Sunday, March 27, 2011

Birch Bay Road Race, with words

I did it again...spent a long time writing a long blog post on my iPhone, then messed it up and posted only the picture, without text. I am just doing it using the Blogger email method, nothing fancy. Hopefully I can figure out how to do some kind of a "real" post with the iPhone soon. Maybe one where I can include more than one picture! Anyhow, here is the whole story from yesterday. I apologize for the lack of paragraphs, but every time I hit publish the spacing goes away, and I am sick of trying to fix it! Yesterday morning I arose well before the crack of dawn and arrived at my parents' house before 6 a.m. to make the trek north to Blaine for the Birch Bay 30K. Blaine is right on the Canadian border; in fact, the Peace Arch between the U.S. and Canada is in the town of Blaine. I think Birch Bay is a little bit south. A lot of Canadians come to this race. In fact, the course is marked solely in kilometers. Not a mile marker to be seen. his run was fairly low pressure for me, though not insignificant. On the low pressure side of things, it was "just" a long run, about 18.6 miles. I did 23 last weekend, so this would be a piece of cake, sort of. Plus, it would be my last long run before taper and Boston. (I don't know whether that counts toward low or high pressure, actually.) On the other hand, this run would also be a sort of test of what I could do on a long distance run under race conditions, where things like bathroom stops and dawdling have more significance than in a run-of-the-mill training run. I wanted to see what I could do, while still running at a comfortable level of effort. I really thought it was going to rain, at least a little. That is what the weather forecast had been promising/threatening all week. So when we were approaching Blaine sometime after 7, I was almost dismayed to see clear skies with just wispy traces of clouds, and the possibility of full sunshine to come. Why was I dismayed? It's not that I wanted it to rain; I had certainly been dreading the idea of running in the rain for three hours. It's just that I have been having a little difficulty adjusting to the transition in running gear from full-on winter to emerging spring. I could deal with the 30s; I know that the 50s will be warm. But what do you do with the 40s? That's the kind of weather that feels cold (leading me to overdress), but quickly feels warm once you start running. Since I knew that intellectually, I was dressed for the run in one of my go-to cool season tops, a Lucy half zip that I wore for CIM and many other runs and races. However, it might be a little warm if it got very sunny. (I was also wearing long running pants so I could wear my CEP socks without looking too dorky. I will have to abandon them when I switch back to capris and shorts for spring and summer, and just wear them for recovery purposes.) Also, I was all atwitter because I was wearing my contacts in case it rained. I didn't bring any sunglasses though. I debated whether I should take out the contacts so I could use my glasses with clip-on sunglasses. In the end I decided not to bother, and just rely on my hat and trees on the course to shade my eyes. We arrived around 7:30, which gave me an hour to get ready to run. I collected my bib, chip, and shirt quickly. Last year they had women's shirts, which turned out to be a bit of a fail as they ran small--I had a large and I still was not happy with it. (The race director says he still has a whole bunch of leftover smalls that no one wanted.). This time I got a unisex medium and it is fine. It is the same design as last year...I wouldn't mind if they changed it for next year. We parked along the road where the race starts, with the car looking toward the water. It was a nice spot for my parents to hang out while they waited for me. Plus my mother could try to take a picture of me when I ran by. She actually got a fairly good shot, even though she forgot a camera and had to use her phone. I used the porta potty, ran .85 mile warm-up, and stood in line for a second potty stop before the race began. I would have rounded the warm-up up to a mile, but I didn't want to miss my last chance at the potty. As we all gathered for the start, the race director tried to informally seed us by pace. I don't know how successful he was, but I tried to gather near the nine minute mile area. Even though that might be optimistic, I didn't want to sell myself short. I would rather be around people who would push me rather than slow me down. (My dad tried to get my attention when they called for eight minute milers...apparently he thought that might be my pace. He's been to several 10Ks where that was my pace, or close.) My goal, as I said, was to see what I could do, without running too hard. It would have been ideal not to look at my Garmin at all, and just run by feel. Of course, I could not do that. At first I could not resist checking my pace, then I couldn't stop monitoring it. As well as checking mileage obsessively.

The race started down a hill, and I think the first few miles were flat with a slight downhill. My first few miles were close to nine minutes but truly felt easy. Effortless. Miles 1-4 - 9:02, 9:10, 9:07, 9:13.

When I was looking at my splits earlier I made a rough graph of my paces and, with a few blips, it showed a bell curve with the slower paces toward the middle, then speeding up in the second half. This makes sense as the was going uphill quite consistently in the first half, then we got to come back down on the return. The hills weren't extreme, but we definitely had some hills as well as slight inclines in the road.

Miles 5-7 were mid-range pace. 9:34, 9:22, 9:25. I hit my slowest point in miles 8-10. 9:44, 9:44, 9:41.

The course ran along the water for quite a while, then we angled inland and ran on a bike path to the turnaround. The sun did come out in the beginning, and I felt hot, but after I started sweating my body temperature regulated itself. Eventually it got a little cloudy and I never regretted my lack of sunglasses.

Although I was running easy (and no, I don't mean "easily") (regardless of pace), I was struggling a little with the mental aspect of a long run. After 10K it was exciting to be 1/3 through, but twelve miles to go seemed LONG. Same thing with 15K. Halfway, but a lot remaining. It was only around the half marathon distance and 20K that I felt the end was finally within reach. I tried to keep my mind on small chunks of distance rather than the big picture.

After the 15K runners turned back, the number of runners decreased a lot, though there were enough people around to assure me I was on course. There were two women who I had in my sites for at least the second 15K, maybe even before that. One was wearing a purple shirt and one red. I kept my eye on them as pace setters of sorts. They remained consistently ahead of me, at least until the final 5K (foreshadowing).

As we moved into the final miles I dug just a little deeper and took advantage of the return downhill to bring my pace back up. Miles 13-15 - 9;13, 9:11, 9:15. Mile 16 was inexplicably slow, all I can figure is that there might have been a hill. 9:44. Halfway through we hit 25K and I prepared to put on a big push for the final miles.

Mile 17 - 9:07. Yes! At the end of mile 17 I called my mom to let her know I was almost done. Unfortunately I had trouble handling my phone and after one wrong number I finally stopped to place the call. I'm sure I lost at least 30 seconds in that maneuver. Maybe more--I was running strong, when I was running. I didn't want to take the time to try to put my phone away, so I finished the rest of the race carrying an iPhone in my hand! Mile 18 - 9:46.

In the last mile I passed both the woman in the purple and the one in red. I also passed a man who must have been running faster earlier and then lost steam at the end. I do not recall seeing him at all until I caught up to him near the end. He was running, though, not walking. I passed all three and left them significantly behind.*

The very end of the race has a short steep hill. I chugged up it and then ran for the finish line, finishing strong. Final chip time was 2:56:23. That's an official pace of 9:29. (The true distance was 18.77, pace 9:24.) So, slower than last year, but I'd be very happy to manage that pace for Boston.

I considered running a little more to round up my total distance to 20 miles, but decided not to. Instead, we headed down to Bellingham for a delicious lunch!


When I came back to fix this post, I made a few corrections and added some stuff. I guess I will also add that I am not completely okay with finishing six minutes slower than last year (20 seconds per mile, pretty much exactly). The same thing happened with the Shamrock Run a couple weeks ago. I would much rather be faster than slower! However, I was in so much worse of a winter slump a couple of months ago, that I can't be unhappy with my progress. I truly feel that I am out of my slump. Whether I will ever beat the PRs of late 2009 and the comparable speed in the first half of 2010, I don't know. But I do know that I am now in good place with my running, and running makes me happy again, as opposed to (at least occasionally) angry and frustrated.


Okay, one more thing. Just because it was a good run doesn't mean it was all rainbows and unicorns out there. Running 18+ miles is hard, I tell you, hard! And not always fun. But I am happy that I do it.


Because of the chip timing, any of them could have officially "beat" me, however, and I have no way of knowing. Nor do I care, really. But I did get to start in the first wave of runners--they held the group right after I crossed the start line--so that could have significant affected the net times.


lifestudent said...

I've been using the blogbooster ap - when it works its awesome. You can post tons of pics, format, etc. The issue is ... about 10% of the time it eats my post. I have no clue where it goes. But, I havent found anything better yet ;)

Laura said...

I think getting out of your running slump is WAY more important than your time in a silly race. Major congrats on that :)