Monday, April 26, 2010

RACE REPORT: Country Music Half

Such a good trip. Couldn't have asked for anything more.

In the last week, I managed to squeeze in the last three runs. Saturday, a week before, I did my LR. I hit my mileage target, but it was difficult, with my right leg going numb at mile 4 and the left one following at mile 6. Ideally, I would've gotten the LR in half a week earlier, to allow adequate recovery time. I could've shortened it, but it had been 3.5 weeks since my last LR, so I had to make sure my legs would be adequately built back up to handle the stress of 13.1. The 8.8 LR was taxing, and my hamstrings were strained for the next few days. Not exactly where you want to be the week before the big race, but with the taper, I felt like there'd be enough opportunity for recovery.

Work was busy and unpredictable, so I barely squeezed in a 2.8 before Bible study, with calves and hammies still strained. I tried to stretch and ice for the next few days. Next time, I'll do full ice baths (or pool). Things got better, and two days out, I did 3.8 at a good clip in moderate heat. Another blessing in disguise: I'd be so exhausted from work that I'd go to bed after dinner and wake up at 3am or so, just what I needed for race day. The rest of the night, I payed the Wii with my dad, who came in to town to join me for the trip.

The nex morning, we left at 7:50am and drove 6:30 hrs out to Nashville, so far that the time zone changed! After checking in at the Knight's Inn right by LP field, we went to the Expo. It was so exiciting to be there. You get a rush just seeing other runners walking around town with their gear bag. Everyone's pumped.

I got my number, 5419, then picked up a short sleeve tech shirt and the goodie bag, both ok. After passing through the expensive and large enchanted forest of race-logo gear, it was on to the expo booths for free stuff and looking at all the running gear. Highlights: Muscle Milk and Cytomax (both deliciuos), a Publix drawstring bag with cheering gear and a simple but decent activity log, and Jelly Belly sport beans. Then, on to watch what I had been booking it to get to: Ryan Hall. He was on a panel with some Heisman Superbowl guy and a yoga chic. It was cool to see him in person, and it's cool to see a fellow believer like him being open about his faith while going fast and using the gifts God has given him to bring him glory.

Afterwards, I met the second car of friends as they came to pick up their numbers and gear. We took pics in front of a fake finish line, which I had wanted to do earlier but wouldn't have been able to pull off with my usual self-shot. Then, I did a yoga session taught by Tara from before, along w/ my budd MS, who came to cheer us on as one of the 7 on our Half Team. It was great to stretch out so much after a long car ride, way more stretch than I'm used to. It's a nice thing to do before a race, and I'll do something similar before every race. I don't usually like to do much race-day stretching, due to the studies that show its detrimental effects on strength AND endurance (surprising, isn't it?). But I think that many hours out, you have time to recover from the stretch, and in the long run, stretching is good.

Off to my friends' rented house for a pasta and chicken dinner. CH's friends came to visit, which was sweet of them. It's cool to see the bond between believers, especially those tied by a common mission who endured stuff and strived together for the sake of Christ. There was something different about them, like they're marked with such purpose and selflessness that just kind of awes you. One of them really struck me. In the car, one of them, who's in seminary to prep for missions, seemed very genuinely interested in getting to know people. I tend to kind of duck out to the fringes out of shyness, but K just kept asking me questions and made me feel like I was someone worth getting to know, and she did the same to AD in the car ride over to the house. It was something simple that she did, but that gift and/or heart can just really make someone's day.

Dinner was so good, especially the chicken, which almost tasted like cheese. I normally don't cook chicken... made it once in the past 9 months, so it's special when I have it. It was good w/ the WW penne and tangy tomato sauce. Then, back to the hotel to do final preps and get ready for bed. I put out the gear I'd need for my body and my gear check bag and listened to running podcasts to calm down and try to sleep. With the AC blaring, it probaby took about an hour. I went to bed at 11pm, but I woke up at 2am b/c I had drank a lot of water. I don't want to drink too much right before the race, so I try to get a lot in the day before. But I probably got up 3x for that, and went on the internet 2x... oh yeah, 80% of t-storms with possible hail and tornadoes were predicted for the next day. Crazy, huh? So at the house, we kept tracking the weather for the latest updates. Things kept reversing with the predictions, but eventually, it looked like right during the time we'd be racing, there's be no rain, but on both sides of the race, crazy rain. Wild.

I planned to leave the motel at 4:40. I went to have my usual shower to warm up my muscles rce morning, except we discovered that there was no free shampoo, so I made do with the bar soap, haha. A while before that, I had written my goal mile splits (for 1:50) on one arm and the water stop mileages and elevation changes per mile on the other, in sharpe. They washed off, surprisingly, though, but my dad recommended that I write them on the back of my race number, which worked perfectly, since I'd only be pinning the top two corners onto my sportsbra.

It ended up being 63-65 degrees during the race, which is 10 degrees hotter than ideal, but it ended up feeling pretty good, since there was cloud cover. We drove out to LP field, and my dad took some pre-race pics before I got onto the bus to the start an my dad set out on foot to get to good photo spots where he could see me in different points of the race.

It's exciting being around all the runners, seeing all the different types of runners, all getting excited about the challenge before them. The bus went up and down some rather noticeable hills, and I was like, oh man, is this on the course? A veteran, an old man, said that the hills were not a big deal, though, so that made me less concerned.

We got to Centennial Park, where I was excitd to see the Parthenon. It started raining just as we got off the bus, but I had my Boston jacket and an emergency poncho. I wasn't sure if the rest of my team was there yet, so I chilled on the steps of the Partenon for a while and just watched the dusky sky. Then, I called and caught up with my friends, and we took some pre-race pics and did final stretching and other race prep. We dropped off gear bags and headed for the porta potties and corrals. The lines were long but not terrible, so going at 6:15 worked well, especially well b/c they ended up pushing up the race by 15 min to help avoid the t-storms, especially for marathoners, who'd be out there at least twice as long as us.

I drank some Cyto b/c I had gotten thirsty in the past hour and a half, then found my corral, which was surprisingly close to the start. I saw the 3:45 pacer, who was exactly the one I wanted to find. I let fullers get close to him and hung out behind. I saw the 1:45 pacer in the next corral up. There was the anthem, then the waves began. I was out during the third minute of clock time.

Nike Dri-Fit sports bra, Asics 4-pocket shorts (1 for tissue, in case porta potties ran out, 1 for salt packets that they handed out... didn't think I'd need it, but it's so light, so just in case... 1 for a mini Clif Bar), OxySox, 1224's w/ arches - did most of my training this season in those, and they seemed to work well, visor for the rain, which didn't come during the race anyway, but it was good insurance, no shades b/c no sun was exected, and my Garmin, b/c my watch broke, anti-chafing wipes to help not only w/ pain, which is usually not noticeable during the run anyways, but also to reduce friction, which reduces required energy.

Mile 1: Actually not too bad crowdedness wise. It was crowded for the first 1/4 mile or so, but then you could get some clear running space. People tended to stick to one side of the street, leaving lots of empty space if you wanted it.
Mile 2: Started looking for my dad. Saw the McDonalds, stayed left, went past the clock tower, saw him, got my shots. First water stop. I ended up getting water at every water stop. This one, it was only Cyto, which left me still thirsty b/c of the sugar, so I wanted water the next time. Left the 3:45 pacer pretty early on.
Mile 3: Realized that I was going way too fast and was afraid that I had totally messed up my pacing strategy and would pay later when my legs gave out early.
Mile 4: Settling in. You start noticing people who are with you for a while. Tried to slow myself down. Started using a good hydrating strategy of Cyto, followed by water. Cyto for energy, water to wash it down and continue hydrating.
Mile 5: On uphills, I usually got passed. On downhills, still got passed. Now, I didn't have to concentrate on slowing down. I was seemingly slowing down. A deli was giving out fruit - had half a banana, much needed. The elites were now on their way back on this out and back leg of the race. It was cool seeing them run and being so close to them (and yet so far).
Mile 6: Through a residential area with many turns, since this was the turnaround. Saw runners going in the other direction. Thought, oh no, more winding around before the turnaround? But they were acutally people behind us, doing the "out" section of the out-and-back. My right leg started going numb.
Mile 7: Bam, a sudden sharp pain in my right knee, limped each step, then it'd be ok, then the pain woul return. I thought, "oh no, this is it". I gingerly tried to keep going. The uphills seemed the worst. Would this be the end of my hopes for a good race? Is simply finishing just the goal now? Sad b/c cardiovascularly, I felt perfect, muscularly, no problems, but my joints were my limiting factor.
Mile 8: It was getting better, and I suddenly just felt really appreciative of just being out there and thanked God for it. 6 months ago, eeking out a mile was so painful, and I didn't know if I could ever run a moderate distance again, let alone a half. But AD had helped me regain strength and flexibility and just provided peace of mind, knowing she was there to help if needed. Ate an orange slice from the same deli, got very sticky, from then on, I'd splash myself with a cold cup of water after I had drank from it. It felt really good - do it earlier and more often next time.
Mile 9: Got my second wind. Knowing that there were only 4 miles left was such a good feeling. I don't remember whether this was after or before the second wind hit, but I started hearing "Holy Is the Lord" by the Belmont Church Worship Team, the first Christian band on the course. It just reminded me of what matters most and what I could enjoy most about the run, God's glory. I raised up my hands as I ran past and pointed up. And the singer waved at me, haha. I ran pretty fast after that, it was so energizing to hear. I almost started singing, I felt so good, although I would've seemed kind of crazy and maybe conceited to do so.
Mile 10: Still on the high. Went under two bridges, one of which my dad was supposed to be on. Waved like a crazy person to both bridges for a long time, hahaha. Especially on the second, where I saw my dad but wasn't sure if he saw me, I kept waving, and people on that bridge did minor cheering b/c they might've thought Iwas trying to muster up encouragement, haha. Cruising, knowing I was close. So excited to see my dad that I missed the Gu stop.
Mile 11: Keep up the intensity, hang in there. Marathoners had split off. Winding through downtown a lot more. Keep it up.
Mile 12: Getting harder to keep up the intensity. So close, though, will make it.
Mile 13: Coming in from downtown to LP stadium is downhill, so you could see the next .6ish and plan exactly where you wanted to kick. An excellent setup for a finish. Hang in there. Keep up the intensity.
Mile 13.1: Final kick, raise arms for the pic, breathe again.

It ended up being so useful to have my Garmin. The distances helped me know when I could look forward to seeing another mile marker. The inaccurate instantaneous pace issue was resolved by setting it to average pace instead. After a too-fast start, I just concentrated on slowing down gradually, but hopefully not too much by the end.

13.1 in 1:46:09, 8:06 ave. 1: 8:02 (flat), 2: 7:25 (way too fast, esp for an uphill section), 3: 8:13 (uphill) - <<5k>>, 4: 9:30 (wow, slow), 5: 8:32 (still a bit slow, although this is an uphill), 6: 7:58 (flat, more like it) - <<10k>>, 7: 8:10 (downhill but slower pace than expected b/c of the knee pain), 8: 8:28 (same as 7), 9: 8:02 (downhill), 10: 7:59 (and second wind), 11: 7:47 (saw dad, feeling great), 12: 8:20 (hilly), 13: 7:54 (downhill but hang in there), 13.1: 0:45.

Got my heavy medal, got Cyto and fruit. Wandered to the finish, wandered a long way back to the gear check, wandered back to the finish, tried to look for my friends. Caught up with my dad, finally, caught up w/ LP who ended up blasting through the half with an awesome time. After not seeing anyone after standing up on a plant holder for a long time, went back to the reunion place, found MS, took pics, found the rest of the team at the p-lot, group pic.

It started pouring, just as I started walking to my car w/ my dad. Saw the poor marathoners still running. I was exhausted, and it was raining, and they were still going. Back at the hotel, the brown rice and canned chicken and rice soup was soooo good. It could've used more salt, though. I really craved salt. I added my salt packet, but it wasn't enough. Ate lots of canned fish, too. Craved protein. Oh yeah, for breakfast, I had had granola and a tofu snack. My rt tibialis anterior had some serious issues making my lower leg straighten, and I limped to walk.

I was really slow and talking and mentally no longer hungry after eating lot of rice and fish, but my body still felt drained of energy. My dad suggested that I take a nap, and that did me a lot of good. Felt better afterwards.

Opryland hotel.

A good trip. Good being there w/ my friends and getting to spend time with my dad. A good race, fun sight-seeing.

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