Devil’s Dash -first ‘team’ cross-country race since college!

I ran my first cross-country race with a team since college last weekend!!!

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Check out those matching singlets!

Oookay, so we were only a team of *two* and weren’t running for a score, but it was still amazing to have a teammate out there on the course and have someone with which to excitedly discuss the just-completed race. An added bonus – my teammate coaches high school, so we spent our cool down sprinting back and forth on the course cheering for her team as they covered the terrain we’d just raced through.

The race itself was also a blast, although a bit rougher than my last race. We were running in the coaches/citizens/middle schoolers race so everything from bib pickup to the actual start time communications was a little sketchy due to the real meet emphasis being the large high school races. However, we all made it to the starting line decently warmed up, where I met up with my Volee teammate for some pre-race chitchat and strides. We found ourselves surrounded by a surprisingly large crowd of uniformed, nervous middle schoolers and tough coaches and open runners. We both squeezed into the 2nd row of starters after our last couple strides and got ready to take off.

The starter raised his pistol, gave us the ‘ready’ command, squeezed the trigger………………and then lowered his arm with a laugh as the blank failed to go off. The crowd of nervous runners laughed back with a startled giggle as we all tried to settle our heart rates from their sudden, lurching increase that accompanied the anticipation of the brief mad dash that comes with every crowded race start. I still felt my heart pounding in my ears when the starter lifted his arm again, and, as a result, surged a bit too enthusiastically of the line when the gun did actually fire.

The first 100m were crowded and chaotic, with my teammate and I fighting not to get squashed in the mayhem. About 50m in the course began to funnel, and an older man and a younger boy who had sprinted ahead of me both suddenly slowed right as the course narrowed to double-track, causing me to veer back and forth in an adrenaline-fueled quest to get around them. I wasted a bit of energy dashing around them through the weeds, and came around them feeling rushed and heavy-legged. However, I now had a clear view of the leaders, and thought I’d have a better chance of holding a strong pace if I didn’t get stuck in the larger pack. I spent the rest of the first mile feeling like my legs were spinning almost out-of-control, and like my breathing was on the edge of hyperventilation. Negativity threatened to drown my race from the very start, but luckily I have plenty of experience feeling like crud through the start of races and I was able to tune out my brain’s anxious chatter about the heavy legs and already suffering lungs. I later found out I came through the first mile about 15 seconds faster than my average pace, and much quicker than anything I’ve been doing in training.

In the second mile I paid for my over-enthusiastic start, slowing by almost 40 seconds/mile and just struggling through with the hope that I would eventually catch one of the runners ahead of me. It wasn’t the best of times but it was great practice in staying tough when everything seems to be going horribly. The opportunity to cheer on my close-behind teammate on a hairpin turn helped too, reminding me that we were at least in this horrible, painful business together!

Eventually the slower pace settled my breathing and brought some pop back into my legs, and I realized going into the third mile that I was within shot of the 2nd place woman*, a very fit looking runner who’d I’d noted on the starting line. I started picking off middle schoolers ahead of me (sorry boys) and eventually got on 2nd place’s back. I was still hurting but convinced myself to push past her strongly, hoping she’d be convinced enough of my effortless advance that she wouldn’t also pick it up and force me to reeeaaaally work for it. She was hurting badly and let me pass without much fight. I was embarrassingly pleased by this – I was also hurting badly and sure didn’t want to have to repeat the strong-pass-attempt performance!

We finally hit 1k to go and I managed to pick it up just a little more for a strong push into the finish. Just as in the 6k the week prior I could’t pull a kick out of my legs**, but I managed to at least hold pace through the line before stumbling through the chute in a state of nauseated fatigue. As I limped out of the chute I remembered that my teammate hadn’t been far being, so shuffle-jogged back around the finish to cheer her in. She arrived shortly, and we both spent the next 10 minutes trying to fake smiles and pep as her nervous high school athletes quizzed us on the course and asked why we looked so spent from the mild, mostly-flat terrain. “What, no, we feel great!” we chirped as we tried not to puke.

She and I parted ways as she went to prep her athletes, and then joined back up for some fairly challenging cool down work that involved repeated bouts of sprinting followed by cheering. The high schoolers raced amazingly and it was inspiring watching them work together over the hot, rough fields, faces showing the same freshly familiar race strain that my teammate and I had just experienced. It was amazing to have the chance to race and then turn right around to give back to the next generation of cross-country runners with cheers and encouragement.

Here’s to hoping those kids will stay joyfully passionate about the sport and end up as older, but still enthusiastic, racing fools like us!

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*We both got beat by a middle schooler. She broke 20 minutes which is *ridiculously* good for a middle school girl at 6000 feet elevation!

**I know, I know I need to start adding more strides and maybe some little spurts at the end of workouts. But this end-of-race kick used to come so naturally and I keep forgetting it’s gone until that last 100m when I go to shift gears and just…can’t! A little frustrating…

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Sawtooth Relay: 2016 goal check.

I can officially check off one of my 2016 athletics goals: I made it healthy and in relatively decent shape to my friend and my long-awaited relay race!

True to my original goal of a healthy, strong run, I managed to run both my 6 and 5 mile legs while keeping a smile on my face and enough pep in my legs to pass quite a few members of the slower teams that had started in front of us. Our team proved to be a great mix of strengths and personalities, making the entire experience an absolute blast. We had snacks galore, an awesome cheering habit, some sweet support vehicle decor, and tons of (temporary) tattoos for maximum (temporary) bad-assery.

And the scenery? Breathtaking…especially during the high-altitude running legs 😉

Race report – Vail Valor Memorial Day 5-mile

*This race report has been a little late in coming because between wrapping up a cadaver study at work, moving between apartments, and trying to prep for some upcoming travel things have been a little busy!*

I got a 5-mile race PR on Monday!!!

(Ok, so it was a race distance that I’ve never raced before…but I’m still giving myself a little pat on the back.)

It’s tough finding local non-trail summer races in the land of ski resorts and ultras so I’ve had this particular race circled on my calendar since volunteering at it while injured last Spring. The race is locally hosted and serves as a part of the town’s Memorial Day events, with many racers running in honor and memory of relatives and friends. The hard-core endurance runners tough out the hilly 13.1 and marathon courses, but there’s also a relatively flat 5-miler and a 1-mile kids race for those of us with a desire for something shorter and faster.

Unlike last year the weather was gorgeous and sunny, and I enjoyed a comfortable warmup around the awakening village before stripping down to ¾ tights, a Oiselle tank, and arm warmers. The long-distance folks had taken off half an hour before, so it was just the 5-milers and kids on the starting line, making for a more consistent group pace and reasonable open start conditions. I did the whole “where should I line up?” scouting bit and ended up behind the kids and next to an impressively buff gal in a patriotic-themed race outfit (she even had a star-spangled tutu!).

The race director counted us off and the first row of other 5-milers and I took off after letting the kids get a few steps on us. Having the kids in front of course led to a bit of chaos as they dropped items of clothing and stopped to grab them, and generally zig-zagged haphazardly across the course. Trying not to trample any small, adorable children made the first half mile go by quickly, and then they veered off onto their own course back to the start/finish and the 5-mile group followed our designated lead cyclist onto the paved bike path and out of town.

The tutu-gal had already gapped me at this point and I spent the rest of the ‘out’ section of the course trying to convince my brain that I still had a chance of catching her. I’ll admit her super ripped physique was already putting doubts into my mind – watching her power up the hills didn’t inspire much confidence in the idea of her fading later in the race. Due to the slightly uphill first mile and a couple steep rollers, my legs already felt heavy and I was struggling with the feeling of being maxed out on pace in spite of not being very out of breath. I focused on keeping her tutu in sight but had let the gap grow from 5 seconds to almost 15 at the turnaround. I was still feeling decent except for the heavy, sluggish legs and thought that just maybe I could regain my pep and throw down the last couple miles to catch her.

However, she realized where I was on the turnaround and must have picked it up much more than me on the slight downhill heading back because the gap rapidly widened and she passed the guy in a Mexico Tri Team kit who had been steadily pacing her for the first 3 miles. In order to keep some sort of mental focus even as she pulled further away I focused on seeing if I could catch him too, and very gradually reeled him in over the fourth mile. The downhill did put some more spring into my legs and I was able to pass Tri guy as we turned into the last mile through downtown. I kept pushing all the way to the finish and, although I didn’t even come close to catching Tutu-gal (she finished 45 long seconds ahead of me) I held Tri-guy at bay and finished as the 5th runner overall with 3 men and Tutu-gal ahead of me.

I was reasonably happy with me time – the pace was about 10 seconds per mile slower than my recent 5k and corresponded to a predicted 5k just a few seconds faster than the Moonlight race – and really enjoyed the chance to run a 5-miler, which was my favorite tempo distance in college but isn’t a common race distance since it’s easy to add on a mile to get a standard 10k. I also got to cheer for several friends along the course during my race and for some more endurance-savvy friends after the 5-miler as the longer distances started to come in. Overall it was a very social event with several good speeches and moments to honor those being remembered and honored by the racers and attendees.

 

A few take-aways from the race:

1)       Even if things don’t go as planned (couldn’t catch lead gal), I can create new goals mid-race to help motivate myself (catch Mexican Tri guy)

2) Sometimes is pays to ‘just keep running’ and avoid thinking about the number of miles you have left

3) I *really* need to get some turnover back in my legs…time to bring back the strides, drills, and some more consistent leg strength/power work!

2nd (and last) XC race of the season

My mini XC season ended yesterday in a slightly anticlimactic 5k race. A 2 race season sure isn’t much but there aren’t any more local races and I’m not in good enough shape to justify doing a bunch of driving to far-flung grassy fields and golf courses. However, I did have a great time getting back onto the grass and hills and really enjoyed the brief taste of xc camaraderie with my former team last weekend and with the other unattached gals yesterday. Gotta love cross-country runners 🙂

Yesterday’s meet was actually pretty big – BYU hosted a combination high school and collegiate meet so there were 8 races total and hundreds of athletes and spectators milling about the course. There were 64 women in my race, most of them either on teams or on the BYU team but running unattached. The weather was gorgeous (cool and sunny), the mountains provided an awesome backdrop, and one of the high school teams had a boom-box going with the mandatory high school XC pump-up mix.

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(I’m really, really glad we didn’t have to run up those mountains…)

The atmosphere was awesome but my race was less so. We went out pretty quick (for my current fitness anyhow) and I spent the first mile and a half basically hanging on for dear life. I did manage to pass a few people in the 2nd mile and the beginning of the third mile, but then absolutely died the last 600m and got caught by 4 women in the last 200 m with no kick left to fend them off. I finished 58th out of 64 – a painful little reminder of how far off I am from my collegiate fitness. However, I did manage to hold about the same pace as last weekend even with an extra kilometer and some actual uphills! I’ll take it 😉

My plan now is to take 2-4 weeks off of racing and work on incorporating longer workouts (tempos, longer repeats, etc) and gradually increase my long run in order to work on my physical and mental stamina. My speed is pretty good right now but that last kilometer reminded me that I haven’t done a single workout over 4k of actual repeats. Time to build some strength!

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