April 12, 2014

April 12: Totally Rad 80s Run (5K Race)

Total time: 46:27
Total distance: 3.1 miles
Last year's time: 38:50

I have a bit of a fondness for the Totally Rad 80s Run, aside from the fact that it is 80s themed... and that's that, last year, it was my very first official 5K. By "official" I mean in a race setting, not running my usual trail on my own. I wasn't super impressed with the race last year - it was its first year, and there were kinks to be worked out. The finish line was not much more than a sandwich board that said "Finish" and for some reason I was thinking that there was supposed to be music along the route so I didn't bring my iPod and was a little disappointed. Interestingly enough, this still holds the record as my fastest 5K to date.

Going into Year Two, I knew it was going to be a totally different experience, for several reasons. One, it was in April and not June, so the weather was likely to be significantly cooler. Two, they were doing chip-timing this year. Three, the friends I'd done it with last year were busy so I was basically flying solo. I mean, I'm a solo runner, but it's nice to have friends to do a race "with" - even if I don't see them at all during the actual running bits, it's nice to have someone to meet up with at the finish line after. I debated backing out, especially since I'd just done one the week before and I obviously wasn't in any better shape than I had been then. Intervals it would be! I also did a better job with my ensemble this year.

As luck would have it, a couple friends were suddenly out of a 5K that day when the one on campus got cancelled, so I talked them into doing this one instead. One of them showed up with a fully-functioning cassette-playing Walkman.

I was prepared this time, musically. I'd curated an 80s-tastic playlist and loaded it to my phone. Normally I use my ancient iPod Shuffle, but I really didn't want to wipe out my regular playlist so I resigned myself to dealing with a phone armband. Naturally, this was something I wasn't used to, and I had trouble getting it going. The volume on my phone was turned up too loud and when I plugged my headphones in, I got blasted with sound, so I was trying to finagle that nonsense at the start line. I pulled off to the back and let the race go ahead and start around me, starting near the back of the pack... which, frankly, is fine. Then my watch couldn't figure out where I was in time so it was probably a good few tenths of a mile before my GPS kicked in. Close enough, I decided - it would give me an idea of roughly where I was at and my actual time would be chip-recorded.

This race was hard. The route was mostly the same as last year, except it started and ended by a bar called Mullets (naturally) instead of winding back into Principal Park (home of the Iowa Cubs baseball team). It was a nice route, mostly flat.

But it was hot. OMG, so hot.

I couldn't figure out why I was struggling so much. Sure, it felt warm, but I didn't realize how hot it had actually gotten since arriving to check in. Keep in mind, this is April, and just the prior week, I had been running in 35-degree weather. There was a point somewhere just past 2.5 miles where I was seriously concerned about the possibility of throwing up.

Turns out, the temperature had skyrocketed into the upper 80s.

When I got in my car afterward, the readout was 89 degrees. Seriously, is this April or August? Cause that's an August temperature. (I'm not complaining... I don't think. At least it wasn't freezing! But it was a bit of an extreme jump.) No wonder I was having a hard time. It was about fifty degrees warmer than it had been the previous Saturday, and about forty degrees higher than anything I'd run in yet this year. My body was thoroughly confused.

Fortunately, I did not vomit or pass out or suffer any severe heat-related ailments, but damn. That was a HARD race. I always look forward to the finish line, but I have never been so happy to be done as I was that day. And then I was handed a spiffy boombox-shaped finisher medal, which was kind of odd. I mean, I get that the Totally Rad Race Organizers were stepping up their game this year, but to me, finisher medals are for things like half-marathons and above. Sure, finishing a 5K is an achievement, but I don't really feel like it's medal worthy unless you won your division. (I've never been a fan of participation medals, either.) I also really didn't feel like I deserved it because I didn't run the whole thing. By my standards, this wasn't really a stellar performance, definitely not one to be rewarded. It was probably one of the worst races I've run, actually. Not to mention the fact that it was almost eight minutes slower than last year. Eek.

But then my friend met up with me and we hung out at Mullet's for a while (they have sweet potato tater tots with this marshmallowy dipping sauce that is amazing, should you ever find yourself there.) 

April 5, 2014

April 5: Fool's 5K (Race)

Total time: 44:52
Total distance: 3.1 miles


So, a little about this race. The Fool's 5K, an annual event held in proximity to April Fool's Day, possibly entitled as such because we are all crazy for trying to do a race this early in the year, held up in the scenic George Wyth National Park in Waterloo, Iowa. This race caught my attention for a couple reasons - they claimed it to be SUPER FLAT (flat is good) and for it to be one of the most well-organized and/or smoothest-run races in the state, and... there's a crapload of food at the end. Somewhere in the communications was this incredibly interesting article about how race distances are calibrated/measured (and what makes some "official") and how GPS devices work and why the two don't always match. Having just gotten a GPS watch, I found it helpful. I also was really impressed by how much of a pain in the butt it is to officially calibrate a race. I'm guessing most events I've done.... haven't.

Anyway. Me being me, if there is a theme involved, I'll jump all over it. From what I could tell from the website and such, there was a bit of a jester theme, so I located a couple mardi-gras masks for my sister and myself. (I did toy with the idea of an actual jester hat, but that seemed like it might be cumbersome to run with, so I let it go. This time.) The mask got to be a little uncomfortable so it stayed parked on my head for the majority of the race, but I still feel like it was a nice touch.

I have decided that, when possible, I want to wear the race tees at the actual race, so when I take my post-race pictures, I can easily tell at a glance later which race it was from. The shirts for this race ended up being a full dye-sublimation print, which was really cool, but... it was cold, so under the jackets they went.

This was the first race I've done where they had us line up by pace. So, basically... I had to hike it all the way to the end. Ha. Oh well. I'm okay with being a slow runner and it's smart to keep us slowbies out of the way of the fast people.

Despite it being super chilly, the sun did come out, and it warmed up a little bit toward the end. I mean, no one would have mistaken it for being Warm Outside, but it was rather pleasant. I prefer it be a bit cooler when I run anyway... 45-75 is my ideal temperature range. We started out in synchronized intervals, me consulting my faithful Garmin and dictating when to start/stop as per what had worked with my interval experiment. Eventually, my sister got bored and wanted to keep going, so I waved her ahead and off she went. For all her complaining about how she wasn't going to be able to do it at all, she pulled ahead and left me in the dust!

As for me, I ended up beating my goal time of 45 minutes with a finish time of 44:52! Hooray! It was the first time I'd heard my name announced when crossing the finish line, so that was simultaneously cool and surprising. Another cool thing about this race? You could sign up ahead of time to have your finish time texted to you... which I did. It was nice to have instantaneous feedback, especially since I knew my Garmin was a wee bit off. Overall results, 1000 out of 1118 (I feel like I should get a prize for being exactly the 1000th person, right?... 632 out of 734 female runners (all ages), and 64 out of 93 in the "Athena" category, which I chose instead of my age group. (Athena = female runners over 150 lbs. I felt I had a better chance of placing higher in this category than being lumped in with all the skinny, fit people.) Not too shabby for the first time out!

April 2, 2014

April 2

Total time: 47 minutes [intervals]
Total distance: 3.06 miles [intervals]

I decided to perform an experiment today. Since it has become glaringly obvious that I cannot really run much more than a mile right now, and I am facing a 5K on Saturday (curse you, past self!), I needed to try a new approach. I wondered if, perchance, I could get through the long distance by doing run-walk intervals throughout. It was worth a chance, and frankly, it was the only option I had left.

So I set off tonight with the goal of two miles. If I could get through two miles of intervals, then a third shouldn't be a problem. Right? Right.

I started off pretty ambitious: I was going to run 5, walk 2. I quickly decided to modify this and ended up doing 3-4 minutes on, 3-4 minutes off. The majority of the run was 3:3, but after the first mile, I started adopting a few 4-minute walks, and, weirdly, after the second mile, I added a few 4-minute runs.

Here's what was amazing:

1. My first mile was faster than any mile I have run so far this year. That's right, run/walk intervals > solid running. I think this is largely because when I do run, I am able to run at a little bit faster of a pace than when I just run. (To be fair: I am a slow runner, and a fast walker.) Therefore, I decided that if this experiment was successful, I could probably do this for the 5K and still hit a finish time near what I would have run in my peak from last summer.

2. The longer I went, the stronger I got. This is the opposite of what I expected. Common sense would dictate that I would get more tired and thus slower as time went on (which, again, is what normally happens.) Instead, I felt awesome, and decided to extend my adventure past 2 miles and do a full 3. (Honestly, I probably could have kept going if it hadn't started to rain and/or I hadn't needed to get home and go do some laundry. The next time it's nice out and I get an earlier start, I might just do so!). I have no measurements to back this claim up, but I really felt like the running intervals between mile 2 and 3 were faster than the ones in the first or second mile. I even told myself to slow down at one point (I didn't listen.)

I cannot believe how night-and-day I felt between yesterday and today. While yesterday (and the run before that) were disheartening and full of defeat, I felt awesome today.

And I'm no longer intimidated by Saturday's event. I'm aiming my goal time for 45 minutes. If I hit it, great, if I don't... meh. Maybe next time!

April 1, 2014

April 1

Total time: 18:20
Total distance: 1.25 miles

Oooh, man. I need to borrow someone's TARDIS so I can go back and punch myself in the face for thinking I'd be 5K ready by April. LOL NOPE.

I've got one this weekend... and one the weekend after that. The first one is a new one (for me), up in my sister's neck of the woods, so of course I talked her into doing it with me, though she's about as prepared for it as I am. The second one is the Totally Rad 80s Run, Part Deux, moved up from July to April (and moved up from the evening to the middle of the day). Looking forward to it not being so hot (because July = ew) and also looking forward to it being chip-timed this year. Though the fact that it is so early will make it hard to compare Last Year vs This Year times since I'll obviously have been in two different points in my training. (I say "training" like I have an actual program I'm following, when really up until now it's been pretty much "go out and run until you can't anymore, and hopefully it will be more/better than last time.")

But... yeah. Starting to get a little apprehensive about this rapidly-approaching events. I am incapable of running 3.1 miles right now. I think that time I ran 2 a couple weeks ago might have been a total fluke.