|Wow. I had to change up my photos after seeing this one from Randy Wehner. Thanks for the great photo Randy!|
The race was part of a long workout that started with the 5k race, a short cool down, 3 miles at goal marathon pace and a bunch more easy miles. My total mileage would work out to 22 miles. This is a big workout that had me just a little afraid. My coach, before she left for Europe to compete in the World Mountain Running Championships, told me not to be afraid to ditch the long workout if my sore right piriformis wasn't feeling better. This week was a recovery week, and my butt got somewhat better as I came down in mileage. However, I could still feel the tightness when I woke up Saturday morning. The last thing I wanted to do was aggravate it even more, but I've also had some luck running a hard race with tightness like this and had the pain completely disappear soon after the race.
It's tough going into a race knowing that I have a workout afterward. There's a sort of tug-of-war that goes on between a devil that wants me to push harder and a nymph that reminds me that I need somewhat fresh legs to be able to complete my workout without suffering miserably. I thought about this tension when I set my goals for the race. Setting a PR was not one of my goals.
It was in this same race last summer that I ran my faux PR of 17:33. I raised a ruckus because the course was clearly short even though it had been measured by a trained course measurer and certified by USATF. I looked at the course map on the race website and it was the same certified course as last year, so I had every reason to believe it would be short again. I decided the best thing to do would be to compare my Garmin-calculated paces (not actual splits) for each mile with last year's race and hope to be a little faster or at least no slower.
So, I had my paces from last year in my head as I crouched behind the starting mat, ready to take off. I took off with a bunch of boys and felt like we were running super slow. When I checked my Garmin, we were right around 5:20 pace, so I knew it was just the adrenaline talking and slowed down. About 1/2 mile into the race, a fellow Air Force officer asked if I wanted to draft off of him. He seemed to be out for an easy run, and I shook my head vigorously yes. I paced off of him through mile 2 when he started speeding up. I was clearly having trouble hanging on to what was a pedestrian pace for him. He turned and looked at me before he sped off saying, "You don't want to run alone, do you?" I didn't, but I couldn't hold his pace any longer.
Within a few seconds, I heard a heavy breather on my left and looked over to see my competition, a much younger runner who sounded like she was going to keel over at any minute. Nonetheless, she shot by me decisively, and the lead bike went along with her. I remember looking at her pass and thinking, "hmmm…I should probably go with her. There she goes. Maybe I should go with her. Hmmm." She quickly put 5-7 seconds on me and held that lead. I'm not sure if I just was born without that competitive gene or if my lack of competitive fire comes from not having raced or competed before I was an adult, but this is a really typical response for me when faced with competition (*I divulge to all of my competitors*). When someone passes me like that, my first instinct is to cheer them on, "Good for you!" Rarely does it ever inspire me to kick it up a notch.
Or maybe, at some subconscious level, my brain was remembering all of the shenanigans I needed to put my body through after the race and decided it wasn't worth matching this youngster for a few seconds off of my race time. Whatever the reason, I let her go and paced off of a couple of guys for the last 3/4 mile. As I rounded the corner for the finish, I wondered whether I would be surprised at my time on the clock like I was last year when I saw 17:30, 17:31…. This year I saw 17:50, 17:51…and crossed at 17:53 (chip time). I looked at my Garmin and she read 3.12 miles. Perfect. I talked to the race director later and asked whether she had changed the course. She said they remeasured and re-certified it. So, kudos to Fleet Feet Event Management for taking the feedback from last year to heart and taking the time to make an accurate course for the runners that care about such things.
How did my paces compare?
Last year This year
Mile 1: 5:37 5:38
Mile 2: 5:46 5:40Mile 3+: 5:58 5:50
Based on those paces, I was 10-15 seconds faster this year than last year. I can't complain about that.
|My path from William Land Park to bike trail mile marker 2 and back (17 miles RT)|
I cooled down for about 1.5 miles and then started my goal marathon pace (GMP) work. I ran at 6:10 pace and that felt fairly easy, probably because I had just raced for the same distance 20-25 seconds per mile faster. Nonetheless, I was happy to have GMP feel doable once again. My hip started to bug me around mile 12, but I kept at it determined to get in the full day's mileage. The last few miles, I just thought about sipping a hot cafe au lait while sitting in the American River icing my legs. Once I finished, I picked up my coffee at Peet's and retired to the river enjoying the cool water on my tired legs. I found a secondary activity to enjoy while sitting there: aquatic invertebrate surveys! I only know a few of the critters, but it was fun to try to find water boatmen, caddis flies, mayflies, water mites and other little creatures lurking about.
For whatever reason, my legs feel better than ever today--much looser for having done all of that work yesterday. As I said at the beginning of this post, this is not the first time this has happened to me. In fact, I'd have to say it's more the rule than the exception. When I'm feeling niggles or even outright pain somewhere in my legs or feet, sometimes the solution seems to be giving them a good fast, hard run in racing flats. I don't know what it does, but it works for me sometimes. It worked for me yesterday and I feel ready to finish off this marathon cycle with six more solid weeks of training.