Monday, April 29, 2013

How Did This Happen? Ravenswood Run 5k Recap

Back when my training felt like it was going well, back in November, early December, I had dreams of doing this 5k in 27:00.

Pretty ambitious, I know. Last year I ran it in 29:20 something, a PR, and one I was very proud of.

Then the holidays happened, my shoulder got injured, everyone got sick (and then again), I gained 8lbs., and it all went to pot. I feel I've been inching my way back since mid-March.

In my efforts to improve on my racing techniques, I ended up swinging too far in the opposite direction. To wit:
  • To not run extra on the turns I cut the corners tightly - but got boxed in and had to slow down.
  • To not worry about the extra I might be running I didn't wear my Garmin - but I didn't bring a watch either or remember to look at the time when I crossed the start line.
  • And I just don't know why I decided not to run with headphones.

The result? I started off fast, and had no idea how fast I was going. Never. Or how far I had come - I saw the first mile marker but not the second one. All I knew was that I was working very hard, and I didn't like it. I couldn't really take in what was around me, and I had no music to distract me. I got bored. And then I hit a point somewhere in the last mile where I was just tired of it being hard and I thought, do I really care? And I stopped. Oh, I kept on moving (walking), and after some time (probably less time than it felt like) I started running again, although not as fast, and with about a quarter-mile to go at the last turn I thought, well, I should at least try to finish nicely, so I picked someone ahead of me to pass. And by the time I did I was at the 3-mile marker and realized with some surprise that if I didn't totally bail out I could probably finish in under 29 minutes at least (remember I had no idea when I crossed the start line). And so I tucked down and ran as fast as I could and then I ran a little faster and then I sprinted. And then I was done and wanted to throw up.

(Except I have a cast-iron stomach and never do, even when it would make me feel better.)

Friends, I ran that race in 27:15.

I was 41st out of 250 in  my age group, a fact which excites me even more than my first place age group finish from a couple of weeks ago (since that field was so small my placing first really was a fluke).

How did this happen?

And what would my time and place have been if I hadn't given up for those few minutes?

I guess if this were my favored distance I would find ways to work on my mental preparation and really figure out how to best go about running it and how to handle those "do I care" thoughts. (And find some other ones to practice on this year.) And I'm sure I will both to some extent. But it's not my favorite distance so mostly I will just find out what could have been, the next time I run one. And glory in the craziness of this one. (And reconfigure my marathon training plan.)

But not next year. Next year we have plans to run this as a family with another family from the boys' daycare/preschool. Four adults, two earnest small boys, and two running strollers with toddlers. Yes, we'll be one of those groups at the back spread out across the whole street and irritating anyone who got there late but thinks they can maybe still slip in and get their PR.

And then we'll eat pancakes.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Heading Out Soon...

And I've had a horrible night's sleep, thanks to son/husband, baby, cat, baby. In that order.

I don't like running super fast so I always doubt my ability to make myself do it for a long time. I wasn't going to wear headphones for this but now I'm not sure. Maybe bring them for insurance.

I don't feel ready. I'm not. I leave in an hour and I haven't gotten my stuff on or together and the baby is waking up for real this time.

Gah. Why do we care so much about these things?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Bits and Pieces

How did this day get away from me so fast? Talking with friends at work, mostly...

I race again on Sunday, the Ravenswood Run 5k. I'd like to break 28 minutes, I think I can break 29, which would also be a PR. I've been careful this week about not overdoing any of my runs and even took an extra rest day today, but I don't know if I'm fully recovered from my last race. We'll see.

My big question this week has been what to wear at the race. I now have a "race outfit" I like that makes me feel speedy, but for this race I typically wear the shirt they provide. It's for a great cause (our neighborhood food agency) through our church, and it's traditionally very family and kid friendly, so it's neat to be part of the crowd all wearing the same shirt.

I'll also be wearing a "Race for Boston" bib, so I think that while I'll be trying to go my fastest of course, this race is about others, not just myself.

I guess I've answered my question.

What's your biggest concern when it comes to choosing your racing outfit?

Happy running this weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Some Details After All

So, a correction from my earlier race report: In the overall results, I placed 111 out of 173 finishers, not 134. To the non-runner this may seem inconsequential, but to the runner - huge! That means I finished in front of 62 people, not the mere 23 I had previously thought. Go me!

I mentioned details in my previous entry, technical, tactical, and mental, and thought that I would go into some of them here after all (thanks, Laurie).

  • This was my first time racing with my Road ID, which freed me up to only use existing pockets instead of carrying a pack, however small. I carried house keys, my bus pass, my iPod and my Garmin, nothing else.
  • This was also my first time wearing my Garmin. I'm not sure how I feel about this yet, it ended up being a bit distracting, especially after the race when I had not yet gotten the official results.
  • Also my first time racing in my calf sleeves - yes! I felt like a dork but pretended I wasn't wearing them. Added bonus: they kept my legs warmer in the nasty weather.
  • I made sure to warm up (in part because it was so cold) and I think it made a sizable difference in being able to start off strong and stay there.
  • I started off tired (this event started late in the morning and I'd been up for hours already wrangling a toddler). I tried for a feeling of lightness and lift through my torso. Although at times I felt I could go faster it would have been at the expense of that sense of lightness, and I knew I could not afford to push that way until the very end.
  • I also held myself back the first mile by keeping my breathing through my nose.
  • As usual, I let myself tear down the hills and then muscle my way up them. Crazy but fun, with the added profit of possibly confusing my fellow competitors. I really need to find some trail events.
  • While I was able to accelerate a bit in the second half and over the last mile in particular, it was clear to me that I wasn't going to be able to sprint until the very end. Luckily, about 200m from the finish line, two ladies that I'd previously passed put on their own surge. Exactly the push I needed! I couldn't keep up with them in the end but they got me going for those last seconds.
  • I have to work more on getting to the inside corner. Running with the Garmin showed me that I ran an extra 0.15 miles - easily an extra minute. And this was over only a 10k.
  • I knew (from practice) that I could push myself in the second half and then again in the last mile and again in the last 100m. Because I knew it, I could do it. It makes a difference to know that so much of performance is mental. Practice really does make perfect. I don't think I used any new mental tactics at this race but even six months of practice on my weekly runs has made a difference.
  • And pain is not something to be afraid of. Again, the more I practice this, the easier it is to believe.
Random Details
  • The whole first half I had an odd feeling of being pushed... on the turnaround I realized what it was - the wind. Which was now in my face. I am such a contrary bugger though that I like the feeling of pushing against something (I also like hills).
  • The next two days I was wiped out. I have never been so affected by a race or run afterwards. So that was also proof to me that I have gotten better at pushing myself past what I think I can do.
I feel like I am being tempered as a runner (the way metal is tempered in a fire). I like how this feels. I suspect this is also carrying over into other areas of my life and I like that as well. But perhaps this is just the result of being now firmly in my 40s and of being a mother. So much just seems inconsequential now. But that's ponderings for another time.

Next race is next Sunday!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Wrigley Start Early 10k - A Race Report of Sorts

In light of Boston, I really can't bring myself to post a detailed race report of last Saturday's Wrigley Start Early 5/10K.

Which is kind of a shame, because it was amazing.

Not the event itself. That was not well organized, it was muddy and windy and cold and snowy (!), and they cut the festivities short (including food and volunteers) because of the weather.

But because...

Not only did I break an hour (59:52)...

Not only did I fight the entire way to make that happen, the first time I've really done that...

Not only did I learn all kinds of useful things for future races (tactical and equipment details, I don't need to go into them now)...

Not only did I put into practice a number of mental strategies I've practiced over the last year...

But because I came in first in my age group.


I must point out that it was an extremely small field, and I came in 111 out of 135 overall. (I started at the back and I think I remember passing every single one of those 24 people behind me.) But of the eight women ages 40-44 who finished, I was the first. By 6 seconds!

Ah, victory.

Needless to say, this was an incredible way to start my racing season.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"Look for the Helpers" and Little Things

I had been working on a report about Saturday's race when the news about Boston started coming in. That report can wait.

Other people have already posted the Fred Rogers' quote about when disaster strikes, look for the helpers. It's the most comforting thing I've come across today. Especially as a parent, thinking about how to talk about this with my children. Perhaps not now. Buddy might be spared this for a little longer. But the next time some tragedy occurs.

I'm wearing my Soldier Field 10M shirt today, at work. I'm the only one wearing a race shirt here and it feels odd. Oh well. I'm wearing this one since it's the only one I have from a memorial event, and in honor of the National Guard who were among the first responders there. I'm wearing a Celtic cross, too, in honor of all those Boston Irish.

Runners' World has an article about how to help or show support. My next 26.2 miles are dedicated to the victims. I'm two and a half miles in so far.

It was a terrible morning for a run. It was a beautiful morning for a run. Every song that came up had some connection to Boston for me. I went to school in western Massachusetts and in Cambridge so I feel somewhat connected, a little? But I really don't know Boston proper. Only through this most glorious of runners' events, this beacon of hope and ambition, this most storied of marathons.

And it still is. It still is.

There is no place in the world that has not seen blood. "And still we rise."

May the souls of those killed, and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Plunging In

Tomorrow I will be running my first race of the year, about two weeks earlier than I had planned to, and three miles longer.


I am still signed up for the Ravenswood Run 5K at the end of April. But my training for that has gone seriously off the rails, between injury and illness. I may still try to go all out, but I was less and less happy at the idea of making that be my big first race of the season.

Tomorrow is the Wrigley Start Early 5/10k, and I had already planned to take part (and was trying to get a group together from work) since that event benefits Voices for Illinois Children and Prevent Child Abuse America. I had been thinking of maybe just taking the Goobster in his regular stroller and doing the 1M pledge walk. I have a bit of a history with that event and thought it would be neat to revisit it after a break of a few years.

And then stuff shifted around, as they will, and I was given the opportunity to go on my own, without child, and I thought, "Why not just go for the 10k?"

I've been running that far, so I'm not concerned about covering the distance. And in reading my notes from the last time I ran it I can see I've learned a lot about racing, so I'm not worried about blowing up. So, why not?

I have a cute new haircut and hairband, I have a morning to myself, the weather should be cool but dry, it's right along the lake... Should be fun!

To finish in under an hour I would need to do 9:40 miles. I think that's unlikely right now. To beat my last 10k (in 2010) I would need to do 9:54 miles. That, I think is possible. It will take some effort, but I think it is possible.

Off to create my playlist and have a last snack before an early bedtime. Wish me luck!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Ah, Books

I am in awe of how much I read in March. And in love. I felt like my brain was sparking and sparkling all month long. I do love to read and think. Now I need to figure out how to write more about these shiny new ideas.

My favorites from the month:

Seven Days in the Art World, by Sarah Thornton
Just Kids, by Patti Smith (both described here)

String, Felt, Thread: The Hierarchy of Art & Craft in American Art, by Elissa Auther
     This one was where I first started feeling like I was waking up from a long sleep. Reading about art theory and criticism and understanding it, referencing the notes and the bibliography, realizing I had some of the books referenced already and then getting a bunch more for my birthday... it made me feel hungry. In the words of J.C. Brooks and the Uptown Sounds, "I want - what? More - what? More - what? More. I want some more!"

"Expeditions" (Milwaukee Art Museum)
     This accompanied the exhibit of Isaac Julien's film pieces "True North", "Fantome Afrique", and "Western Union: Small Boats" at the Milwaukee Art Museum. We'd gone last summer (we love this museum) but with the kids, so I only got a quiet few minutes viewing "Western Union: Small Boats." I haven't seen much video art so had nothing to compare it to, but I loved standing in that room, hearing the sounds of the water and entraced by the images and wondering, what is being told here? When I saw this in the gift store I picked it up hoping I would learn more about the artist (I love buying exhibition catalogs as a souvenir of museum visits), and I did, but I was also impressed with the critical essays, and the way the photos were laid out gave a sense of the piece itself, the pace and the scale. I also have some new books to consider from the essay notes!

Bright's Passage, by Josh Ritter
    Right from the beginning I was so concerned for the characters that I could barely read this. Except of course it is a breath-taking book. From his songs I knew he writes beautifully, and is skilled at story-telling, but I also knew he wouldn't necessarily keep us from heartbreak! In the end I had to peek ahead, just enough to see if I could stand to go on. And even then I was surprised - mark of a good storyteller again! I'm hoping we can go see him in concert at the end of the month. And I was very happy to see in a recent interview that he's at work on his second novel.

African Art (Taschen Books), by Stefan Eisenhofer.
    Interesting introductory essay, detailing not the history of African art, but rather a brief history of Western engagement with African art (the pieces included here are ones that have been particularly valued by Westerners over time). And then the images were beautifully photographed with a short essay about what is known about them. I felt the image essays got repetetive after a while, and I wished for a resource list or even notes, but this definitely made me want to learn more.

Food & Faith: A Theology of Eating, by Norman Wirzba
   Beautiful. I think for me the purpose of reading theology is to feast on thinking in new or fresh ways about God (or a reminder of valuable ways to think about God), which then opens me anew in how I orient myself to God. One biblical phrase I have been living by is from Romans 12: "Be transformed by the renewing of your minds" and this book is an expansive example of that. I have so much underlined here (and there are such a marvleous notes and bibliography) that I think this will continue to feed me for a long time. Funnily enough, I wouldn't say that I came away with much new about food or eating, perhaps because these are already concerns of mine, but with much, much new to think about the Trinity, the Eucharist, and kenosis theology.

And these were just the ones I thought were especially good (or especially likely to get me thinking/reading more)! April seems to be moving more in the direction of Africa, I've read a couple already though I've just started chewing on a dense book on modern art and three female artists.