Sunday, September 26, 2010

Smithville Dam Run 10K RR

When: September 26, 2010
Where: Smithville Lake (Smithville, MO)
Temp: 53F
Weather: Overcast and windy
Time: 45:52
AG: 1/5 First Place! WooHooo

I had high hopes coming into this race. My public goal was a sub-50, but secretly I was hoping to finish around 46:30. Yes there was a big disparity, but I didn't want to publicly commit to a goal I knew would be very tough to meet.

The pre-race routine went flawless. I decided to burn a CD with a "race mix" to get me pumped up and ready to race! It did the job. On the drive to the race I was mentally preparing myself. I knew the course was fast with the first 2 miles having a lot of downhill, the middle two miles being mostly uphill (nothing bad), and the remaining miles being flat with a downhill finish. My plan was to run close to a 7:30 average for the first 2 miles and not go above a 7:40 average by the time I started mile 5. I figured I could pick up at least 10 seconds of time over the remaining 2+ miles to meet my goal.

This was a very small race with the 10K having maybe 50 people total. The 5K had maybe 150 or so.

I was talking with people at the start trying to get a glimpse of who I might be able to use as a rabbit. I was going to pick a guy who was ex military, but I thought I remembered him being faster than me at previous races. I decided to let the race start and then see what played out.

All of a sudden people started running and the race was on! If someone yelled go, I never heard it. LOL The first mile starts with a good downhill so I had to try to keep myself from going out too fast while at the same time letting gravity do some of the work for me. I think I ended up fairing pretty well and finished the first mile in 7:22 and managed to get a couple of pics in the process.

Early in the mile. The guy in the white shirt on the right side of the road is the ex-military guy I thought about choosing as the rabbit.

somewhere along mile 1, probably about 1/2 through.

Mile 2 continued with a slight downhill, leveled out, then went downhill a little more. The downhills during this mile were mostly gradual. I wanted to slow down a little, but not too much. I think I managed my goal fairly well and finished this mile in 7:27. I did manage to get a couple of decent pictures during this stretch.

On the left side of the road in the distance was my rabbit for this mile. I dubbed her the "Lady in Black"

It took about 5 minutes, but I reeled her in.

Mile 3 started on a downhill, but had some gradual hills, nothing too bad. I passed "The Lady in Black" and saw a group of runners in the distance. Among the group, was the ex-military man. I decided that the group was my new rabbit. I slowed down a bit this mile because of the hills, but not too much since it was completed in 7:39. I managed to get one pic as the mile started.

You can see the group up in the distance.

Mile 4 had a series of hills with a fairly long incline during the middle of it. My goal for this mile was to keep my average pace below 7:40/mi. I used the group to pull me along, but started worrying when I saw my average pace get to 7:38. It was during this mile that it started hurting. I was breathing fairly heavy and was worried about meeting my goal. I then remembered what a fellow Free Agent member wrote on my FB page, "strong and steady" and started using that as my mantra. It worked, thanks Darren! I did slow a decent bit, but managed to keep my average at 7:38/mi and finished the mile in 8:08. I also managed to slowly pick off members of the group as they started to slow. I only snapped one pic during this stretch.

Whose that in the distance, yep ex-military man. He became my new rabbit.

Mile 5 had a decent amount of rolling hills, which I like, and then finished on a downhill. Knowing that I needed to make up time, I started to pick up the pace. There were quite a few times that walking sounded good, but I knew if I stopped I would not make my goal. I decided that all I could do was try to reel in the rabbit and see what happens. We are moving at a good pace and I can see we're catching up to another runner in the distance. Naturally, I now want to pass the guy in the distance. I figure if I can keep pace with the rabbit (about 100 feet ahead of me), it will happen. Sure enough, we pass him. The guy told me "good job" as I passed and I echoed his sentiment in return. At the end of this mile, I knew I had my public goal in the bag and figured I had a decent shot at making my secret goal. I finished mile five in 7:15 and snapped a couple of pics along the way.

Nice gently rolling hills. I love this kind of running.

Catching up to the rabbit on the backside of a hill.

Mile 6 I knew would mostly be flat with a downhill finish. This mile pulled us across the dam, we made a right at the end of the dam and descended to the finish. A nice steep downhill finish at that! I finally caught up to the rabbit and we exchanged words of encouragement. I paced with him for a short time. I then noticed my average pace was still above 7:30/mi and I needed to push the pace to ensure I made it. By this time it was all I could do to keep running. I was thankful there were no uphill sections during this mile. We also started coming into the 5K walkers. I could see the end of the dam up ahead. I kept telling myself that I had less than a mile to go, suck it up and stay strong..."strong and steady." I finally make it to the turn and start the descent to the finish. I try to speed up, but have nothing left. I focus on maintaining pace.Strong. And. Steady. Mile 6 finishes in 6:49! I can't believe it. I thank the downhill sections for my pace. I still managed to snap a couple of pics.

After passing the rabbit. A view looking out at Smithville Lake from the dam.

The end of mile 6.

The remaining 0.2 miles were all downhill, but I felt I was fading. Then, the finish clock comes into view and I see 45:36. I NEVER thought I'd finish below 46:00 so I try to muster my sorry excuse of a kick and try with all I have to make it. Runners who have finished are sending out words of encouragement. I feed off of it. I cross the line at at 45:xx and am so flipping HAPPY! Then it hits me. I just PR'd by about 6.5 minutes! I am completely SPENT and need to walk around for a bit to catch my breath. I bettered all my expectations.

I grab a water and head down to partake in the pancake breakfast. I decided to wait around to see if I placed in my AG and it turns out I Won my AG! On the drive home I couldn't stop smiling. Heck, I'm still smiling.

The shirt with my AG medal.

If you made it through the complete RR, thanks for taking your time to read about my journey. I hope you enjoyed it.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

KC Zoo Run 4 mile Race - RR

When: September 18, 2010
Where: Kansas City Zoo
Temp: 75F
Dew Point: 68F
Finish Time: 29:33 (new PR)
Avg. HR: 178
Max HR: 192
AG: 7/72
OA: 74/1200+ (unsure of exact number)

The morning routine went as planned and I made it to the Zoo about 1hr before the start. Unfortunately, I had a bad case of sciatica running down my right leg. It was a little painful just to walk around. I could feel the pain shoot down the leg with every step. I tried some light jogging and it didn't feel too good so I switched back to walking around as my warm-up. I would stop every so often and try to stretch out my hamstrings and back.

With about 20 minutes to go, I took the 1/4 mile walk to the starting line. The walk was mostly uphill which I was hoping would help out the dice. I stretch out a bit more and then take some pictures of the crowd.

Looking forward (I was further back than I thought).

Looking behind me.

When we had 10 minutes to go, I figured it was time to turn on the Garmin. Thankfully, I remembered to charge it. It was at this time that I started to try and get myself mentally ready for what was ahead. I knew the first 2 miles were basically downhill (gradual), but then we get into some good hills and narrow zoo paths to make the race interesting. I decided I would try to go out fairly fast and try to hold on. My main goal was to beat my time from last year (33:50) but I was going to go for the PR. I wasn't sure if I could do it or not; I am a stronger runner now, but this is course is a lot tougher. Still, I had to try.

It's finally time to start. The national anthem was sung and we were off. Mile 1 starts with a gradual incline until our first turn and then is downhill for the next 0.5 miles and then levels out for a bit. There is a very noticeable incline at about the 0.7 mile point, but it is fairly short and doesn't take much out of you since you have the downhill momentum built up. The mile finishes on a downhill. Mile one finished in 7:08 which was faster than I wanted, but I figured WTH lets go for it. I snapped the following pics during the first mile:

About 1/4 through the mile. The guy in the tie-dye looking shirt became my target.

Spectators around the 1/2 mile point (Canada Geese in case it doesn't show up).

The noticeable incline.

Mile 2 starts on a downhill and my pace is holding steady. At about the 1/4 mile point it levels off for about a half mile. The course then takes a short, but nice downhill section, levels off, then finishes on a gradual downhill. I could tell that I was working this mile. The early fast pace started to catch up to me. I decided to keep pace with Tie-Dye dude. He slowed just a little, but it was more along the lines of the pace I wanted to shoot for during this stretch. Mile 2 was finished in 7:17. The following pic was taken during Mile 2:

Just shy of halfway through.

Mile three gets very interesting as the hills start. We also start to run along the narrow paths within the zoo. I honestly don't recall much but the hills. The big hill is near the end of this mile. I would say that about 3/4 of this mile is uphill. Tie-Dye dude slowed more than I wanted to so I decided to make my move and pass him. This mile has been my nemesis during this race. The last 2 times I ran it, it defeated me and forced me to walk. I was NOT going to walk this time. No matter how much I slowed, I was determined to continue running. This time, I won the battle with this mile. I slowed a decent bit, but still finished mile 3 in 7:47. The following pic was taken during this mile:

About half way through the mile (during the only level portion).

Mile 4 starts on a decline, but quickly goes to gently rolling hills. Overall, I would consider this mile to have more uphills than downhills. I was struggling this mile and saw that I was creeping up close to my old PR pace. I decided it was too close for comfort and I needed to dig deep and pick the pace up if I wanted any hope of setting a new PR. I had to push all the doubt out of my mind, ignore the ever-present sciatica pain, and deal with the discomfort the only way I could think of, finish faster!

I saw two guys that were possibly close to being in my AG and decided I had to pick them off. I willed myself to push the pace, but I didn't have too much left. I did speed up since I was closing the gap. They were running side by side on the narrow path so I had to pick my spot to pass wisely. We are coming up to a turn and they take it wide. I cut inside and pass them. No I need to keep my speed up since I don't want to be THAT guy. You know, the person who speeds past you only to slow down. That really irritates me so I used it as motivation to keep my pace. Eventually, I can no longer hear their footsteps. I am really struggling at this point. My avg. pace has picked up but so has my HR. I now know why it feels like I'm working hard, my HR was at 190 (my max is b/w 200-205). The guy who won the race was on the side cheering people on. He let us know we were almost finished. I tried to find a kick, but there really wasn't one there. I see the finish line and keep charging ahead. Next thing I know this young whippersnapper (16ish) tries to sprint past me. I was not going to let her pass me without a fight. I managed to take my spot back and keep her from passing me. I cross the line and quickly move to the side and start walking. I was SPENT. The following pic was taken during mile 4:

The two guys I was determined to pass. This was right before I passed them.

After catching my breath back, I went and found the people that pushed/pulled me through the race, starting with the whippersnapper. I thanked them all and congratulated them for having good races.

All in all it was a great race under warm and humid conditions. I was completely drenched at the end. I will be back next year!

Thanks to everyone who actually made it this far. I will finish this report with a couple of pictures of the critter this race goes to support, the Polar Bear.

I hope you enjoyed the RR and pics.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

My Validation Run

When: September 4, 2010
Where: Shawnee Mission Park, Shawnee, KS
Start Temp: 55F
Finish Temp: 61F
Distance: 15 miles (new distance PR)
Avg. Pace: 9:28/mile
Avg, HR: 154

This morning when I started prepping for the run, my plan was to do roughly 12 miles. I go through my typical morning routine: shower, coffee/cereal, and drinking plenty of water.

I finally make it out to the park at around 5:45 a.m. The weather is just awesome with a temp of 55F and a light breeze. While waiting for the Garmin to catch satellites I apply sunscreen and then snap this photo:

After putting on the Garmin and my hydration pack I start the run. I was worried about eating a bunch of "noseeums" like my last run at the park, but thankfully the cold prevented that from happening.

The first couple of miles it seemed like I just couldn't get warmed up. My hands were freezing and I was wishing I had gloves. It wasn't until the 2.8 mile point that I finally felt warmed-up and found my running groove. I stopped for about 10 seconds during the 4th mile to snap the following picture:

Hopefully you can see why I love running at this park, beautiful scenery. I made it to the normal end of my trail at the 5.4 mile point, but decided to run up over an overpass to make sure I would do at least 11 miles even if I just ran back to the starting point.

I start the run back to the path head and realized I'm running relaxed and have an average pace of 9:55. I'm thinking I can easily keep this pace up. As mile 7 and 8 pass, I notice my HR is staying the same, but my average pace keeps getting faster and I'm at a 9:47 average pace.

I decide I need to slow down just a tad because there are some good hills coming up. I see the start to the first hill and slow just a bit going up it. I crest the hill and it doesn't take me long for my HR to get back to what it was before the hill. I come to a gradual incline, but after the steep hill, it feels like I am going downhill. It is at this point that I start noticing that I have in fact become a stronger runner.

This route used to be my "hilly" route. The hills no longer seem as bad to me anymore. I am no longer forced to walk up them. Instead, I take shorter steps and power up the hills. After I make it to the 10 mile point of the run, I start thinking about going for 15 miles. My HR is still below 160 and my average pace is now 9:44.

I start plotting my new route in my mind. I'm thinking that if I take a left where I normally stay straight, I can run for a mile and turn around to take my normal route. By doing so, I figure I would eliminate a hill that forced me to walk during my 14 mile run 2 weeks ago. Well that didn't work so well. I get a 1/2 mile in and am thinking to myself "this looks very familiar." Then I realize why, I start running up that hill that forced me to walk. At least I know that it loops around now. :) Needless to say, the hill was tough, but I conquered it! I turn around and retrace my steps, take the left back onto my usual trail, and realize I am now at a 9:40 average pace for 11.4 miles.

This run is going well. I get to my other turn off point and keep trucking along. notice the mileage is 11.9 when I make the turn. I decide that if I can make it down the path about 1.5 miles I would be able to get in the 15 miles and still have enough distance left for a cool-down walk. I wasn't sure if this path would take me that far, well it took me farther. By the time I turned around, I was at 13.8 miles and an average pace of 9:30/mile.

I noticed that mile 14 was finished at a pace of 9:05/mile and since it felt comfortable I would just keep going at the same pace. Little did I know that the pace at that point was quite a bit faster. Mile 15 ended up being my fastest mile and I finished it in 8:27. My total time for the run was 2:22:10. That is less time than it took me to finish my last half marathon.

While thinking during my cool-down walk, I started to come to the realization that I will likely be able to run a marathon next year. Plus, I need to find a new "hilly" route. This route is not "easy" by any means, but it no longer holds the mystique over me that it once did. I have officially conquered it. I finally feel "validated" as a runner. All my work this year is paying off and I am finally able to see it. I can only think of what running holds for me in the future! Regardless of what it holds, I KNOW I will enjoy the journey.