Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Solstice Run and The Danger of Using Races for Training Runs

First of all, I was a good girl. You'd all have been proud. It was tough, but I stuck to the game plan, barely.

I ran my first race this weekend since baby #3. She's 8 months now. Actually, if you factor in pregnancy and that I'm not a fan of running races in the cold, it's been more like TWO years since I've run in a race (I know! I can't believe it either, but it's true. Time flies.) It was the 10 Mile Run at the Solstice Run. I was a little on the fence about running it because as most of you know, I'm mid marathon training (Marquette, Sept 1st for those of you who don't) and the weekend long run called for 14 miles at an easy pace, not 10 miles at race pace, but I was getting a FREE race entry thanks to Renewal by Andersen of Detroit who's sponsoring A TON of local runners at various races around Metro Detroit this summer (how cool is that? More on that to come in my next post: How to Race for Free. Don't miss that one!). And how do you turn down a free race entry?

So I figured, "eh...what the heck?! I'll run those 4 miles pre-race as a warmup and big ole experienced racer I am, I won't get caught up in the race day adrenaline." (Easier said than done.)

Then my cousin and her husband joined forces with the Renewal by Andersen team too. There'd be people in my race that I KNEW. "No problem! I'm not racing them. I'm just going for a little training run. I won't start with them. It'll be fine."

Then my 3 year old spilled cottage cheese all over my bib. "Surely, these fancy schmancy bib chips have been tested not only to be water proof, but also cheese proof right?"

Then I found out the course was REALLY hilly with, according to the website, a "challenging hill at the 3/4 mile mark" called "The Kona Hill."  You know it's got to be substantial if they've gone on and NAMED it. "I'll just run even slower. Maybe take an extra rest day. No. Big. Deal."

Then I found out the race had a time limit, 12 minute miles at least or you were boarding the paddy wagon to take you back to the finish. "Uh...I can do that on hills. Right?"

Then race morning I lost my running sunglasses (don't worry. I found that right where I put them, on the floor underneath my computer desk. Where else would you put sunglasses?) "NOOOOOOOO!!! I guess I'll just squint." (Thanks RunNana for loaners).

AND since I was wasting time trying to find them I was late getting out the door, which meant I was late to the race and didn't get those 4 miles in pre-event. "Pssssht. Whatever. I'll just do it after."

Are you sensing the problem yet?

When I got to the race with precious little time to spare, I just went on the hunt to find Brandon, the head hauncho and brains behind the idea to sponsor runners,  to collect my Renewal shirt and snap a few pre-race photos with the rest of the team. Then we all watched the start of the 10K which my mom was running (missed her. She's a  quiet sneaky little runner) and the excitement was beginning to mount. I could feel those butterflies fluttering like crazy. It had after all, been a looooong time since I'd run a race. Just a few minutes after the 10Kers passed, the 10 milers started lining up.  I headed to the back of the pack, as far back as I could possibly go. No way was I gonna let that inner competitor even start to peek out. Much like when The Little Miss & I are in a head to head Angry Birds match up on my phone, there was no place for her at that race. Just. A. Training. Run. In the back, I couldn't get caught up with the fasties and be forced out of my game plan right from the start. The goal was 10:30ish minute miles, no slower than 1:50, no faster than 1:40. We were off and running around that cinder dirt track before I knew it. The butterflies were still not quite in formation, but they'd get there eventually.

By mile 3, I figured that "no faster than 1:40" was NOT going to be a problem AT ALL. That Kona Hill, yeah it was a challenging hill, but I really couldn't tell why they singled out THAT ONE hill to make a big deal about, because there were a WHOLE BUNCH of them. In fact, they were pretty much one right after the other. My hill training, is sorely lacking. (Note to self: run more hills). The paddy wagon, at that point, seemed much more of a reality than the finisher's medal to be perfectly honest. "These hills are gonna OWN me," I thought. But rather than just give up (remember, I'm a pass out or puke before I'd quit sort of runner). I decided to come up with a strategy. So instead of wallowing in the misery of the 7 hilly miles I had left, I started running hill to hill.

Now, I'm no fan of running uphill (who is?), but I truly love downhill running. "Just get up this hill" became the mantra, then I'd breeze down the back side. A mile later, my legs were finally warmed up and I had found my groove, running a pretty steady 10:15. Still the uphills were tough, but I was actually having a lot of fun running those hills. It is AMAZING how time flies when your course isn't boring and flat as a package of hamburger buns when my 3 year accidentally gets a hold of them. Before I knew it, I was on the last mile headed through downtown, and ok...I might have gotten a little pumped with the music and the spectators and the downhill to the finish, so don't tell anybody, but I did let that last mile fly a little.

I crossed the finish in 1:41:47. Yes, within the game plan, but considering the course (and the sore shins, quads, and right achilles today), the coach in me thinks it may have been a tad on the quick side. I probably would have done better to stick a little closer to the 1:50 end of the spectrum. But therein lies the danger of using races as training runs, it's really really REALLY ridiculously hard to keep yourself in check and not get swept up into all that is race day, at least in my case. The problem is they're just so stinkin' fun, what are ya gonna do? Especially when you get to do it for free AND get a really cool shirt. Ahh...C'est la vie!

I'll tell you this much though. I. AM. BACK!

'Til next time...

P.S. My cousin and her husband did GREAT! I do believe the runners in them have been officially awoken and I'm excited about seeing them at more races in the future. RunNana was also trying to take it easy, she's been battling a bit of a bum knee lately, but I think she's finally on the road back. RunPapa ran too, the 5K and PR'd by 5 minutes!

P.P.S. I almost forgot! For the record, I DID run those additional 4 miles about 45 minutes or so after the finish. Although, I'd had my fill of hills so I opted for a flat treadmill. I'm not a silly fool. Silly maybe. Fool not so much.

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