Sunday, February 21, 2016

Blacksburg Classic 2016 : a last minute decision

I wasn't planning on racing again until March.  I always sign up for races way in advance, when they are cheapest.  When the time came to register for the Blacksburg Classic, I knew I wasn't ready, and that I should skip it this year.  The race was supposed to be on February 13th.  There was a big snowstorm in the forecast for that day, just like there was a huge snowstorm that I got caught in on the way home from the race last year.  I had no regrets about not signing up for this year.

On Friday morning, I was doing my usual gradual wake up in bed while browsing facebook, when I saw a post from RunAbout Sports that said there was still time to sign up for this year's Blacksburg Classic.  Say what?!  Turns out they postponed it a week because of the awful frigid weather and snow predicted for the original date.  I immediately started feeling the race itch.  A week earlier, I had known I wasn't ready for a ten mile race.  But now, I felt ready.  I had a great, high-mileage week last week.  I had been running 10+ mile runs with zero problems.  Maybe it was time to see how my body would react to a race.  I checked the Blacksburg weather for Saturday : 50+ degrees and no precipitation.  Game on. Time to start my 2016 racing season!

Since it is a 1:00 race, I decided I might be able to survive driving there and back alone.  I slept til about 7, had a good breakfast, packed a lunch, and was on the road shortly after 9.  I arrived in Blacksburg shortly before 11.  I registered for the race and even managed to snag a size small t-shirt before they ran out.  Registration was in the cafeteria of an elementary school, so I then pulled out my lunchbox and the book I am currently reading (The Toss of a Lemon), and had a leisurely lunch.  I still had time to kill before changing and warming up, so I settled into an armchair in the hallway and read some more.  Around 12, I changed into running clothes and went for my warm-up jog.  It quickly became clear to me that I was going to be way too warm during the race, so after the warm-up I changed from knee-length running pants to shorts, and took off my long sleeve shirt.  I'm very glad I made that choice.

Finally, the race started.  I made sure not to try and jump to the front, I did my best to keep what felt like a relaxed pace for the first mile.  Of course it ended up being a 6:34 pace : faster than ideal, but not as fast as some of my insane first miles.  Since it felt relaxed, I didn't worry about it, just saw it as banking time for later in the race when I would inevitably slow down.  I settled in next to a guy, and we remarked that maybe we would be able to stick together, which would have been awesome.  We are both the kind of people that tend to end up all alone in these races.  Sadly, we only stuck together until about 3.5 miles in, when he started pulling ahead (or I started dropping back) and I never caught up to him again, although he was often within sight. He ended up finishing 4 minutes ahead of me.

the start of the race

I carried my inhaler during this race, as I didn't want to lose another race to my asthma, and the doctor told me to use it whenever I felt like I needed it.  Having not yet taken advantage of that, I wasn't sure how to go about it.  Should I use it preventatively every few miles?  Should I wait until I was desperate and then hope it helped?  I think I start feeling the oxygen debt in my legs before I start feeling like I am on the verge of an asthma attack, so I tried to use that as my gauge.  The little bit of talking I did in the first few miles started to effect me, so I used the inhaler around 3.5 miles in. I used it again at 7.5 miles when my legs were again feeling oxygen-deprived.

Coming up on the third mile, someone told me I was 3rd female.  That came as a big surprise for more than one reason.  First, we were still with the 5k runners at that point and I'm pretty sure all our bibs looked the same.  Second, I was 5th last year and 6th the year before.  Apparently the date change prevented the usual fast crowd from showing up.  As it turns out, I was indeed in 3rd place for the ten-miler (so I guess I would have won the 5k...)  I caught up to the second place runner somewhere in the fifth mile, if I remember correctly.  There was a turn-around about 7.1 miles in, at which I could see that she wasn't too far behind to catch me if she had a sudden burst of energy or a good kick.  I never saw her again though.  But someone else caught me in the last mile.  I tried to start kicking with 2 miles to go, but I didn't have much to go with.  The most I could really do was try not to slow down.  When I lost 2nd place, I was able to stay on her heels for a maybe a minute, but then I started dropping back a bit.  She ended up beating me by 12 seconds.

finish line photos

I didn't break 1:10 like I had hoped, but honestly, that probably wasn't a realistic goal.  I ran a 1:10:14 in 2014, and a 1:11:19 in 2015.  In 2014, I was a month into my first bout of tendonitis, but I hadn't yet stopped running, so I was still at the strongest I had probably ever been.  Last year, I had been running since September and was pretty strong, but there was really strong wind holding me back.  This year, I'm coming back from the second round of tendonitis and asthma issues, and while I have been doing well with mileage, I have not been running all that fast.  My body was nowhere near ready for the demands of race-pace.

I finished in 1:12:19.  Not quite the time I hoped for, but I know it was the best I had in me, judging from how absolutely awful I felt afterwards.  I forced myself through a cool-down to get the last .6 miles that I needed to reach my weekly minimum of 30 miles.  I could barely drag myself through that cool-down, and when I finally got back to my car and let myself stop, I wondered if I was going to pass out.  Thankfully, I didn't, though I felt pretty rough for awhile.  I drank a lot of water, and had my protein recovery drink.

I spent almost 18 minutes in the anaerobic heart rate zone (191+ bpm).  That is compared to 8 minutes in my last 5k, less than a minute at the Pittsburgh 1/2, and around 3 minutes in the Blue Ridge 1/2.  I'll interpret that to mean that I was working hard and shouldn't have expected any more from myself!  

All in all, I am glad that I made the decision to race yesterday.  It was my first race in 6 months, which I believe is the longest I have ever gone without racing.  I ran a good race and it gives me an idea of where I am in my training, to help me better know what to work on, and what to expect for my next race.  I definitely want to keep up the long runs to continue building my endurance, but I also am going to need to work some more speed (a/k/a lung work) into some runs.  I also, of course, need to have some patience.  I've had a lot of setbacks in the last 2 years, and I can't expect my body to recover overnight and act like nothing happened.  I need to give it the time and training it needs to get back to where I was pre-tendonitis.

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