Saturday, November 27, 2021

Thanksgiving Day Apple Cup 5k

Finding an in-person Turkey Trot was tricky this year, but not impossible. In the end, I had two choices: a brand new route or another 5k around Green Lake. While running in a new place was tempting, I liked the idea of being able to compare like-to-like to see if I'd progressed since the 5k I ran last month. (That route was a little short, so I was hoping for a faster pace but not necessarily a faster time.)

Matt decided to run it too, seeing as we're that annoying family that runs on Thanksgiving, after all.

We got to the park around 8:45am and picked up our bibs. The weather was cold and windy, but luckily the rain was holding off. We met up with Sarah and did a little warmup jog, but I was beginning to regret not wearing ear warmers and a heavier top.

When it was finally time to line up at the start, Matt went ahead of us in the corral. My goal was to keep a pace between 8:30 and 8:50 but I forgot to actually set the workout on my watch, so I had to just go by feel. And really, I was feeling pretty damn doubtful, despite having a good six weeks of work under my belt. 

The first half mile or so felt much harder than it should have. My quads felt cold and heavy even after our warmup. Then I noticed we were keeping an 8-minute pace. Oops.

My bad.

We reined it in a bit and I finally started to feel warm. I never felt good and the pace never felt easy, but that's 5ks for you.

What's there to say about a 5k? You dig in and commit to the pain, but luckily it's over in less than 30 minutes. I've run Green Lake so many times, I barely had to concentrate; I just focused on picking up my feet. The few little "hills" on the route, which usually don't even register, felt like mountains.

I started to really flag about halfway into mile two, and pulled the pace back again. The inner loop around Green Lake isn't quite three miles, so to add mileage they led us out and around the perimeter around mile 2.8, and when I say I wanted to take a walk in that last third of a mile, I really mean it. The only thing that kept me moving was wanting to keep up with Sarah, who was just ahead of me.

Considering how much I slowed down in mile 2, I was pretty pleased with how steady mile 3 turned out to be.

As we turned down the path back toward the finish line, I somehow found some energy to give myself an extra kick. (Seeing someone over my shoulder will do that for me! I refuse to be passed in the finishing chute!)

Not today, Blondie!

While my gun time puts my pace at 8:54, my chip time and Garmin very satisfyingly show 8:50, and that's what I'm going with! I barely met my goal, and given how uncertain I was the entire time, I feel pretty proud!

I came in 7th in my age group (the woman I held off in the finishing chute crossed the starting line 1 second ahead of me, so even though I edged her out at the end, she still technically beat me. Curses!), 30/100 women, and 70/197overall. Not too shabby!

Just as I'd hoped, I managed a faster pace than last month's 5k. Any improvement on a race of this distance is hard-earned.

After the race, we took some photos and waited for age group awards...until we realized the fasties at this race finished a good five or six minutes head of us. Sometimes I think "small race" means "less competition", and I've only ever placed in my AG at races with a couple hundred people or fewer, but I seem to forget that Seattle is a running town and people are fast.

Matt finished in 24:19. You'd never know the last time he ran was in August.

I don't have another race on my calendar this year, so this may be the last of 2021 for me. Considering COVID had me thinking I might never race again, I can't say I'm disappointed. It's a good way to end the year.


Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Run Scared 10k

 This race marked a milestone for me: it's the first time I've ever raced in a costume. Maybe I'm using costume a bit liberally here, but I was recognizably a black cat at the Run Scared 10k, and that counts for something.

There's something pretty damn ironic about putting on a whimsical headband and drawing whiskers on your face in the name of levity...and then absolutely suffering through a run for an hour. Yeah, I suffered, but I looked cute doing it!

Going into race day, I pretty much knew my strategy would be to treat the race as a long run. 10ks are my least favorite distance and neither Sarah nor I felt incredibly optimistic about breaking any records. We agreed to run the race conservatively, plan to walk at mile 3, and pick up the pace in the last mile or so if we felt strong.

Race day breakfast: oats with protein powder and a cup of coffee
As with this month's 5k, I was more nervous about getting to the venue and finding parking than I was about the actual race. I slept poorly, woke up early, and got to the race ahead of schedule. Thank goodness Lola is compact  I found excellent parking right near the start.

Seeing this filled me with such an odd feeling of nostalgia and gratitude. It's been so long since I've seen any sort of race expo
I got my bib  I had to show proof of vaccination to do so  and used the bathroom, then went back to my car to shed some layers and get comfortable. I met up with Sarah about five minutes to the start. All told, the morning was uneventful.

45F, cloudless and sunny...the perfect race weather!

The race started promptly at 9:45am. We ran into another friend from our running group, Ankush, and chatted a bit while we all warmed up in the first half mile.

Sarah's and my plan was quickly thrown when, within the first mile, we encountered two long, steep hills. I knew the route would bring us through Seward Park, where I ran the Amelia Island Virtual 12k last year, and as such I expected a flat race. However, to add some distance to the first lap, the route veered off the main path at the perimeter of the park and onto a road within it.

That interior loop really threw us...for...a loop...

The hills were back-to-back and by the time we were halfway through the second one, Sarah requested a walk break, which I was happy to grant. Ankush ran ahead.

We let our calves cool off and then picked it up again. As we finally began to feel the road level off, a volunteer told us there were no more hills in the course...but the damage was done. We both felt gassed and a bit deflated by the rough start.

At least it really was smooth sailing after the hills!

Still, we trucked along. Despite weakening resolve around mile 2.5, we got ourselves to mile 3 before our next walk break. By now, I was warm. I was glad I hadn't worn a vest but I kind of regretted wearing long sleeves. 

I also began to suspect that the course would be short. My watch wasn't aligning with the mile-marker signs, and when we passed the 5k sign and bypassed the finish on our first loop, I could tell something was off. Honestly, knowing the course was short made things mentally a little easier in the moment.

I needed one more walk around mile 4. I have a tendency to walk frequently in 10ks, so all these breaks were par for the course. What did surprise me was that in the last two miles, I found some fortitude and powered through. Usually I walk around mile 5.5, but not this time. I told Sarah I wouldn't have anything left for a sprint at the end but I could manage without anymore walks if we just kept steady.

We turned the last bend toward the finish line and there, waiting along the route, were Sarah's husband and kids. That surprise gave us a little extra pep and we actually did manage a final sprint!

Looking at this, I feel like my pace was better than I realized and pretty solid for a 6 mile long-run.

I'm having a hard to deciding how I feel about this race. My biggest gripe is that the course was significantly short  5.93 on my watch, 6.09 on Sarah's. I think we could have kept up our pace for another quarter mile if the course were measured correctly, so I'm happy with our average pace (9:51) but I'm disappointed that I can't really use this to measure my 10k fitness right now.

On the other hand, the plan was always to treat this race as a long run, and we did that. We kept a great pace, comparable to our last 6 mile run (which didn't have any hills). And I can at least use the comparison data to see how we did in relation to others in our age group etc, and I'm not displeased with that! 

The pace here is skewed, but at least I can see how I did in my AG! I really always do fall smack in the middle.

After the finish we took pictures and got in line for snacks. This is the first race I've ever run with gluten free anything at the end (they had WOW cookies, which I really like!). They also had a candy corn tasting bar, a costume contest, and top-3 finishers awards in male, female, and nonbinary categories. Basically, this race felt inclusive and fun, and I'm happy I ran it.

If you look closely, you can see my whiskers.

Post-race loot

After the race Sarah and I went to brunch at Portage Bay Cafe. I had the gluten free French toast and will definitely be back again to take advantage of their self-serve berry and whipped cream bar.

Their gf bread is baked in-house and was absolutely fantastic.
I don't have anymore races on my calendar at the moment, but October was a good month for testing the waters again, and I'm excited to jump into my November plan and get back into shape. Who knows, maybe a winter race is in my future.