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Sunday, October 16, 2011

The short and long of it

    After last weekend's unexpected brush with the mythical (for me) sub-18 5k, this Saturday would bring about take two, at the Run for Hospice 5k in Greece.  This race has been a staple for me since finishing up my collegiate eligibility.  It's probably local race director and running community staple Pete Van Peursem's biggest project every year, as it always promises a deep and fast field, prize money that goes seven deep, one of the best post-race spreads of any run I've done, and a flat course.  Most importantly, proceeds go to the Visiting Nurse Hospice, an organization that has provided compassion and hope for so many.  I have nothing but respect for any hospice worker; I can't even imagine doing their jobs, yet they're all fantastic at what they do.

   Anyways, I'll admit that I probably let a few things into my head in the week heading into the race, and I didn't run too intelligently as a result.  The main mistake I made was obsessing over the weather forecast, which was promising a 20mph headwind for the second half of the race.  I really do this a little too much before races (weather.com generally sits open in a window on my computer, with the ten day or hourly forecast, depending on how far out from a race I am, regularly refreshed).  I'll partially blame it on the fact that I probably have at least 10 small talk conversations about the weather in a typical workday (Rochestertarians, particularly the elderly, are obsessed with the weather forecast).  But, this unfortunately got into my head a bit, and I mistakenly decided that I'd have to build up a time cushion the first half of the race...bad idea.

   Race morning was chilly, but that's never been anything I minded.  I'd warmed up over the course, and the wind really didn't seem as bad as forecasted.  I'd been feeling a little sluggish all week, but figured that I could handle 18 minutes of running, and I arrived at the starting line ready to push.  I spent the first half mile of the race tucked behind Karen Blodgett (who has beat me handily twice in the last several weeks) and Paula Wiltse (probably one of the best masters runners in North America, no exaggeration).  This was poor planning on my part; clearly, I was out of my league with those two.  The first mile didn't feel terrible, but the 5:35 pace would do me in very shortly.  I held on through mile 2 (ironically, if my Garmin is to be believed, I ran a new 3k pr yesterday...oops), but the last mile was more or less a death march.  The headwind was there, of course, but I'd be making excuses if I blamed my 25 second slowdown on it, as it really wasn't that bad.  I just hadn't run intelligently.  I was lucky to barely hang on for fifth place after giving up a ton of ground to a hard-charging Christa Meyer (another woman blazing a comeback trail after having a baby, I somehow have a feeling this might be the last time I'll beat her!) over the last half mile, ending up with an 18:10.  Initially, I was a bit disappointed, but I figure that I have one more chance to break the 18 minute barrier prior to the marathon.  Plus, in reality, until last weekend, this hadn't even been a goal that was on my radar for this fall, and it's really become something I want to prove to myself more than anything.  Dave also struggled over the final mile and wasn't thrilled with his time, but he still won his age group, so overall, a fairly successful day for the Hansens (even though we didn't win the AirTran raffle), and all for a great cause.  After the race, we checked out a little bit of high school cross country at Seneca Park, which is always a good time (plus, my professional skills got recruited a bit-I love working with runners!).

   Today, I had to shift gears a bit- I got my butt out the door for one more 20+ miler.  My route would end up combining two of my favorite shorter routes, and encompassed some trails through Seneca Park, the Genessee Riverway Trail, and the Lakeside Trail through Irondequoit- a dusting of leaves and the changing trees further highlighted the areas.  I forced myself to include a few climbs  and a headwind for the last several miles, given that in three weeks, I won't be able to avoid the Queensboro Bridge or Central Park, and I won't be able to plan out my running direction in order to have a tailwind at the end.  Thus, I needed to man up.  However, my main goal for the day was to avoid the two bathroom stops I'd needed to make during my last long run.  Luckily, my plan of loading up on the pre-run Pepto, popping some Endurolytes to hopefully keep fluids in my bloodstream instead of my bladder, and holding out on starting to drink until mile 3 worked out perfectly, and gave me hopefully one less thing to worry about pre-marathon.  The last four miles, which included a climb and a 20-25mph headwind, almost did me in, but I managed to survive 21 miles without a stop.  What struck me as (fingers crossed) hopefully a good sign was that my quads behaved throughout two weeks after a 22 miler.  A year ago, two weeks after a 23 miler, ten miles was all they could handle before making the last 16 miles of my first marathon an exercise in misery.  So, maybe I'm stronger, maybe I'm luckier, but all I can do now is keep working and know that the marathon is a beast to never be taken lightly, and to use my head in these final three weeks of preparations!  Once again, thanks for everyone who supports me, including my mother, who had to park about a mile away yesterday and make her way through the wind and rain to cheer me on, and the Rochester running/triathlon community in general- hard to ask for a better group!

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