Monday, February 28, 2011

Roses en la Playa Race Report

When one writes a race report, oh that it would not sound so self absorbed.  I'm hoping in this case, I not only report on my race, but on the race. 

This weekend (Sunday, February 27th to be precise) was the running of the 5K Roses en la Playa, under sunny skies (thank you thank you thank you), and in almost perfect temperatures.  I think it may have possibly made it to 50 degrees by the start, but I'm not sure.  One thing's for sure, it was colder after the race.  The crazy wind kicked up (I think it came directly from Alaska maybe).  Now, according to my knowledge and experience, the most perfect, ideal, precise temperature to run in is 55 degrees.  Any variation in either direction will cause the body to have to work harder to some extent to compensate.  So this was just a bit colder than ideal.

They came from near and far (some as far as New York) in layer upon layer of clothing, to run in the cold sunshine, hoping the wind would stay at bay.  I myself can boast 4 layers on bottom (that includes underwear), and three layer on top, plus arm warmers and gloves.  I like to be WARM before my race.  The New York people were running around in tanks and shorts.  I don't get them ... they don't get us.  At least I stripped down to my racing duds for the race (kept the arm warmers and gloves on though) - but I can say I never broke a sweat.

This 5K course has the potential to be very fast.  It is primarily out and back, but the start line is mercifully placed at the top of a hill, and the finish line is at the bottom of that same hill.  I know that's confusing, but for those who are not familiar with this "Night Moves" course, it goes like this:  From the start, runners proceed up an ongoing (it keeps going and going and going) hill, and into a headwind for almost 1 1/2 miles to the hairpin turn-around.  Then they (we) get to go back down the hill with the wind at our backs.  We pass by the start line and descend a final extra downhill to a fast finish in the chute.  As I said, it has fast potential, but headwind can suck the life right out of an ambitious runner, and there's no way to get that lost time back, even downhill with the wind.

So the course wasn't as fast as it could have been had there been no wind.  (I'm just saying that because I didn't run as fast as I wanted to).  No really, the wind really did factor in.  Anyway ... it was a fun day and a well run and well organized event, with a multitude of great people participating.  I met a few new running friends and I couldn't be happier.

The breakdown for my particular performance:  First, my goal, ugh!!! was to break 18 minutes.  I didn't, and it leaves me wondering if I could have if the day had brought more desirable conditions.  Here is how it played out.  The first mile, with the benefit of fresh legs, was 6:04, which is of course way off-pace but this was the one mile that was entirely uphill and into the wind.  The second mile was 1/2 and 1/2 (that's 1/2 uphill/downhill and 1/2 against/with the wind), and included the hairpin turn, and was therefore slightly faster at 5:56.  This of course is the mile that killed my time because I needed to make up more time than I did.  I was at a 6:00 min pace, but needed to be closer to a 5:50 pace at this point.  So I had too much time to make up in the final mile but thankfully it was entirely downhill with the wind.  The final mile was 5:36, and when you add the final .1 miles to that, you get the final time of 18:16 (per my watch).  It was the best I could do that day and that's all I ever really ask of myself.

Full race results here:

I would like to particularly thank Kent for trying to pull me along with him during that final stretch.  He was having more fun than I was I think.

Such a fun day, fun race, fun people, fun yummies afterwards.  Onward to CB 5000.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Teetering on the Edge

It reminds me of the day I ran along the cliff in More Mesa.  The wind was whipping hard off of the ocean so that it blew against me from the side.  As I ran along the edge of the precipice, I pushed against the wind to stay upright.  It was thrilling to run in a storm along a dangerous bluff pushing against the force that was keeping me from falling to my death.

Running is like that edge.  Any runner at any level will face that edge if they want to reach their potential.  You may have struggled on that edge yourself.  On the safe side of it, you fail to reach all that you can be as a runner, and on the other side of the edge is the canyon of injury, illness, burnout, and other symptoms of over-training.

It is difficult ... very difficult to make your way forward on the edge without falling.  Of course the answer is to "listen to your body" and "make sure and give yourself time to recover."  This is advice we readily give to our fellow edge runners, but oh that we would follow it ourselves.  I HATE listening to my body.  It tells me to take a break right when I am getting into a nice training mode and making some improvement.

But I don't want to fall over that cliff again.  I spent most of last year injured, recovering from the injury, and struggling to get back into race condition.  I don't want to go there again.  I want to stay up here, running free in the wind, taking in the sweeping view. 

Why do I even bring this up?  Because this week my achilles tendon has been bugging me.  Just a little.  Not like last year when it crippled my running.  Just enough to get my attention.  "Yo," it says.  What to do?  I have a 5K race tomorrow.  Maybe it will be fine.  Maybe it won't.  Regardless of my above mentioned "hate," I consider myself reasonable when it comes to training.  I actually do listen ... kinda ... sometimes.

It's hard to teeter on the edge, but if I can stay balanced up there, I may accomplish things I only dreamed of, and beat competitors I used to idolize.  If it's in me, I'd like to try.  Can you relate to any of this? 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Birds VS. Rodents

It's a sign.  I'm sure of it.  Not sure what it is a sign of though.  Hmmmmm???!!!!

Big birds with large rodents.  First on Friday, walking back to our car from the track, John winced as a crow lifted off the ground with a dead rat in its claws.  Do crows eat rats?  It is possible that crows eat everything they can.

Then, a few days later, on Monday during my run, I saw an egret ... maybe (or some large white stork-like creature) with a huge, extra large gopher hanging lifelessly from its beak.  Now this was an odd one and I spent the rest of my run wondering how that bird was going to swallow that meal. 

What could it all mean?  Puzzle, puzzle, puzzle.

If it had just been the crow vs. rat sighting, I would have passed it off as just a yucky misfortune to have had to witness.  But upon seeing the egret vs. gopher, I have to assume that there is some deep, far-reaching significance to it all.  It happened twice ... within close time proximity.  You don't see that kind of thing often, definitely not twice in the same weekend.  It's like a reoccurring dream that shines a light deep into the soul.  It holds inner, hidden meaning.  So now it's time to speculate as to what I am to learn from the birds vs. rodents.

Here are some possible interpretations:

1. Cindy, you are eating way too much protein.  Cut back or you're going to choke.
2. Cindy, you've bit off more than you can chew.  You can only have the rat or the gopher, but not both.
3. Cindy, you need to spend more time just hanging out and eating (I like this one).
4. Cindy, as you can see, it is disgusting to eat dead, furry things.  Convert it vegetarianism (not a chance).

Or it could be that I'm the rat/gopher and not the crow/egret, requiring an alternate set of possible interpretations as follows:

1. Cindy, you're at the bottom of the food chain.  All you get to eat is grass and then some larger creature gets to eat you. (That's a deep one ... I'll have to further contemplate that one).
2. Cindy, if you live according to the laws of nature, you'll only get eaten by the next biggest predator. (Ugh!  That's it, no barefoot running for me.  I'm sticking with shoes.)
3. Cindy, if you die to yourself, you will fly. (Even if it is while inside the gut of a big bird).
4. Cindy, if someone wants to prey on you let them try.  They'll never be able to swallow you. (Hello ... just let 'em try).

Or most likely, this is what the bird vs. rodent "sign" really means:
Cindy, clearly you are obsessed with food and eating.  What you saw was just two separate acts of nature that have absolutely nothing to do with you whatsoever.  Get some lunch in your stomach and move on.

Yep, I think that's it.  I'm going to have my lunch now.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Enjoying the View

Much of the country is under snow and ice, bundled in thick clothing for every venture out the door, and praying for Spring to come early.  In California, we are appreciating the summer we didn't get when we were supposed to have it.  Running has been the purist of pleasures, in perfect temperatures and abundant sunshine.  For these things I am very thankful.

Training has its ups and downs.  Things can't always feel optimal, but I forget this little detail when things are down.  I am always searching for the perfect plan which will help me find my peak performance yet will not break me down in the process.  So this week, post-Super Bowl Race, I have been feeling kind of tired, and so I contemplate whether my runs are just "junk miles" this week, or whether I can consider them recovery runs.

Here is my dilemma.  Each week I do a long run, a tempo run and an interval workout (and then other runs and swims too).  I do these regardless of whether I will also have a race (unless it is a big one and I taper).  But when I do have a race, that constitutes an additional hard day.  So naturally I need to let my body rest, and my preference is to have an easy run day.  But when I run on my own, no matter how hard I try, my easy run begins to pick up pace and ends up being another hard run.  And then the next day I am still tired, so I plan another easy run (or run/swim).  Again I pick up the pace and waste myself.  So when my hard days come along, I'm still tired.

But today, I had a glorious run.  Perfect temp, beautiful sunshine, and I chose a course with a view.  I was, yes, still tired as I started out, but I maintained a nice and moderate pace this time.  During the later portion of the 8 mile run, I ran up a trail into the Douglas Preserve.   As I ran up the trail, I thought about what a great thing it was that this piece of land was purchased and preserved so that we could all enjoy it.  And I did.

Once up into the preserve, I loped along the dirt paths, rounded the sharp bend which overlooked Hendry's Beach, and continued on under the Eucalyptus trees.  I took in the smells, the feel of the air, and the breathtaking views of the ocean. 

Running can't always be about focused training.  Sometimes we need to not only let the body recover, but also the spirit and mind.  Therefore I am inclined to suggest that today's run was definitely not "junk miles."  In fact, that is terminology to which I neither subscribe nor ever use in my vocabulary.  There is purpose in every run.

Ok, yes, my body still feels wiped and tomorrow is a hard 10 miler, ugh!  But I feel renewed.  I feel my training is directed properly, and is beneficial, and yet is not pushing me over the threshold into injury, illness, pain, and ruin. 

That's how I feel about running this week.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Super Bowl 4 Miler Race Report

Sunday, February 6, 2011  Super Bowl 4 Miler
Once again the weather could not have been more ideal.  It was a cool morning to begin with but the sun radiated friendly warmth.  There was not a notable wind to speak of.  Cool enough to not overheat, but warm enough to wear minimum clothing.

The Super Bowl course is fairly flat, but most of it was a "false flat," ascending and descending.  I like to think the ups and downs were balanced out, but the reality is the ups take more out of you than the downs can make up for.  Because of the many 90 degree turns onto neighborhood streets, and the pot-hole laden section in Carneros Lake park, I would say this is a fast course, but could have been faster.

I believe this year the start and finish line were a little different and according to my Garmin, the course was a little short.  I determined based on my pace, that it was about 15 seconds short.

The women's race was nicely competitive from my perspective.  Over the first 2 miles there was a jockeying of position among 4 women including Bethany, Jill, Jessica and myself.  I was content to sort of hang back to see how everyone else would settle in.  It was my plan to try VERY HARD to stay at an even pace.  In other words, I did not want the first mile to be too much under my overall pace (overall pace goal for the race was 5:50).

So as the first mile progressed, I did not check my pace but tried to go on feel.  Although there were fast females ahead of me, I felt I was running well, and holding back.  I felt comfortable and resisted the urge to pass the others.  So when the first mile beeped in at 5:39 I was surprised and began to fear that the faster first mile would bite me in the butt later.  Never the less, the pace was comfortable.

The second mile was fairly evenly flat but had several turns.  A 90 degree turn always poses a problem.  A runner has to decelerate prior to the turn, make the turn at a slower pace, and then expend energy to pick it up again afterwards.  The second mile went by in 5:46, still under ideal race pace, still fairly comfortable.

By the third mile, the women settled into pace and position with Bethany in the lead, myself holding several seconds behind her, and Jill a few seconds behind me.  The third mile contained a lengthy gradual incline and also a transition into the park.  I was, at this point, trying to just maintain pace, which put more pressure on my system due to the subtle hill.  This mile dropped to a 6:02.

The final mile was the most challenging as it contained broken asphalt, dirt path and the most substantial incline on the course.  However, because it is the final mile, the challenge and the growing fatigue are often off-set by the anticipation of the finish line and the final kick.  I felt quite fatigued coming out of the park but had enough in me to push strong up the hill.  Once at the top, the finish line was almost in view.  The final mile was the slowest but not too far off.  It was 6:05.  However, since the couse was slightly short, this final mile was not quite a full mile.  My final time was 23:15.

According to my Garmin, my pace was 5:53 overall.  According to the official results, my pace showed up as 5:49 overall.  Either way it was a great race for me.  It was grueling but I could tell my fitness is finally returning, and I was able to hold a better pace for longer.  That was a great feeling.

The other ladies did well too, and having that close competition is always a plus.  Although I crossed the line as the second female, running a strong race is the higher priority.  I would rather take second place with a PR than first with a slower time. 

The race was a great experience and as always, the community of runners in Santa Barbara are top notch.  So many friendly folks.  Oh, hey ... and all you can eat hotdogs post-race.  It just doesn't get any better than this.