Monday, May 9, 2011
Mama Told Me Not To Come: The Mothers Day Mile Race Report
Or, to get with the theme of "Friends" episode titles, "The One With a Race Report That Takes Longer To Read Than It Does To Run The Race."
Being primarily a long distance runner, and someone who started running seriously four years ago with no high school track experience, paying money to run a mile race probably seems like it wouldn't be my first choice of weekend plans. When the race is a good ninety minutes from my home, too, it just doesn't appear on paper to be something an endurance runner would choose to attend. Part of the appeal, though, when I ran the Mother's Day Mile in Glenwood Springs last year for the first time was that it WAS a foreign and unfamiliar distance, and a chance to get out of my comfort zone. I'd never raced a mile, and I could just experiment with the distance with no rules since it wasn't my main running focus anyway. It was also a totally family friendly event last year, with waves for kids, and awards for speediest Mom, Grandma, and Great-Grandma. Top it off with pie at the end and a general vibe of your small town carnival, and it was a no-brainer to make the return trip this year.
Glenwood Springs was actually my original stomping ground when I moved to Colorado in 1997. My first place of residence in the Roaring Fork Valley was a basement apartment in a totally sketchy building where Doc Holliday is purported to have died. By the time I lived there, though, I would refer to it as The Worst Apartment in Glenwood, a takeoff from that Worst Toilet scene in the movie Trainspotting. Still, it was a nice jumping-off point in my now 14-year Colorado experience, and it's comical to think back to the days of living there with unemployed trustafarian kids laying on the grass doing their daily wake-and-bake as I headed off to work. While it may just seem like a tourist trap downvalley from Aspen and Snowmass, Glenwood Springs has ton of interesting history, and a nice small-town feel. There are lots of neat places to explore in the area, and some cool commercial tourist operations like the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool (really great in the winter), and multiple white water rafting companies.
Driving over to the race, I was totally lacking any bit of racey energy. Upon returning from the dance convention I attended with my kids the prior weekend, I had some icky bug overtake my system, with the sore throat, sore neck glands, and that Human Snot Machine thing going on. I'd done some cross-training on Saturday when I felt a little better that I would usually enjoy, but for whatever reason I felt all discombobulated and drained. Throw in a crummy night of sleep, and feeling yucky during my warmup, and I more or less resigned myself to just enjoying myself and fun running. My friend Suzanne, five months pregnant with her first child and actually there to fun run it, assured me that the racing instinct would kick in the second the gun sounded. I wasn't so sure, though. There was no kick in the legs, and the breathing just wasn't right from being sick.
I watched my three younger kids in the 10 and under wave before my turn came up, which was cool. There was some excitement at the start of this race, with a couple of boys going down right after the start as they tried to avoid colliding with one another. Though it looks a little gnarly here, the kids on the ground and going down were up and running again a split second later.
My 9-year-old daughter is doing Girls on the Run this year at her school, and her season-ending 5K comes up next Saturday. She was stoked to do this mile race as a bit of a tuneup event for that, and was the first kid in my family across the finish in about twelve minutes and change. While I always tell the kids to have fun and avoid any talk of time and pace with them, this was a pretty solid effort for a hilly course at almost 6000 feet on this hot and windy Mother's Day.
Somehow, my oldest daughter and I both missed my 7-year-old son coming in. He was apparently ahead of his middle sister for much of the way but she caught up with him, and I think he finished in around 13 minutes and change. Yep, mother of the year right here. I told him I couldn't get a picture of him because he was just too speedy. If he'd been remotely mad at me for missing his finish, he didn't mind at that point. Next, my youngest, the 4-year-old, made her way in. She's a little peanut of a kid but ran the entire way on her short legs, finishing in about 14 minutes with energy to burn. I was pretty surprised, expecting she'd need to walk some of the big hills on the course.
My wave, men and women 18-39, came up after the teenaged age groups, and I moved into the starting area just behind the front running men, and the woman I recognized as the winner of my age group, overall winner, and Fastest Mom award winner last year. I used to get discouraged at races when I'd see competitors who are a lot faster on the whole, but now I see it as a good thing. It pushes me to actually race, and not just run. I still felt pretty lackluster but told myself I'd go for it as hard as I could. The horn sounded and we were off.
The race starts downhill out of the sponsoring medical center's parking lot and heads out onto a neighborhood road before a short, steep hill climb. From the get-go, I could tell that this was a much faster wave than the 2010 edition of the race. I was already about ten women back in the field with quite a few men out front. My lungs were already burning and feeling that all-out mile pace. I remembered to use what I've learned with POSE running, though, using relaxed compression and lifting to float up the hill while keeping my cadence up. I didn't feel good at all, but I did pass a runner or two moving up that first hill without being passed by anyone else. Good...even though I felt like crap I'd done respectably on the first hill.
Next, there was a flat section that was just all about maintaining that rate of turnover, and getting ready for the upcoming small downhill. A lot of people try to hammer the hills and use the downhills to recover, but the good advice I got from a fellow runner to really do the opposite and fly on the downhills has paid off for me in a number of cases. My lungs were really burning by now at this pace but I knew I had to attack the little downhill, and I pushed up that rate of leg turnover as much as I could while still maintaining control and decent form. I passed a few more runners here, and heading uphill to the turnaround I could still see the frontrunning women. Good-I'm not that far out of this. Making my way around the turnaround cone, though, there were other women close behind me. I would need to race my hardest for a shot at the podium or someone else was going to gladly take that spot.
By now my mouth was all weird and clammy from the hard physical effort coupled with not being 100% healthy. Still, I pushed on and reminded myself that it was only a mile. I could suck it up and tolerate the pain for a short time. Looking down at my Garmin for about the first time at .65 miles in, I was surprised to see instantaneous pace was right around a 6:00 mile. Of course, we were on a flat section but this was far better than I'd anticipated based on how I was feeling. It lit a fire under me to fight to move up as many spots as I could. I did have one woman ease past me in this stretch but I also passed two more myself, and a few of the guys.
Soon, I could see the medical center off in the distance, and knew that "what goes down must come up" finish was approaching. I was quickly coming up on a woman with an iPod and earphones, and besides thinking "Why does someone need an iPod for a one mile race?" I also realized that she had NO idea I was coming up behind her. She was cruising along but kind of out to lunch.
Now, as a new racer four years ago, I think a little bit of me thought it was bad or not proper to really race full-out, and figure out how to beat the competition. Now, I get that it's the whole point of racing. She rounded the corner into the medical center parking lot a little wide, and I got right up behind her before sliding in right around the corner. She finally saw me, got out of her autopilot, and then it was just an all-out, haul buns slugfest into the finish. She did wind up winning the battle, finishing about a stride ahead in what looked to be about 6:44 on my Garmin and the official time clock. I was hacking up a lung at this point, but I patted her on the back and managed to utter a "nice finish" between coughing spasms and trying to catch my breath. This wound up being about a 16 second PR and course record from the year before. Go figure....I felt awful going in, and during the entire race. It really does pay to just go into races planning to give it the best effort regardless of how one is feeling going into a race.
This year, they were following USATF rules, and thus the top three male and female finishers were pulled out of each age group for overall awards with no double-dipping in age groups. I knew that all the top times had come from my wave, so I was guaranteed to place in age group, but wasn't sure the position since I didn't know the ages of the other ladies ahead of me, and was not quite sure if I'd finished fifth or sixth overall woman. After a major delay in getting awards started (my only minor complaint about the race, since they don't mail prizes and we had to make the drive back home), they announced my finish time as 6:52 and winner of the 30-39 age group. While it appeared that the chip timing had some problems and was a little off, this still didn't change my overall position. I was surprised and stoked to have the finish placement I did despite never feeling good during the mile.
Last year, the awards were necklaces commissioned through the Imani Workshops in Eldoret, Kenya, which is revenue-generating social enterprise focused on producing high quality crafts by HIV+ artisans in Western Kenya. They also had a booth this year where my older daughters purchased some earrings, and my son picked out a bracelet to "give" to me for Mothers Day. (It wasn't HIS money but it's the sentiment that counts.) This year, the prizes were these beautiful aprons made from traditional fabrics. I loved this because it's just so different, and socially conscious to boot. As it happened, my apron matched what I'd worn to race in perfectly so I threw it on for a photo op.
This was a good way to start the summer racing season and kind of re-lit that fire in the belly to race again at the short distances. It was also cool to watch the kids having fun, wander around, and have that all-important Mother's Day pie. Maybe I won't make it up to Glenwood every year, but it was a nice way to spend "my" day in 2011.