Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Carlsbad 5000 in the Master Book

I'm from north San Diego County, just inland of Carlsbad and I have run the Carlsbad 5000 many times.  All of those occurred during my less competitive, family focused years and they were fun.  But that's what they were back then, fun runs.  In 2009, the year I would be able to compete in the Master's race, I opted to do the Oceanside Half Ironman Triathlon instead (which occurred the day before the CBad that year). So no Masters Carlsbad race in 2009, however my full-on competitive years came back to me and I began to train again as a serious competitor.  I eagerly looked forward to running my first Masters Carlsbad race in 2010.  But in 2010, I was injured.  So I eagerly looked forward to running my first Masters Carlsbad race in 2011.  But in 2011, I was injured.  So I early looked forward to running my first Masters Carlsbad race in 2012.  Yes, in 2012 I was injured.  I watched from the side-lines each of these years, feeling like my best Master years were torn from my hands and I didn't get the opportunity when I really wanted it.  In 2013, I finally competed in my first Masters Carlsbad race.  It is rare to be able to compete in a solo, masters female race against the very best of them.  They come from far and near to run in this iconic, historical race and to compete for a Masters prize purse that's worth the effort.

I'm 44 years old.  I was toeing the line with other over-40 women, but I couldn't help reminding myself that many of them are yet younger than me.  I set goals for myself as the race approached.  You never know how your body will react on the day and you never know how everyone else's body will react on the day.  You never know who will show up.  So I set "hopeful" goals and "satisfactory"
goals.  Either way, I was going to give it my all.

My goals were:

Hopeful:  Break 18:00 minutes
Hopeful:  Finish top 3 overall
Satisfactory:  18:20 or better
Satisfactory:  Top 10 overall

I rarely set up a big "Focused" race that I taper for and gear every bit of my training toward, but this was one for which I did these things.  I laid down a steady set of preparation races, each of which got progressively faster and felt better.  After the Agoura Hills race two weeks prior, I had a huge week of hard training and laid out full effort.  Then I followed that up with a week of gradual tapering right down into the lap of Carlsbad.  I wanted fresh legs, fresh lungs but a steady, confident mind at that starting line.

The nerves were relentless.  It had been so many years of wanting and waiting and it was a bit surreal to finally be at the CBad starting line, healthy, ready.  But I was there.  I had already witnessed the men's master race early in the morning and was inspired both by my husband's huge course and master PR of 18:39, and Rusty Snows ridiculously fast second place finish overall.  And the announcer was insistent that we were all going to set PR's today so the nerves, blood and adrenaline were flowing.

Our start was unhindered.  How refreshing to actually have a race where organizers don't let slower runners steal the best spots on the starting line.  They put space and time between the "elite" group and the rest.  I really can't remember when I've ever actually had my toe on the starting line and to be able to look forward and only see the open road.

Our race began and there was that really quick bunch that darted out, many of whom I recognized.  There was Grace Padilla, Michellie Jones, Tania Fischer, the Canadian lady from my last race, Julie Ertel, and a few others.  Wow, look at them go.  But I don't like to over run the first mile and I chose to hang back a bit.  It was an odd thing to watch that group up ahead, and the group behind me dropped back.  There I was in no man's land within the first mile, maneuvering the headwind on my own.  Even still, I made the first mile in around 5:38 (depending on if the clock was in the right spot or my watch was off).  I happened to know that once you drop down around the hairpin at Tamarack, you begin the uphill slope.  It was my expectation that some of those ahead of me would begin to slow, and that is what happened.  I felt steady in my pace and effort and although I'm sure my pace did slow a bit going back up the slope, I felt strong and I loved seeing myself close in on Grace who began to struggle on that stretch.  My second mile split was 11:39, which was just at 5:50 pace and meant I couldn't slow down.  I passed Grace and aimed for Tania and Michellie who were so close up ahead and yet so far.  In order to catch them, my pace needed to quicken.  I knew from experience that Tania goes out fast and dwindles down so I kept my glare on her.  We rounded the final hairpin and had about 1200 meters to go.  I kept the pressure on my body, and even began making odd grunting sounds.  I was really about done and having a difficult time telling my body to kick it in.

That glorious final bend onto the home-stretch was heavenly.  I passed the 3 mile clock and must have looked at it because I knew that if I were to have a chance to break 18 minutes, I needed to be at around 17:25 at that clock.  I can't recall what my 3 mile split was, but I know it occurred to me that I was missing the mark.  I tried only to focus on the blond hair ahead of me and just finish.  Over the railroad tracks, across the finish line.  And done.  I missed my hopeful goals but achieved my satisfactory goals.  I finished in 18:19, 8th overall.  I beat a few tough competitors, came in just a few seconds behind others and marveled at the top finishers.

It was relief and fun after that.  We watched some of the other races and cheered for fellow Santa Barbarians, and topped it off with the Elite Races as they went for a world record.

I am grateful that in 2013 I finally got to run in the Masters race with my friend Anita!  I had hoped for some better results but what I always really hope for is that I just do the best I can on the day and finish with no regrets.  I had no regrets!  And I plan to be back next year!

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