Monday, October 24, 2011

Miles of Memories 5k Run / 5k Walk/ 10k Run

Sponsored by Jersey Shore Hospital.  Held at Nippenose Valley Elementary School
Benefit Susan G Koman Foundation
I entered this race because a friend helped organize it, because it was held in my hometown area, and because my mother died from breast cancer.  I wore a pink t-shirt with a ribbon with Mom's name and 5 more ribbons with names for others who had breast cancer too.  These were for Rose's Aunt Kate, sister Carol, friends Ann and Erna, plus Dorothy the mother of my friend Brenda.  The shirt seemed too feminine for me but it was what I wanted to do to recognize these people.  The design was not so race friendly as I caught my fingers in the ribbon loops a number of times in the race.
The race was a week before the Marine Corps Marathon and I was in the middle of tapering for that race.  I felt I should be able to improve my PR for this distance, but the unknown factor was the unfamiliar and hilly course.  It seemed a 7:15 average pace should be possible.  My friend was in the know on who was signed up and had suggested I could win this race.  That is a strange thought for me and I worried I might end up in front and risk making a wrong turn.
All 3 races started at the same time, but the 10k start was about 50 or so yards ahead of the 5k start. We were all to start on the same signal, going in the same direction.
There were only 17 in the 10k.  One young 20-something guy looked to me like he was the runner to beat.  There were other older guys like me and 6 or 8 ladies.  I started out in the lead group of 4 on a slight downhill.  Just a minute or so into the race I thought the pace seemed pretty easy, "maybe I have a chance to try for a win".  Soon I checked my watch and realized the pace was too fast by about 45 seconds per mile and I dropped back in 4th.  About this time a young runner who I had not seen in our start area caught and passed me.  This runner soon passed all but the favorite I had picked to win.  Now I was in 5th.  So much for winning.
I decided to be patient, run my planned pace, and hope for the typical too fast start and later slow down by some of those ahead of me.  I passed one guy on a hill at about 1.5 miles.  Soon there was a turn where the 5k route split from the the 10k.  The young guy who had passed early in the race took the 5k turn so I was actually in 3rd place.
Maybe 100 yards ahead was the number 2 guy. It looked to me like he was struggling a little on the uphill but making up for it on the downhills.  I finally caught up to him about halfway and ran with him almost a half mile before moving on into 2nd place.  The course had the 5k participants coming the other way on this road so we got to look into their faces for a while.  I briefly saw the number one guy as he seemed almost a half mile ahead.  Soon I came to another uphill section and could not take the shortest line on the curve because the walkers were on that side.  By the top of this hill I was breathing quite loudly but was beyond the 4 mile mark where I wanted to start pushing my pace.  The following downhill let my breathing return to something less desperate.  I tried listening for footsteps hoping no one would come up to challenge me for 2nd.  Eventually the final turn approached and my watch showed 5.68 miles.  If the course was accurate I had just over a half mile to go.
This section was on a somewhat busy road and I was running on the 3 foot wide shoulder facing traffic.  This was retracing the start which meant something of an uphill.  As I neared the top of this section I could see the school and realized the course was long - maybe by a quarter mile.  For now I just kept pushing and was breathing desperately again, seeing a 6:50 something pace when I checked my watch.  Finally I reached the school entrance and the final 50ish yards to the finish line.  I saw some walkers coming the other way making the turn into the same driveway.  Rose was waiting 20 yards before the finish and snapped a picture while I pushed even harder.  Happily I was racing only the clock.
My finish time was 46:44 a little slower than my best at 10k, but my watch showed this course at 6.42 miles, average pace of 7:18. 
I finished about 2 minutes behind the winner and 45 seconds ahead of #3.  I found out the winner is the 24 year old son of one of my high school classmates.
There were probably 75 walkers and maybe 30 5k runners.  I understand they expected to be able to send $1000 from this event for breast cancer research.  Before the race started there was a talk by a local cancer survivor and after the awards a representative of the Komen Foundation spoke.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Wineglass Half Marathon, Corning NY October 2, 2011

Official time 1:37:45, a new PR by about 3:45; my watch showed 1:37:41 and 13.18 miles.
I was able to finish strong, running the last 10k faster than my 10k PR.
Mile splits from my watch: 7:47, 7:38, 7:25, 7:23, 7:32, 7:41, 7:26, 7:29, 7:20, 7:26, 7:23, 7:08, 6:58, 1:06 for last fraction (5:59 pace)
Weather: 41 degrees and rain, light wind mainly from behind.
The long story...
Prerace: I had decided to run in this race because some co-workers were running and it is held in the town where our company was founded. There were 4 from the IT department: running Hari in the marathon; Rudy, Scott, and myself in the half marathon. Scott and Rudy live in the Corning area; Hari and I travelled there together on the day before the race.  Scott had picked up the race packets for Hari and I.  The evening before the race Scott and his wife hosted our group along with Rudy's family and Scott's training partner Lisa for a pasta dinner. It was a real fun time chatting about the race, the cold rainy weather, and of course carb loading.
Hari, Chuck, Scott, Rudy

Race morning we met at the Corning YMCA to carpool to the respective starts, dropping Hari at his then parking at the start point for the half. We got in line for porta potties then went inside a school for shelter from the weather until start time approached. I did my usual stretching then jogged for 5 minutes or so to warm up. In spite of the cold and rain I wore a short sleeve wicking shirt and shorts, but with hat, gloves and wool compression socks in consideration of the weather. That turned out to be about right, except the gloves would have served better if not made of cotton.  This race was 3 weeks after my goal race for the fall - Lehigh Valley Marathon. I had PR'd there and hoped to be recovered for this race for another PR attempt on the same training cycle.

The race: We waited for the race clock to tick down to start time, only to hear the race would be delayed 10 minutes until the marathon start was ready. Both races would share one race clock and finish line. The half marathon course was the second half of the marathon course. I decided to run with the pace group aiming for a 1:40 finish, averaging 7:38 pace. On paper it seemed I should be able to go under 1:40, but running that pace for 13 miles seemed rather daunting. I would guage my condition on the way and adjust later as seemed appropriate. Hopefully that would mean picking up the pace rather than fading or bonking.

As I stood near the pacer for our group, Dick Beardsley moved into the crowd to run the race too. Although he is a famous marathoner, he didn't act like he thought he was someone special. He interacted with others there just like any other runner.

One more countdown and we were off. The first mile felt a bit fast but was actually almost 10 seconds slower than average goal pace. The second mile included the only hill - a modest one - and with the downhill portion we were right on the number for this mile.  By this point I was feeling what might become shin splints on my left side. I had felt the same thing in my easy run the day before, but today I would run with it until it forced me to change.  Within a mile it stopped getting my attention. The pace group had a dozen or so at the start and gradually people dropped off the back. By mile ten it was just the pacer and 2 or 3 others. The course followed country roads between the few small towns we passed through. Almost the whole route was open to traffic with only a row of traffic cones separating runners and cars. Intersections were controlled for us and all turns had someone pointing the way. The spectators were rather sparse but the water table workers were enthusiastic and on the ball to take care of us.
I carried a throwaway 16 oz bottle of my own sport drink so I wouldn't need to hit the first few tables. Many of the tables had kids from about age 8 to 12 handing the cups of drink. Even though it was cold and wet, they were always ready as runners passed by. Whenever I was going to take a cup, I would look ahead and point to the girl whose cup I would take and say "thanks sweetie" as she released the cup. Then pause to walk for a couple steps to swallow before running again to catch the pacer.
The running was actually not dramatic at all through most of my race. I just kept reminding myself to think about the current mile, remember to "run like the wind - strong, smooth, free", and to trust in the Lord to be able to run and not grow weary.  Someone remarked when we were one fourth done, then at halfway, and the pacer announced "just a 10k now". I started thinking I would be ok at this pace and would consider moving to a faster pace for the last 5k. It seemed the pacer was thinking alot the same because our pace was in the 7:20s from halfway on. I wondered about the others he was to be pacing since we were about a minute ahead of goal.
Late in the eleventh mile I moved ahead of the pacer to test myself for the remaining portion. I ran a bit with one college aged guy who had been ahead of our group. He told me that he had raced the before and his coach didn't want him running this pace today. Then we heard footsteps and a lady joined us before going ahead a little. I commented that getting "chicked" is ok when I am running my fastest mile of the race. It's not like I'm fading or anything. Then the guy is telling me there is about a half mile including a bridge to go over and another half mile on Market St to the finish. So, it is now time to step up the pace some more. I go ahead of the guy, get "unchicked" and pass a couple more runners before the turn onto Market, the main downtown street lined with shops, restaurants, and some spectators.
My breathing is heavy now but I can see the finish arch 2 blocks ahead. And today will not be about coasting to the finish once the goal time is safe. So I push to an effort I think I can manage for a distance equal to 2 laps on the track. There were 2 runners ahead of me on this block of Market. I passed the guy who is apparently is fading, but the lady is about 50 yards ahead. I doubted I could catch her, but decided I will push to the finish with all I can.  And I began closing on her. I cross a street to enter the last block of the course and push to a sprint effort (though probably not really sprint pace). As I got about 10 yards from her and 40 or 50 from the finish, a female spectator shouts "race that guy, don't let him pass you!"  The runner kind of turned her head but didn't really change her pace, so I passed her and pushed myself to the finish at last.  And turn off my watch, and kind of choke up over having exceeded my goal.  My watch showed 1:37:41.  A race volunteer hands me water, another asks if I'm ok and points out the medical tent. The Dairy Princess gave me a bottle of chocolate milk; she was even wearing a sash and tiara kind of thing. Someone gives me a foil blanket and points the way to the checked bag pickup and the food areas.
Wow. Tired, happy, really tired.