Life has been busy since I last wrote and included a two-week trip to Ohio, a 5k PR attempt there, the Ragnar Madison-to-Chicago 200 mile relay, potty training (!) A and finding autumn daycare for her so I can teach, and, coming up, a 15k race in Rockford, wherein I really truly hope I can best my only other 15k appearance that I had when I was about… oh, 16 weeks pregnant.
I haven’t been blogging much because, while I have still been running and have been keeping at least a thirty mile/week base, I feel at a loss for words. Right now, running is more about just pure running and not PR-chasing, despite that 5k attempt (I’ll elaborate in a second) and this upcoming weekend’s 15k. It has been refreshing to just run whenever, at whatever distance, I want, and not really mind the clock too much. I’ve also been thinking a lot about “the grand scheme of things” in life and how I spend my time–no doubt influenced by Traci’s mother’s recent passing–and how running affects me, not just in terms of performance but also in terms of… being a (better) human, I guess. That might warrant its own post.
Anyway, my 5k attempt on Memorial Day. In the month following Eugene, I had eased back into running, inching toward a 30 mpw base, entirely in the absence of speedwork. I figured I wasn’t going to lose my speed overnight, but I also didn’t want to re-introduce that high-volume, high-intensity goodness to my bodily systems so quickly post-race-of-a-lifetime, figuring that I still might have some internal “whatever” going on (scientific, I know) that necessitated taking it easy… even if I had felt fine.
Initially, in the weeks prior to the 5k, I was gung-ho about shooting for a big PR–sub 20, for the first time ever–but in the remaining days pre-race, I felt pretty certain that a sub-20 wasn’t going to be feasible: not because it’s an unreasonable goal for me, just that I can’t pull that outta thin air when I’ve got marathon fitness in me right now. However, I felt pretty certain that a regular, old-fashioned PR (20:31) would be attainable, based solely on the fact that I had set that 5k PR two weeks post-2012 marathon PR (3:34), and I figured a month after an even bigger PR in Eugene would surely mean a “significant” 5k PR was in the bag.
Funny how things work out.
I’ve had, let’s call them “interesting,” experiences with races in Ohio, with the exception of the Akron Marathon (which I highly, highly, highly recommend). Any other Ohio-based race I’ve done is idiosyncratically weird. To wit: I’ve done races there that either don’t have timing chips at all (ok, old fashioned, but ok) or even one race that gave everyone actual timing devices (the plastic tags that you affixed to your shoe and returned post-race… this was 2008) but only laid out a timing mat at the finish line, essentially making the chip worthless because your finish time would still be based on the gun/clock time. This year’s 5k didn’t have any timing devices at all, so it behooved me/any other runner wanting to get an accurate clock time to line up as close as possible to the front.
However, this 5k’s idiosyncratic factor was that it was sex-separated. In other words, when I started to race, I was surrounded by no one else but my sisters in sport, with the dudes hanging out on the sidelines, cheering, and waiting for their turn at the race (on the same course) that’d begin about 45 minutes later. I later learned that women could elect to run with the guys but that doing so would negate their possibility of securing an age-group or overall award. (And when I watched the fellas run after my race, I only spotted about 4 or 5 women in the entire men’s race. I guess most of the ladies opted to run together). I’m not quite sure what the purpose was to separate the race by sexes, but hey… whatever. I told you, Ohio is weird with its road races, in my experiences.
So my race? Well, I lined up right at the front, next to a woman I knew would be super fast (I totally sized her up… call me judgemental, but really, she had that “fast” look), and my intuition wasn’t wrong. I hung with her for about the first few strides before she took off like the RoadRunner. Out of the gate, I was third or fourth woman for about the first 800m before the lead four women separated from me and gave me no chance to catch up–my thinking was that, based on how they looked when they were running (again, sizing them up), they’d fare sub-20 easily, if not closer to low 19s/18s. I was comfortable with my fifth-place spot, and I knew that the next woman behind me was at least a few seconds away, based on where I saw her on an out-and-back around mile 1 and 1.25.
The entirety of the course wound through a residential area in Tallmadge, over some undulating, this-is-what-you-should-expect-when-you-race-in-northeast-Ohio hills (that I had forgotten about.. d’oh. Haven’t raced there since Thanksgiving!). Though the weather was perfect for racing, I was beginning to feel spent pretty early on and just tried to hang on and not go over 21 minutes; I thought I could still pull off a PR, if only by a few seconds.
Then came the hill around mile 2.25.
I wasn’t expecting this guy, even though I had looked at the course map (which really, who am I kidding? I don’t live there, how would I know from looking at an elevation-less map where significant hills are hiding?!), so when I rounded left on the corner and saw that there was a healthy incline separating me from the main road that’d get me back to the finish line, I’m pretty sure I dropped a colorful “you’ve gotta be kidding me” thought. In retrospect, I’m pretty sure I lost my PR on this hill, because once I cleared it and rode over the few undulations left between 2.5 and the finish line, I came in right at 20:40, just 9 seconds off my flat, Chicago-based PR.
I haven’t dwelled too much on not hitting any of my goals for this 5k because I’ve changed perspectives on it. If anything, without sounding like a total ass here, that I CAN run within 9 seconds of my Chicago-based PR on a hilly Ohio course makes me feel fairly confident that I could re-run, if not reset, that Chicago 5k PR back here. My only disappointment is that I’m not planning to run another 5k this year, so this was my only chance at it. C’est la vie. I prefer the long ones, anyway
At the end of the day, my 20:41 was enough to net me with a fifth place overall and an AG win, an AG which I’ll soon be leaving coming November 4, so I’ll take it while I can. I also hung around the race to pick-up my awards: a gift card for a sporting goods store in Ohio, a super sparkly headband that looks like it is laced with silver Christmas tinsel, and a gift certificate for a salon back home (that I’ve since regifted to my sister). The race swag was also pretty sweet, a lined jacket with the race logo on it that’ll be super for late fall training runs. (That’s another thing about Ohio races; though they’re weird with the timing devices, they’re usually fairly inexpensive, and the swag is often pretty good, in relation to the registration fees). After my race, I walked back to that hill that did me in so I could cheer for the guys as they ascended it, leaving me feeling like I did my good runner deed for the day
My next “real” race is this weekend’s 15k, which I’ll be doing coming fresh off running 21 miles in the Ragnar relay (separate post forthcoming). I haven’t figured out my goals yet for the 15k–only to run faster than I did 16 weeks pregnant–nor have I figured out how to pace/race it yet. My plan now?
What say you? What’s your spring/summer race schedule look like? Have you ever done any races that are just ‘weird,’ in comparison to what you’re used to?