Monday, May 21, 2007

A lesson in contrasts - Twisted Ankle 2007 Race Report (A PR!)

Goals: 1. Finish
2. Finish faster than last year (3:52 or so)
3. Finish under 3:30

Last year this race was my first half marathon and my longest run ever. To sum up the experience – it sucked. I resolved that I would be back this year for my revenge, and set out to train. Unfortunately I had a bout with ITBS that kept me out of running for 8 long weeks and I was afraid of what the outcome would be. Throughout my 8 week break I cross-trained like I have never cross-trained before and while I hated it, I’m now glad I did it. Usually when I get hit with an injury I mope about it and all but quit working out entirely, but this year I remained much more dedicated and it paid off in huge dividends.

After Randy all but literally pulled me through the race last year I was afraid of the potential to have to do it alone this year. Crys and I stuck together from the start, and she was a great running partner. We chatted a lot at the beginning, and then the hills started and the chatting halted rather severely. Crys and I agreed that the best strategy would be to walk the up hills from the very beginning, saving our legs for the duration of the race. At each of the early hills I thought of last year’s race, when I kept saying “this must be Becky’s Buff”, only to get to the top and realize it wasn’t, and have Randy say “I wasn’t gonna say anything”

I must have blocked Becky’s Bluff out of my memory because I had forgotten just how steep and narrow that trail was. For a girl afraid of heights, it would really be better to have a wider trail…and really it was so nice of Becky to knock that giant tree in our path. Nearing the top of the Bluff, the photographer was leaning on a tree and I fully expected to look like I was going to kill him in those pictures – I wanted to lean on that tree! But I made it past him and was so happy to see Christina and Rob at the top with water. Crys and I paused at the top for a drink and then headed on our way. I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders once that climb was out of the way, and I can honestly say running on the ridge felt great.

On the ridge top things went pretty much as expected. We both almost bit it a couple times (thank you rocks and roots) but managed to stay on our feet. Every time we saw someone we knew they looked so awesome, and almost everyone commented on how much better I looked this year than last year. I felt good, but damn I wonder how bad I looked a year ago…

After stopping at the last aid station, I decided I was going to have to work pretty hard to beat 3:30 and I took off down the mountain. I don’t know what got into me because that trail was very technical in spots, but I made it down without a fall. Every few minutes I would look behind me to make sure Crys was still there, but eventually I couldn’t see her anymore. Right around the marble mine there were these golf-ball sized rocks hiding under leaves and I felt like I was running on marbles, but managed to make it through without any injuries. And then I hit asphalt. Ouch. I slowed to a walk and near the end of the campground Crys caught up with me again. We headed into the woods and I found my second (third, fourth, three-hundreth) wind and took off again. Through the woods and around the lake, where I almost started to cry, just like last year, but this time out of happiness and not out of pain. I was running along yelling at myself not to cry, because I knew if I did I wouldn’t be able to breathe. When I hit the parking lot at the registration building I saw I had smashed my goal and ran as fast as my little legs would carry me over the bridge and to the finish. It was so great to hear everyone cheering as I was running across the bridge, and I was all embarrassed when the announcer guy said my name on his loudspeaker. When I finished I really did start to cry because I couldn’t believe what a contrast this was from last year (I’m a wuss, I know).

A summary of data (NERD ALERT!):
Starting HR:
2006 – 154 bpm (yeah, standing still)
2007 – 110 bpm (that’s more normal)

Max HR:
2006 - 222 bpm (SVT?)
2007 – 207 bpm

Avg HR:
2006 – 199bpm
2007 – 181 bpm

Time (oh yeah, that):
2006 – 3:52
2007 – 3:17!!!!!

I really struggled over what to say in this report because I can’t wrap my head around the differences between the two years. Last year I was miserable – it hurt like nothing I ever imagined and the only reason I made it was Randy’s encouragement (and patience!). This year it was under control. A huge part of that is that I knew what to expect, and the weather was 1000 times better, but seriously all of that cross training paid off. My aerobic fitness was so much better than last year and even though my legs didn’t have the mileage in them, my cardio could carry me through. Truly I think I could have done closer to 3 hours, but I felt great running that race and I didn’t want to feel like crap, I wanted to have fun. After last year, I thought I would never be a distance runner and I would never be good at this stuff. This year, I see that if I bust my ass I do have potential – I know from the way I felt at the end I have a lot left in me, I just have to figure out how to get it out.

So, thanks for reading my freakishly long report (notice there’s no short version)
I’m a little teary and really left a whole lot out of this because I can’t figure out how to say it and y’all probably don’t care anyway