Thursday, February 25, 2010

Victory Pose

In my last post, I shared a picture of myself crossing the finish line at the Chili Chase. In it, I am all business, which is exactly what my mental state was at that moment. I had just raced up a pretty steep hill to pass several other runners and was feeling the effects of the effort. I'm sure there was a smile on my face a second after that picture was taken, but in that moment, all I wanted was to get my foot on that mat.

My friend Tim, a recent convert to running, said that he always thinks about striking a pose as he crosses the finish line. He's partial to the Rocky:

and wonders, as a newbie runner, if it's appropriate. I told him that it's not only appropriate, but encouraged, but the more I think about it, there are some etiquette standards for victory poses when crossing the finish line. When Tim finished his first half marathon, then hell yes, he should rock the Rocky, but when I put in a solid effort at that four mile race, it would have been a tad much.

When can runners pull a victory pose like the Rocky, or its two armed variant? It's time to write the unwritten rules:

DO: Any time you finish a race of 13.1 miles or greater. You just accomplished something that most people will never do. I don't care how long it took you to finish that marathon; if you can get your arms over your head, do. Feel the triumph!

DON'T: When finishing an easy 3 mile training run around your neighborhood.

DO: After you set a hard-won PR. If you've been working your butt off to break 30 minutes (or 21 or 15 or 45 or whatever) in a 5K, and you just did it? Celebrate!

DON'T: If you took a walk break 20 meters ago and then just broke into a sprint to cross the finish line? People noticed it and we're not impressed.

DO: Just finished your first ever race? Welcome to the fraternity, my friend. Hoist your arms!

DON'T: If you just barely squeaked past another runner, then good job kicking it in, but throwing a Rocky seems like rubbing it in.

What about you? When do you think you can throw a victory pose?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Race Report: Chili Chase

Chili Chase 2010One sure way to kick those winter running doldrums is to sign up for a race. I ran the Chili Chase two years ago and had a great time, so I decided to run it again. And as an added bonus, this was my first race as a member of the Cornbelt Running Club Racing Team! I felt very proud to put on my uniform and was determined to do my team proud.

I arrived early to help out with registration. I helped give out the technical socks that the race director offered in lieu of t-shirts. It's always great to have another pair of good running socks, plus these had a very cool bright green band on them with a little chili pepper. As an extra, we also had running gloves to give out. People loved the gloves, a simple lightweight cotton that are perfect on a day when it's cold, but not too cold. Volunteering was a lot of fun. I got to hang out with a cool group of people, plus I was able to say hello to lots of my fellow runners.

Fifteen minutes before race time, I said goodbye to the other volunteers working the table and went outside to warm up. The temperature was cold, in the 20s, but I was careful not to over dress for it, wearing tights, wind pants, a long-sleeved technical t with my team singlet over it, and my team jacket. For the first time, I pinned my race number to my leg, rather than to my shirt, in case I needed to unzip my jacket. It snowed later in the day, but luckily there were no weather obstacles on the course, save for one tiny patch of packed snow - with a volunteer whose job it was to tell everyone to be careful.

All the runners gathered at the starting line, which went down a long medium-steep hill. The race director warned us that what goes down must go up - in other words, enjoy this downhill, because you'll be running up it to the finish line.

I wasn't sure how the race was going to go. I have struggled to get in quality speed work this winter. The tracks aren't clear, and it's hard to do speed consistently on the road because the combination of ice, packed snow, loose snow, and slushy mess makes footing unpredictable. I am training for a half marathon in April, and I know I'll have the stamina, but I don't know how fast I'll go. So, I decided to relax, work hard on the hills, and see what happened. I put Paula Garmin on under my jacket so I could look if I wanted to, but not be distracted by my pace.

We took off, and it was a great time. There was an out and back portion of the course, so my fellow runners, friends, and team members and I cheered for each other as we went by.

In the last mile, things started to get interesting. I could see several runners ahead of me who were struggling with the hills. I have been training on hills all winter, but even without that advantage, I always try to pass people on hills whenever possible. It's a psychological thing; I can see other people are having trouble, and I tell myself (whether it's true or not) that I am strong on hills and can beat people.

I picked off three runners who were slowing down, then set my sights on more and more of them. I probably passed five or six runners in the last mile. In the end, I crossed the line with a time I was very happy with: 35:32.

The post-race party for the Chili Chase is always fun. There's great food - bbq sandwiches, chili, and beer. I had a bite to eat and hung out with friends. Out of curiosity, I checked the results to see where I placed. To my surprise, my effort was good for 34th place... super cool because the race director doesn't do age group awards for this race, but rather gives out awards for the overall top 35! I just made it. Better still, instead of a trophy, I got a bright green travel coffee mug with a chili pepper on it.

It was a great way to spend a Sunday and has me feeling good about the year of racing ahead.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


I held out for as long as I could, but winter doldrums have offically set in.

There is much to love about running in the winter. Snow becomes more than just a cold wet inconvenience that I have to shovel; it's also beautiful, sparkly, and makes an appealing crunching noise when I run through it. Running makes me appreciate snow. And the cold doesn't bother me. Put on the right gear and give yourself ten minutes and you're fine. Best of all is the Badass Factor. No matter how short or slow your run is, the mere fact that you're out there while everybody else is inside makes you look totally hardcore.

Still, it's just seemed like so much effort lately. It's pitch dark when I leave the office and not getting any lighter by the time I've had dinner and put Jack to bed. By then the idea of layering up, going outside, and having what will be a slow run because of the snow is really unappealing.

I've got a half marathon trisko scheduled for April, so I'm still getting the miles in, but it's not much fun. I am waiting for the freedom of wearing just one pair of pants to go out, of trading my winter hat for a running cap, and of seeing just a little light in the evenings.