Thursday, August 25, 2011

Nite Moves 5K Race Report

Greater than any report I have to give, the most excellent thing about this post is that I have a race report to give at all.  After almost 6 months of injury recovery, I have finally been able to slide into a few races over the past couple of weeks.  Although I am still not fully recovered, I am really at a stage of strengthening.  With an Achilles injury, because I treated it properly by taking off completely from running, I now have to re-strengthen my right lower leg and calf muscle.  It has been so long since I've been able to push off with my right toes and land mid-sole, that my leg has weakened and atrophied to some extent.  So here I am finding ways to push past this part of recovery.

Prior to the onset of my injury back in February, my last race was a 5K called Roses En La Playa.  On that cold winter morning, along with a couple a hundred other brave souls, I fought the wind, endured the course and completed it in 18:16 (my watch time).  Shortly after that day, I had to say goodbye to racing and running for a while.

Last night I competed in the Nite Moves 5K race which is on the same course as Roses En La Playa.  It was the perfect set up to see where I'm at compared to where I was in February.  I couldn't help but to hope, as I do with every race I enter, that I would somehow exceed my expectations.  I almost always hope for a PR unless the course is too challenging.  So although I wasn't ready to run another PR, nor ready to race for that matter, I still hoped. 

So here's how it played out:  The race is an evening event and Wednesday evening was near perfect.  It was a tad hot for me (mid-70's) but not bad for a 5K.  Wind can be a factor on this course but the air was fairly calm.  Over 200 runners toed the narrow starting line.  The starting line, and really the whole course, is too narrow for such a crowd, but so it was.  I always station myself two people or more back from the line using the logic that I figure at least 15 of these runners are faster than me so they should start ahead of me.  Of course the trouble is that 80% of the people who line up at the front are way too slow to be up there.  It is a frustration that I have to deal with.  The start was too crowded and faster people converged on the slow "front of the line" hogs and it made for tripping, elbowing, pushing, and panic.  It's hard enough for me to maintain the right speed at the beginning of a race, but with this situation I was at the mercy of everyone around me.

It took most of the first mile, a couple of times running in the grass to get around people, to get into a rhythm and to begin to think about the race itself.  It was about this moment when I saw Kent just in front of me.  It occurred to me that Kent just ran a 36 minute 10K a few days before and he always runs the race I wish I had.  So I thought, "Cool.  I'll just hang with Kent."  So I slowed a bit and kind of hung just behind him but darn it, there was a female just ahead and I began to argue with myself to hold back.  I slipped past Kent, rationalizing that he's probably just taking it easy today and isn't going all out.  But as I pushed past, Kent wisely tells me to slow down (it is after all 1 1/2 miles uphill).  I said, "Ok."  But that girl right there ... right there ... does not need to be there, she needs to be behind me. 

I did not do a good job of slowing down when Kent told me too, and before long it took its toll.  Once we crested the hill and made the turn-around to go back down, Kent increased his speed and pulled away.  I spent too much already and couldn't go with him (this happened at Roses En La Playa too).  I did however get through the first two miles in under 6 minute pace which gave me at least a chance to break 18.  And I did get past that female runner.  The last mile and 1/2 are downhill and I was hoping that I'd feel relaxed, smooth and in control, but the truth is my broken fitness due to the layoff was lurking at my door.

There was one last motivation.  I had to beat Cuyler.  Cuyler is this amazing 14 year old swimmer on the Santa Barbara Swim Club and he's been blazing this course all summer (this race occurs weekly over the summer).  John, my husband (who is Cuyler's swim coach) had talked smack to Cuyler on my behalf and set up this vicious rivalry.  I had to beat Cuyler.  And oops!! there he was just ahead of me and I was going faster than he was.  I past him with about 1/2 mile to go and eeked out a whispered, "Go Cuyler."  I really meant, "Stop running Cuyler.  It's futile.  You'll never beat the old lady Crawford."  Would Cuyler even know what "futile" meant?  Anyway, I said, "Go Cuyler."  Yah.  You could imagine what he did.  Teenager boy. He went.  He passed me back up, but I stayed stealthily close in case he showed weakness.

I finally came to the final hill down to the finish line and ahead of me I spotted a female (not Drea, she had already finished), and there wasn't suppose to be any other female ahead of me except Drea.  I thought maybe she was just running along with another as a spectator.  She was just a child (12 or 13'ish) and I had no idea where she came from.  It's out and back.  How could I have not seen her.  People were cheering for her so she must have been in the race.  Bummer, now I'm going to have to go for it.  The last thing I felt like doing was running harder but I did.  I had it in me and I sped past her in the final yards ... and almost scooped up Cuyler as well ... but alas, he did beat old lady Crawford (by a modest 3 seconds).  I was satisfied with my 2nd overall female finish, and then I had to laugh when I found out that there was a kid's mile that had taken place which explains where the "young female" came from.  But hey, whatever it takes to scoot me along a few seconds faster, I'll take it.

My finishing time:  The all important finishing time which would reveal where I am now compared to where I was prior to my injury:  18:17 (by my watch).  I have spent no time on the track and have only recently begun tempo runs again and still have pain, so I was pretty happy with that 1 second off my pre-injury time.  Of course Kent finished in 17:41 which is where I WANT to be but I'll have to be patient.  If I had run a little smarter, would I have run a better time, maybe beat Cuyler?  Possibly.  Every race is a lesson.  Cuyler better watch his back.

Friday, August 19, 2011

"First Race Back" Under my Belt

Wow, has it really been a month and a half since the last blog?  I started a new job recently as a PE coach for a local elementary school and it is mostly full-time, so I've had to do some adjusting.  It is such a blessing to be able to help kids work on physical fitness ... if only they realized how important it is to start young and stay on track.  It is challenging and exhausting ... just like running.

I have competed in two recent races and it is amazing to be able to run hard again.  I did Nite Moves last week (both the 1K swim and 5K run), and this week I did the Westmonster 5K.  Although I haven't fully recovered from my Achilles injury, I didn't feel pain during the races.  I did feel it afterwards though.  My biggest challenges regarding getting back into racing is that my injured leg still lacks strength so at times I experience severe cramping in that calf muscle, and I haven't been able to do any speed work yet because it is still just a bit too much.  I have entered these races feeling unprepared but look at them more as steps toward getting back to where I should be.  The great part is being surrounded by a huge and dedicated community of runners and athletes who are so encouraging.

By way of race reports, last Wednesday was the first time I ever participated in Nite Moves.  For those who aren't familiar with Santa Barbara's Nite Moves, they are a series of races that go throughout the summer every Wednesday evening.  There is the option of doing a 1K open water swim, a 5K run, or a combination of both (aquathon).  I did the aquathon.  So fun.  I am a much slower swimmer than runner so I inevitably came out of the water with the urgency of having to catch up.  Getting the dreaded wetsuit off was the biggest challenge of the night but once I got on the run my rhythm smoothed out and I had a great time out on the course (out and back course, up hill on the way out, downhill on the way back).  It ends up being a 3.5 mile race so is just a bit more than 5K.  I think I had a smile on my face because I was running ... in my Newtons ... fast ... with no pain.  It was good to get that "first race back" under my belt.  Never mind the fact that my calves were sore for three days from the shock of what I asked of them.

The Westmonster 5K was an evening race as well and was a beautiful cross-country course all through the Westmont College campus in Montecito.  The campus is breath-taking ... and hilly ... so therefore the race was breath-taking too.  There was a great turnout of around 200 athletes including college and high school students.  The course was tough with some significant hills and a variety of surfaces (asphalt, dirt, gravel, grass, all-weather track).  I think it would be fair to say that the track was the only level ground on the course.  Because of a lengthy warm-up, I again can boast that my leg felt perfectly fine during the run.  Afterwards is another story but that's all a part of recovery.  I think I had to ice three different body parts that night but felt good by the next day (an ice bath would have been more efficient).  There was great participation from the local running group and from what I saw everyone had a great race. 

There are a lot of local events coming up in the next two weeks and I'm hoping to compete in most of them.  This weekend is the McConnell's 10K.  This coming Wednesday is another Nite Moves and I will do the 5K run only this time, and the following weekend are the Santa Barbara Triathlons (long course and sprint course).  I am going to be doing the all-women's sprint course. 

It's hard to come back from an injury.  Not only do you have to heal but you also have to go through the struggle of getting back to race-ready shape.  It's always an uphill climb, but as runners know, going up hill makes you stronger.  It's worth it to keep climbing. 

As far as training, I have still been careful to cross-train between running days.  I have been swimming twice a week and weight training once a week.  I have begun doing intervals and hard running on the treadmill and will soon be back out on the oval.  I include a long run and a tempo run each week and if needed, a lighter paced mid-distance run (all outside in the open air).  With each opportunity to train I am so very thankful that I am able to.