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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Johnny's Running of the Green-race report! (another one??)

  One week after taking on Syracuse's St. Patty's day race, I was off to try my hand at Rochester's version, Johnny's Running of the Green 5 miler.  This race has always been a favorite of mine since I first took it on as a mere freshman in college; after all, it ended up being a deciding factor in my decision to switch to longer distance track racing.  Apart from the fun St. Patrick's day atmosphere I touched upon last week, it's really the main kick-off of the Rochester running season, when we all come out of hibernation, test our mettle, and catch up again.  As far as results go, Johnny's and I, well, we've had somewhat of a spotty history, as I've run all over the board there, having some of my best and worst races there, as well as everything in between.  I missed it one year with a stress fracture, I ran it as my first race one year after a stress fracture, I've run it sick, I've run it getting over being sick, and three years ago now, I had arguably one of my best performances there (even factoring in that we all turned around early, cutting ~100m off the course)-but, unbeknownst to me at the time, I was well on my way to two stress fractures (possibly already there; I remember limping through my warm up).  The year after that, I missed it due to a bridal shower; then, last year, I had been feeling great heading in...until I lost a battle with the flu, and ended up running within 24 hours of breaking an 102 degree fever.  Needless to say, the race didn't go so well for me.  So, Johnny's and I had some unfinished business.  I woke up this morning somewhere in between all of those states- flu-less, not close to the peak running shape I'd been in three years ago, but not limping and broken either (I'll take that trade-off-in retrospect, ruining my body was not worth one great early season race)!

  Dave and I actually arrived at the race site early (after the stress of my rushed warm up last weekend, I was maybe a little anal).  I warmed up with eventual race winner Jen Bigham and Vanessa Martell, who's great to have back in Rochester and racing again.  After last weekend, I was hoping to at least run under 31:00, figuring that I could hold the same pace for a flat 5 miler as I could for a hilly-ish 4 miler.  In the back of my mind, the 30:20 was stuck in my head as my "reach" goal.  I'd run about that four years ago, when I had been pounding out some good treadmill/track workouts all winter; I somehow thought I'd just feel a little more confident about my fitness if I could hit that mark.  Vanessa mentioned that she thought she'd be in the 30:00-30:45 range; I thought that sounded pretty reasonable for myself, as well, and figured that working with her early on would be a good plan.  This week's training had consisted of more volume than last week, but without huge amounts of intensity.  So, while I wasn't feeling quite as fresh as I had last weekend, I wasn't feeling too bad, either.

  Early on in the race, I hung back a bit behind a group of women, staying relaxed.  By half a mile in, I'd worked my way up to Vanessa; we hung together for a bit, and went through the mile right around 6:00, as planned.  She commented something about the good pacing, I responded with something along the lines of "right on"!  I briefly thought about the fact that I'd probably gone through that first mile in 5:40 before and felt momentarily discouraged; then, I shut that voice up and soldiered on.  The urge to smile at everything and everyone I'd had last week wasn't exactly there today, but heck, I was racing.  I kept the pace steady and managed to move into fifth place by the second mile, and was pleasantly surprised (and relieved) to hit the two mile just over 12 minutes-I hadn't slowed down.  When we neared the turnaround point, I was beginning to feel it, but I still managed to shout a little encouragement to some of the leaders.  I saw that I'd been easily gapped by the women in front of me (all high-caliber runners), but that I had a group of some quick women close behind me.  I didn't mind though- nothing I could do but run to my abilities for the next 2.5 miles, after all.  The next half mile went by quickly, as I felt fortunate enough to have lots of support from the runners heading out, including numerous people who cheered for me by name-thank you, all!  I went through three miles a few ticks under 18:10, and began to realize that my unspoken 30:20 goal was well within my reach.  Sure, I hurt, but I could handle 12 more minutes of running hard, I rationalized with myself.

  I began to question myself a bit that fourth mile, as I'm almost just flat out not used to running pain.  Luckily, I've run the last mile of that route in abject pain many, many times, as other races I've run have finished in the same area, too.  I recalled trying to hold my breakfast down during the last mile of the Flower City Half last year, and knew that if I could just make it back over the Ford St bridge, I'd be within a mile of the finish with a just the slightest of downhills to push me towards the finish line as we turned onto Exchange Blvd.  I saw the four mile mark and checked my watch: 24:06.  Even then, breaking 30 didn't really dawn on me; it'd require a huge last mile, and I was working near capacity at that point.  All I knew is that the end was approaching, and I was in the clear to begin the drive towards the line.  About half a mile from the finish, my boss stood cheering, which picked me up in some small way.  Finally, I could see the finish clock.  I glanced down-29:07.  Crap!  Could I break 30?  Was I close enough to the line?  Push, push.  Look down again.  29:30.  Don't think I'm going to make it-running out of time.  29:40.  The line is right there.  Sprint.  SPRINT.  You can make this.  Don't tell yourself it's ok if you're just over, you've done it before and you know you'll HATE yourself later on for that.  29:50...:52...:54...just a couple yards left...there's the line...cross it, hit the watch stop...29:58!  $h!t!  Don't throw up!  (I didn't, no fears.)

  I'm not sure when the last time I pushed like that the last 200m of a race was (even though I still got outkicked by a high school boy, I swear that happens every road race I run).  But, before I even got through the finish chute, I knew those two lousy, stupid little seconds had made a huge difference in how I'd perceive my race, my fitness, and my confidence as a whole two short, short weeks before Galveston.  I hadn't thought for a second that I had any business even thinking sub-30 heading into the race, and honestly, I think if I had, it wouldn't have happened-I would have pushed too hard early on, or I would have freaked when I had no "under 6:00 pace cushion" at any point during the race.  I'd probably have gone through four miles thinking there was no possible way I'd be able to pull a final mile faster than any of the previous ones out of my butt, and I might not have just shut off my brain and pushed down Exchange.  As with last week, this wasn't the fastest race I've ever run, but for me, it was pretty darn solid and even (Garmin file here)...it's getting there.  I'd managed to match the pace I ran for a 5.25 miler on vacation last year, when I was in the midst of some of my best tri performances (and a bit lighter to boot).  So, I'll take it.  After throwing on another hour of easy running, Dave (who ran a huge 5 mile PR today-better watch my back!) and I caught up with various members of our quirky runner/triathlete community (social time for the Hansens!  Love the people around here), I gathered my award bottle of wine, and I headed out afterwards happy, optimistic, and just slightly more ready for what's to come on April 1st!

Dave ~4 miles in.  Sorry ladies, missed your chance.

Pushing along...

...not sure what's going on with the old form here

Striding out pre-race, having some fun!

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