Friday, June 18, 2010

Red Rooster Ramble #13

(Results) Almost as soon as the MDI YMCA 10k ended on Saturday, I wanted another chance. I had let my focus and mental toughness lapse, and I was not happy about it. So I was eager to avenge this at another race.

While I was in Maine for two weeks, a super-fast Brown runner (Lauren) ran the Red Rooster Ramble and beat my course record. As loyal readers will recall, my course-record-setting run was not intended to be anything special; I was just trying to run under 31 minutes. However, last week Lauren showed up and ran 30:45 and beat my time, so this week was a good occasion for me to run hard, focus, exercise my mental toughness, and try to take back the course record, for whatever that's worth.

I asked Haynes if he would run with me, and he agreed to do so as the first 30 minutes of a 40-minute tempo run. He even brought his Garmin watch to keep us on pace! Our goal was 6:06 pace with a goal time of 30:30, just to be safe.

We had agreed not to go out too fast, and during the first mile Haynes kept checking his watch to make sure we were on pace. Eric was running with us, and Haynes told him that I was trying to break the course record. Eric had run with Lauren last week when she broke it, so he thought that was cool. We went through the mile in 6:02, a perfect time. I like to go out just a little under my goal pace, so that I know I can do it.

During the second mile, a guy in Vibrams passed our little group of three and eventually put about a 30-meter gap on us. At one point, Eric said, "he's slowing down; you've got him!" but I did not see him slowing down and I never got closer to him. We passed two miles in 12:08 for a 6:06 second mile, right on pace. Now it was starting to get hard, so I just thought about the turn at 2.5 miles and said, just run on pace until that point. We got to 2.5 miles on Haynes' watch and he reported a 3:04 half mile. Fine by me. We made the turn onto the busier road and I opted for the sidewalk, as we were making a gradual left turn. I don't know which is better; the sidewalk is shorter but it goes up and down at each driveway. I focused on just getting to 3 miles on pace.

This we did. Haynes reported a 2:57 (!) half mile, as we passed 3 miles in 18:11. This was 11 seconds faster than I had passed 3 miles in last weekend's 10k, but that one involved hills and this one did not. When Haynes announced the time, Eric said, "that's way faster than last week -- you've got it!" and accelerated away to try to catch the kid in Vibrams. In reality, of course, simply making it to 3 miles in a good time did not guarantee that I would make it to 5 miles in a good time!

The fourth mile was rough. My legs were hurting, and several times I realized I was taking longer, slower strides. This makes me feel slow and also slows down my breathing. Each time, I consciously increased my stride rate, taking faster though shorter strides, and accelerated until I was on Haynes' shoulder again. We made it to 4 miles in 24:22 -- five seconds faster than the flat 4-mile race I ran in May. I had thought I was struggling and running slowly, so I was pleased that the damage was only a 6:11. Not that bad.

The last mile was rough. The battle was between the part of me that said, "look how hard I'm breathing! look how much my legs hurt! I must be working as hard as possible; I can't go any faster!" and the part that said, "quicken the strides, smooth out the form, go faster, faster, faster..." With half a mile to go, Haynes took off in pursuit of Eric and the kid in Vibrams.

I checked my watch at the "1/4" spray-painted on the pavement and it said 29:00. I was confused. Huh? It took a few seconds for me to realize, okay, 90 seconds for a quarter and I'd come in at 30:30. I kicked... Alan was running back along the course towards me, saying something about "it's okay, Diana" and "only 10 seconds left." I was confused again -- was it impossible for me to hit the time, and he was just saying that it's okay if I don't break the record? It seems like more than 10 seconds between me and the finish line! Huh?

I saw 30:31 as I crossed. I'd done it! My official time was 30:32. Whew. Alan had been telling me that I was going to be 10 seconds under the record. After I crossed the line, I held on to the fence for support. Apparently, I was shaking (I don't remember this). I tried to walk away, and ended up staggering around like a drunk person. So I attempted to sit on the ground, which ended up in me sprawled awkwardly on the grass, so I just rolled onto my back and lay there with my eyes closed. Some old guy came up. "Does she have asthma?" he asked. "No, I have the spins," I replied, because the dots on my eyelids were spinning in circles. Eventually I sat up and sat on a rock. This whole process took about five minutes until I was confident in my ability to walk to the water table without embarrassing myself. Bear in mind, I have never done anything other than walk away from the race. Such theatrics are a first for me -- and it was not theatrics! After the five minutes of laying on the ground and sitting, my hamstrings and calves had contracted and now they were very tight. I did the first quarter mile of the cool-down in nearly 2:30!

This time of 30:32 is only 16 seconds off of my PR, set at the 5-mile mark of the Tufts 10k (30:16). It is my PR for a 5-mile race. I am quite happy with it. I ran 33 miles in the three days before the race, which may account for my difficulty walking away from the race afterwards. Tactics-wise, it would have been wiser to run every RRR in 32 minutes until Lauren starts training with the team in the fall, and then sneak in and nab the course record back. But I feel like this is something I needed to do, to convince myself that I have the mental toughness necessary for racing.


(Results) The day started nicely, with my nephew and niece sweeping the kids' 1-mile fun run after less than two weeks of running training! My nephew was first overall in 6:56 and my niece was fourth overall and first girl in 7:37. After a start like that, I was of course expected to continue the family winning tradition and take home the 10k win. I looked around and there didn't seem to be any fast-looking females. Then I got to the starting line, and there was a woman in a black sports bra and shorts with an extremely well-defined vertical line down her abs. Huh. This could be a problem. You can see us in this picture:

The first 3.5 miles of the course were out and back on a street in Bar Harbor which involved going up a hill and down the other side, then turning around and doing it again. This woman (Elizabeth) and I passed the miles right on each other's shoulders in 6:08, 12:13 and 18:22. Fast times, despite the hills. We came back past the start/finish lines and I made the mistake of taking a cup of water (it was humid out). Elizabeth got about 10 meters on me.

At that point, I gave in to the demons that tell me it would be so much easier if I just slowed down. I slowed down to about 6:30 pace and watched Elizabeth run away. Around mile 5 or so, a man passed me. In the final stretch, I nearly outkicked him, but he kicked and held me off (see photo below). In the end, Elizabeth ran 38:04 to my 38:59. It turns out that she is a well-known local runner, and she told all her colleagues and friends that she would be running, which explains all the people cheering for her on the sidewalks with posters.

Funny story about the sprint finish: Two days before, as we were finishing our 3/4-mile training run, my nephew sprinted for the end. I accelerated and hung on his shoulder, matching his pace from just behind him. After we finished and slowed down, he asked me if I was running my fastest. I thought for a moment -- should I lie, to boost his ego? "No," I said, "but remember, I've practiced a lot." The next day, as we were walking along the beach, he asked to race me. "Sorry," I said, "but I have a race tomorrow. I'll race you right after I finish." As I was sprinting for the finish in the 10k, out of the corner of my eye I saw my nephew racing me on the sidewalk. I kicked hard and outran him. I think this was the best possible way to do it, because I didn't have to out-sprint him in a one-on-one race and make him feel bad, and yet he got to race me on his own terms.

I was very unhappy with my giving up halfway through, and I decided to avenge my poor performance in the Red Rooster Ramble five days later. This picture basically sums up my feelings about my performance relative to Elizabeth's: