Sunday, April 1, 2012

Back to the Races!

The 2012 Race season is officially underway.

(On a side note: I finally got around to updating my race schedule. Even though my last race was in September, 2011, I left my 2011 season schedule in plain text on the sidebar for all to see. It's sort of like the blogger version of leaving Christmas lights on the house. In both situations, etiquette calls for the stuff to be taken down long before April.)

Up here in Rochester, there are a couple of organizations that put on some really great races. There aren't many non-5k races in the area. In town, we've got a couple of half marathons and one full marathon. So when Yellow Jacket Racing puts on a 15k race like the Spring Forward, lots of people show up. I have done this race 3 years in a row and plan on doing it again in the future. Cheers to Fleet Feet and Yellow Jacket for keeping me coming back now and in the future.

Ghost of Spring Forward Past
The real reason I even got involved in this race was due to some of the ladies I coach. Two years ago, they were motivated to start running and were interested in the half marathon distance. They, rather cheaply, hired my coaching services and then found this race. Sure thing, I'll join.

The 2010 version of this race didn't go so well. I actually thought I was in good shape but I ended up walking several times during the run. I crossed the line at 1:16.02 for a 9.3 mile venture. The ladies in my troop were a bit slower but significantly more successful than I.

Then, in the 2011 version of this race, I found myself running solo. That's right, something happened to the Running Girls. They just didn't show up. I ended up running with Bob, who taught me that I actually had a running skill. I made it under the large, inflatable arc in 1:09.20. That's better than a 4 minute improvement with none of the support crew there to see it. Bummer.

Ghost of Spring Forward Present
This year has been rather kind to me as a runner. And, since it is early in the year, this could only mean a favorable winter. The Running Girls are getting motivated again. When this year's Spring Forward run came out and about, many of the girls jumped up and down, waving their hands going, "Ooh, ooh, I'm in." (That may or may not have actually happened.) Despite all of the initial interest, only one the ladies actually ponied up for the run.

Soccer Mom was ready to rumble. After having yet another child, which put a damper on her 2011 running series, SM was making her come back. She has plans to repeat her 2010 season with a 13.1 run in the near future and was the original motivation for my race registration. She crossed the 2010 finish line at just over 1:41. But, her resolve and motivation for training are at an all time high.

Soccer Mom and I hooked up before the start, after several text messages and phone calls. It was not that big of a race venue but we kept missing each other anyway. Where did we finally meet up? In the line for the lady's room (seemed like a great place to pick up women). I, being a polite gentleman and a coach, happily provided her with several sheets of toilet paper. As a rule, I never show up to a race without my own materials. SM is not as experienced a racer. I was doubtful that the natural TP supply was able to withstand the onslaught of the never ending line heading into the stalls. She had a small cold anyway so if it didn't get used down south, it was available for use up north.

The Race
Here's the thing about me and racing: I'm a procrastinator. I hate making it to the starting line early. These habits seem to be rubbing off on my athletes. SM and I made it to the starting line with about 1 minute to spare. We were early. I made my way towards the front while she diffused her way towards the middle back.

Lately, I've been doing my tempo runs on or around a 7:30 pace. I went in to thinking that I could hold 7:20s based on that data. This race has a hilly profile so the key to a good race is early conservatism. My first mile from last year's race was faster than expected. In 2011, I clocked a 7:08 first mile. This is way too fast. In 2012? 6:50. Apparently I haven't gotten any smarter after a year's time.

Just like Bob from last year, I leap frogged with a couple of runners. Mainly, it was Bill and Wendy. Okay, I am not gentleman enough to ask their real names. The boy looked like a Bill, whatever that means. The girl looked like a Wendy. (See note on Bill.) Bill and Wendy were accidentally running together as a consequence of their similar running paces and strengths. And, just like Bob, they were rather good on the uphills and in the flats. I, on the other hand, excel on the downs. We flip-flopped positions at least 6 times in 9 miles.

As the race went on, my pace grew slower and slower. My 6:50 turned into a 6:54. Then a 6:55. Then a 6:45 (mostly dowhill). Then a 7:00. Then a 7:05. And so on and so on. The hill profile shows a nice, extended incline near then end.
Running on overworked legs and faced with this uphill battle, my pace did not have much hope. At one point in the race, I was thinking that I could go sub-7:00 per mile. Your brain plays horrible tricks on you when things are going well. Right around that hill near the 8 mile mark, I just wanted the agony to be over. Bill and Wendy, having better skills than me, went on ahead.

The only saving factor of this race is that it finishes downhill. Sure, this decline is on some sort of pot-holed, gravel path. These details pale compared with the pull of the Earth's gravity. I was happy to have the 9.8 m/s time the cosine of the angle of the slope advantage. Since I don't have an efficient way to measure the angle, I can't give you the exact details of the pull. Plus, I didn't have the brain power to actually do the calculation during the run. I was just happy to be heading down again.

When finally I finished the race, I had a time of 1:06.5X (the official time was not available as of this posting). I grabbed some water. I found Bill and shook his hand. I found Wendy and shook her hand. Gladiators in the ring deserve each other's gratitude. They earned mine and I happily gave it out.

Since I skipped my long run for this week, I went back out onto the course. I needed to add some miles. Plus, I promised Soccer Mom that I wouldn't let her run the whole thing alone. Plus plus, I was getting cold. The running killed 3 birds.

I hooked up again with SM about a mile and a half out from the end. She was feeling the effects of the hills and the distance as well. Still, she's a warrior and was not willing to give up. When she finished the race, the clock sported a nice 1:33.xx. Apparently having children is good for your pacing as she had a nice 8 minute PR.

Ghost of Spring Forward Future
As I foreshadowed earlier in the post, I will probably do this race again. It has several great positives:
A. Good time of year
B. Good distance
C. Good stepping stone race
D. Good measure of fitness
E. Extremely well organized event
Here's the real reason I'm looking forward to this event next year... I really want to break that 7:00 mark. My time this year equated to a very well done 7:07. I think I can do better. A year ago, I didn't think that a sub-7:10 was possible for a sloth of a non-runner like me. Despite my agony near the end of the run, I remain optimistic and motivated for next year. (Note to self: re-read this post in December when the weather sucks and I hate it in the New England white hell.)

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