For the first time ever, I used a race as a workout and not a “just get to the finish” race or PR attempt. It was challenging to hold back when all I wanted to do was race, especially considering I haven’t truly raced in almost a year.
This is the first year we’ve (Laura, Heather, and I) have done it all as a girls night and spent the overnight together. It’s nice to have the guys around, but sometimes it’s much better to just do our thing, at our pace, and talk about whateverthefuck we want. Plus, lets face it, one boozy brunch is NOT cutting it for catch up time!
We rotated our food situation a little by hitting up Empire for dinner Saturday and a diner for breakfast on Sunday. Truthfully, I appreciated the low key Sunday because I wasn’t as tired leaving Syracuse as I am after a couple post race stouts and it meant I got food in my belly much quicker than normal. As per usual, I stopped at the store to grab this year’s nail color (anyone else need a fresh coat for the race?) and I’m in love with the color I picked. Sally Hansen’s Miracle gel line is amazing and so is the color Tidal Wave. Anyways, onto the running…
After a great week of weather, Sunday came with typical Lake Effect race weather. It was cold, like below freezing cold, with a dumb wind that gusted somewhere in the 20-25mph range. Perk? Headwind also means tailwind. I seriously struggled with what to wear for the run, opted for a pair of capris and a couple layers under my Chicago Saucony jacket. Thankfully, Laura is already Momming it up hardcore and was completely packed for somebody to forget gloves and hand warmers (or maybe that was accidental, but credit where credit is due!) and my hands were nice and toasty.
I did about a 3 mile warmup (average 9:22 pace) and the “out” portion made me realize what a disaster the run potentially could be. I was moving, but I felt like I could lean into the wind and it’d hold me up. But, alternatively, on the way back things felt good. I’d like an order of 100% tail wind for every run, if possible. No? Damn.
My plans for the race were to run comfortable and easy, under 9:30s and then cruise in the final 6 closer to 8:30s or under. I felt that with the atmosphere of a race, this was totally doable. I have felt that I struggled to maintain sub 8:40 pace in training, but largely due to getting in way of myself mentally. I’ve practiced running slow so often and not even speed that my legs have it, but tapping into it is another thing. Proving myself wrong in this workout was going to be welcomed.
So this course is a double loops of basically 3 miles out and 3 miles back (a little over) and then the end has a small loop to get in the last .75. It’s all along lake Onondaga and I’d be bored as hell if I trained on it. There’s something completely not boring about it when I’m racing though, and it might be just that I’m there with friends.
The first three miles I tried to keep as easy as possible. I had plenty of bodies to block the wind and ran a comfortable 9:07, 9:06, and 8:55. That 3rd mile, the course turns a little away from the lake and the wind definitely subsided for a good portion. I figured if I could keep my pace between 9:00 and 9:10 for my first loop, that’d be solid.
As soon as we turned around, I tried to hold back still even though I had the tailwind. Then I realized that going into the wind trying to hit 8:30s might be laughable and I picked it up just a smudge. My next 3 miles were 9:03, 8:56, and 8:51. I didn’t want to hit the gas too early but I wanted to get a small push while I had the wind at my back.
We turned around and headed back out, I still was planning to go for the tempo miles. If it wasn’t going to happen, it wasn’t going to happen, at least I knew the effort would be there. Unfortunately, at this point the pack had thinned out and I was SOL for finding people to draft behind (also, I sucked at that). My first mile was 8:59, but my effort was telling me that if I kept it up, I would finish the race. The entire time, I felt like my body was at an angle with my hips and legs more to the right and my upper body more to the left. I assumed it was all in my head but, well, more on that later. I pushed forward and the last part of this loop was in 9:16, and 8:45 (there’s that nice back end of the course again!)
I was so excited to head back towards the finish. Just a 5k to go and I was going to be cruising in with the wind helping me hit great paces. This run was going to be MUCH better than my first 16 when training for Chicago! Not so fast… I started to pick it up, ready to count bodies I passed. I picked off a couple and thought about how I wouldn’t see them again. But then my knee had a stabbing pain right under the knee cap. Huh. I’m knock kneed but it’s never given me knee issues. In fact, other than one random run during one of my last marathon training runs for Chicago, I’ve never had knee pain. I let up just a little and it didn’t really go away but it wasn’t as painful. I pushed harder and it got worse. “Oh, so that’s how this is going to go,” I thought.
It was so dumb. I was nailing my easy part and ready to kick some ass on the final miles! After a half mile of realizing my stride had officially altered based on the new pain, I decided to cool down. I did get some tempo effort miles in and whatever, I’d just run it to the end. Truthfully, I wanted to stop and check out my knee to see if it looked swollen or anything alarming but I knew if I stopped, I wasn’t starting again. I ran 2 miles (9:22, 9:33) before Heather saw me during her cool down. It was nice to talk and take my mind off the cranky knee, and then I just pushed it to the finish because, well, breakfast. My final mile was 9:11 with a 7:56 final .2 (oops tangents.) I finished without even breathing hard, eek.
Overall, I finished my 16 miles around 9:10 average pace (9:04 for the half marathon portion). That’s much better than the 10:30 I did for the 16 during Chicago, that’s for sure.
My knee didn’t hurt when I walked around or even after I got home, after 4 hours in the car driving. It wasn’t swollen. It was a super weird thing that happened. I did two runs afterwards and both felt fine, but during my next long run, things felt less than stellar.
[insert shrug here]
We’ll see what my body decides to do this week.
Seven weeks til Carmel Marathon!