Going into the race, I knew that a lot of things were coming together - my training times were good, the course is one of the fastest in the country, and the weather was forecasted to be PERFECT run PR weather.
The pieces were all there, it would be up to me to put them all together. In other words, if I DIDN'T PR, it was all on me. This was both good and bad. Good because for the first A race in a year and a half, weather wouldn't be an issue, bad because No Excuses.
So, Dr. Z. and I headed down Saturday afternoon for packet pickup in downtown Albany - a rare treat for this city-loving girl. Got my bib, and walked around the expo a bit. Just was I was about to leave, a super-cute pink hoodie WITH SWEATERPAWS caught my eye. They actually had an XS, so it was MINE.
Then it was time to mow down and P.F. Changs (my FAVORITE) before heading back to the hotel. Pinned my number to my run tank and it was time to hit the hay.
Ah, the joy of foot races. Relatively late 8:30 start and no transition to set up (or body marking/getting chip/etc.) meant we woke up at a relatively decent hour and still had time to have a leisurely breakfast at Dunkin' Donuts. (My carb-heavy go-to breakfast for footraces of a plain bagel with butter and large coffee.)
Dr. Z. dropped me off at the start and drove off to the finish line in Albany. (The joys of a point-to-point race.) I immediately got into the long line to use the Porta-Potty and spent the rest of the time jogging around while freezing my ass off. (It was about 38 degrees.)
We got all lined up, and in the middle of chatting with a couple other women, we suddenly started moving - no air horn or anything. (And I know it wasn't just me missing it because someone else said, "Oh, we're going?") I actually liked it. It was like, boom, race time.
So we get going and the first thing I find out is that I've seeded myself too far back. It's really hard to pass people because we're on a narrow bike path. Sigh. I end up passing people by going on the grass. I keep telling myself that it's an excellent way to ensure I don't go out too fast. Just as I get some space and get in a groove, my shoe comes untied despite double-knotting it in the morning. I briefly entertain the thought of just running with it like that, at least until the crowd thins out, but five notifications from people that my shoe is untied in as many minutes convinced me to haul over to the side and fix it. I then had to re-pass everyone I had spent the first half mile passing. Sigh. This was my slowest mile by far, but I didn't really freak out - I was in a good groove and had 12.1 miles to make it up.
Miles 2-4 :
Got behind some perfect girls to draft off of. They were running high 8:30s/low 8:40s, but the heart rate and my RPE was okay, so I stayed with it. I couldn't believe they were chit-chatting. I remember thinking, "I'm in the 170's, which is technically Z4 for me, and this is their CONVERSATIONAL PACE?!?!"
Also dumped my hoodie at the first aid station - I was warming up fast. (Luckily it was an old hoodie I knew I might have to trash if Dr. Z. didn't meet up with me in time.)
At the second aid station, I decided to dump some water on my head (yes, although it was still only 40's) and managed to nail someone who (unbeknownst to me) was drafting off me. Oops. I honestly had no idea she was there. Dr. Z finally caught up to me and could see from where I already was on the course that I was having a good day.
I also had latched on to a new group. One of the little things that came together for this race is I always had people going the perfect pace to draft off of and drag me along. It was in here I started noticing my heart rate starting to climb past acceptable levels - I told myself I couldn't go into Z5 until the last 5K. I had a couple slow half-mile splits in here, which made me a bit nervous. My average pace also went down from 8:35 (after a very fast downhill half mile) up to 8:42. Usually still a PR pace, but I could tell this course was LONG. (Thank God for Garmin!).
Miles 9 and 10:
This is where it started hurting. My splits were BARELY staying within acceptable numbers - I was seeing a lot of 4:20s and 4:22s even with my HR up around 175. I dumped off my sleeves and gloves to Dr. Z. at several points.
|A couple particularly great action shots Dr. Z. got.|
Once again, I latched on to a new group, well person for the last 5K. I had actually started sitting on her shoulder at mile nine somewhere and was just trying to hang on. She was going just a bit fast for me, but this late in the race it was go time: Let's pick it up, and see what we have left under the hood. As we passed the Mile Ten marker, Dr. Z. pretty much said that to me. And I went with her. It hurt bad.
|I'm in my "head down and focused" mode, but the beast in front of me is awesomely deep in her Pain Cave.|
I just held on. Around mile 12ish she said something, I forget what, and I replied, "Let's finish this thing!". We came on through the bike path, and hit the final turn. I did think enough to hit my lap button at mile 13.1 - something like a 1:53.
|First time I've been able to get the "rippling shredded muscles" effect in a photo.|
The last .3 seemed to take FOREVER because of the course being long. I kept looking for that damn finish line after I hit 13.1. I could see the clock saying 1:54 and I just SPRINTED through to ensure not only an unofficial "Garmin 13.1" PR, but an official PR. As it turns out, I managed to PR by almost a minute even by GUN time.
Came on through the finish and amazingly DIDN'T need Medical for once. (How disappointing. ;-D) I DID use my inhaler, but that's about it. I was SO, SO happy with my performance. I grabbed a chocolate milk and then through myself down for my first-ever immediate-post-race massage. (More like a very light leg-rubbing, which is all the quads could handle at that point anyway.) Another nice touch that they have at the finish line was a change tent.
|What does one wear after taking down a 7-year-old PR? ALL THE PINK!|
There isn't much to say about a race where everything big (weather, course, training) and small (people to run with, perfect breakfast) comes together. I do love this race as I love a fast, flat course so am hoping to do the Full marathon next year and set another PR.
Time: 1:54 (8:37 pace over 13.29 miles)
Onto the off-season!