Sunday, September 1, 2013

Preparing for and Running the Charlottesville Women's 4 Miler

Race day was yesterday! For so long, the race felt to be so far off. I first started thinking about it last spring, and then signed up for it in June.

Back in May, I was still doing a lot of running. After coming back from vacation, I decided to do a 10k training plan. I was running several days a week, and feeling pretty good. Then I took a 2 week break when I was in the middle of moving. I came back from my break pretty solid - and did 4 runs over the course of 1.5-2 weeks, in June. Then things became more sporadic. I ran 5 times in July, basically once a week or so. It was also only on the treadmill. Once August hit, I realized that the race was that month, and started to panic a little. I pushed myself to start running outside again, and to increase the number of runs I went on. I started out small, doing 2-2.5 mile runs outside. I managed to increase this to 4 miles over the course of a few weeks. I had a great run two weeks ago, first thing in the morning, going at a nice 10:00/mile pace.

Even though I was running a lot more, I was still really nervous for the race. I started having some foot/ankle pain, probably mostly due to rolling my ankles a few times while hiking. My right knee was also pretty sore. I planned everything out for the week of the run. I was going to do a hilly, longer run on Tuesday, a short interval run on Wednesday, and then a 15 minute shake-out run on Friday. I was going to stick with my normal Monday and Wednesday strength routines. I did a hilly treadmill run on Tuesday (it was too hot to run outside), but didn't run on Wednesday, my legs were already pretty sore. My original plan was to do a light strength workout on Wednesday, mostly focusing on core and arms, with only a little leg work. I was showing some friends an intro to strength training, so of course I had to show them almost every exercise I knew. Even with doing 40% core, 40% arms, and only 20% legs, I still got my legs pretty sore. My butt was the most sore - it was probably more sore than it had ever been! Darn side lunges.

The closer it got to the race, while still feeling really sore, the more nervous I got. Friday afternoon, even though it was pretty hot out, I decided to do my shake-out run outside. I thought it was pretty important to have a nice run on pavement instead of on the treadmill. I picked a loop around my apartment that was a little hilly, but around the right distance. Because it was so hot, I decided to do something I had never done before - I ran with just a sports bra on (no shirt). I always see other girls doing it, but had been too self conscious in the past to do it myself. I decided for just 15 minutes, what was the worst that could happen? I also am in better shape than I've ever been in, so this is really the time to just do it. Because I wasn't going to be covered, and since I didn't really care what my stats were, I didn't wear the heart rate monitor. You know what? Nobody gave me weird looks. Nobody told me that I looked gross and should be wearing a shirt. Nobody honked or hollered at me. The world continued turning. I'm not saying this is going to be a regular thing, but it felt good to know I could do it. As for the run itself - it was okay. The first part was a bit uphill, and that HURT. My first thought was, well tomorrow is going to suck. I loosened up a bit throughout the run, and ended feeling better than when I started.

I cooled off for a bit after the run, then (put on a shirt and) walked over to the sports arena where we could pickup our race packets. It was only 1 mile away, so a nice walk. Joey met me there and drove me back home. The shirt is pretty cute, it's a baby blue. I was a bit surprised, last year's pictures show a hot pink shirt, and I just assumed the shirts were always pink (to support breast cancer). I had already planned on wearing one of my C9 workout shirts from Target, specifically because it is bright pink. I was seriously advertising for Target - I wore that shirt with my C9 compression shorts, C9 sports bra, and C9 active socks! I'm looking forward to wearing my new shirt though - whenever Joey wears his Cville 10 Miler shirt, he always gets nods and smiles from people who have also run the race.

I tried to have a pretty simple dinner - pesto tortellini with extra pesto on top, goat cheese, and steamed veggies. I didn't want anything that would upset my stomach, and I wanted the carbs for energy. My original plan was to go to bed at 10...that didn't happen. It was close to 11 by the time I got in bed, more like 11:30 when I finally turned off my lamp. The alarm went off at 6:20 and I did NOT want to get out of bed. With each passing moment, my nerves just continued to grow. I threw on my clothes, Joey looped the chip around my shoe laces, and we made sure we had everything packed. I had multiple granola bars, strawberry GU chomps, my iphone, armband, headphones, spearmint trident gum, water, ibuprofen, my bib to put on once we got there, a zip-up jacket in case it was cold before the race started, and the snazzy bag they gave me the night before, to throw everything in.

The race was out at a horse track - Foxfield, and was PACKED! Once we were 1-2 miles away there was a decent amount of traffic, and then it was a madhouse inside. There were just so many people. We got sent to park really far away. By the time we walked over to where the big crowd was, we had ~ 10 minutes before they started lining up pace groups. We didn't need to sign up for a specific pace group, but they were lining people up for the actual start of the race. I put myself in the 9:00 min/mile group, knowing that was faster than I would be, but figuring it would be better to get passed than to have to zigzag around people and pass them.

Before getting too far ahead of myself, here were the goals I had in mind. When I first was signing up, back when I was still training, I really wanted to finish in ~34-35 minutes. I had done about that pace for a 5k in Florida, and wanted to see if I could keep that pace for a slightly longer race. Once I stopped running regularly, that goal went out the window. I readjusted and came up with a multi-tiered list of goals. First, I wanted to be able to finish the race without stopping. I would love if I could do it in under 40 minutes (<10min/mile). Next goal would be under 38 minutes (<9.5min/mile). Finally, under 36 minutes would be fantastic, which would be <9min/mile pace.

So I obviously knew I wouldn't be going any faster than a 9min/mile pace, and that group would be great to start out in. Joey suggested that I stay on one of the sides, so I wouldn't feel as overwhelmed by all of the people, and hopefully would only be passed on the one side. I started to panic right before they wanted us to start heading toward the start, but Joey just gave me a kiss and told me I would be great. I ate my GUs, had a gulp of water, and then put in my headphones. It took us ~10-15 minutes to slowly make our way to the start, and I just zoned out to music. That helped me calm down a lot. It was a little surreal when everyone started to move, especially since it was a few minutes ahead of schedule. I just started up runkeeper, turned on my heart rate monitor, and increased the volume in my headphones.

The cool thing about this race, is that they have a 1/2 mile by 1/2 mile description of what to expect. I already knew where the hills were, which is really important to me. I knew that the first mile was all downhill, the second mile had a couple ups and downs, the third mile had a pretty steep uphill, and the last mile was generally flat/downhill. The race packet said that the second mile was deceptively difficult, but the third mile was definitely the hardest.

In the first mile, I just took it easy and let the downhill guide my pace. The downhill part of the course felt nice, and I wished that the whole course was like that! I stayed on the left side, and that worked pretty well for the most part. For some reason, some people still tried to pass me on the left. I got passed by a ton of people in that first mile. I just stuck with my pace, and tried not to expend too much energy. I knew that I could pick it up at the end if I really needed to. I was pretty happy with my 1/4 and 1/2 mile splits (see below), so I just kept on going. Once we hit the turn around point, we had to go back up the hill we just went down. Here I did slow down a bit, but unintentionally. I probably kept the same effort going, but the course wasn't giving the same momentum it was when it was downhill.

I just kept being surprised by how great I felt. As I got to the 2 mile mark, I started looking around for Joey. The finish was just past that, and that's where everyone was standing on the side. I found his face and gave him a huge smile and thumbs up, letting him know I was doing great. I was in a pretty good groove, and remembered that the race packet said the course would be basically flat from 2.3-2.8 miles, so take advantage of that, and that the biggest hill of the course was at 2.8 miles. Once I hit the hill, I really leaned into it and tried to get up it as quickly as I could. As soon as I crested it, the course went back downhill for a bit before plateauing at the last turn-around point. I knew that as soon as I went back up that little hill, it would be smooth sailing for the rest. I really picked up the pace for the last mile. Once I hit the 3.5 mile marker, I was a bit nervous that I kicked up my pace too soon. However, you can see from my splits below that I managed to keep it up. Once the finish line was in sight, I just pushed through as hard as I could. I saw on my watch that my time was under 38 minutes, and I was just ecstatic!

I saw Joey right when I finished, and made my way over to him. I was so happy, I was just beaming at him (and trying not to drip too much sweat on him)! I handed off all of my things to him, and we went in search of sustenance. I got a cup of water immediately after the finish. They also had hands down, the best post-race food I've ever seen. They had at least 10 kinds of Panera bagels, 4 or 5 kinds of Panera muffins (split in half), and 4-5 kinds of Dunkin Donuts. I was really surprised that there were no lines for the food. I grabbed an asiago bagel, an apple and cinnamon muffin half, and a blueberry cake donut. Then I went in search of drinks - I found a blue gatorade. I sat down on the grass and ate my muffin, deciding to save everything else for later. I went back and grabbed a muffin half for Joey, and a second one for me :)

I saw some people I knew, talked to them for a few minutes, and then we headed out. We had to line up our cars just to get out, even before they re-opened the road to traffic. I dropped Joey off at his frisbee practice, and went home to relax. I ate ALL of the food I brought with me - so many carbs! I definitely ate more than I burned that morning, but oh well.

Here is how everything went!

Splits according to Runkeeper:
0.25: 2:20, 9:20 pace
0.50: 4:40, 9:20 pace (9:20)
0.75: 7:01, 9:21 pace (9:24)
1.00: 9:22, 9:22 pace (9:24)
1.25: 11:53, 9:30 pace (10:04)
1.50: 14:15, 9:30 pace (9:28)
1.75: 16:40, 9:31 pace (9:40)
2.00: 19:05, 9:33 pace (9:40)
2.25: 21:28, 9:32 pace (9:32)
2.50: 23:52, 9:33 pace (9:36)
2.75: 26:16, 9:33 pace (9:36)
3.00: 28:43, 9:34 pace (9:48)
3.25: 30:55, 9:31 pace (8:48)
3.50: 33:02, 9:26 pace (8:28)
3.75: 35:09, 9:22 pace (8:28)
4.00: 37:17, 9:19 pace (8:32)

Mile 1: 9:22
Mile 2: 9:43
Mile 3: 9:38

Mile 4: 8:34

My official race time was 37:39 - I think that the course was just slightly longer than exactly 4.00 miles, which explains the difference in my runkeeper time. 

Heart Rate Monitor:
Duration: 0:37:57
Calories Burned: 475
Average Heart Rate: 176 (91.2 % of max)
Max Heart Rate: 187 (96.9% of max)
Time in Zone (65-85%): 

Overall, I was very very happy with the race. I went at a pace that felt great, and managed to basically keep the same pace the first three miles. I really kicked up the pace for the entirety of the last mile, which is something I usually have a problem with. I didn't have any problems that I sometimes have during a run - no cramps. no leg pains, and I didn't feel crazy overheated. I enjoyed myself so much during the race. I will definitely say that it was not as hilly as I expected - I guess that's the good thing about running in town in Charlottesville. I'm ready to start training for my next race now!

Everyone getting lined up for the race

Passing Joey around 2 miles

So happy after seeing Joey! I'm right in the middle of the picture here

Post-race smile! See all of my goodies in my hand?