Thursday, July 30, 2009

Maudslay 3-miler

Note: This entry is retro-posted.

July 30 was a hot evening as we headed over to Maudslay. It was so hot that we only did a 9-minute warm up. Alan and I were both going for the W. We stood around for a few minutes stretching and watching people accumulate, and soon there was the call to go to the starting line. I was planning to run with whatever other female took it out in the lead.

At the sound of "go," a high school-looking girl took it out hard -- too hard, I thought. I waited about 100 meters, almost to the bottom of the downhill, then passed her. The funny thing was that Alan and the fastest guys were in one pack up ahead, and then I was leading this next pack. So it went, me and my merry band down the hill, over the bridge and up the next hill. A little boy (young high school or old middle school) was soon breathing down my neck. He breathed funny, in through his nose every breath. (I used to do this until I went to running camp the summer before eighth grade and they told us how much more air you get through your mouth.) He hung on right next to me. "Hello," I said, and he looked surprised. "Hi," he said, and kept breathing through his nose.

At 1.5 miles the little boys turned right to head to their finish line, and I headed to the left for the rest of the loop. I took a glance behind me and was shocked to see a high school girl and her coach right there behind me! Darn it. I surged around a corner and couldn't hear them any more. Fine. A little while later I heard the coach talking to her, closer than I had hoped. I sneaked another glance. They were still closer than I liked. I threw in another surge and told myself I would not look back again.

The rest of the race was solitary. I spied a guy up ahead, who must have fallen off of the front pack, but the gap between us did not change from the time I spotted him to the end of the race. I ran hard up the final hill and kicked to the end. I finished in 20:45, a 45-second improvement over last summer. The next female was about 90 seconds behind me. I immediately met Alan and we ran 7 minutes back to the car and jumped in, so as to make it back to the dining hall before it closed at 7:00.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Stratham Fair Road Race

Note: This entry is retro-posted.

The morning was warm and sunny. Alan and I were both going for the W in this odd distance 5.7-mile race. We had looked at results from the previous five years, and we both thought we could win. Alan thought he could take the top two men from last year, and I thought I could beat the women's winning times from the past five years. We registered but did not get any T-shirts because it was race day. Too bad. Only $12, though, a bargain.

We warmed up with four of the top contender men. Alan knew all of them. We spotted two college-age girls wearing Team USA sports bras and boyshorts-type bunners. Kind of intimidating. They looked like triathletes (because of the bathing suit-like uniforms) on the roads to bag a win. Not confidence-inducing. We went to the starting line and Eric pointed out a woman who was really fast, with a recent 3:14 marathon. "Stay with her," he said, "and you'll be fine."

The gun went off and we headed down the road. The fast lady, in blue, and one of the USA women took it out ahead of me. Eric passed me a little before the mile mark. I went through the mile in 6:06 with the other two women well ahead, probably 5:56. I was happy to know that it wasn't due to slowness on my part that they were so far ahead! I tried to keep an eye on them but they extended the gap. Fine, the awards went three people deep, no problem. I would just keep up my steady fast pace in case someone came up behind me or one of the two ahead came back to me.

Then, a little before two miles, I saw the USA girl! I reeled her in slowly and was so focused that I missed the mile mark (I asked a guy later, who was nearby at this point, and he said we went through in about 12:30). When I passed her, I said hi and kept going. Didn't look back. I could hear her for a little while, and then that was it, couldn't hear anyone behind me.

I focused on the men ahead. There was an older guy who had been about 50 meters ahead of me the whole time. The faster lady in blue was far ahead, but when we were on straight roads I could always see her up there. There was also this other guy who had been near me, and who had passed the USA girl first, letting me know that I could, too. We went through three miles in a little over 19 minutes, no problem. Kept the speed up. Went through four miles in something like 25:40. Not ideal, but certainly acceptable.

One nice aspect was passing the relay point at 2.8 miles. There were dozens of people waiting there for their relay partner to arrive. I had to run twice as far, and I was ahead of all of their partners! Kind of invigorating.

I had been resisting looking back, but just after four miles we turned back onto the main road for the long straight run back to Stratham Hill Park and the start/finish line. So after I had run on the road for about 100 meters, I glanced back to see where the girl was. Oh no, she was right behind me -- maybe 20 feet back! I thought I had lost her, but she had been there the whole time. Ahead of me I could see the fast lady in blue, far ahead but still within sight.

The road was quite hilly, three significant hills in succession between me and the finish line. I needed to drop her, so I turned on the speed and surged up the first one. I was approaching a guy who had been ahead of me the whole time. On the second hill I caught him and planned to just stick right with him and use him to pace me faster than I had been running, but I felt myself slipping past him and decided to go with it. I left him behind. At the top of the third hill I glanced back again and I had over 50 meters on the girl. Whew. The road flattened out and I imagined I could almost see the entrance to the park and finish line.

I got to five miles in 32:21 -- a PR (previous 32:33 at Red Rooster #3). People on the side of the road shouted confusing things like "a quarter of a mile to go!" and "you're the third female, good job!" I could swear I was the second female. (There was a female on a mixed relay ahead of me -- the male had run first and given her a lead, and she had run fast enough not to lose it.) Finally the finish line appeared and I started to kick. The man I had passed on the hill kicked harder and passed me, but I did manage to pass an older guy just before the line.

In the end, I got second in 36:04, with the first-place female a minute ahead and third place 30 seconds behind. I nipped the 60-and-over male winner at the line. The third-place female has a 2:14 800 in Division I, but no idea what she's doing in a USA uniform. Alan was fourth, having led the race for the first half. This is the first time I have placed higher in a race than him (except when he dropped out of Boston and I finished).

For prizes, we both won $50 to 11 Water St -- me for 2nd overall and Alan for first in his age group. It is our favorite restaurant, so that's lucky. I also won the raffle prize for two Red Sox tickets, a $430 value. We will go to the game later in the summer. Finally, the race director was asking trivia questions, and I correctly answered "Lynn Jennings," so I won a collapsible cooler.

I was initially mad because he asked "who was the first American finisher in this year's Boston Marathon?" and I correctly answered Kara Goucher, but he didn't take that and instead gave the prize to someone who answered Ryan Hall. Excuse me, did you watch the thing? The elite women start before the men. They finish before the men. Kara Goucher finished at least five minutes before Ryan Hall did. I was protesting this glaring case of male chauvinism but Alan would not let me say anything to the guy because he said it was too geeky. Luckily, I answered "Lynn Jennings" and got a cooler a few minutes later, which placated me somewhat. So, I got $50, two Red Sox tickets, and a cooler, plus a 5-mile and 5.7-mile PR.

Full results.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Stonington Six

Note: This entry is retro-posted.

Alan and I went to Stonington both looking for the W. I was eager to avenge my third-place finish last year and finally win the 10k version of my hometown race, of which I had won the fun run four years in a row when I was younger. The whole family was running either the 10k or the fun run. Quite an event.

We signed up and got our race numbers. Alan and I did a warm-up backwards on the course. I was distressed to see two other women, one masters-looking and very thin, another normal-looking, also doing strides on the starting line. There were also some skinny men. We lined up and I wished Scott and Karen a good race.

When the gun went off, lots of kids predictably sprinted to the front. Alan took it out hard, as was his plan, and I could see him with a growing lead on the rest of the field. There was another woman close behind me. Darn. As we turned onto Rt 15 she was right there. This was not in the plan. She said hi as she passed me, and I said hi and passed her back. We probably went through the mile in about six minutes.

When we got to the point where the fun run turns off, I was gratified to see that not a single fun-runner was ahead of me. They were running 1.4, I was running 6.2, and still they were not faster. (The winner of the fun run lives next to us and is a male sophomore in college, and his brother was a few places behind.)

The woman passed me on Main Street and I had to let her go. By 1.5 miles she was quite a bit ahead. I got to two miles in 12:30 and was happy that it was not due to my slowness that she was ahead of me. I focused on the men around me. At about 2.5 miles we went up a hill and a guy passed me. "This is the last hill, right?" he asked. In my race-foggy brain state, I couldn't remember exactly from the previous year, but I recalled a very hilly course. "Uh, yeah." What the heck? It was only the first of many.

The middle miles were not very exciting. Mostly I passed walkers (they started 30 minutes before). At one point I was thrilled to see the bright red and pink of the first female ahead of me, but it turned out it was only a walker. At five miles, I realized I was going to have a big 10k PR. When I made the sharp left turn back onto Cemetery Road, I glanced back. There was no one behind me that I could see. The rest was going to have to be all in my head; I would have to push myself; there was no one to do it for me. I ran up the last short hill on Rt 15 and then saw Alan just before the six-mile mark. My time at 6 was right around 39 minutes, so I burned down the final hill and into the finish line.

40:36, a significant PR over 41:59, which I set on the track in my senior year of college. This time would have won last year's Stonington Six by 2.5 minutes. In fact, this year I was 3.5 minutes ahead of the next female. Unfortunately, Susannah Beck had shown up at my hometown race and had run 37:15, good for fourth overall. 2009 50-mile trail champion, fourth in the 2000 Olympic marathon trials, second American at Boston 2002... sometimes you just can't control who shows up.

Alan won his race despite vomiting at the top of the last hill. We each won a six-pack of Poland Springs water, plus a cooler (Alan) and a tote bag (me). Then we watched the parade.

Full results (PDF).