Monday, April 7, 2014

500 Festival Training Series 15K - Race Report

When you're an injured runner, you obsess about not running. Everyday without a run is a day that you "lose fitness," even if you're cross training. When my leg was at its painful worst, I halted my running in order to keep myself from further harm until I could make sure my injury was runnable. That time off running left me with a lot of mileage unachieved. I had no way to tell how ready my body was to race a half marathon. Enter the 500 Festival Training Series 15K in Indy, a course on which I could test my fitness... or lack thereof.

With Amelia in our room
Earlier in the year, I had approached Wendy with the idea of running this 15K. We thought it would be a great race to target as a pace run, meaning we would pick a pace and see if I could hold it. After my leg issues, we decided that we would begin at my half PR pace (8:42), and then accelerate at 10K if I felt strong.

To make the event more fun, we also decided to get a hotel room in Indy the night before the race. We chose the Fairfield Inn & Suites in downtown Indy, less than than a quarter-mile from the start line at the NCAA Museum. Amelia, Wendy's daughter, opted to join us with the plan of running the whole race at the 8:42 pace. The stage was set for a fun overnight trip.

"OMG, you're wearing THAT?"
"Race Eve" fuel
After a night of enjoying the mall (especially the food court), we reviewed our race plans and got a good night's sleep, something that usually eludes me in a hotel. The wind, which had been incredibly fierce a few hours earlier, was much calmer in the morning. During the race, the temp was predicted to be in the upper 30°s with a cloud cover. Wendy and I donned matching singlets, shorts, and arm warmers. Amelia chose a T-shirt and a throwaway cover, but she also wore arm warmers and shorts. We each had a bite to eat, and then ran to the start line, a short 300-meter warm-up.

When we arrived at the NCAA Museum to pick up our race numbers, we noticed people looking at us. The looking turned into staring... which turned into pointing... which turned into whispering. I was feeling self conscious and little uncomfortable. Finally, people started approaching us. "You're going to freeze. We can't believe you're dressed like that," said many, most of whom were wearing full tights and at least three layers. I replied to every single one of them, "I'll be cold for a mile, and comfy for eight miles." A few removed at least one of his/her shirts after talking to us.

When we joined the crowd at the start line, we noticed two ladies dressed similarly to us: singlets, shorts, arm warmers... and they MATCHED each other! We approached them and chatted for a bit before the race. Those two would eventually place as third and fourth females. We ran into them in Starbucks after the race and discovered that we have mutual friends. Neat! Always fun to make new pals.

We crossed the start line seven seconds after the gun sounded and started our Tour de Downtown Indy. During the first mile, people flew past us, but we held our planned 8:42 pace through the gentle ups and downs. We talked, laughed, chatted with a guy who almost wiped out, and marveled at the number of people dressed like it was the dead of winter. The 8:42 pace felt pretty easy, but I felt a bit melancholy, because I knew it would start to feel hard sooner or later.

The first few miles ticked off uneventfully, though we began passing droves of runners. My ankle/heel hurt a bit on the third mile, but I never felt it again in the race. At the beginning of the fourth mile, there was a hill that is steeper and longer than the others on the course. (It's actually a highway exit.) I thought that hill was probably where I was going to start feeling terrible. However, we held our effort level, and at the top of the hill, I felt no different than I had at the bottom of it... except for maybe a little more hopeful.

I passed the time on White River Parkway getting spectators to cheer for Amelia, telling them she was only 11, and "Good HEAVENS, doesn't she look GOOD?" :o) Around this time, one of the runners yelled, "Halfway!" I looked at my Garmin: 4.65 miles. Two thoughts entered my mind: 1.) "That was quick," and 2.) "I'll start feeling crappy sometime in the next 1.5 mi." I don't know why I was so being so negative. Being positive is usually my biggest strength. Luckily, those negative thoughts turned out to be DEAD wrong.

Acceleration Nation
Wendy (#goodfriend) got water at the hydration stations while Amelia and I continued our paces, then she ran the water up to us. (Must be nice to be that fast.)  During one of these instances, around 5.5 miles into the race, I decided to stride a bit and see how it felt.  It wasn't a huge acceleration, but it was faster... and it felt goooooood. I told Wendy then, "I don't want to be cocky, because I know it can change in an instant, but I feel invincible." She replied, "Then let's go." 

We made sure Amelia was OK with us enacting the acceleration plan, and she told us to go, and that she was planning to hold the original pace. Wendy and I accelerated little by little, bit by bit. The awful feelings I was expecting never came, and I continued to be able to hold conversation. At the 10K mark, Wendy suggested we start counting the people I passed. "One... two... three..." we counted. When we'd come upon another runner, Wendy would say, "Here comes number ______ (whatever was next)." 

By the eighth mile, I was working, and I began speaking in only short phrases. I didn't feel bad, I just needed my breath to fuel my muscles. We held an even effort up hills. I was thrilled at how my body was responding when I asked it to push harder. Wendy kept a mother's eye on Amelia behind us, but also kept helping me by counting folks I passed and reminding me to hold it together for just 1.2 more miles... 1 more mile... less than three track laps. The course's last half mile is on a paved pathway by the river. I concentrated on reeling in each runner in front of me. With about 200 meters to go, I saw the finish line, and I dug in.

Mile Splits
Wendy shouted at me to "go, go, go," then she turned around to get Amelia. I pushed my way to a 1:19:04 finish (8:29 average pace), passing 21 people on that last 5K, which I ran in 25:34. A volunteer gave me water and said, "Almost done." I replied, "Dude. Completely done." :o) I made my way to the side of the chute to wait for Amelia. She finished one minute and 15 seconds after I did, in 1:20:19, an 8:37 pace. She crossed the finish line with her Mom, both of them smiling. 

That I was able to complete this race at an 8:29 average pace, with negative splits, was a HUGE confidence builder for me. I don't even mind that I missed a course PR by three seconds. Knowing that I can hold my half PR pace, and accelerate, in a 15K puts me exactly where I need to be to do well at the Mini on May 3. My sub-1:54 goal is absolutely attainable. I'm also abundantly excited for Amelia to run her first half marathon in less than two weeks. I'll get a front row seat to watch the action, because I'll be running with her.

Oh, and those people who scoffed at our clothes? During the race, we noticed many of them had removed layers and tied the extra clothes around their waists as they ran. It was like a little vindication. :o)

Happy Runners!

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