Monday, August 15, 2011

a matter of seconds

I went into this weekend’s race, the Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon, hoping for a PR. My last PR was at the Platte Half Marathon in April 2010, when I was training for the Colorado Marathon. Something about the really long training runs makes a half seem like such a cake-walk. But I had been having foot/ankle problems throughout the week, and wasn’t having much success with ice and ibuprofen, so I wasn’t very optimistic.

Mr. Bump was nice enough to drive me down to the start from Leadville, waking up at 5 am to get us down to Georgetown before they closed the road (the road to the parking lot was the road the race started on). He was exhausted from an early morning at work the day before (at work around 5:40 am) but like the great Runner Husband he is, we parked in Georgetown near the lake and he slept for a half an hour before I finally decided to line up.  The crowd for this half was huge, compared to other races I’ve done. Mostly, I think, because the cost of the race is inexpensive. I signed up in April, for $35.00. This is practically unheard of for a race of 2,500 people, and it explains why they only give out a cotton finisher t-shirt and why there are so many people who run it.  This race seemed like it was a crazy amount of racers, but knowing how much larger Portland is going to be, I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around it.

It was chilly at the start, but there wasn’t a cloud in the sky so I knew it would heat up once the sun hit us. The course sets out with a loop through Georgetown, and at mile 2 you cross under the start line to head downhill toward Idaho Springs. It was at that two mile mark that we finally got out of the shadow of the mountainside and the sun hit us. From about mile three I was hot. It was still only about 8:30 at this point, and it shouldn't have been above 70, but it felt pretty relentless right from mile 3. This was an ongoing factor.

One of the nice things about this particular race was that there would be pacers from a local running club, who ran with a two foot dowel with the projected finish time taped to the top like a flag. I wanted to come in somewhere between 2:15 and 2:20, so I lined up in between. When we started out, the 2:20 pacer seemed to be going fairly slowly, so I moved ahead of her.  I hooked up with the 2:15 pacer, and tried to hover just behind him. At some point I got ahead of him, but knew eventually he would catch me. Somewhere along the line he not only caught me, but blew far enough by me that I lost sight of him. From then on it was a battle to stay ahead of the 2:20 pacer, who kept getting closer and closer to me. She finally passed me at around mile 10-11, and I just couldn’t keep up with her. Since I crossed the line a couple of minutes after her, and my chip time was spot-on 2:20, she didn’t keep her promised pace. And that made me feel like shit, even though I knew she was ahead of pace according to my watch.

I did really well in the first half of the race. My 10k split was 1:05:41, beating my fastest 10k time (1:10?). It was hot, my face was really red, and I was beginning to chafe (oh the chafing!). Eventually I ended up grabbing two waters at the 10 mile aid station and dumping them over my head and down my back. I managed to pour some Powerade down one side of me, too, but that was more of a fumble than an intent. Somewhere along here I ran past a poor man who had collapsed on the course, with one person holding up something to shade him from the sun, one person holding his feet up, and one person placing their hand held water bottle behind his head. Not long after I passed him the EMT’s passed heading toward him. People (lots of people) were weaving from one side of the road to the other just to get the little shade offered by the trees on whatever side of the road was shady. Normally people are loathe to run side to side because it adds mileage to your race and doesn’t improve your time. But that’s how hot it felt. There was very little breeze, too. Along the course a woman had placed her sprinkler out in the dirt in front of her house, and we were all veering over to run through it, despite the muddiness. I may have gotten the order of all this wrong, because I can’t remember what came after what—it’s all just kind of a blur of Stuff that Happened.  The middle of the course, about 3 or 4 miles of it, are all dirt. In some ways this was ok, in some ways it was harder. I think it was cooler, but the soft dirt and rocky terrain made this section more difficult.

At some point in the middle I realized my foot/ankle wasn’t really hurting, but it seemed to be somewhat numb and tingly. I just sort of shrugged my shoulders at that and kept going. Walking didn’t solve the problem, and it didn’t really make it any harder to run, so I just kept on going. I wore my compression socks since the race was downhill, and that probably did help, ultimately, with whatever foot/ankle/calf problems were nagging at me.

After getting back on the asphalt, the heat felt like hands on my shoulders, pressing me down toward the pavement. The last mile or so was pretty torturous, just really hot, really tired. I was having a hard time keeping running, and in fact in the last 500 meters I kept running, but also thinking “How am I doing this?”  

After I finished, I wandered around looking for water (which was another 1/4 mile away—not a good thing GTIS people), gulping down two cups and grabbing a chocolate milk, tottering on my feet and looking longingly at the kiddie pools filled with ice water that people were standing in. But I knew if I took of my shoes I’d never get them back on, and I still had to find my husband in the chaos of the finish line. I knew he would call me and eventually he did, but even the effort of getting my phone out of my hand-held water bottle was difficult. I found out where he was and weaved my way up to him, then realized I hadn’t picked up my finisher’s t-shirt (no medal at this race, just a t-shirt). Got that, got some more water, got a pint glass, some watermelon, and randomly some yogurt. I wasn’t hungry so much as incredibly, unquenchably thirsty. I think I drank about 48 ounces on the course, another 36 or so at the finish line. I would’ve drunk more but they were running out of water by the time I finished. Then I drank a 20 ounce diet soda and a bottle of water on the drive back to Leadville.

I was completely hydrated before the race, even used the porta-pottie once before the start (oh, what a necessary evil they are) and really could have used it again as I lined up at the start, but didn’t really have time and really couldn’t face the porta-potties at that point. They are so nasty just before the race starts and I didn’t want to lose my cookies just before running 13 miles. So yeah, on top of a numb foot, some serious chafing and some mild heat illness, I had to pee the whole time.  I didn’t run this race at as even a pace as I ran the Platte Half Marathon. I pushed myself a little too hard and then had to walk a bit on the second half, which ultimately slowed me down and I regret now.

This half taught me some lessons: I need to work on my pacing. I’ve been focusing on speedwork, which I can see has really helped, but I need to do better with the tempo workouts, trying to maintain a speed over a longer distance, 6-8 miles or so. I haven’t gotten it figured out yet, but I’m working on it.  Next weekend is the first 20 miler, and I’ll do two more of those if all goes well. My mileage should start inching past the 30 mile mark if I can get all my workouts in. I’ve been struggling with the cross-training and the tempo runs, but I’m determined to have a week where I hit all my workouts. This has been a more aggressive training cycle than the last one, but so much so that I haven’t been hitting all my workouts. I’ve begun to question whether this plan is right for me, but I’m not sure that switching with 7 weeks to go is such a good idea. Other lessons learned include 1) I am not allowed to wear tempo shorts to a race again. I think I probably startled the horses, and it certainly created a chafe situation that has left me with scabby thighs (sorry); 2) that sunscreen should be as close to completely waterproof as possible, because I definitely sweated and watered it off; 3) larger races (this one, at about 2,500 participants was one of the largest I’ve raced in) make it really hard to find anyone else who is racing or who is cheering for you—Mr. Bump saw me at mile 5, but I couldn’t find him; 4) I really want another shot at a half-marathon PR this year.

All in all this was a tough race, but the scenery was beautiful. I probably would have enjoyed it a bit more if it were slightly cooler, but a lot of it was downhill, which always helps, and a couple of small uphills, but nothing major. Of course, after the Leadville Heavy Half, my notion of an uphill is somewhat skewed.

I am very grateful for my wonderful husband, who was there to cheer me on at mile 2, mile 5, and mile 12.8. Thanks for being my chauffeur, my race photographer, and my one man cheering section. No matter the size of the crowd, or whatever medal or t-shirt might be waiting for me, you’re always who I want to see when I cross the finish line. Thank you love, for supporting my crazy hobby.

To end this post on a whimper rather than a bang: my official chip time was…2:20:29.8.  Previous PR…2:20:28. Missed it by THAT much.  Here are my splits—you can see where I wander off the rails:

Mile 1 10:50
Mile 2 10:23
Mile 3 10:11
Mile 4 10:01
Mile 5 10:33
Mile 6 10:06
Mile 7 10:25
Mile 8 11:06
Mile 9 10:50
Mile 10 11:09
Mile 11 10:43
Mile 12 11:32
(this was a hot mile)
Mile 13 11:06
Mile 13.1 1:31
Garmin Time 2:20:34

No comments: