Monday, September 13, 2010

From NR: Three races

I'm three races behind! Well, four races, now, since I started this on Tuesday and have since run another NMTC race. Oops. I feel as though I hardly raced in summer and now all of a sudden I have a ton going on. I suppose it helps that the NMTC Fall Trail Series has started back up . . . So a quick recap of two races and more detail on my 25K!

Fall Festival 10K
So first up - the Fall Festival 10K in Port Wing Labor Day Sunday. Which already seems ages ago! The weather was lovely - it started as a nice, fairly cool day, which was nice. I needed 20 miles for the day, so I started with not quite 2 miles of warmup. Back to the starting line, take off extra clothes and off we go! The first 600 or so is downhill, followed by gradual uphill until about mile 2 that feels pretty evil by the end. I was plugging along fairly well and just when I thought to myself at not quite a mile in, "Hmmm, this is about where Marlo passed me last year," I hear her distinctive steps behind me! And away went Marlo! I spent pretty much all of the race all on my own, which seems to happen a lot to me. However! This time I was able to keep it pushing at nice even 7:15s and finishing as second woman, 11th overall and a course PR of 44:56. I was extremely happy since I tend to have problems pushing the pace when I'm out on my own.

So then I ran one mile loops until awards - fun bobble head runners. And!! I won what I think was the first door prize I've won at a race. Free ice cream cones - yum. Since I was starting to be starving, next up was a shower, lunch, free ice cream, parade watching and then back out a couple hours after the race for the last 8 miles. Good practice for Ragnar, too, right?

This race has been consistantly having shirts that are one of my favorites for the year. Different colors and pretty designs with no ads. This year they went tech on us, a nice dark gray color that you don't see a lot with a very pretty woodsy design and no ads! Another favorite! Now, I'm not one of those people who feel that every race needs to give me a tech shirt. I like my cotton just fine, thank you, and wear them about all the time but a tech shirt is still pretty nice.

Sadly, no pictures since my camera has finally called it quits after going swimming over a year ago. I'm now taking recommendations on digital cameras.

Zapp's Loop, NMTC race
Three days later was Zapp's Loop - my second favorite (well, now it's my favorite since the Hartley race is no more) NMTC race. Though, for some reason, I always have trouble racing at Zapp's. This year, I don't think I ran a step of the race on my own, though - usually I'm all by myself on the back end downhill but there were guys everywhere! Still, it took me until the last couple of miles to start pushing the pace and I ended up coming in just a bit slower than last year. Ah, well still a good time. The water was super high this year, making for extra fun! Zapp's Loop has three river crossings - the first couple you can generally keep dry feet on if you slow down a bit and I usually consider the time lost to slowing to be worth it to keep my feet lighter for a bit. Definitely not an option this year, though! So I plowed through all the crossings, with guys right in front and behind, hoping I wouldn't twist something horribly since you couldn't really see the bottom at all and I didn't want to slow up and get passed. I'm happy to report no twisted anything. I did almost kill Randy, though! He kept slowing down on downhills (or maybe I kept speeding up on downhills?) so I tried to blow around him on a bridge. Except I didn't warn him that I was passing so we almost collided which would have been very bad for both of us. Bad single track etiquette, Sam! Luckily, we were both okay.

City of Lakes 25K
Next up was the City of Lakes 25K on Sunday down in Minneapolis - twice around Lake Harriet and Calhoun on the roads. Now, I'd run around the lakes before in college but only on the running paths where there are no hills so that's what I was expecting - a nice flat course. Luckily, my sister and I headed out to Lake Harriet on Saturday just for the heck of it where I remembered that the race was on the roads and thus, there would in fact be hills. Now, there's absolutely nothing large on the course, but it was nice to know ahead of time that some uphill would be happening. It actually ended up being pretty nice to have some hill just to switch up the muscles being used so that was good. However, it's the uphill that my knee dislikes most when it starts acting up lately so that ended up being a slight problem.

I had the goal of breaking 2 hours but mostly this was to be an indicator of whether I should be running Whistlestop or not. I wanted to know if my fitness was where I wanted and I wanted to see how my knee was doing. The race starts at the southwest end of Lake Harriet and finishes at the northeast (so we go around Harriett about 2 1/2 times total) and I decided it was better to walk a mile back to my car after the finish then walk a mile to the start. I was able to park just a couple blocks from the start, giving me time to park, hit the bathrooms and head back to my car to pin on my number, strap on my timing chip and ditch my warm-ups. I found a teammate at the start with a similar time-goal so we started out together. It felt nice and easy but the splits seemed right so when she picked it up, I stayed back and hung out around 7:45s. Not too much later, a couple of runners came up on me just a chatting away. Or rather, the woman was chatting and the guy was answering questions. I ran much of the rest of the race with them - Danny, an experience and speedy ultra marathoner (he won Voyageur in 97, I think) coming back from injury and Jenny, newer to the distance thing. Both very nice to run with.

I decided on wearing my racing flats - I hadn't worn them for anything over 10 miles before but figured this would be okay. Plus they feel nice and light. Of course, my stupid shoelace came untied. Again. Just one shoe this time, though and only once. I was able to head to the side and re-tie it and then Danny called out as he passed me so I was able to catch back up to him. For an ultra runner, he has terrible pacing, he kept speeding up and slowing down so I just went with my nice steady pace (7:40, 7:51, 15:37 for two miles (oops!), 7:43, 7:44, 7:51, 7:46, 7:49, 7:56, 7:51, 8:00, 8:06, 8:12, 7:50, finish) and let him do his thing in front and behind me. Yeah, see that slowdown for the last few miles? My knee started hurting around mile 12/13, though that wasn't the whole problem, my body seemed to suddenly not like the pace it was at. I felt SO INCREDIBLY SLOW and was happy to see that incredibly slow feeling was goal pace for Whistlestop (exactly goal pace, actually!). I worked hard on keeping some positive thinking during the last few miles - mostly centered on stopping thinking about pace and recognizing that 'I could easily run X more miles so just stop worrying and go with it'. Had I stuck on pace, I would have broken 2 hours! But I'm still happy with a 2:02. Especially as I realize that it's a 25K PR! Of course, my only other 25K was on trails but hey, minor detail right? :) I also ran a half marathon PR on my way to the 25K (they kept official Half spilts) which shows how long it's been since I've ran a road Half. Maybe I should throw one of those on my schedule next year?

So the question becomes - what did my knee not like? Was it the distance? Was it the pavement? Was it the racing flats? Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm. A person can legally sell their Whistlestop entry so I'm thinking about not doing Whistlestop and saving my knee for Wild Duluth. Especially since all the jerking around and uphill at the next NMTC race brought not a whisper from my knee. Looking at the splits, I realize that was about what I was sillily running during Whistlestop last year and that I lasted about half way before realizing how stupid I had been and that the pace wasn't going to last. Which makes me think if I pace smart this year with a slightly slower time goal - 3:35 instead of 3:30, then I might be okay. See me talking myself back into running Whistlestop?

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