November 22nd, 2007
Before you run a race, there will at some point come that moment where (despite the amount of nervousness before and after), you believe you can do anything. Climb Mount Everest? No problem. Bench press 3000 pounds? Piece of cake. Fortunately, said moment passes pretty quickly. The problem, I’ve discovered, is when you are given something much more sane but still slightly nuts, because then later on you might still want to do it. Like, oh, run two Thanksgiving Trot races the morning of Thanksgiving, two hours apart, a mere 11 days after your marathon.
8:00am brought the first race, the Arlington Turkey Trot 5K. This is a new race, in its second year, that runs through the neighborhood streets of Clarendon. The combination of it being Arlington (we love our running) and a gorgeous, 70-degree day meant a huge turn-out, probably over 800 people (last year was around 400) and general chaos. I got to walk to the start from my apartment, and the area was festive and exciting. Of course, what I was forgetting was that since this race is in Clarendon, that means it is a race full of hills.
I’d set out to beat my 5K PR from two years ago (a 26:23), which was on a nice flat course and where I was much more rested. Still, anything was possible. I actually ran into my cousin Ann about a mile into the race; she’d caught up with me, but then quickly dropped back. When two miles in I was at 16:15 total, I knew that barring disaster it wouldn’t be a problem to PR. About half a mile later, I also knew that I was suddenly and without warning out of energy. This was a problem. Gasping and dying on those hills, I did the only thing I could; much to my shame, I walked for about 30 seconds until I got to the top of another colossal hill before I carried on. I finished in a 25:40 (meaning the last 1.1 miles were at an 8:34 average), which while not the finishing time I was hoping for (heck, I ran my 3-mile training run in May at a 23:46) was still good enough.
Afterwards I hung out with Ann, ran into no less than two different acquaintances through running (Ted and then Deborah), and decided that running the other Turkey Trot was crazy. Completely ludicrous. I was still a little sore from the marathon, it seemed, I should just stay home. But one more race meant an extra helping of Thanksgiving dinner.
10:00am brought the second race, the Alexandria Turkey Trot 5-miler. This is a much older race, on its 32nd iteration. (I’m not that much older than the race!) Crowds were huge here as well, and I told myself that I was allowed to quit if necessary, it was no big deal. Really. I only have ever done one 5-mile / 8-kilometer race before, and while on a normal day my 44:35 finish time would be easily beatable, I was suddenly not very sure.
The first mile? Horrible, to the point that I almost quit on the spot. My knee was stiff and sore, and more importantly? I was tired. Maybe I shouldn’t have stayed up to watch Project Runway the night before? (That 10:00pm start time is killing me.) And I had just run another race. But come on Greg, pick it up, it’s not that hard.
At mile 3 I looked at my watch—26:16. That’s an 8:45 average. My old PR involved an 8:58 average. So I just had to keep up the pace. Except, just like earlier in the day, I was no longer sure I could do that. I wanted to just go home and take a shower; this was a bad idea, and at this point I was only sure of one thing, that I would never do this again (or at least not without proper rest and being injury-free in advance).
And then, finally, the finish line. I pushed as hard as I could, although people were inexplicably stopping just on the other side of the finish line, creating a longjam leading up to the finish line. Oh come on people, move it, this is going to be close and I’m not happy about my finishing time as it is… and then it was done, a 44:10 by the skin of my teeth. This is a finish where I know I could (and would) have done a lot better with only one race for the day instead of two. Next year I’ll choose one or the other and call it a day.
But on the bright side, I can now say I did it. And going back for seconds? So absolutely worth it.
Arlington splits: 8:06, 8:08, 9:25 (8:34avg for that 1.1mi)
Alexandria splits: 8:55, 17:21 for miles 2-3 (8:41avg), 9:11, 8:42
November 11th, 2007
I’ve joked in the past that with every marathon I learn something new, and that I’m really sick of having to keep learning things! But true to form, I learned an important lesson in this year’s marathon, even as I think I approached my race the smartest yet. The idea was to use the "10/10/10" approach; miles 1-10 at a 10min/mile, miles 11-20 at a 9min/mile, and then (if I was feeling it) the last 10k (miles 21-26.2) at an 8:30min/mile. This would have been absolutely perfect on a completely flat course. What I didn’t take into account, though, was the elevation profile for the Outer Banks Marathon.
The first ten miles were fantastic. I ran the first mile with Butch and Chris, which was a real joy, and I felt a tiny bit bad when I left them towards the end of that mile but they had a different pace plan (and were also doing a run/walk, which I wasn’t) so when they stopped to stretch I took it as a sign to keep going. Running through woods, along the water, and then around the Wright Brothers Monument? Fantastic. I felt bad for anyone who ran the half marathon if only because they missed all of this amazing scenery, the best part of the course by far.
Miles 11-13 run through the Nags Head Woods Nature Preserve; the first two miles on a packed dirt road, the third mile on a narrow off-road trail, and all three of these miles are extremely hilly. I should have shifted my planned paces around a bit to compensate for this; planning on not pushing here and expending the strength elsewhere. (As crazy as that section was, though, I must admit that I really liked it. It was gorgeous.) As it is, looking at my splits below, you can see a huge dip on speed for that off-road mile in particular. Additionally, miles 14-19 are at a slight uphill grade and along a highway, which is less than fun and also sapped my strength more than I’d have imagined.
Of course, some things you can’t compensate for. Around mile 14.5, a car tried to pull out onto the course and only stopped when I screamed at it—all of about a foot and a half from me. Shaken, I continued on, but a minute later my right calf seized up and never really let go. Now I’m not saying that me having tensed up from the near-miss from the car made the calf tense up, but I do think that it contributed. I stretched as best I could for a solid minute and then continued on. I must admit I was sad that my parents, Suzanne, and Charlie never saw me up until that point in the race because I was definitely not looking my best from that moment on!
I pushed on as best I could, stretching a tiny bit every mile or two, and starting at mile 20 taking little 30-second walk-breaks because my knees were starting to ache as well. When I started the 25th mile, I was aching so much that I just had to walk the vast majority of it. I couldn’t even face the "just 2.2 more miles!" that I kept telling myself, finally making a deal that when I finished mile 25, I would start running again and not stop until I was done. And sure enough, that’s what happened. I didn’t get the sub-4:22 finish I was hoping for (I’m fairly convinced if it hadn’t been for the calf problem I would’ve hit that), but I did the best I could, and this was the first marathon for which I didn’t enter it with a run/walk plan. And hey, a 4:29:06? I’ll take it.
Next year? I’m going to tackle my race the same way, but will pay more attention to the course map when doing so; if necessary I’ll shift some of the planned paces around to better compensate for what’s ahead. Little by little, I’m getting there.
||Time of Day
||The start of the very hilly, trail-running, nature park. Why did I not remember this was coming?
||Finally! The hills (which were alive with the sound of runners cursing) ended just after we finished mile 13.
||And then Greg’s right calf exploded. (Funny, in the past it was always lefty.)
||The nasty part of the bridge to Manteo. Worse than MCM’s 14th St. Bridge in terms of going straight up and then down.
||Walked a lot, just could not run anymore. (Or at least until the end of the mile.)
||A 7:25min/mile pace! Ha! Gotta love that brief adrenaline burst.
(Lest you think I’m completely nuts, I should point out that I made an Excel spreadsheet where all I had to type in were individual mile times, and the starting time, and it filled in the rest.)