Sunday, January 20, 2013

(Not so) Frigid 5 Miler Race Report

January is an interesting time of year.  As endurance athletes, we are usually laying our aerobic foundation after some considerable time off.  Most workouts consist of ground-work lower zone workouts where we are grinding out a combination of 90 rpm cadence work on the bike or running at controlled paces that put our fat-burning capabilities to good use.

What we DON'T generally do, is any top end intensity work, unless in short bouts, because it can be counterproductive before the aerobic base is truly developed.  However, as a coach (and athlete) I know that getting out there after weeks of long slower work and busting out a hard effort like a 5k or anything under a 10k can be the perfect way to stress the heart and come back to those aerobic paces a bit fitter than before.  Why this works, well, I don't exactly know (and neither does my coach, I asked him!).   He has a theory that it may have to do with the amount of blood pumping through the arteries and veins opens them up and allows for greater volumes to move from then forward.  Who knows, we just know it works.

Coach suggested we get out there and blow it out at the Frigid 5 miler last Sunday.  Instead of it being frigid, the weather was scheduled to be right around 65 degrees - talk about an anomaly for Pittsburgh this time of year!!

I really would have rather done a 5k, but either way, it was going to hurt so who cared about distance. It was time to hit up North Park for a nice hard run that I felt completely untrained for at this time of year!  Prior to this race, I had not run ONE mile under 7 mins for 2+ months... nada... zero.  It was really quite the experiment as I stood on the starting line with no earthly idea of what to expect.

I warmed up WELL considering that the first three miles would have some considerable rolling hills both up and down and then finally the fourth mile would include a fairly size able hill leading to the final finale of a final mile ALL uphill with 300+ feet of climbing.  You can read more about the terrain on Beth's Blog, but needless to say, it was no flat and fast course.  I knew that much!

Beth and I go way back in run racing so it was nice to have her and her husband Oscar there to just see familiar faces and know that they would be around.

Coach Jesse and I didn't even talk about the race because I knew exactly what he wanted me to do - GO HARD - start to finish.. as hard as possible (end of pre-race talk).  I figured why even discuss it!

At the gun I got myself right out there in front with the men and tried to stay relaxed with a high cadence.  The first rolling mile came and went and my watch beeped and I was almost afraid to look - 5:57.  Dang.. this seems waaayyy to fast (more like I thought I was running a 5k / 3 mile race!).  In considerable pain, I pressed on.  Next mile came along and bam.. same, right under 6 minutes.  At this point I started to seriously wonder if I might just totally blow up around mile 4 and start walking, but it was a 5 mile race in my home town..what did I have to lose right?  If I didn't press the envelope now I would never know... "hard means HARD" I told myself!  No backing down.

I seemed to be the only women around, but I knew there was plenty of talent with Beth and the other local young girls in the field.  Around mile 3.5 I heard breath and footsteps behind me and I knew it might be another female, but I decided not to look back.  Honestly, it didn't really matter to me at that point who it was because I was seriously running as hard as I possibly could.  There was no other gear to move to either way.  If I got beat, that was just fine.

Turns out, it wasn't, as a gentleman surged by me.  I dug into the first hill and focused on the runners ahead trying to reel them in.  Finally, we hit the last flat before the huge hill and I mentally refocused.. this was going to suck.. that was a given, but it was one mile.  I've done much harder things so it was time to chip away and get to work!   My heart rate was now off the charts and my lungs and legs were burning like they were on fire.

Everything hurt.. and that hill lasted what seemed like FOR-EV-ER!! I just chipped away until I finally could see the light at the end of the tunnel at the top where the finish tape awaited me.. Just kidding.. there was no tape!  I crossed the line and the race director says "Oh sorry, didn't know you would be here this soon or we would have had the tape up".  I'm too tired to even speak - totally fine!  "I don't need tape dude.. but these females are getting faster so maybe it is a reminder to you", I thought!

It was nice to get the overall female win, but somehow in my old age I'm getting less and less concerned with these things.  Sure, I'm getting stronger and I like that.. but all in all, I just want to give each effort my best.  There's just less focus on the overall placing or times or comparison pieces.  Having the will to push myself and have the courage to not be afraid of blowing up showed me just how freeing that mindset can be.  I never had worried about place or where people were, I just let go like I had nothing to lose and everything to gain and THAT I believe is what produced the best performance I could on that day.  That may be what I'm most proud of about that experience.

I love having competitors and friends like Beth in town.  We are able to push each other and really support each other at the same time.  When I was younger I tended to view my other female competition differently.  In some ways I felt more at odds with them or like people were judging me "who's the better swimmer, who's the faster runner" and maybe they were, but as I age I could just personally care less.  We all have our individual strengths and weaknesses and we can draw from each other's strengths and help each other to work on those weaknesses.  What a wonderful gift!  I've never felt such a peace about where I am with that type of thing and it's freed me up to not be jealous or wanting of anyone else's talents.  Somehow I've emerged from the last 7 years a more confident, balanced athlete content with looking at my own abilities and using these exceptional ladies to push my own boundaries.

What fun.. how lucky am I!

All in all, it was a very successful day not because of a place or a time, but because of the realization of where I've come from and who I've come to be as an athlete.  It was so fun to spend the morning doing something I love and seeing some great friends in town compete as well.

In the afternoon, I made a quick turnaround to do a talk at the Pittsburgh Triathlon Club on Nutrition.

It was a FULL busy day and when I hit the pillow I was smashed.  In fact, I was smashed for DAYS due to all the hard running and downhills.  A great reason to be smashed though!

I leave you with this quote from my gym!


ADC said...

Great race, congrats.

Kiet said...

Nice work Kim, and the last part about finding your strengths, pretty darn cool. As a coach, I learned early that my female athletes are way more competitive with other female athletes than my male athletes. Women can be wicked when it comes to competition with other women so for you to recognize this says a whole lot about you, maaaaad respect for ya!