Sunday, May 5, 2013

Race Review and Results- Flower City Half 2013

I awoke in the wee hours of Sunday morning to go, well, wee. I had actually planned on getting up a little earlier than normal so that I could try and get in some calories. Having been an athlete in one form or another for most of my life, I am not accustomed to the nervous stomach issue. I've read about this phenomenon but hadn't started experiencing it for myself until a year or 2 ago. Now that I think more, the issue may have shown right around the time I started blogging. Maybe I'll apply for one of those stupid science grants that pay people to do ludicrous research studies to test that hypothesis.

As I sat there in the comfort of my lazy boy, drinking my latte, and looking at my breakfast trying to will it down my throat, I made a few observations.
  1. My hip flexors are exceptionally sore from yesterday's duathlon.
  2. I still don't want to eat
  3. I'm very tired
  4. I need to poop soon
  5. I really should just go back to bed
Needless to say, I was not the epitome of motivation on race morning. I did eat something as I didn't want a repeat of last year's bonk. I did not go back to bed. I did poop. I got dressed for a 13.1 mile jaunt in downtown Rochester.

The Flower City Half Marathon was one of the first major events scheduled after the Boston tragedy. There were several messages sent out from the good people at Fleet Feet Sports and Yellow Jacket Racing, our hosts for the race. They promised that there would be increased security and protection. I had full faith that these amazing race organizers would pull off the event without a hitch. If there was indeed increased security measures, I didn't notice. Which probably is evidence that they do their job well.

In light of the Boston tragedy, they had some pre-race ceremonies. They held a moment of silence, in which I participated from the friendly confines of a bathroom stall. They had some motivational music. They sang "Sweet Caroline" just before the gun. (Aside: I apologize for my ignorance here. I like the song. I like Neil Diamond (feel free to mock). I don't get the connection between the music and the Boston thing. Any help would be duly appreciated. End Aside.) The gun goes off and thousands of people start running.

As always, I was in search of a PR. My current record for this distance is 1:38 something something. Since I wasn't sure how much "something something" actually meant in seconds, I decided to run for a 1:37.59. In doing many mental math calculations, I figured out that I would need to hold a 7:25. But, I also know that these longer, crowded races tend to extend the running distance due to weaving, juking, and all sorts of obstacles. In the past, this has equaled as much as an extra 0.2 mile, or almost 2 additional minutes of running. I readjusted my pace to 7:20. My first mile? 7:21! I'm gonna rock this race and my PR.

The beginning part of the race is deceptively easy. For one, everybody's got fresh legs (except for me, mine are tired from yesterday's awesome race). For 2, the path is mostly flat to downhill. For 3, I'm an idiot and not a runner.

The Story of Crossfit Chelsea
Shortly after mile 1, I picked up a running partner. I'm calling her Crossfit Chelsea because she's one of those hot crossfit chicks and her name is Chelsea. See how the naming system works around here.

At the beginning of the race CC had her eyes set on running with a strappingly handsome man that she had just met. But, since he was faster than predicted, she resigned herself to running with me. I assume this was a good thing since I'm pretty sure that she was hit on mid race by no less that 3 dudes (and possibly 1 other chick). I witnessed one of the said hittings first hand as some balding dude in his 40's ran up behind her and said something to the effect of, "Wow, you're good. I've been trying to catch you for some time now." Um, we hadn't yet made it to mile 2. He kept going, "So, what's your goal for the race?" he says to her. This conversation is happening just behind me to my left. I didn't hear the answer.

Shortly thereafter, she's running with me. I can't imagine why but she asks me my goal for the race. "13.1 miles," I say. She laughs and says that's probably the best goal. I have a new friend whom I happen to look at for the first time. Immediately the ego kicks in. My pace for mile 2? 7:01.

I knew that my legs wouldn't make the distance staying at that pace. Luckily, my watch beeped at the 2.25 mile marker pulling me out of my stupor. She glanced down at the noise on my wrist and I find myself again apologizing to a girl for it's incessant clatter. "How annoying for you," she says. "Oh, I set it to beep every quarter mile on purpose," I respond. This may have been her first clue that something was wrong with me. Still, she doesn't leave my side.

As we run on, I start to notice something else about this race. There's a clear, non-alcoholic liquid oozing freely from my body. Whereas most of America has been stuck in a freezer for the 2013 calendar year, someone unplugged the cooling coils. The forecasted high was to be near 70ยบ and it was already past 55. Hot. By mile 5, I'm nearly drenched and wasn't feeling too great about that fact. Crossfit Chelsea looked comfortable in her pink sleeves with just a bead of moisture starting to form on her brow.

Still, we're holding Banter PR pace. Miles 3-5 were +/- 3 seconds of my 7:20. I did confide in CC about my pace plan, hence the reason for all of the beeping. She had grown accustomed to it and finally curious. At the 6 mile beep, she asked me how we were doing. It took me a second to calculate. First, we had been running the tangents extraordinarily well. The beep and the mile marker on the road were pretty close to each other. If that were to continue, we'd be in ahead of schedule. Second, we had been erroring on being a little faster than slower. By my estimates, we were about 2 minutes ahead of the 1:37.59 schedule. I told her so. But, I also warned her about the hills.

It may not look like much from the profile, but miles 7 and 8 are rough. We enter Highland Park, which the glaciers forgot to smoothen out. While there, we make a right hand turn into Mt. Hope Cemetery. The Cemetery is old school, having been established long before paving was invented. Instead of shiny new asphalt, they have uneven cobblestone bricks.

As we started up, my hip flexors reminded me of 2 things: 1. They were still pretty sore. 2. They were in charge. My pace slowed dramatically. CC's did not. As I snailed my way up the first and second climbs, she motored on. Her bright pink shirt was getting smaller and smaller as I was getting slower and slower.

New Race Strategy
Mile 7 clocked in at an 8:02. This wasn't so bad as I had some time in the bank. It was apparent to me that I was going to need some beverage. My sweat rate was increasing while my pace was decreasing. A common strategy in Ironman running is to walk the aid stations. I decided to try it out in a shorter, non-multisport event. Soon thereafter, I found some water being held out by some nice volunteers. I took a couple of cups and started walking.

I did my best to take in fluids and recover at the same time. I had resorted to a modified run-walk system where I would run for as far as my legs would let me and walk a short while. Most of the walking tended to be while pointed uphill.

The new strategy paid off! Not in time. My 8th mile had slowed to a 9:24. But, during one of those walk sessions, I happened to look down and found $20. So, all of the time I had put into the first half of the race had leaked itself out in the cemetery. But I was now able to afford a post-race meal.

With the dismissal of my PR, I resigned myself to enjoying the rest of the run. I took away the stress and focus of proper pacing and looked around. The course really is nice. Once you got out of the death trap, err, cemetery, you ran a short distance on the road and onto the University of Rochester campus. We merged onto the same path which made up part of yesterday's duathlon. This route meandered us next to the Genessee river, which was good in a few different ways. There was no traffic on the path, other than my fellow runners. There was ample nature. And, since we were heading in the same direction as the water, and since water is very picky about direction, we were once again running downhill.

The last couple of miles were pleasant but uneventful. The number of runners had thinned out. I was able to repass a few that took me in the hills. Still, several others went by me without a second glance. I crossed the finish line in a 1:46.49 or about 8 minutes shy of my PR.

I did happen to stalk check Crossfit Chelsea's finish time. She did not go under the 1:37.59 goal time either. Still, she was close and put about 7 minutes of time between us. I looked for her after the race but failed to find her.

The Walk of Shame
Say what you want about runners, but wow they know how to put on a party. The race started and ended at the Blue Cross Arena, which is as great of a race venue as you could get. Once inside the facility, you are greeted with live music and a nearly endless supply of food. Thanks to the volunteers who kept that going!

I grabbed some pizza and a bagel from the buffet. My stomach still wasn't interested in eating but I forced some calories down it anyway.

I took off my running shirt and ringed it out over a trash can. I donned a new, clean shirt that I had stashed behind a pole before the race. It was a calculated risk that paid off. If someone would have cleaned up the inside of the building, I would have been stuck in my stinky. Since everyone else is as lazy as me, I was able to walk around in a dry top.

As I left the feeding area, I headed out towards the parking garage that held my car, a 10 minute walk on rested legs. On the way, I met Boston Bill. Bill may or may not be his real name. He did do the Boston Marathon 2 weeks prior. I praised him for even attempting a 1/2 mary two weeks after a full.

Boston Bill was the first person I met that could give a first hand account of what had happened. There were so many things I wanted to ask but the awkwardness of the situation dictated that I be nice.

"So, how'd it go?" I ask

"Which?" he replied. "Today or Boston?"

"Well, today." I lied. "But I am curious about Boston, too." I covered.

Boston Bill goes on to tell me that he had a sub-par performance. He was hoping for a 1:48 and didn't get it. This immediately puts things in perspective for me since I had, for all practical purposes, a terrible race. My time was still faster than his.

He continues to tell me that he's not sure about Boston. He was on pace to achieve his goal but was stopped short of the finish line as the tragedy unfolded. Then, Boston Bill says something that takes my mind away.

"I'm waiting to find out how Boston is going to handle finishing times." I admit to having this question myself but have been too shy to consider out loud. Runners are a nutty bunch. When all is said and done, they still want the official data.

BB and I chat for a little while longer until it's clear that neither one of us are walking in the direction of our cars. We say our farewells and diverge to our respective parking garages. The Flower City Challenge weekend had finally come to a close.

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