Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Brighton Turkey Trot Race Report

My search for a suitable turkey trot had several criteria this year. First, knowing how much cooking I have to do on Thanksgiving meant that a turkey day turkey trot was out of the question. Also, I had signed up for church duties for most of the month, so a Sunday race was out as well. Finally, I did not want to drive halfway across the state to get to the race. I turned to active.com's Turkey Trot Finder and discovered that the Brighton Turkey Trot fit the necessary parameters. I signed up "old-school" by sending in a check and registration form, and was committed.

Race day arrived and I was pleasantly surprised to find that my thermometer read 45F, so I decided I would probably wear a short sleeve shirt for the race as the sun would probably warm it up to nearly 50 by the start time. Not wanting to be cold beforehand I threw on my long-sleeve and fleece over the shirt and headed out the door. As I drove north to Brighton I was shocked to see the car thermometer plummeting. By the time I arrived there was frost everywhere, and the thermometer read 28F. Needless to say the T-shirt plan was out the window.

I headed in to pick up my race packet and timing chip (this was the first year for chip timing). The registration is held inside the Brighton Recreation Center, which is really nice to be able to keep warm and use heated restrooms. There was plenty of room for spectators to hang out as well. The rec center is located next to a nice little park as well, with a 3/4 mile path running around it, perfect for warming up! I ran around the park a few times and threw in a few 30 second sprints as well for good measure. I knew I wanted to hit the ground running hard and did not want to risk injury by going off cold. By the time I was lining up at the start I was down to just a long-sleeve shirt and shorts, plus my gloves and hat.

I lined up within two rows of the starting line as I knew I wanted to be in the lead group from the start. The gangly limbs and racing flats always leave me feeling a little outgunned, but I suspected from prior year results that I had a shot at top 15. I often wonder if and how other runners size me up, as I always feel like a bit of an outsider in those situations. The 30 second warning came, then someone yelled "Go!" and we were off! My body settled almost immediately into a fast pace that felt hard, but manageable and I knew it was going to be a good race. Watching the leaders snake around the corners in front of me I knew I was in the front 20 and my goal was to make sure I did not lose any ground. The first mile marker came in 6 flat and already some runners ahead of me had started to drop back. Ahead of me, the first female runner had already shaken off her two competitors and I made it my goal to maintain distance with her. Mile two came in 6:05 and I had only reeled in one other runner, I suspected that that would be the last of my advances. Through mile 3 I felt like I was just keeping it together, although the 6:01 split indicates I was handling things just fine. I stole a glance behind me around the final corner and tried to push hard to the finish line to hold off the racer behind me. 18:52 from the gun and my chip recorded 18:48, a solid 5k effort good for 10th place!

I ended up meeting up with two other racers at the end of the finish chute who were going to run the course again as a cool down, so I joined them for an extra 5k. They had run the race in prior years, and we had a lot to chat about as we ran back. It was great to engage with other runners who have similar training and racing philosophies. It was a good way to kill some time before the award ceremony which I was determined not to miss. When I checked the race results, I was shocked to discover that I had somehow been entered as "female" in the scoring system! I immediately reported the error to the scoring official, but I probably should have emphasized that the error affected the age group awards. I had erroneously won the female 30-34 age group! I hoped that they would have fixed the problem by the time the announcements were made, but unfortunately not, so I stood there red-faced as my name was read as the winner of the category. Afterward I was able to get my correct 2nd place award, but the situation was embarrassing and I felt terrible for the women who had received incorrect awards. It turns out that there were several racers in the wrong "category" so I hope the race is able to get this fixed in the future.

This race has a great "small race" feel, but is put on very professionally. The post-race food was good, and there was plenty left even when I came in after most of the racers had been through. The chip-timing was an added bonus. The only detraction from this great experience was the whole mistaken gender issue, which I hope will be addressed in later years. I will definitely be returning to run this race next year!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mileage Totals

Last year the holidays represented a pretty significant loss in fitness, which I hope will not be repeated this year. I think the goal this year that will get me through this period intact is the mileage total. Today I am at 1819 for the year, which is pretty far behind where I was last year around this time (1857 on Oct. 19th). I'm not worried about the drop in mileage (cross-training has more than made up for the difference in running miles) but it does mean that 2009 miles for the year will be a close call. Just close enough to keep me going through the coming weeks!

So I am now publicly declaring my goal to run 2009 miles in 2009! If I stay consistent (30-40 mpw) it should be doable, but it may require a few last minute additions to the running schedule. Exactly what I need to get out the door that week between Christmas and New Year's!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Soreness vs. Pain

Runners have to be acutely aware of the difference between soreness, which is a direct result of hard training, and pain, which is a result of injury. Any runner who has been running for some time is quite accomplished at blocking out pain, we do it all the time to get through tough workouts. So it should come as no surprise that we are quite good at blocking out pain from an injury as well. We can delude ourselves through all sorts of arguments, and if we are not careful, ignored pain can turn into a major injury.

I spent the better part of last week sore from my workouts. Coming off a two week hiatus I was eager to get back to full time training and I pushed a little too hard on Monday. Each subsequent hard workout for the week pushed me further into muscle debt and by Friday it was almost a full 5 miles before I felt "normal" on my run. Despite this, I pushed through the week as I knew that the soreness was a direct result of the ramp up in mileage, and that with my mileage base I would be back to normal after a good rest day. This week has been much better as my body reluctantly adapts to the renewed intensity of training.

That being said, if I experience pain that I feel is due to a potential injury I usually will return to rest almost immediately. For me there are several markers that I look for to differentiate pain from muscle soreness. First, is the pain acute or spread over a large region? Acute pain is never a good sign as it is usually due to a localized effect (either muscle or bone), while soreness is spread out due to muscle damage from training. Acute pain almost always sends me to the freezer for an ice pack and a prescription for a few days off. Second, is the pain aggravated by running? Soreness and tight muscles may feel pretty bad when you first start a run, but symptoms will often improve as you get warmed up. An injury, on the other hand, is usually made worse by running, so if the pain is nagging throughout the run or if it alters your gait in any way, pack it in early. The third marker is persistence. Living with soreness is a fact of life, but usually we know intuitively when pain does not fit that mould. Does the pain persist through the day after the workout is over? Is standing or sitting in a usually comfortable position now uncomfortable? Worst of all is dull throbbing pain that exists without any movement at all, a clear warning sign.

Making the decision to take a few rest days or even rest weeks during a training schedule is never easy, but it is essential that you listen to the signals your body is sending you. A little time off now can save you from a major recovery period down the road. Above all it will keep you running for years to come, and racing another day!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Hard Work, Perseverance, and Hard Work

I did not come to be competitive in running through a high school or college pedigree. In fact, I did not start doing anything remotely physical until I was 25. So how did I get to where I'm at now? A lot of hard work and one seemingly insignificant conversation.

2 years ago I started running with a friend from work. He is much faster than I am and is more into the ultra-scene than I am. One day we were having a discussion as he was putting the screws to me during one of his easy workouts (I was out for a tempo). I remarked to him that I could never be as fast as him as I was not gifted with the runner's physique like he was. Being the good running partner that he is, he called me out on it. He said that he works his ass off to be fitter and faster, and that nature had nothing to do with it. Those words sank in somewhere deep in to my soul and I still carry them with me.

From that point I became much more dedicated to running. I am more serious about my training and racing and the hard work is paying off. Each year I am improving, getting stronger and faster, and I am achieving the goals that my running buddy inspired me to achieve with that one conversation. There is no secret to success in any endeavor, no predisposition to greatness, there is only hard work. I hope these words will inspire another beginning runner to set lofty goals and pursue them, just as it did me! Train smart, take advice from other runners, listen to your body, but above all work hard and you will achieve them!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Runner's Wish List

With Halloween gone, there is no denying the holiday season is approaching. In that light I thought it would be worthwhile to put together a list of runner essential items. As all the other lists out there seem to be way over the top (including pricy items like GPS watches, etc) I also wanted to keep everything under $100 and most items much less than that. So here it is: The Runner's Holiday Wish List for the Budget Minded Shopper!

  • Socks

    It sounds cheesy, but at close to $10 a pair, running socks are one of my most appreciated gift item. Sizing is forgiving, just make sure you get socks that are made of synthetic material (i.e. no cotton!)

  • Energy Gels/Chews

    There are tons of these on the market and most runners like to have the opportunity to try new fueling options during training. For just a few bucks you can stuff a stocking to the brim with these!

  • Hydration Mixes

    In the same vein as the energy gels, hydration mixes can be bought in powder form, ready to be mixed by your runner recipient. These come in packages, tubes, and tubs, and in tons of flavors other than lemon-lime.

  • Gloves/Arm Sleeves

    Even midsummer races start at the crack of dawn and most runners like to have a little something to fend off the cold while waiting for the gun to go off. Even cheap "painters gloves" which can be discarded when the race starts are great!

  • Race Entry

    What runner would not want a free race to train for? Especially one in the off-season to work off some of those holiday calories! 5k is probably a good distance, signing your runner up for a marathon may not be appreciated as much as you might think.

  • MP3 player

    This is a bit of a hotly debated topic in the running community, but even runners who are dead-set against music while running will reach for one for treadmill workouts. This is the most expensive item on the list, but the small ones can be purchased for under $100.

  • Magazine Subscription

    What do runners like doing nearly as much as running? Reading about running! Plus it's the gift that keeps giving for a whole year!

  • Granola Bars/Snacks

    Apart from running and reading about running, eating is the next most popular activity. Energy bars, granola, pretzels, trail mix, it's all good and it's all cheap!

  • Massage Gift Certificate

    Most runners need massage as a recovery tool, but most can't justify the cost.

  • Foam Roller

    This is just what it sounds like, a foam cylinder that can be rolled over sore muscles as an at home massage tool. At around $15 this is probably the best value for the money on the list. If your runner does not have one already, rest assured, they want one!

I hope this list helps some shoppers out there. Behind every great athlete is a great athletic supporter! (Sorry I couldn't resist)

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Tuesday Tempo!

All I can say is: "Ouch!" Today marked the first tempo run in two weeks and boy I am feeling it tonight. Let me just say first of all that I hate tempo runs. Long runs I am okay with, I enjoy the challenge and reward of running for a long time, provided it's at a nice laid back pace. I also enjoy intervals, the speed I can handle knowing that rest is just around the corner. But the tempo occupies some space that my mind is not equipped to handle.

Mind: "Okay, so we're going to run fast. That's okay it will be over quickly."

Me: "Well not really, it's going to be like 7 miles before we can stop."

Mind: "Forget it, I'm outta here! Zone out on your own."

Me: "No way man, I can't run that fast without thinking about it, you need to be here!"

Mind: "You want to run fast for 7 miles AND think about it at the same time!?!"

While I won the battle today it was not without casualties, which my tired and sore legs are reminding me of tonight. They are also telling me I just went from 0 to 17 miles in two days and to go easy on them tomorrow. I am fine with easy days, just as long as they are well deserved.

Monday, November 02, 2009

2010 Approaches!

Now that I am finished with my two week recovery, today begins the beginning of training for my 2010 racing season! It was great to get outside again and feel strong for a nice easy run, but tomorrow I will have to suck it up for a tempo run that will more than likely leave me lying in a fetal position muttering to myself about "fartleks."

Speaking of speedplay, I have a rough outline of my racing schedule in mind. I plan to hit a couple of 5k races this holiday season to keep things snappy, a turkey trot and the Colder Bolder. Then I'm thinking about one of the Colorado Running winter distance series races as a tune up for the Platte River Half in April. Then I will culminate the spring training with the Bolder Boulder and a 50k (my first "ultra"). I hope to spend the summer working on speed, building up to the Denver Marathon in the fall. My plan is to shoot for 3:00 in Denver! Yes, you read that right, I hope to take a full 16 minutes off my marathon PR! None of this messing around with Boston qualifying times, it's time to shoot for the stars.

Will all these goals come to pass? I'll never know unless I set them and go for it!