Final race of the season – RSNA conference fun-run

It’s been a long, fruitful season since my first race back in March of this year, and I was excited to have the opportunity to do my final race of the season in Chicago (at sea level!!!) and with my awesome runner/tri-athlete coworker during our big conference week.

We both spent the few days before traveling, attending talks, and prepping for our own presentations (a podium for her and poster for me), which meant any pre-race prep and pre-race nerves were on the back burner. We did get in a lovely shakeout run along lake Michigan, and headed to bed early the night before so that the 6:30 a.m. start (oooof!) wouldn’t feel quite as rough.

Race morning dawned dark and unseasonably warm (45 degrees!), which meant shorts and long sleeves – definitely not the outfit I had envisioned when I packed my tights, wool socks, mittens, hat, and micro-spikes into my suitcase a few days prior. I brought my racing flats along for an extra little race boost and carried them on our 2-mile warmup run to the park where the race start was located.

My coworker and I got to the park and checked our extra gear, did a few drills and strides together, and then lined up at the start. We eyed a few other competitors (“Let’s beat those guys from Philips!”) and chatted happily with one of the women who’d run the race a few times before. It was a low-key start, with a steady friendly chatter beforehand and then a simple “Ready, set, go!”from the starter. I had to squeeze by a couple guys but then took off at what seemed like a reasonable sea-level pace with the windy-city wind blowing briskly at my back. A small lead pack led the way and we were soon moving briskly down the sidewalk along the lake shore.

I made it through the wind-aided first mile in a surprising 6:08 or so (eek!), but felt fine apart from the shock of seeing the surprisingly fast time on the 1-mile clock. Even with my brisk pace another woman passed me like I was standing still right before the mile mark, and another gal did the same right before the turnaround at 1.5 miles. I just kept spinning my legs and hoping I could hold my pace and fend off any more women coming up behind me. The turnaround meant a a direct flip onto the opposite side of the bike path and into the wind, and my pace slowed considerably to about 6:35 average in the final 1.5 miles with the added resistance. I was relatively alone, and couldn’t hear the runners behind me due to the wind whistling in my ears. All I could do was to keep pushing and hope for the best.

I finally caught a few guys with about a quarter mile to go and kicked with the pack as we spotted the 200m-to-go marker. I could see the finish clock from about 50m out and accelerated into the finish in the hopes of getting under 19:40. I crossed the line to find out I’d gotten third (woohoo!!!), well behind the 1st and 2nd place women who’d both run well under 19 minutes(!)

My coworker came in shortly afterwards at just over 20 minutes and we tiredly recounted our race experiences and gathered some food for the run back. Our cool down wound along the lake shore as the sun rose, making for quite the end to our early morning. We spent the rest of the day conferencing, happy to have gotten in a good 7 miles before spending the day in dress clothes and researcher-mode.

To be honest, it was a bit of a weird final race – I wasn’t all that nervous before hand and the results were fairly meaningless (although my 3rd place did get me a spot in the conference newsletter!). My coworker and I both ran well, but had other, more significant things to focus on that day. However, in spite of the low-key atmosphere I was really pleased with the race – I got to both enjoy my pre-race time without the usual anxiety and also managed to run a really solid race that confirmed the times I’ve been looking at with the altitude conversion from my high-altitude race times. It was definitely satisfying to see that I really did have a sub-20 (and a well-under-20!) in me, and that I was able to perform under the slightly weird conditions of such an early race.

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This is probably the only way I’ll ever do anything impressive enough to get into the conference bulletin ;P

Now it’s on to a little running break, and then a hopefully strong winter of steady, base-building running, strength work, skiing, snowshoeing, and other fun snow-land activities 🙂

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race report: 10k with my mountain man

Today I ran (and won!) my first road race since the mono and toe-troubles – it was a small fun-run held near my husband’s hometown.  The race is held in conjunction with a (delicious!) picnic brunch and small-town parade and is a really low-key affair.  We drove drown with my mother-in-law, brother-in-law, and brother-in-law’s girlfriend, all of whom were doing the 5k.  The relaxed fun-run attitude prevented the usual pre-race jitters from showing up, and it was actually a pretty cool event – they offered three different distances (1.5 mile, 5k, and 10k) so the field included excited little kids, fairly competitive local high school XC runners, a bunch of fitness-minded middle-aged folks, and one grizzled old man that had done the race 25 times!  The race ran along a large lake on a pavement trail reminiscent of the tree-lined, but dreadfully bland greenbelt where every single one of my college tempo runs was held.  Fortunately it lacked the every 10th-of-a-mile markers (somehow these make those last 2 painful miles feel so much longer…)

The timer started us with a mild-mannered ready-set-go and my husband (MountainMan) and I found ourselves out at the front pretty quickly.  We had fun cheering on some of the little kids that were doing the 1.5 mile, and then kept going as they hit the first turn around at ¾ miles.  Husband was gabbing with a guy he’d run against in high school and I felt good enough to chat with them.  At about 1 mile I noticed that the lady behind me (a sports-bra clad lady from Bermuda with really impressive abs who I’d overheard say that she was doing the 10k) was pushing to pass us, so I put in a little surge and pulled Husband and his friend along with me.  Husband’s friend didn’t like the change in pace and seemed plenty happy to turn around without us at the 5k turn around.

Right before the 5k turn around, MountainMan and I were joined by a another 10k runner, who turned out to be a Carroll-college mid-distance runner who was home over the summer.  We all ran together until the halfway point, where I started getting tired and had to fall back from the guys slightly.  As we turned around I saw that Bermuda lady was only about 200m back, and got a bit worried.  The whole way back was a nerve-wracking battle to keep pushing and hopefully avoid letting her near enough that I’d have to try and kick in the last mile!

I managed to avoid letting the guys out of my sight.  The Carroll College runner took off at about 1.5 to go, and my husband started turning around every quarter mile or so and looking over his shoulder at me.  I thought maybe he was thinking of falling back and running with me, and was a little confused when he stayed up ahead.  I tried to focus on catching him, but had trouble keeping my focus forward rather than on the sports-bra-clad rival that I knew was somewhere behind me.  I looked back a couple times (I know, I should know better!) but couldn’t see her.

I finally made it through the very, very long last 800m and was extremely relieved to cross the finish as 3rd overall and the first woman!  It turns out that the lady from Bermuda was a whole 3 minutes behind me – I’m glad I thought she was closer though, since I’m sure I wouldn’t have run as fast if I knew I didn’t need to 😉  MountainMan cracked me up when he told me that he wasn’t looking back to see if I was close enough to run with, he was looking back to make sure he had enough distance on me to keep me from catching him with a kick at the finish!  He really is more out of shape than even I thought ha ha.  Poor guy – he’s just started getting back into running and has only been getting in about 2-4 miles a few times a week.  Coming out of retirement is rough 😉

I won a fun little trophy and was able to hold just under 7 minute pace for the whole thing, which is decent considering my current fitness level.  My brother-in-law’s girlfriend got 2nd in the 5k and my mother-in-law ran a strong time and had fun doing her first race since getting over a painful leg injury (fell off a horse).  My brother-in-law had to stop and walk because he used all his air to chat…we gave him just a tiny bit of a hard time 😉

Had fun (and remembered how tough that 2nd half is mentally!), won some hardware, and got to eat delicious eggs, ham, and biscuits with gravy afterwards with MountainMan’s awesome family – what more could I ask for?Image