Friday, May 29, 2009

The 2009 Bolder Boulder (Part One)

I've been so slammed since getting back from the race that I haven't much felt like blogging when down time finally materializes...until now. Aaaaaaaaaah. Friday. I've been in a state of omphaloskepsis (I just learned the word...had to throw it in there :P ) most of the morning and now am motivated to post-so, here's my little race report thingy.

The weather on Memorial Day in Boulder was 50 degrees or so, overcast, perfect for racing. I did not have really specific goals for this race as it's a bit of a different course and race. It takes you out fast in the first mile and then starts climbing through the streets of Boulder. Despite the 54,000 people who run, it's one of THE most organized events you'll ever see due to the wave start system and proof of time required for those first 22 qualifying waves, and a total of 88 or so waves for everybody from the sub-38:00 A wavers all the way back to 2+ hour walkers, middle schoolers, military and other assorted waves. You are essentially participating in a race-within-a-race scenario, with tightly scheduled "wave launches" every 60-90 seconds. No waiting for fifteen or twenty minutes to start-you can get immediately off on your pace.

I was running in the BA wave with a 7:04 a.m. start, last of the first five out, and we actually had a wall of black-shirted security, shoulder-to-shoulder, not letting ANYBODY pass through without a BA or faster bib. I even saw a guy or two try to slink through claiming they were in the A wave, and the security would immediately bounce them back and say no dice, buddy.

It's known as a course that can clobber people who take those first two miles too fast, can be a negative split course for those who run the tangents and keep their pace in check early on, and not exactly a PR-friendly course.

Conservatively I wanted to beat my first my 2007 Winter Sun 10K time as it was the first one after feeling I'd really moved my fitness level up a notch from where it had been when I first started training seriously. My aggressive goal was a top 15 finish for my age (that's the AG award 15 for each individual year).

Splits (per the official timing):

Mile 1: 7:31 (I vowed to NOT get sucked out too fast so I wouldn't be spent and running huge positive splits to the finish-and decided on no faster than 7:30 for a first mile)

Mile 2: 7:42

Mile 3: 7:56 (boy, we're climbing! Tuck the head down and charge those hills, lady!)

That's me on the left at the bottom of the shot, and Forrest Gump on the right. We ran most of the race together. I do not know this from watching him or following him-it was the never-ending "Run Forrest!" I heard during the race. I also paced with a Forrest at MCM last fall...I'm not sure what's up with me, and the guy who just felt like running.

Mile 4: 7:40 (hanging on, not crashing and burning)

Mile 5: 7:28 (getting tired but still fighting as hard as I can, concentrating on fast leg turnover)

Mile 6: 7:35 (oh, we're climbing again! There's Folsom Field!)

They don't have a split for the last .2 on the results page but this was a total time of 47:30. Much faster than that "gimme" standard I wanted to achieve. About 1:24 slower than my PR. So, kind of smack in the middle of the range where I'd hoped to run.

Oh, and the results and wanting to crack into the top-15 awards? I was 496 out of 26182 women, and 16 out of 594 35-year-olds. Yes, my streak of one off placing, or a few seconds off qualifying for something continues. Overall, I was finisher number 2954 out of the roughly 54000 participants.

On one hand I'm wondering if I should have taken the first mile or two a little faster-I think I missed 15th by about 15-20 seconds. On the other hand, I was really nearly spent in the final 1.2 and was fighting to stay on pace, so maybe I would have imploded if I'd pushed any more. I don't know. I ran this last year with my oldest daughter at her pace, so this was really my "first running" of the course. I guess my only way to figure out if I was too conservative is to come back again next year and run it again with more of a push in the beginning!

I also had a very deep-seated urge to take a trip down the slip-and-slide on the course-if my family comes next year instead of this year's solo trip, I'm doing it as long as I can have them hold some dry clothes for me at the end. Think that would give me a faster result?

I had some fun standing on a corner near my friend Liz's condo, watching the end of the citizen race, people watching, taking photos of aliens and polar bears, and finally watching the professional race as it came through. I'll make this a two-fer and share some of those photos in the next day or two.

Monday, May 18, 2009

An Unremarkable Day At The Races, and The Great Colorado Couch Surfing Tour

So, Saturday was that headless chicken deal. When I arrived around 8 a.m., it was about seventy degrees and sunny with no clouds in the sky. I haven't had a speed workout since my marathon other than Monday's crummy session-just two weeks of recovery runs with a gradual introduction of regular Pfitz GA runs over the past two weeks. I wanted to at least beat last year's time and run as evenly and hard as I could today.

Mile 1- 6:48
Mile 2- 7:21
Mile 3- 7:30
Last .1 (.11 Garmin-measured)- :43.47 or a 6:47 pace

Total time 22:22 Garmin, 22:21 official race time.

This was good for fourth overall out of roughly 180 women (I mistakenly thought I was third-the lead woman was so far ahead that I just didn't see what was going on up there, and there was another woman on her heels, apparently), and third out of what looks like about 48 women in my AG by my count on the race website. Because they only do first and second overall awards, and first place age group awards only beyond the two overall awards, this was a non-age group award day for me since third overall came from my age group as well (three of the top four were 30-39, with the winner being the same 50-year-old I am always looking at the back of at short races).

I'm happy to have beaten last year's time at this race by 1:04, but I felt really crappy the entire time. No excuses-I just couldn't stay on the pace I'd started at, and dropped off pretty hard for those last two miles. And, too be honest, part of me did feel like pouting a little bit. It's juvenile, I know. Nobody forced me to go race the race-I knew they had screwy age groups to begin with, and this wasn't a big goal race for me. It just makes it tough when 20% of all entrants in the race were women in my age group! Oh well, build a bridge and get over it, right?

That said, it was my second fastest 5K ever. Now that I am pretty much recovered from the marathon, I need to get back into doing some speed work-it really showed that I hadn't done any in over a month.

They also gave some most excellent socks from Sock Guy that I love, with F-Town written across the foot, "Mike" on one side of the ankle and a rendering of Mike on the other side. These guys did socks for the Moab races this year and they have a bunch of other really fun running socks.

My friends Jen, Carl, and Carl's wife Jo Ann were there too. Carl had a really good day and held his own in an age group that clearly was not set up by a runner-it was a broad 60 and over age group when you would normally have 5 or ten year age groups all the way up (and, yes, the "geezers" around here, as he calls the older runners around here, are really freaking fit and competitive, all joking aside! These guys all race as HARD as they can, each and every time). He would have won 70 and over if it had existed, and as it was he still finished third despite things being stacked against him, competing against guys fifteen years younger.

Jen, who missed her marathon just two weeks ago due to coming down with influenza B the night before, also had a great race. Yeah, how's that for terrible timing after an absolutely amazing training cycle? She finished ninth among all women, and was in amazing shape for someone who should be barely walking around after getting that sick. She wasn't pleased with her result but she attacked from the beginning (like you should in a 5K) and fought through in the heat.

So, where does this leave everyone? None of us seem very happy with this race, but maybe this is a good thing. I move on to the beginning of a summer and fall of crashing with friends and sharing hotel rooms for out of town races. Next up is the Bolder Boulder in just one week. After mucking it up at the 5K, I'm not feeling great about this race. On the other hand, I truly feel most confident and comfortable with the 10K distance, and the crowd support is amazing. So, I'll just go in hoping for great things, avoiding a defeatist mindset, and just run hard from the start.

I'll be staying with my friend Liz, who has a condo in Boulder, and if nothing else, it'll be a nice day to myself. My husband got a nice twenty four hours in Gunnison this weekend at a cabin with friends for a bachelor party that was basically a bunch of married guys hanging out, doing some hiking and drinking some beer, so it's my turn to do a little running and hanging out. If I can just get over Vail pass with no troubles, it'll all be smooth sailing from there on out.

Friday, May 15, 2009

It's That Time Of Year Again...

For that time honored tradition in our neck of the woods-the celebration that commemorates a chicken that survived his own decapitation and went on to live for a few years without a head. Just normal stuff for a Saturday, complete with your typical cotton candy, Bump -n- Jump, lawnmower races, and 5K. Yeah-we're hicks (not that there's anything wrong with that. ;) ).

I'm a very easily entertained runner, and was very excited to discover that we get RUNNING SOCKS with our schwag bag this year for the Mike the Headless Chicken 5K. I need another tee shirt like I need a hole in my head. On the other hand, it's not just a clever slogan at the top of my blog. The sock monster routinely eats things-usually things that belong to me-during those 2-3 loads of laundry a day for a family of six. Give me running socks, and I've hit paydirt.

I have very modest (non-existent?) goals for this race. I've done a total of a whopping one very craptacular speed workout on Monday of this week. Beyond that, I'm just coming off the Pfitz recovery schedule and have been running recovery and general aerobic runs exclusively, with a few strideouts at the end of a couple of runs over the past two weeks. This doesn't exactly lend itself to an overachieving 5K time, but we'll see. I'll just show up, run the dang thing and make sure I beat the chicken. If I beat last year's time there, bonus. It was one of my 0 for 3 attempts at sub 23:00 last year so that'll be my stretch goal for the day, even though I set a PR of 21:XX two months ago. That PR was set during taper madness. I was walking around like the Great Cornholio from Beavis and Butthead, all nervous energy from being well-rested and running less after lots of good speed work and mileage. I'll have fun, do my best and move on from there.

In personal news, my middle daughter turned SEVEN yesterday! Time really does fly. This kid's been, um, "challenging" over the years but that also makes it very fun and gratifying when we see that she's becoming a bit more mature, and kind of channeling that energy she used to use regularly for mayhem and debauchery into more creative, productive pursuits. It was her idea last weekend for Mother's Day to do breakfast in bed, so she helped her Dad make omelets and cut up strawberries. YUM. I love to eat, but I really love breakfast food. So, that was awesome, and thoughtful on her part. We wound up having a very nice dinner last night for her birthday at our ol' faithful local Mexican place where we do all family birthdays, and with some friends who have been coming along for these birthday dinners from the beginning. Good times with good friends. Not a bad way to end a week at all.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Much Ado About Nothing

After blogging with ridiculous frequency during my marathon taper and almost as much after the race (kind of like the friend who updates their Facebook status every five minutes), I just realized it's probably been close to two weeks since the last time I posted anything-running related or otherwise. It's a good thing-I've actually been recovering decently from the race, and well, no news is good news. No racing, no speed work, just four runs a week of either the recovery or general aerobic variety. I'd also reached the light at the end of the tunnel on a number of projects and issues, and's just nice sometimes to sit and do absolutely nothing from time to time. So, that's what I did.

While I did not "race" it by any stretch, I did participate with my daughters in the Girls on the Run 5K last Saturday, or as I like to call it, the most dangerous race start in town based on the stampede of sprinting little girls who, no matter how many times they've been told it's a five kilometer event, not the hundred meter dash, charge the first quarter mile like a bunch of mini Usain Bolts.

This year was no exception, although it may have been a bit of a blessing that we were slammed with 1000 (one thousand! only 43,000 people live in this city) runners, wind, and rain. It forced everyone to slow down in the tight quarters and the weather. As far as I know, no children were injured, maimed, killed or dismembered during the start, and my girls had a great time.

Here are a few shots of our oldest coming in toward the finish (and, if you look very closely at the shorts of her coach/teacher, you'll see a certain logo for a certain race, held somewhere in New England):

This is my high-achieving first-born who was at first disappointed in her finish time. She's always had this history of pulling random fast times out of her head for race goals, and this was one of the first times she didn't hit it, or come close. It was a great time, and she ran well, but just not what she'd hoped for.

When the results came out a few days later, though (another story altogether-I suspect there will be some major changes next year to better handle the great "problem" of exponential growth in GOTR here and how to manage the race finish), we learned that she was third out of 190 in her age group! As I scanned through the other results and stopped on names of the usual suspects at area 5K's, I could see that times for everyone were much slower than usual. Oh, and the winner of the race? A kid (this was an event for women AND girls), and not one of the older girls-she came from the 9-year-old age group! So, a few days removed, my daughter realized that a)EVERYONE had a tough time in the conditions, b)she'd actually done very well in the conditions, and c)everyone has days when they don't hit their goal, and it's OKAY. You just have to get back up on that horse, and try again next time.

I was a little further back with my 6-year-old. She and her sister have very little in common, be it appearance, personality or temperament, but they both like to run, each in their own way. While big sis is a bit of a perfectionist who doesn't like to perform poorly at anything, her sister is the ultimate zen, joy-of-running kid. She doesn't know or care who Jeff Galloway is, but she put his run-walk principle to use very early on when she first asked to participate in a 5K last year. Though this is foreign and almost uncomfortable to me-I avoid stops as it's hard for me to get back into a rhythm that way-it's exactly how she stays IN rhythm. So, I just let her take the lead on those intervals and follow along.

This is actually quite the task sometimes-when she decides to get into a burst of speed at the finish of a race, the kid turns her legs over so fast that I literally cannot keep up with her. I always smile at her race photos-it seems that she's always floating in the air with both feet off the ground and legs gently bent, arms loose and relaxed. Meanwhile, it's taken her mama several years to figure out how to have boxing nuns arms only half the time, and not ALL the time.

Besides slowing down a bit to high-five people in the chute, she also ran with thumbs-up much of the race, and kept telling me to do the same "Mooooooom-thumbs up! You forgot thumbs up!" So there we were...just a couple of Fonzies giving everyone the "Ayyy!"

We finished squarely in the middle of the pack, though the big issue of the day was a huge bottleneck in the finisher's chute that actually caused a BIG backup on the course. It took me a minute to realize that we were still on the clock, a mere twenty feet or so from the finish, and that our times, though "unofficial" at this race, would be several minutes off. She didn't notice or care, though, so I didn't draw any attention to it. All she wanted was that medal when we finally made our way through, so we picked it up and said we'd make our own time card for her after waiting for awhile and never seeing the card turn up. (As it turns out, we were two of many people whose results were misplaced or so far off they were not posted, so it wouldn't have mattered if we'd waited all day for her time card.)

We went out for a celebration dinner later that night at Red Robin. As this isn't somewhere we regularly go anymore, and well...yeah, you know how many calories and how much fat is in one of those massive burger-and-fry plates...we decided to walk our river trail after dinner to check out the mama owl and her babies. After finding the nest (and, so cool...the mama owl stared RIGHT AT US as we walked underneath-guess she didn't like the look of us), we started heading back up the trail on a very nice, cool, but comfortable evening. The skies were overcast, but nothing was falling from them.

Well, that didn't last long. We heard this bizarre noise coming from a distance but moving closer-it was a combination between rain and a freight train. Right around this time I felt a sharp pain to my head, realized that a quarter size chunk of hail had hit me, and heard the sound roaring closer-WELL away from the parking area, no shelter in sight.

I hollered at my husband, who had our youngest up on his shoulders, to take her down immediately, protect her head, and RUN, and I was pleased to see that my big girls, as surburban an existence they lead, do in fact have some survival and crisis management skills. They had both heard the sounds and had already pulled their sweatshirts over their heads with hands on top, and had bolted at breakneck speed down the trail, where my husband soon caught up with them, already standing under the awning at Blockbuster by the trailhead.

I was further back with our son, and I didn't try to get him to run all the way to the trailhead, or scoop him up and move very slowly while we got pelted. We took a different path off the main trail to get to a closer business-a PT clinic without an awning, but that did have a small amount of roof overhang to protect us. He was naturally a little freaked out at first, and asked where Daddy and the sisters had gone, thinking that Daddy was leaving us to die or something.

Once I explained that Daddy would come back with the car to get us, though, and that we could just hide under the roof watching the ice chunks fall from the sky, he went totally dude on me, turning to watch the ice, telling me how awesome it was that hard iceballs were falling and making loud crashing sounds. This gave way to a brief science lesson during which I fumbled through "Our Friend, Hail" and tried to explain what it was and what causes it. Thank goodness their were no meteorologists nearby to hear me garble the explanation, and thank goodness five-year-olds just don't know or care if Mom gets it entirely right anyway.

There was also a gorgeous rainbow that appeared just before my husband came down the road with the car. I had a pretty good sized knot on my head, and everyone was sopping wet, but overall we were no worse for the wear. We tried to act like it was nothing, and not a big deal so it wouldn't freak out the kids, but I think this is now the new gold standard for excitement on family walks. From now on, we'll have to bring along bike helmets and hard hats.