Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Chad’s Extended Lungstrong15k/GPx Finale Recap


After an incredible series to this point, I came into this race in third place in the RFYL Grand Prix Series.  I was in second until Richard Harris blew me away with a 16:20 to win the Greekfest 5k.  Incredibly, at that point although we had accumulated around 6000 points he lead me for second by a single point with 2 races remaining.  After just edging me out in gutsy effort at the Brixx 10k his lead ballooned to 3 points.  By my math, I needed to beat him in the 15k GPx finale by about 15 seconds, a tall order since he had beaten me in the last 3 races. 

I redoubled my efforts and had a couple weeks of very good training including an amazing 3 x 3 mile workout leading up to Lungstrong.  Based on my condition and workouts I figured a 15k reach goal of 53:00, 5:41 pace, was about right.  It would be the equivalent of the best race of the season (and my life).  I knew the course was rolling with lots of turns and my 10k(pr) McMillan converted to a 54:00 15k so I thought a 53:00 reach goal was plenty aggressive enough.  I can only control what I can run and I know how fast and talented Richard is, so if I ran my best and it wasn’t enough, that would be ok, but I thought this would give me a chance. 


About 20 seconds into the race.
John is already gone.
I came into this race feeling good I had managed to taper quite a bit, dropped a little weight, and felt quick and strong.  The plan was to go out hard and hope to settle in around 5:40-5:42.  With Paul just completing the race due to injury and John Compton racing, it would be interesting to see who would be around me.  At the gun John was gone and I led the secondary pack with Vincent and a guy I did not recognize but who looked to be a seasoned runner (I would later learn this was Jay Barringer).  I knew Billy and Richard were close behind but I wanted to try and set a difficult pace and make it hard for anyone to sit on my shoulder.  When we turned into Jetton Park, John Compton was already out of sight.  Thankfully there was a secondary bike lead.  Unfortunately, he tried to take us the wrong way into the park, runners behind called to us and we got back on the right track only losing a few seconds.  More frustrating than losing the seconds was the biker calling out “it is not my responsibility”, um yeah dude if you are going to ride a lead bike in a race it really is your responsibility, otherwise just get off the course, which he then did.  Without him confusing things the remaining turns were well marked although not being able to see John or the upcoming turns made running good tangents difficult. 

My garmin got farther and farther off as the race went on, but those are the only splits I have, the early splits are, mile 1: 5:40, mile 2: 5:37, mile 3: 5:43.  I figure Jay and I came through 5k in about 17:40 or so, about this time Vincent disappeared and I refused to look back to see where anyone else was.  I just kept trying to focus on running my pace, settling in, staying strong, focused and worry about the rest later.  Somewhere in the first 5k, it became clear that Jay and I would be together for a while.  He was running strong, controlled and looked pretty confident at our pace.  While we never said it, at some point we just seemed to settle into working together.  There were many points where the pace started to get to me but rather then having to hold the pace alone, I ran with him and it was a HUGE help.  I tried to do my part of holding the pace, but certainly Jay did his part.  Middle 5k splits, mile 4: 5:40, mile 5: 5:32, mile 6: 5:35; I would estimate the 10k split at 35:10 or so. 

At some point around the 5-mile mark I heard the pack behind us coming up and for a moment was slightly demoralized as I was hoping I was running away from Richard and Billy.  I tried not to look behind but on a turn I saw David Willis out of the corner of my eye.  All at once I was impressed by the run he was having, happy that at least it wasn’t Richard, and scared because I could hear others right on my tail and was afraid they were all feeling good too.  At some point Billy passed me but Jay was not going to let him get away and I would not let Jay away.  Eventually Jay and I worked back past Billy who seemed really strong.  I was trying to stay strong and hold pace through the middle 5k and then lay it all on the line for the last 5k of the GPx season and let the chips fall where they may. 

Somewhere around 6, Richard caught and passed me.  It was the moment I feared since setting a hard pace.  Again, there was a tinge of being demoralized, but deep down I knew Richard would be coming on hard, and thought to myself, he may beat me, but he will have to beat my best.  I soon noticed that Richard was not building a gap.  Then Jay and I were bringing him back.  I could hear him breath a bit heavy and that is like blood in the water.  

Mile 7: 5:33, mile 8: 5:32.  At this point I was running with all I had and running scared at the same time.  I know the way Richard finishes races so I certainly wasn’t going to wait until the last mile.  I tried to surge/push for 100m at a time, Jay was always with me and I wasn’t surging on him, rather I was trying to break Billy and Richard off Jay and I.  After a push I would recover and stay with Jay, trying not to give anything back.  We ended up running near stride for stride for about 90% of the race.  I could feel the pace dropping and thought back to a line from Paul’s epic BRR recap:  “Still we were alongside each other, no quarter given or asked.” That pretty much sums it up. 

As the pace quickened tiny milestones brought us closer to the finish, 5k to go, we turned left with Jetton Road to begin the long rolling straight home, 7 mile marker, then 2 miles to go; all the time running stride for stride with Jay.  I could hear no one behind but continuously increased the effort and pace to just what I hoped could be sustainable to the finish.  We hit the 8-mile mark and seemed to just keep dialing up the pace.  A major flaw with this race is that the last mile of the 15k comes together with people completing the 5k.  It is hard not to be frustrated when you have spent 8 miles trying to run tangents at 5:40 pace only to have to dodge 5k walkers with strollers, children and dogs walking six wide, 2 miles and 40 minutes into a 5k.  To their credit, the bewildered walkers did their best to leave room for Jay and me and I tried my best to let them know we were coming.  At this point I had no idea whatsoever where anyone other than Jay was, but I knew that Richard always finishes strong and every second matters, so I just kept turning up the pace and surprisingly every time I asked for more my legs responded. ­

And I'm spent.
As we made the turn onto Cove Road and garmin beeped for mile 9, 5:25.  I thought to myself that there was left than a half mile left, less than 3 more minutes of pain and cranked up a bit of a kick.  All along I had figured that Jay would eventually pull away from me, it seemed I was holding on to him more than vice versa.  But as I began a long final push I found myself pulling away from him.  I realized for the first time that I had a chance to be second and kicked until I thought I was going to puke.  I opened a small gap on Jay, made the final turn, and really tried to enjoy the last few seconds of race.  My chip picked up late as usual and Jay kicked it in so we had the same chip time but I had him by 2 second on the gun time.  I closed the last .42 on my gamin in 2:10, 5:13 pace.  I would love to know what Jay and I covered the final 5k in, it was moving, I am guessing we covered 3.2 miles in about 17:30.  Finishing time, 52:25, I was blown away. 

Post Race

With Michelle and Dee post race.
Upon crossing the line I was absolutely spent.  All I wanted to do was thank and introduce myself to Jay and collapse.  But I quickly remembered that I needed a gap to take 2nd in the GPx   John Compton was with me when I decided that a sufficient amount of time had passed; my apologies to any children who heard my inappropriate celebratory language.  After congratulating Billy and Richard on a great year and a hard fought season, I was off to find Danielle and cheer her in.  I enjoyed cheering in all the familiar faces.  So many people ran most, if not all of the GPx races again this year.  I got to see Carolyn looking strong on her to winning the 15k.  Behind her I saw Danielle and Michelle.  I cheer them on then ran part of the way in with Danielle who had an excellent race.  She finished strong, second place in the 15k, 1:00:21 and won the GPx series for the third year in a row.  After the race a good group of CRC’ers enjoyed a wonderful breakfast at Toast.  It was an incredible way to end the GPx series for us. We have decided that it is just too many races and there are other races and triathlons we would like to concentrate on for next year, so this is our last year of the GPx series, but it couldn’t have ended any better.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Tri-ing for another good race


Since we wisely decided to bag Augusta 70.3, I was on the look out for a sprint or Olympic distance tri that we could sneak in before the weather got too cold.  An email from Set-Up Events alerted me to a new tri in Rock Hill, South Carolina, a mere 30 minutes away.   The Tri for Abbey had a short swim (500m), a really short bike (13.5 miles), and a hilly 5k run- PERFECT.  We checked the participant list and saw our friends Kristin and William from Greenville had registered as well.  Even better!  After checking out the other female entrants and some prodding from Chad, I decided to register as an Open female. 

Race day dawned cool and clear.  We arrived early, set-up our transition, and went on an easy bike and run warm-up.  During the run warm-up we noticed it was beginning to rain lightly, but weren’t too concerned since the rain stopped quickly and the weather channel had promised me no rain.  Apparently they lied.

Before the swim start the announcer let us know that the water was very shallow and to be careful and stay to the right coming through the final two buoys.  The gun went off and since I was racing in the Open category, I took off following the one Open male.  There were two other women who registered as Open, but neither started the swim with me.  The nice part about racing Open was that the water was clear and I wasn’t being kicked in the head.  Being a poor swimmer in the first place, those things really stress me out and cause a bit of panic, which is dangerous in the water!  The water was cold and most people were in wetsuits, but since we don’t have wetsuits, we were just wearing our tri kits.  Luckily, the pool we train in was recently cleaned and refilled and they have been unable to get the water temperature up, so all of our training swims for the past 2 weeks have been un sub 78 degree water, so the 76 water temperature did not feel all that bad.  I’ve been working really hard on my swim and it has been improving nicely, so my plan was to go out and swim a straight line and a good time.  Things were going well until about 75 meters from the finish.  Suddenly I could touch the bottom of the water with my hands; in fact I was pushing off with my hands.  Panicking, I jumped up and tried to run, but that was clearly slower.  I tried swimming again then tried running again.  Nothing seemed to be working.  Then to my right someone went flying by.  It was the first guy in the wave that started behind me.  Once I saw him, I remembered we were supposed to stay to the right coming through the two final buoys and I was more towards the center, so I moved more to the right and the water was deeper.  Thank goodness!  I was able to get swimming again and finish up the swim without incident. 

I zipped through transition ok and ran down to the mount line.  Again, I had problems clipping in, but soon enough I was off on the bike.  About a mile into the bike I noticed that the lever keeping my front tire attached was not locking in.  Instead of panicking immediately, I decided to watch the lever and see if it came more undone or just stayed as is.  A few more miles down the road I decide it is definitely coming undone more.  I unclip and try to kick the lever down with my foot.  Alas, my 31” legs can’t reach and all I manage to do is flail around like an idiot.  I finally stop the bike, reach over and push the lever down to lock it in place.  Right as I’m doing this, Chad passes me.  He asks if I’m alright then continues on his way scratching his head once he hears that I’m ok.  I’m sure he was wondering why on earth I decided to stop mid-race.  So now that the front wheel isn’t going to come off, I’m back in business and looking to make up some time.  That is until the rain started.  Not 2 minutes after I stopped the skies opened up and it started pouring.  Not being the best bike handler in the world I wisely slowed down pretty dramatically at each turn.  It just didn’t seem worth the risk to wipe out.  Plus I was frustrated with having to stop so I was getting cranky and ready to just throw in the towel.  But, as the bike was only 13.5 miles, I knew I couldn’t be that far from transition and the fastest way for me to get off the bike and end my misery would be to actually bike, so I pushed on and consoled myself with the fact that everyone was biking in the rain and probably just as miserable as I was.  The rain stopped about 1 mile from the finish, and I took a wrong turn during the final half mile just to ensure there was no way I posted a respectable bike split.  Finally I was off the bike.

T2 was slow.  I was being slow and pouty and it showed in my time.  I need to learn to take my shoes off on the bike so I can run barefoot instead of in my bike shoes.  I cheered for Chad twice as he was leaving transition, but he did not hear me and instead spent a large part of the run wondering what happened to me.  Thankfully nothing!

The run was great.  It was a simple out and back rolling course.  There were 2 sizeable hills, so we had to deal with them a total of 4 times, 2 smaller hills, but a downhill finish to help improve your spirits at the end.   I immediately started making on ground on the one guy in front of me that I could see.  Since I don’t race with a watch, I don’t know how fast I’m going and instead just try to run as fast as I can and not worry about the pace.  I passed the first guy about a half a mile in, then another guy just before the turn around at 1.55.  Chad passed me on his way in around 1.25 and was relieved to see me running.  I told him he was closing on the two guys in front of him.  He did not believe me, but I was right, he passed them both.    I was able to track down two more guys, one at mile 2 and the final one with just under half a mile to go.  I zipped into the finish with a 19:50. 

I ended up first overall female and Chad ended up first in his age group and 3rd overall.   We both posted the fastest run splits of the day.  I was really excited to win my first Tri.  Although it was a smaller race, I’m still proud of my win and really enjoyed racing Open.  We will see if I decide to race Open next year or stick to Age Group for another season.  No matter what, it should be a blast and I’m looking forward to picking out the race schedule for 2012!