Sunday, August 31, 2014

NCR 20 Mile Run--Race Report

Today, my bib number was 97 for the Charm City Run NCR 20 Mile Race.  I was on the last bus from the shopping center at Ashland and York in Cockeysville up to the starting line near the Maryland/Pennsylvania border.  I lined up a few rows back and settled in.  I ran a 2:29:57.  Life is good.  I met my goal and may never run this race again unless I have reason to pace someone else some day--for instance if one of my sons gets into running.  This is not a great weekend to have a 20 mile race.  But I've done it four times.

That is the short version.  Mission accomplished.  Near even splits (I ran the second half about 40 seconds slower than the first).  Continue to prepare for the marathon in Philly.

Now for the longer version.  

Today began with doing dishes from last night and walking the dog.  Then, I made a shift in what I was going to wear.  In any race before when I'd carried Gu or Stinger supplements, I'd worn shorts with big pockets.  The only shorts I have with big pockets are made of thick material and are heavy.  I got some advice to take some extra safety pins and pin the packets to my shorts.  Placing them on the inside to rest again my hips.  (Although the person giving the advice realized I have less "hips" than she does and that I don't have a sports bra to attach an extra one.)  That worked amazingly well, except for the one of the two packets I had during the race that ripped off the safety pin but didn't rip and I had a heck of a time with one wrist still not 100% mobile trying to get it open.  Nevertheless, it didn't cost me.

Then, I made the decision to race shirtless.  I've worked out shirtless before.  But I had never raced shirtless.  That meant attaching the number to my shorts.  Worked pretty well in the end.

With those adjustments taken care of, I consumed one Stinger and I drove to the shopping center at Ashland and York Roads.  There was no line at the porta-pottie, so I took a quick bathroom break.  I also took a quick selfie to show where I had my number pinned.  Then I waited.  I was there before 7 and didn't see a bus that I thought was supposed to come at 7.  There were a lot of people there for the bus that showed up at 7:15.  They got us all on but adults sat three to a seat.  The person sitting next to me in the very back row (which was made for even 2 kids at most) was in training for the JFK 50.  And many of the last people on the bus--mostly runners from Navy--ended up in the aisle.

The bus ride to the start took nearly 30 minutes.  The only good thing was that there was no line at the porta-potties there either.  Quick second use.  Another Stinger.  Jogged to the starting line.  I had forgotten how far up the trail it was.  At the starting line, I had to wait for the rest of the people from the bus to make it up.  By the time we started it was 8:09 according to my watch.  I saw some running friends I had not seen in a long time at the start.  That was great.

So, we began.  I jockeyed for position in mile 1.  One downside of having to walk up the trail to the start is that people who don't belong near the front based on their expected pace end up there.  Not too big a deal.  But not ideal.  We ran back past the parking lot where the buses had been and continued down the narrow section of the NCR trail.  First mile tends to be a little fast.  I ran it in 7:19.  Time to be a little more cautious heading into mile 2.

So, I really found my pace in mile 2.  I was not doing much passing at that point.  I was being passed by people.  I had to remind myself of one thing.  This was my race--not theirs.  Just stick to the plan. The goal was under 2:30.  While I believed I could run faster as that is only a 7:30 mile and I've held 7:20 for 20 miles in the past in marathons, I have not run marathons in which the starting temperature was 75 degrees with 89% humidity.  Second mile--7:29.

So, now I knew that the goal was just to hold that.  Still running along largely tree-lined paths, I continued to be passed by people here and there.  Some of whom would pull away.  That was okay.  Mile 3--7:31.

Mile 4 was, I believe the first water stop.  Took a Gatorade and a water. Drank the Gatorade.  Poured the water on myself.  Felt refreshing.  Life was good.  Mile 4 at 7:27.  Coming in just a bit under 30 minutes for 4 miles.  Exactly on schedule.

Mile 5--continued to be passed here and there.  Just kept running my race.  (You will see how much it became just "my' race later on.)  Ran it in 7:29.

Mile 6--first attempt at pulling a supplement off a safety pin.  Worked wonderfully.  Life was still very good.  Cruising along.  Ran it in 7:19.  Getting a little ahead of myself.  Don't know what made my break pace there.  But not too out of control.  Two years ago when I did this, I think each of the first six miles was faster than that and I went downhill starting at mile 12.  

Mile 7--7:24.  Not much to report.

Mile 8--this was the last time anyone passed me on the course.  I ran it in 7:26.  

Mile 9--I started to rein in people who were out ahead of me.  I don't know how many I picked off between the end of mile 8 and the end of the race, but it was nice that I was picking off and not getting passed.  I picked off some runners whom I know sometimes have better times than I do.  I picked off at least two Navy runners.  I picked off a couple people who had been just ahead since the start.  And I picked of one or two who had been way ahead at some point.  In any case, as I reached the trail mile 10 marker and the race mile 9 marker, I ran a 7:32.

Now it was time to really concentrate.  The easygoing nature of the pace for the first 8 turned into a battle of mind over temperature.  Mile 10 was another 7:32, but I reached the half way point with a little cushion between me and 1:15--half of the 2:30 I hoped to run.  During that mile I passed the point at which one training partner who was not running the race might have stopped out to say hi but there were other things to do on a Sunday morning.

Moving along, mile 11 was fine and I ran it in 7:27.  During mile 12, I consumed Stinger #4 for the day.  Maybe a little earlier than I should have.  And this one was messy as I had to try to open it without having the full use of my left wrist--still in a brace.  In any case, I came through in 7:26.  

 Up to this point everything felt fine.  Miles 13 and 14 were run in 7:26 and 7:25  Pulling a little faster.  Much like I had moved to a faster pace later in my training runs during the past several weeks.  Maybe a little too early.  Keys at this point: I passed the half marathon mark just around a 7:30 pace.  I made it through the first 14 in under 1:45.  Not just to hang on for the last six.  This was taking more concentration every mile.

So, mil 15 was okay at 7:32. I still felt like I was cruising mile 16 but apparently ran a 7:39.  Still, I came in under two hours but now the work got really hard.

Mile 17 was 7:43.  I slowed down particularly at the end as I passed the very familiar 2 mile marker on the trail.  I tried to get myself going again as I was slowing.  My stomach wasn't sloshing but maybe I had taken in too much liquid as I was getting a cramp in my side.  Mile 18 was 7:50.  I thought now that it would just be about finishing.  Maybe beating the 2:31 and change from three years ago.  Mile 19 has seemed short ever year I've run this race.  But my Garmin said 7:48.  And mile 20 (which is a full mile but my Garmin only recorded 0.93) was run at a 7:52 pace but in 7:17.

So, is the course off or is my watch off?  I don't know.  What I do know is that this was my PR.  I ran it in under 2:30.  Aside from any minor misplacement of the start or the turn around on the course, this is the same course I've run three times before.  So, I achieved my goal.

What else did I learn?  I compare this with the same race two years ago.  Temp was about the same to start although they day didn't get as warm two years ago.  I went out much faster and died by mile 12 and took over six minutes longer.  Today, I went out more slowly and held until mile 17.  And while I slowed down it was not by as much as two years ago.  Going out with a plan and sticking to the plan works much better than trying to excel too early.

Where does this put me? 1456 miles from the start of the year.  Still on US 54 heading west.  

What else did I think about?  I thought about not giving in.  I thought about all the advice from Shannon.  I thought about pushing with my multiple training partners.  I thought about my tattoo and how St. Sebastian didn't give in.  And I thought about Hebrews 12:1 that I saw posted this morning before the race and that is the motivation for a group called Team Persevere that I have mentioned before:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us (from USCCB website)
I also thought about the second reading this week (Romans 12:1-2).  That says:
I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God,
to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,
holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.
Do not conform yourselves to this age
but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that you may discern what is the will of God,
what is good and pleasing and perfect.   (USCCB website)
My personal spiritual search is for what is right.  Am I perfect?  No, of course not.  But my search is through my running.  The relationship between my running and my spirituality.  My transformation given a focus on serving God and not doing all the things that the current society suggests but to focus on excellence.  

Finally, my bib number (that I started with) was number 97.  If we look to Mark 9:7, we find:
Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; then from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him. (USCCB website)
This serves as another note to myself to focus my spiritual search in the same way that I focus my running.  

And, last but not least, with the focus comes joy.  I want to share two pictures.  They show the joy with several fellow Back on My Feet runners who I actually know through several things each and then with a fellow blogger who writes So What?  I Run.  These pictures are after each of the four people in the pictures ran 20 miles.  Were we tired?  Yes.  Were we covered in sweat?  Yes.  Were we achy?  Yes.  But we were joyful at the completion of the race and what we had accomplished.  I should have gotten pictures with a few others--next time.

To conclude--today I focused and persevered.  As long as I continue to focus and persevere in both my physical and spiritual and friendship pursuits life will continue to be amazing.

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