Monday, January 14, 2013

Frigid Five Miler 2013

I signed up for this race a while ago.  I saw a video of a past year's run many months ago and was so amused and determined to do it.  It was so cold that people had icicles hanging off their hair, guys beards were frozen, and everyone was bundled up like you never ever see runners bundle up.  Word has it the race was 9 degrees (-11 windchill) that year.  I thought to myself "yes, I AM that kind of crazy" and knew I'd be running this race.  They mention in the race info that it has a "dramatic, uphill finish".  I took note of that, but little did I know...

There was no official expo for the race, since it's a small local event put on by the awesome folks over at Elite Runners and Walkers.  Packet pickup was at the store in the days preceeding the race and they held a race weekend sale.  I picked up a pair of Smartwool socks.  If you've been reading this blog, you know that I'm lacking in the decent running sock department.  In my goodie bag was some sport detergent, a shoe wallet, Biofreeze, the standard advertisements for products and other races, as well as this awesome tech race shirt:
Long sleeved black and awesome.  On the back it has Elite Runners' logo.
I had bib # 317 and I couldn't wait to start.  Nick kept asking me if I was getting nervous for the race, but I wasn't.  I had no fear of it or "the hill" that everyone kept going on about.  I planned not really to race this, but to run this since it was part of my training plan.  Of course, when I say that I'm not racing, it means that I will.  I had a personal goal of finishing in less than 45 minutes. 
The morning of the race, I got up around 6-ish and eased myself into the day.  I had my (so far) standard pre-race meal of toast with peanut butter.  I also drank a bunch of water and took my supplements.  I had all of my clothing and gear laid out the night before so I wasn't scrambling to find things.  This time I would not be wearing my GREY SHIRT, but instead would be sporting a bright yellow-green tech T-shirt with black capris with a similar green on the backs of the calves.  Yes, I just said a t-shirt and capris for a "frigid" January race.  It was 60 degrees.  OH, the irony.  I was a little bummed about that because I wanted the challenge of freezing my ass off, but oh well.  I could survive a fall-like day.  It was cloudy with a chance of rain, but luckily the rain held off.  I did end up wearing my hot pink Asics arm sleeves while waiting for the race to start.  When the wind whipped it brought a little chill, and since I was just coming off of being sick, I played it safe.  Once I warmed up, though, I ripped those things down in a hurry.  They are very versatile and I highly recommend them.
We got up to the Lodge around 7:40.  The race didn't start until 9:00, but they said there was only room for a few vehicles up at the lodge lot and the rest would have to park in another lot in North Park and walk in.  Since we had the kids in tow, I didn't want them to have to walk up to the Lodge, so I wanted to get one of those spots.  Luckily, we arrived in time to snag one of the last 3-4 available.  This also gave me a warm vehicle to sit in until I wanted out to warmup, etc.  I had time for a potty break and to go grab my timing chip to put on my shoe.  This is the only thing that I honestly have to complain about regarding the race - there were 3 porta potties.  I'm not complaining about the number here, waiting in line is no big deal, especially when you plan ahead.  What I have issue with is the fact that all three were either a) out of paper b) out of sanitizer, or c) had a broken lock by 8:30 am.  Not good.  Oh well, at least most runners are cool folks who look out for each other in situations like this by looking out for the unlocked door or giving a heads up about about the paperless pot.
Around 8:50, I hopped out of the van and warmed up with a brisk walk/jog over to the starting area.  I tried to situate myself around 1/3 of the way back of the crowd.  There were around 600 people there and I didn't want to get caught up in too much traffic like I did at the Great Race.  I listened to Kevin from Elite Runners talk about how it was warmer than ever and this was the biggest crowd ever for the event.  He also gave one last warning to check your shoes to make sure your timing chip was on.  I got my watch synced up and waited for the gun.  It went off, and we did the typical shuffle to the starting line.  And we're off!
Well, as I said I threw the whole "I'm not going to race" out the window.  I was aware of 2 things.  First, there was some massive hill that I would have to climb as the finale of the race.  Second, while I wanted to have some energy left to climb said hill, I knew that in this particular race, I needed to make up some time in the preceeding 4 miles if I wanted to have any chance at making my time goal at all.  According to McMillan, I should run this in 43:15 at an 8:39 average pace.  I didn't know about that...  I knew I wanted to start the first mile off kinda slow and then build from there based on how I felt.
The first mile was pretty steady.  I had to pass quite a few people, but it wasn't nearly as bad as the Great Race.  It was a lightly rolling elevation, probably a slight uphill, but nothing spectacular.  My mile 1 split was: 9:02.  Right around where I wanted to be. 
Right after about the 1.5 mile point, it was a long downhill.  Hooray!  From about here to around the 3 mile marker, the run felt so easy.  I kept passing people like it was my job.  People that had started a lot stronger than me were obviously wearing out already and I was still feeling strong and great overall.  I did not feel a single twinge out of my knee.  The rest was obviously just what I needed.  My mile 2 split was: 8:02, and Mile 3 came in at: 7:57.
Mile 4 started with a hill.  Compared to "the hill" this one was not.  But on a normal day, this is a standard Western PA rolling hill.  I started to feel a little bit tired, but I dug in and it was no big deal.  There was also some traffic to dodge.  The police was holding the vehicles off, but there was also pedestrian and animal (dogs) traffic to contend with.  This was a bit annoying and defintely slowed me down a bit.  I didn't feel a need to stop at any water stations, and I kept reeling people in and going past as I could.  Everyone around was starting to talk and get nervous about "the hill" coming up.  They were making me nervous and I tried to just shake them off.  Mile 4 split: 8:47.
The Hill.  A while back I read someone elses recap of this race when they referred to this as "that shit's just mean".  Agreed.  The last 3/4 mile is a steady uphill, winding climb.  I thought it would be more gradual.  No.  From the moment you turn up the road you wonder whether you're running or freaking rock climbing.  According to my GPS, the hill starts at a 996 elevation, and you end up at 1276.  So, you climb around 300 ft in 3/4 mile.  Every quarter mile is another 100 ft straight up.  I started this race all like "I'm not afraid of the hill" and only a few strides into the hill it reached out and hit me with a sledgehammer.  The hill beat me up.  Bad.  I didn't have problems breathing the entire race.  I was huffing and puffing on this hill like nothing else.  The trudge HURT.  After not feeling anything out of my knee or anywhere else this entire race, I felt a burn along the side of my leg.  With every step up I got more and more winded and dizzy.  I honestly thought I was going to vomit.  And then I did what I haven't done in MONTHS.  I took a walk break!  Only a couple of steps, and not even .05 mile, and I started shuffling ahead again.  Then I broke down into a walk again.  My eyes filled with tears.  I only took maybe 5 steps when I thought "This hurts like hell, but it hurts worse to walk and at least if I run, even if its slow, I'll get to the end faster".  As usual, it hurt much less to run than walk.  I'm honestly embarrassed and disappointed in myself for having to walk, even if it was less than ten steps overall.  Anyway, I was - even with the walk - still passing people up this hill!  This hill was slaughtering people right and left in some sick mass execution.  I rounded the final bend and I could hear the cowbells near the finish line. Some guy zoomed past me.  A big shirtless crazy fun guy came jogging DOWN the hill high fiving everyone saying things like "THIS IS IT!  THE HARDEST PART IS OVER!  GOGOGO!  YOU CAN DO IT!".  I don't know who he was and he probably will never remember me, but he helped me find a final gear that I didn't know I had.  I saw the bright yellow banners of the finish line ahead.  Then I saw the clock.  It said 43:09.  WTF?  This can't be possible?!!, I thought.  I gave it everything I had at the end and passed that line at 43:15 on the clock.  Mile 5 split was: 10:17.  Told you the hill ate me for breakfast.

 This is my "Holy crap it's finally over" face.  Notice terribad form.  Thank you Hill.
I gulped down 2 cups of water and met my family.  There was a pancake breakfast being served in the lodge.  I got a pancake and a banana and 2 cups of gatorade.  I was still dizzy and nauseous and I couldn't handle the pancake so I gave it to one of my kids.  The banana and gatorade sufficed.  I kept walking because I didn't want to stiffen up.  I did some light stretches, but most of all I KEPT MOVING.  I think this is what helped most of all, because my knee didn't bother me much at all!  I felt tired and sore, yes, but in pain?  Not at all.
Me and my boy Vinny post-race.  I'm still red faced.  I've never claimed to be a "pretty" runner.
After the race was over and they printed out the final results I was thrilled to see that my actual chip time was 42:55!  Average pace: 8:35!  Amazing!  That was good for 14/64 in my age group and 212/550 overall.  Not too shabby for just coming off being sick, being a big newb in general, and tackling that killer of a hill.  So much for "just running and going slow".  haha.  I'm so proud.  And I plan to get my revenge on that nasty hill next year.


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