Sunday, June 26, 2011

Will suffer for hardware

Short races are very, very painful.

5k's, 3 Milers, 4 Milers, 1 Milers - they all hurt like hell. The process of quickly achieving an anaerobic state and then trying to hold onto it for several minutes makes me question my sanity every time I do it. For a 5k or 3 mile race, the thought process generally goes something like this:

Mile 1: Wheeeeee! This is fun! I feel like I'm flying!
Mile 2: OMG, I'm not even halfway through this race and I am fighting for air! Why am I doing this??? And where has all the oxygen gone???
Mile 3: I really want to puke!

So why do I continue to put myself through the torture of short races? Well, aside from the fact that they help make me a faster runner, I also have a serious trophy/medal hoarding problem. I haven't hoarded very many, mind you. But they're so shiny and pretty, I just want them all. And so I tend to carefully select races where I actually stand a chance of getting an age group award. And when I see a display like this...

Look at all the shiny trophies!!!! OOoooOOOoooo... makes me run that much harder. I am willing to suffer for hardware.

In yesterday's Lincoln-Douglas 3 Mile Race, it was even more imperative that I win a trophy because last year I actually won my age group in this very race. I needed to defend my title!

I thought about all the mistakes I made in last year's race, the biggest one being the fact that I started out way too fast. This is a common problem for me in short races. I am pretty good at pacing over long distances, but when it comes to short distances, I shoot out of the gates at lightning speed... and then I die.

So after a quick 1.5-mile warm-up jog, I lined up at the start line, fully intent on reigning in my pace for the first mile.

Well, at least my intentions were good...

The race started and off I went at what felt like a pretty slow pace. I was worried that I was actually running too slow. I rarely look at my Garmin during races (which is a habit I should probably break if I want to get better at pacing) so I really didn't know what my pace actually was. I just felt slow.

But then I passed the 1 mile mark and the nice man with the stopwatch called out "7:10!"

Wait... What??? 7:10 is my Main Street Mile time! I had just ran my 1 mile PR in the first mile of a 3 mile race. This was not good. Not good at all.

After that, it was a slow and painful death all the way to the finish line. It didn't help that the race was downhill for the first half and uphill for the 2nd half. The only thing that kept me going was the fact that I was actually passing other runners in the last two miles. I wanted so badly to stop and lie down in a cornfield, but as I slowly picked off other runners, I felt small bursts of energy that drove me home. And in the last tenth of a mile, I saw an angel from heaven: Kris Stash (yes, one of the Stashes for whom the Stashies are named), was cheering for me. I gave it everything I had (which wasn't much at that point) and finished strong. And without puking!

According to my not-entirely-accurate Garmin, my 2nd mile was a 7:36 pace, and my 3rd mile was 7:56. Talk about losing steam! It was pretty much a repeat of last year's race (where my splits were 7:31, 8:08 and 8:36), just at a faster pace. Apparently I'm a slow learner. But hey, at least I'm a faster runner!

And the good news is that I still managed a very nice PR. Last year, I finished in 24:43 (8:14 pace), which was somehow good enough to earn me a 1st place age group trophy. This year, I finished in 23:06 (7:42 pace). I was very happy with this time... but would it be good enough to defend my 1st place title in the 30-34 age group?

As it turns out... no.

The competition in this year's race was pretty stiff across the board. There were more runners in general, and a lot of them were fast.

For the first time ever, this race was chip-timed, which meant the results were posted very quickly. So even before the awards ceremony, I knew I had placed 2nd in my age group. Disappointing? A teeny bit.

But you know what? 2nd place gets a trophy too!

I was so far behind the 1st place woman in my age group (who ran at a 7:05 pace), that I didn't even stand a chance of winning 1st. Like I said, the competition this year was pretty stiff. So I was pretty darn happy to win a 2nd place trophy.

And what's more, my good friend and fellow FASTie/Stashie, Louisa, won 1st in her age group!

Louisa and I showing off our new hardware

So maybe I didn't run the best race in terms of even pacing, and I didn't exactly defend my title... but all things considered, this was a successful race. I ran a new PR, I still won a trophy, and most importantly, I got to celebrate victories with my runner friends. Louisa won her age group, Jim ran his best race so far this year after coming back from injury, Caleb was 3rd place overall, and Bill ran strong in the 8 Mile race. It was a very good day.

Winning a shiny trophy was just icing on the proverbial cake.

Mmmm... cake...

Peace. Love. Train.

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