Saturday, February 7, 2009

Race Report: Race 5-Winter Grand Prix 2-mile Track Race

I left it all on the track!

What: Club Northwest Winter Grand Prix Race #5 2-Mile Track Race
Heat #4: 14:25-16:15 Pace
Time: Approximately 15:20 (unofficial)
Place: 12 out of 14

First track race, ever! I've seen track races on TV, run speed work on the Green Lake Track, but have never run a race where you just just keep turning left. Honestly? I am not sure I like it as much as being out in the woods or on the roads. But, hey, new experiences are always nice and this turned out to be really fun. 

Boy was I nervous. PT picked me up at about 8:30 and we went out to the event at the Nathan Hale High School track (no "Raider Pride" for me but what a nice track, puts the Green Lake Track to shame). We got there with about 12 minutes to spare before the start of the first heat, sub-11-minute 2-milers, and I signed up for heat 4, 14:25-16:15 pace, figuring that if I could run 7:45's like I did during the last race I'd be fine. My confidence was not high though and there were a great many butterflies fluttering in my stomach. Heat 4 was, by far, the smallest with only 14 runners signed in (heats 1-3 had at least 35). PT hadn't decided whether or not she was going to run but decided after warming up a bit to go into heat 4 as well (Darn it! There went my chances of winning. ;-) )

It was interesting to watch the first heats from the stands and also while I was warming up. These runners make it look so easy as they fly by but the whole run actually seems to be happening in slow motion and goes on forever. I was struck by this while watching the Olympic distance races this past summer. Today just drove the point home. They were so fluid. It was interesting to see the runners at the end too—faces pale masks of concentration and effort, the occasional rope of drool coming off the mouth or snot from the nose, and the hacking coughs of those who are leaving no iota of effort untapped.  Watching all this my amazement grew as did my nervousness. Could I actually do this? Eight laps of the track going as all out as possible? 

Warming up on the football field was pretty fun actually. There were runners whizzing all over the place, little kids playing with balls, etc.. I ran around for about .85 miles before doing some drills and stretches. Running high steps on the hash marks on the field felt like a good thing to do to increase my leg turnover speed and to wake them up. 

Pretty soon heat three was wrapping up and heat 4 runners were called to the field. Off with the sweats (brr!) and down to the field where my nervousness just increased. PT said that I looked cute when I was all nervous, that made me laugh and I noticed that the closer we got to the start the less nervous I was actually getting, especially as I began to recall Sj's advice to me earlier in the AM, "it might be good to not have your head on the game and just let your body do what it knows how to do?" (My mind is often my own worst enemy and turning it off is one of the hardest things for me to do.)

Call to the track. We are on the track. The starter is all business-like. Three commands: 1) whistles to get our attention, 2) runners on your mark, and 4) BANG!

It felt weird to be standing there with 14 of my newest and closest friends on a spongy track on a cold gray day in Feb waiting for someone to fire a gun. There it came, BANG!, and I jumped out of my skin and just went. 

I was with the pack at least through the first turn, close enough to hear one of the faster leaders complain about how slow we were going and then things started stringing out once we got to the first straightaway. Here are my quarter-mile splits:
  • 1:47 (7:08)—felt strong and had only a few yards away from the middle pack. One runner was close behind me (I could hear him but not see him) but I lost him/her on the back straightaway
  • 1:50 (7:20)—still felt strong and still maintaining contact with the middle pack runners (a teenage boy and a young girl)
  • 1:52 (7:28)—still strong though I can begin to feel my energy dropping and the middle pack starts pulling away from me (the young girl passes the teenage boy). I can see what is happening in the front and am happy to see that PT is up there with the leaders, in third I think.
  • 1:57 (7:48)—the wheels are definitely coming off at this point and I am wondering whether I have another 4 laps in me. Still can see the middle pack and hear the announcer calling off the names of the leaders, PT is 3rd or 4th. I am beginning to disassociate and cannot really feel my legs. My breathing is also pretty hard too, belly breathing is not working as well.
  • 1:55 (7:40)—burst of energy at the start of the second mile as I realize that I can do this. It isn't suffering and the track is feeling a bit short to me that this point. I like running on the soft surface of the track too. 
  • 1:59 (7:56)—just a grind. I can hear that something exciting is happening up in the front but I cannot see it at all. Have now lost contact with the middle pack and am just running out by myself (something that usually happens). 
  • 2:01 (8:04)—"Can I stop now!?" I actually am thinking that it would be nice just to not finish and actually become conscious of my stomach bouncing around, sort of like Rerun's in "What's Happening". The middle pack is in the middle distance. It is getting so hard to breath and my mind is wandering.
  • 1:58 (7:52)—One more lap to go! I CAN do this!!! Pushing now, with everything I have got. PT is at the chute cheering me in (thanks I needed that!). Sprinting the last 15 to 20 yards across the track and into the chutes where I see my time (I think, 15:20) on the clock and get handed my finish card with the number "12" on it. I am not last! I can't breathe but I am not last! 
  • Jumping up and down time! Well, actually it is first bending down and catching breath time and then jumping up and down time. And then I found out that PT beat her nemesis and had quite a duel for 1st, loosing it only at the last moment. Big grins everywhere and NO DESIRE to run a cool down. Ambled over to the admin table to submit my finish card and then some stretching while watching heat #5 start. 
Yes, I left it all on the track today and even though I was generally slowing down I still managed to run my fastest. The degree of happiness I feel at this moment is really hard to describe and I started crying happily when looking at my data from this race. 

My students are really lucky that I am grading their midterm exams today. :-)

Next up? Running on Maui! I can't wait!


Cap'n Ron said...

Nice report. I actually used to like racing on the track because you are usually very aware of what you are running. I used to be far more competetive on the track. I should think about entering some of these short races to improve my overall speed for the distance runs.


rpd said...

I notice that too. It is nice to have the measured distances with the clock and all that. Turning left all the time gets a bit wearing though.

That is what I am doing with these races too. I have to balance having this kind against getting injured though. Certainly feeling the effects of yesterday's effort a day after and had to go very slow on my long run this morning.

How is your foot?

Cap'n Ron said...

Speed is definitely the evil monster as far as injuries are concerned. Run all you want and, as long as the miles are slow, you are fine but the minute you speed up, stuff starts ripping and tearing all over! :-)

Foot is still giving me trouble and I don't have a clue what it is!? The pain is in the forefoot and is most extreme when I first get up in the morning. Sometimes very extreme, to the point that I can't put weight on it. As the day goes on it gets better but lately never quite gets to the point of not hurting. The strange thing is that it doesn't seem to hurt any worse running than it does walking and doesn't feel worse after the run. ??? I really don't want to go back to the Ortho guys.... (deep sigh)....

rpd said...

Like this?

Cap'n Ron said...

Maybe. I'll spend a little more time researching this possibility. I guess I should get better about trying to research these little issues. I'm just hoping it's something simple and goes away on its own. Yeah, I'm a dreamer.