Friday, November 25, 2011

Going from Panic, Worry, and Fear to Surprise and Joy in 44 minutes and 8 kilometer: Ridgewood Turkey Trot 8k 2011 Race Report:

I am so thankful for every moment we have together.
First off, I would like to say that I am most thankful for my wonderful wife, who has decided to spend her life with me.  Hiroko didn't grow up with Thanksgiving as a holiday, and I don't think she fully understands the significance, but I think she get it a little more with each year she live in America.

I ran the Ridgewood Turkey Trot last year for the first time and loved it.  That race was my first 8k, which is now my favorite distance to run.  After last years race, I knew that I wanted to start a family tradition of running on Thanksgiving day and immediately began to look forward to this year's race.

Pre-Race Roller Coaster of Doubt and Fear:
The Crowd Gathers
The weeks leading up to this race have been just crazy.  My right leg has been having reoccurring pain on the front outside portion of the top of my calf, my left shoulder tightens up on nearly every run, I flew back and forth across country, which lead to my pulling a muscle in my back last Wednesday.  I could hardly walk from 11/16 to 11/20.  When I finally thought that I might be able to run on Tuesday, it was all kinds of wonky.  Everything hurt: both legs my left hip, left shoulder, my feet . . .  pretty much everything.  But, more than anything my mind was a mess.  I had been looking forward to the Turkey Trot for a year, and the run that went so badly was the first run of my Miami Half Marathon training program.  All of these physical issues were causing me worry about Miami as well.  Wednesday I went to the gym and did 30 mins. on the exercise bike, which helped a lot.  My right calf was sore afterwards, and I spent the entire day giving serious thought to the possibility of not running in the race if either my back, which was still tender, got worse, or if my legs began to hurt.  I was also worried about what would happen if any of these things flared up while I ran.  Mentally, I was exhausted by early Wednesday evening and just couldn't wait to go to sleep.  I laid out all of my stuff and just hoped that I would be able to start and finish the race that I had once considered my big goal race for the year.

Morning of the Race:
There were three three choices I made, which may have contributed to the results of the day:
  1. I changed to shoes from the pair of Saucony Triumph 8 size 15 wides that I had been running in since August to a pair of Saucony Triumph 8 size 15 regular that I bought for half price at the City of Oaks Expo.  I knew that the new pair wasn't broken in but I was sure that the old pair was worn out, so I figured wearing the new pair would be the lesser of two evils.
  2. At the very last minute, I chose to wear my compression socks while running for the first time.  I knew that the top portion of the sock where they feel tightest cut right across the portion of my calf that was giving me problems, so I thought that putting pressure on that point might help.  The compressions socks felt weird by themselves, so I put on my Balega running sock over top of them.  Around my feet felt like normal once I put my shoes on, so I wet with it.
  3. Since the starting line was less than I mile from our apartment, Hiroko and I rode our bike to the race, which I used as a warm up.  After running to the Old Reliable Run as a warm up, I am hesitant to skip a warm up before a race if at all possible.  I know most people will think that is just common sense, but sometimes . . . I am not too bright.
Of course no race is complete without a Raiders Cap.

Goals & The Start:
The race did a great job of organizing the field by pace and the street that we started on is really wide, so I could easily accommodate the large field.  Also other
than the portion of the course that goes into the residential neighbors from the 1.5 mile mark to the 3 mile mark, I know this course like the back of my hand.  And more importantly, I know just how to run it if my body will allow me.  I lined up with 9 min to 11 min pace group and was feeling good as the race began. Unfortunately the only goal that I felt was realistic was to finish the race without injuring myself more.  My back was a bit tender, but my legs felt alright.  I had some tightness in my left Achilles and calf area, but it felt like the type that would go away once I began to run rather than get worse.  At the last minute . . . and I mean the very last I thought to myself what pace would I need to hit if I wanted a PR.  My last 8k PR was 44:40, so I knew I would have to maintain a pace under 9 minutes flat.  Luckily, the first 1.7 miles are all down hill, but is then followed by 1.9 miles of up's and down's twist and turns, and then a two mile uphill incline two the finish line. 

Mile 1:
Systems Check and Refusing to Go to the Bank:  I got to my place about 3 minutes before the start, so I didn't have time to freak out.  I was still pretty happy from taking pictures with Hiroko and was getting caught up in the crowd.  Negative splitting the course would be difficult given the uphill nature of the second half of the course, but I want to make sure my pacing was good, and avoid going out too fast.  I also hope to avoid weaving around too much as well.  However, the field looked like it was well organized at the start and I didn't think there would be too many people out of place at the start.

As the race began, I felt alright.  My back was still feeling tender but I thought that it would hold up. My legs felt good.  Other than the tightness in my calf, which was working itself out as it warmed up, my legs felt awesome.  I maintained my pace for the first mile by checking Old Bob and falling in behind or along side people that looked like they knew what they were doing and were running at an even pace.  When I've run this course in the past, I have tried to bank time and gone out way too fast.  I had tried to take advantage of the long down hill as a means of banking time to give back at the end of the race, but I have come to think of this strategy as nothing more than a fools folly.  It just never works for me.  I am always too tired at the end of the race and just fade too much.  So, I decided to try to maintain an even pace over the first four miles of the race regardless of the lay of the land and then try to pick up the pace over the last mile.  At least, that was the idea of what I would do if I didn't find myself hobbling along the side of the road by the end of the second mile. 

Pictures from the Start

Here I am Feeling pretty good!

Everyone seems to be enjoying a good pre-turkey run!

Everyone enjoyed these guys! 

Mile 2:
Feeling More Comfortable & Getting Hopeful -- 
My first split was right where I wanted it.  I felt like I was in control and wasn't getting caught up in things.  My legs were still feeling good and breathing felt comfortable.  I past through the first water stop without giving it a thought then hit the first up hill at the 1.8 mile mark and was able to keep my pace where I wanted it.  After completing the initial down hill, I knew that the rest of this race would be difficult.  Last year, I was struggling by the second mile, but now I was doing well.  More importantly, there was a world of difference between this run and the disaster of a run I had only two days earlier.   At the end of this mile, my hopes of a good race were starting to grow and I made a concerted effort to maintain my pacing through the hills. 

Miles 3 & 4:
Where This Race Get Serious -- I had run the first two miles of the Turkey Trot so much better than I thought possible, so much in fact that I began to think that I might have a chance at my PR if I could hold my pace over the next two mile.  Yes, I realize that earlier I was worried that my leg might fall of or my spine would snap like a wishbone, but for some reason everything was beginning to fall into place for me.  I knew that I had run the first two miles in under 9min., if I could hold my pace under 9 minutes, I would give myself a chance of a PR in the last mile.  The problem was that mile three was a series of hills twisting through a neighborhood, and we eventually would come back onto Ridge road about a third of mile below where we had originally turned of it.  The main issue was that third of a mile saw us cover the longest sustained incline of the course.  I did my best to climb the hills in a steady controlled fashion.  I wasn't paying any attention to the people around me.  I wasn't wearing any music, and I know that people were talking all around me, but I was totally focused on the run, forced myself to push once I reached the top of the hill rather than rest, and didn't allow myself to get out of control on the down hill.  I put all of my focus into maintain my pace.  Mile three came in right where I needed it, and I hit mile four with nothing in mind except a PR.

Discard What You Do Not Need!
Mile 4 would either make me or crush me.  I felt good as entering into the climb  and don't think I have ever been more focused in a race than I was at this point.  I knew that I could not give into my bodies desire to take this hill a comfortable pace and needed to push myself close to my gut-check threshold and hold it there not only until I reached the peak of the incline but also for the next quarter of a mile through the water stop, where the incline would turn more gradual.  I also needed to resist any temptation to charge hard up the hill just to get through because doing so would exhaust me.  Control and Focus were the themes of the day.  I made my way through the steepest part of  Ridge Road without seeing my pace fall of too badly or my energy level sink.  Just as I came out of it, I past a person from one of my running groups, who tried to strike up a conversation, but I just couldn't talk.  At the moment, I was fully committed to not only beating my PR, but crushing it.  I breezed through the water station and headed for the five mile mark whit more than enough in the tank to break my PR.

Mile 5 & The Finish:
PR Face!
Going from Panic, Worry, and Fear to Surprise and Joy in 44 minutes and 8 kilometer --  The 5th mile was like a dream.  I pick up speed as the mile went on, took off my Raiders hat, and glove and tossed them to Hiroko, who was taking picture near the 4.5 mile mark.  The close that the finish line got my certainty of a PR grew.  Any fatigue that might have begun to build up was quickly out paced by surprise and joy.  I was doing an 8 minute mile flat by the time 4.75 mile mark.  I knew I had my PR, the course was leveling out and I was getting faster.  I pushed into a headlong run as the finish came into sight and as I looked at the clock on at the finish line I saw that my gun time was still well under my PR!  If I legged it out my gun time might be under my PR as well as my chip time.  I didn't care about legging it out with anyone around me.  This was me verses the clock. As it was, My gun time was 44:44 and just 4 seconds off of my 8k PR.  My Garmin time was 44:05, which means that I shave 35 seconds off of my PR at least (I am still wait for a revised official chip time).
Hello New PR!

The Splits:
Mile 1: 8:49
Mile 2: 8:48
Mile 3: 8:59
Mile 4: 8:59
Mile 5: 8:23

This was by far my best pacing effort and a great and wonderful way to end my 2011 race season! 

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