Rein, Lauren Carroll Coll 19:30.00 19:35.35 2
8 Coughlin, Teresa Uw-Eau Clair 20:00.00 19:38.06 1
9 Harris, Michaela Northern Mic 19:59.56
10 Beggs, Erin Ripon 19:48.00 20:01.30
11 Heintz, Christy Edgewood Col 20:04.00 20:09.37
12 Smith, Jill Michigan Tec 19:49.87 20:13.22
13 Weichbrod, Nikki Ripon 20:11.00 20:25.42
14 Zaferos, Audrey Wisconsin Tr 21:04.00 20:27.72
15 Krob, Jessica Northern Mic 19:32.00 20:30.78
16 Hoklas, Kirsten Northern Mic 20:32.27
17 Bougher, Nicole Northern Mic 20:40.73
18 Keil, Kim St. Norbert 20:41.07
19 Bruestle, Sydney Michigan Tec 19:28.47 20:43.83
20 Farrell, Brittany Wisconsin Tr 21:15.00 20:46.52
21 Hoklas, Megan Northern Mic 20:53.72
22 Baugher, StephanieNorthern Mic 21:09.19
23 Kettula, Tasha Northern Mic 21:31.36
24 Considine, Ana Wisconsin Tr 21:00.00 21:34.42
25 Rieber, Kelly Winona State 20:50.00 21:55.31

Do you see my seed time? And do you see the time I actually ran?

More complete race report coming later. For now, suffice it to say that
I am
unbelievably happy with how I raced, and my long-term,
epic goal of breaking 20
no longer seems like an impossible dream...