Sunday, November 9, 2008

Foul Weather but Fun Run

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night... no wait, that's for mail carriers. Probably it could apply to runners as well, however, because certainly a little heat, or snow or rain is not going to stay a dedicated runner from the swift completion of his or her appointed rounds. By "appointed rounds" I mean, of course, a 10K race, and by "swift completion" I mean, well, as fast as one can manage under inclement conditions.

Such was the case yesterday, Saturday, at the Fowl Fun Run 10K up in Mount Vernon. There was no snow, heat, or gloom of night, but there was rain. And wind—oh, was there wind. Last year's race day was cool and sunny, and I had hoped for the same, but it seemed unlikely considering the wet and blustery weather we had been having all week. On Saturday it actually seemed a little bit better, at least not raining hard as we drove up toward Mount Vernon early on Saturday morning. There was even some hint in the sky that the clouds might break.

Alas, as race time approached at 10 a.m., the clouds rolled back in and rain started to sputter from the sky. Firm gusts of wind loosened leaves from the trees, swirling them into damp piles on the muddy ground. The inside of a warm, dry car (with company) seemed much more appealing than the soggy fairgrounds where the race was to start.

But as 9:30 approached I had to take some kind of action if I wanted to make any kind of decent effort at this run. We reluctantly left the car to walk over to a track-like area where I could do some warm-up. I jogged one lap around, testing my ankle for soreness. I felt it a little bit in my heel, but the rest of my legs felt okay. There is something to running several hours after waking up, when your body has had a chance to loosen up naturally, as opposed to early morning runs where I roll almost directly from the bed to the sidewalk on still sleep-stiffened legs.

I took two more laps, picking up the pace a bit at the end of the second, and by then it was about 9:45. My support crew-slash-volunteer coach felt that I should do some pre-run stretches, so I stopped then and he guided me through some gentle loosening stretches for the ankles, shins and quads.

Then, after a quick last-minute stop at the rest room, it was time to gather at the starting line. It still wasn't raining more than lightly, but the wind persisted. We gathered in a loose mob as someone made announcements. He reminded us that about a half mile in, the 10K runners would veer right and the 2-milers would go straight. (Good to know—it would be horrible to go the wrong way and lose time backing up!) There were no chips, but the crowd was modest enough that we wouldn't have much delay at the start.

Then, at just about 10 a.m. or a little after, we were off. I had a moment's delay as I was caught behind two very little girls dressed in pink, and I had to veer around them, but I am unable to be irritated with little girls in pink (as opposed to slow adults, who piss me off regularly), and I quickly was able to pick up my stride.

I had decided not to be obsessed with the Garmin, and I pulled my sleeve down over it so I couldn't see the time or the splits as they passed by. I had no idea what my pace was, but as I passed the one-mile marker my legs were loose and I felt fast.

Unfortunately, that's about when I headed directly into the wind. It wasn't quite like running uphill, but I was sure it was slowing me down a little. And in fact, the one time I did look at my watch was at the two-mile mark, and I was a little disappointed to see 9:04. Although certainly, it could have been worse!

The middle of the race was a long out and back along Dike Road. The turnaround was at the 5K point. I vowed, as I was pushing along into the wind, that I would make an extra effort to pick up the pace in the second half. As I turned at the cones, the guy there (who was probably making sure no one cut the turn short) shouted something encouraging, like "great split." Undoubtedly he was saying that to everyone, as I don't think he even had a stopwatch, but still, it was nice. I shouted back, "now the wind will be with us," hoping that was true.

It wasn't quite true. I wasn't running into the wind as I retraced the route along Dike Road, but it was still coming at me from the side. Probably this made it a neutral wind, neither hindrance (as before) nor help (as I had hoped).

Since I was in the second half, I decided it was time to try and catch, or pass, some of the runners ahead of me. I fixed my sights on a few that seemed reachable. There were few enough runners that each person ahead of me was an individual, as opposed to the packs in some of the big races. While I was running along the "back" portion, of course there were many runners still passing on the "out" section. I like to think there were still more coming than there were ahead of me! Occasionally, as others had done for me on my "out," I waved and shouted encouragement to those I met. As I recognized one much older man that I had met at prior Skagit races, I waved and shouted "Hi Boris!" This was Boris Balac, 72 years old, not the oldest male in the race,* but a fixture in these runs and a strong finisher at 61:31.

I'm not sure if I passed anyone in that fourth mile, but as I approached about mile 5 there were at least three people in my sights. The first, who turned out to be an older male** (sometimes it's hard to tell whether someone is male or female until you are near them), I passed pretty easily and stayed ahead without any further effort. There was one young woman in red (the race shirt, actually), who was far enough ahead of me that I never had a substantial chance of catching her, though she stayed in my sights throughout (I believe she finished about a minute ahead of me).

But closer to me I saw a young man and a woman about my age and they seemed within my grasp. I soon drew even with the male, but the woman stayed ahead of me, maintaining a steady lead (of about 10 seconds, I would say, as it turned out). Then I passed the male and pushed ahead. A few minutes later he must have gotten a second wind, because he came from behind and re-passed me! But I was still running strong, and I think he was flagging—that pass was perhaps a last push—and moments later I pulled ahead of him again and never saw him again.***

But my other primary "competition," the woman in the grey shirt, managed to stay ahead of me even as I put on my extra push in the last mile and in the quarter mile finishing section. She finished ten seconds ahead of me. When I congratulated her after the race, she said she saw me coming and was just out of steam, she didn't think she could stay ahead. (But of course she did! Congratulations, Ann!)

So what about my finish time? I said I wasn't seeking a PR, and I didn't get a PR. I said I just didn't want to be disappointed, and I wasn't, really, except for a moment because I had felt good enough about the run that I thought, maybe, I might do better than expected. But as it turned out the wind probably played a big part in my finish time.

My time? Exactly 54 minutes. As I was approaching the clock I saw it in the high 53 numbers, and I tried, tried as much as I could to get over the finish line before it clicked over. Kind of like trying to get across the street before the end of the "don't walk" countdown! I practice that fairly regularly in the mornings. But it was at 53:59 one step before the finish, and I saw it turn over as my foot crossed.****

So, given that my time was a minute or so more than my best times, and that I've never placed in the age groups up in Skagit, I didn't bother to try to find out my official place or wait for the awards. I didn't even wait to see if I won a turkey or a pie in the random giveaways. Instead, I caught up with my support crew/coach, and we left pretty quickly to go eat at the Calico Cupboard. Even though this wasn't a long run, I thought a cinnamon roll was in order.

Later on, as we were driving home, the sun started breaking through the clouds, enough that I even flipped down the sun visor. I wondered why this couldn't have happened earlier in the morning! But really, the rain hadn't been my problem, only the wind.

When I checked my splits on the Garmin, I was both shocked and pleased. Most of my miles were faster than my typical 10K pace, or at least what I consider a typical 10K pace, and if it hadn't been for miles 2 and 3, I would have been under 53 minutes (assuming that I had run those miles at the same pace as the others).

I have to brag on myself a little. Mile 1, which I knew felt good, was 8:32. Then I must have hit the wind, because that gave me the 9:04 in Mile 2. And then 9:05 in Mile 3. But after that, thinks improved immensely. Mile 4 was 8:25. Mile 5 was 8:34. Mile 6 was 8:24. And the final quarter mile (because my Garmin showed a total distance of 6.25) was at a 7:53 pace. Wow. That makes me happy. Because although my total time was a bit slower than I would have liked, I never felt during those faster miles that I was killing myself. My average pace for the whole run was 8:39 per mile.

As I've been writing this today, I looked up the results to get some of the details I've added here. Just for fun, I decided to see where I finished in my age group (Female 40-49). There was one 46-year-old woman at 46:26 (wow), as well as a few women in their thirties, a handful of teenage girls, and a 57 and 61-year-old all ahead of me (and lots of males too, of course). But after the 46-year-old, I was the next 40-something female! Could that be possible? (And I didn't stay for the ribbons!) Overall there were ten women in my age group. The last two or three had times that indicated they were walking, not running. But I was definitely second.

Maybe they'll mail me a ribbon.

With my support crew/coach/official race photographer, after the run and before the cinnamon roll.

*That would be one Ben Grevstad, 74 years old, with a blistering 49:40 time. Yes, 31 years older than me and running a time that I can only hope for in my wildest, I mean wildest, dreams!

**Age 71, upon looking at the results, and finishing at 55:21.

***Looking at the finishing times, he probably ended up just under two minutes behind me. And if he's who I think on the list, he's twenty years younger than me and yes, I "chicked" him.

****When the finish picture is enlarged, you can see that the clock read 53:50 at the time of the photo, and you can also see my competitor in grey crossing the finish line.

1 comment:

Laura said...

Great job!!! So sorry that you may have missed the award ceremony :(