Thursday, May 14, 2009

Race Report: Quad Cities Distance Classic

I walked to the starting line of the Quad Cities Distance Classic half marathon trisko feeling more confident than I perhaps ever have for a race. I felt very prepared for the race. Not just because my training had gone well (though it did), but also because my training had become so important to me. In the months since I started training for this race, my life went through quite a lot of upheaval. I unexpectedly lost my job, went through the always trying period of a job search, and was lucky to find a new job quickly. Then I had to adjust to a new job that was challenging - and required quite a lot of travel. Training for this race was my constant, something that I could control. The fact that I kept training proved to me that the emotional horsepower to meet my goal.

Plus, there were the messages on my wrists. On my right wrist, I wore my Road ID. Inscribed on it is the mantra that I developed at this very race last year, running a half marathon trisko on Mother's Day in the pounding rain, sleet, and winds: ONE TOUGH MOTHER. On my left wrist was a reminder inspired by The Laminator and Frayed Laces: DDYA, which stands for Don't Deny Your Awesomeness. In the days leading up to the race, I would find myself with a stray negative thought, wondering if I could really meet my goal. So, I took a pen and wrote DDYA on my wrist as a reminder to put my thinking right. I rewrote it so many times that now, days after the race, a hint of blue ink still remains on my wrist.

In fact, the only concern I found when I reached the starting line was that, in a long sleeved shirt and tights, I was dressed more warmly than anyone else there. Was I overdressed? Was that a mistake? It was too late to fix it, so I hoped for the best.

My goal for this race was simple: 2:00 or less. My previous PR was 2:05, so it was ambitious, but I was confident I could do it.

And I tried a new strategy for this race, a strategy that I like to call "Running Smart." This offers a sharp contrast from my previous strategies of "Just Start Running And See What Happens" and "Go Out Way Too Fast And Totally Bonk At The End." I set Paula the Garmin to encourage me to run the first nine miles at (or reasonably close to) my required pace of 9:09. Then in the remaining 4.1 miles, I could run faster if I felt good.

So hey, maybe I should stop talking about it and just run the race already, right? Right.

I did my best to relax in the first mile, but I blazed through it way too fast at 8:20. I knew there was a big steep hill at the second mile, so I figured that would slow me down, which it did - 8:57. Still too fast, so I focused on relaxing and running at the right pace. I saw some runners around me who I wanted to be ahead of, but I reminded myself that my goal was not to stay ahead of Orange Shirt Girl, but to finish in two hours. I kept going, hitting the next few miles like this:

Mile 3: 9:02
Mile 4: 8:57
Mile 5: 8:57
Mile 6: 9:02
Mile 7: 9:06
Mile 8: 9:03
Mile 9: 9:04

So, I managed to ease up a bit and ran some pretty consistent splits. I was happy to have my Batman Utility Belt Fuel Belt with me so that I didn't have to stop or slow down for water stops. I was even happier about the fact that, thanks to my training runs with my running club, I knew several of the volunteers. The Distance Classic is a small race - and run on Mother's Day - so there were not a lot of spectators. Seriously, maybe 12 for the first 12 miles. It was great to be able to see some of my running buddies and have them say things like, "Good job, Betsy. You look really good." Because we'd all talked about the race quite a bit during and after those Sunday morning runs, they knew what I was trying to do, and they could see that I was on my way there. It was a great feeling.

After I passed the 10 mile mark, I called Steve and told him where I was. He said that he and Jack were at the stadium excited to see me finish. I felt great and picked up the pace.

Mile 10: 8:38
Mile 11: 8:37
Mile 12: 8:49

I kept looking at my splits and doing math in my head. I knew I was going to make my goal, and I was absolutely thrilled. I was a bit warm in my long sleeves, but I figured I could deal with it for a few more miles. Things were going great. Then, at around the 12-1/2 mile mark, a little cartoon devil popped onto my shoulder. "Just walk to that next telephone pole," it encouraged. I have no idea where that devil came from, because I was tired, but still strong. I definitely had another half a mile or so to give. So I brushed him off and kept going. I was rewarded by the site of my running buddy John standing at the corner, enthusiastically cheering, "Looking good! You've got this one!"

I ran into the stadium and onto the track. In an attempt to maximize that last 1/4 mile, I ditched my Fuel Belt like ballast and tore into it. Steve and Jack were waiting near the finish line. Steve cheered for me and Jack joined me on the track. With my guys cheering for me, I blazed through mile 13 in 8:35 and the little .1 at 6:59 pace.

The final result?


Previous PR? Smashed.
Race goal? Obliterated.

There was nothing left to do but celebrate. I got my finisher's medal, ate some bagels, bananas, and cookies, and picked out some red petunias - all finishers can choose some annuals to plant, and I'll be happy to have them be part of my garden. I cheered in some more of my running buddies.

And then, I spent the rest of my day feeling triumphant. I put on my red OxySox and took a nap while snuggling with Jack and watching Star Wars. The boys took me to see Disney Earth and Steve made a great dinner for me and my mom.

I have two more triskos scheduled for the next few weeks. A week from Sunday, I'll run Madison, and then on June 7 I am running 13.1 Chicago. Because I did so well in this race, I feel like the pressure is off a little bit and I can relax a bit. That said, I am thinking about running Madison with the first eight miles at 9:09, giving me another 5.1 to speed up if I want to. We'll see how I feel. But until then, I feel like one tough mother!


Roisin said...

WOW!!!! You killed that race. KILLED IT. Congratulations!!!

Anne said...

Wow, congrats! It sounds like you had an awesome race, and those are impressive splits :D

tfh said...

You are a crazy tough mother! What a great race and an amazing new PR.

Nitmos said...

Congratulations! I'm equally impressed that you could place a phone call at mile 10 and still pick up the pace.

Oz Runner said...

awesome job on the race, way to get a PR!

Lisa said...

congratulations!!!! Running smart is definitely the way to go. You killed it!

Kent said...

Excellent job, and you keep earning title over and over...

KK said...

Holy cow, nice job, Betsy. I'm impressed that you kept such a steady pace and were still able to go faster at the end. Kudos to your training.