Saturday, 26 November 2011

The Dune Run: Meijendelloop 2011

Meijendelloop race report. Today was a great run. I will have to wait til my buddies share photos, since I decided I didn't want to carry my phone around with me on the course. I didn't do anything in preparation for this race except register. The longest run was 12 km in August.  More recently, 8 or 9 km.  I nearly talked myself out of it, thinking there was no way I could do it blah blah blah. But heck, in July I ran a half marathon after swimming an hour and cycling for five. I can do it, I told myself. I am an ironman.

I think because of my ambivalence about even starting, I stayed up too late futzing around with my Garmin and making a playlist for my iPod (which I reclaimed from my son) (past midnight) and decided I would pull out my race kit in the morning, since of course I know just where everything is. My right shoulder has been bothering me since the last time I was at the gym (remember me boasting about lifting heavy). So the pain in my shoulder woke me at 5 or so . I flopped around until 7. And made my coffee in the dark and enjoyed it in bed. My house is 5 km from the start, and I planned to ride my bike. I decided to see how it went. walking around collecting stuff didn't take too much time, I thought. I had to fish out a race belt to carry water and gatorade, even though I hate drinking when it's cold. Then I had to find my nifty Ironman bib belt, which made me feel strong and proud. Then I had to dig through the dirty gym laundry to find my tights and winter shirt since it was cold. And then find my gym bag to locate the hat and gloves. 

So you won't be surprised that I started six minutes after the 8 a.m. gun went off. I really should not have had that coffee in bed. I stuffed gel packets and a banana into my pocket on the way out and cranked up We Are the Champions on the way out of the house. In the dark, I startled a small red fox with a white spot on its tail. He scampered off with cat-like motion. My friends yelled Chris! hello! as they ran past me on the bike path, me pedalling furiously to the start line.

I used to be more nervous (and more prepared) for races. I figured out my nutrition off the top of my head. In the past, I've spent way too much time planning a pace. This time I just used my GymBoss timer to do a 4:1 run/walk ratio and kept an eye on my heart rate. 1 min walk breaks were too long, so I started running when I felt like it - usually after 40 seconds. One minute and I started to get cold. The walk break let me catch my breath and settle my heart rate and gave me confidence that I could run forever. Which is true.

I checked in at the start line and asked if I was too late. They laughed, I started. I was really happy to be behind the guys in green jackets on bikes who were trailing the pack of runners - I think the race sells out at 500 people. Last year, the bike guys trailed me, picking up the signs and I felt totally irritated by their presence, guilty every time I took a walk break, imagining they were watching me and judging me and hating me for keeping them outdoors on a snowy, sub-zero day. (Last year I was also still feeling sorry for myself for climbing into the meat wagon when I timed out on the bike at my first 70.3 tri the previous month, so I was probably more resentful than most to having a tail.) 

Well, I was thoroughly enjoying myself, running in the gorgeous red-sky dawn, following the markers and sign posts. At one point though the walking trail split from the bike trail, and there were no markers. I couldn't tell which to follow. I looked in vain on the dry ground for indications of the herd of runners I was following, and doubling back to see if I had missed some sign. No. The sign indicated straight ahead. So I stayed on the wider bike path, since surely I would have seen foot prints had they run down the foot path. 

I came up over a hill and around the bend and saw the water table. Wow, I thought. They've added another water table - since according to the race scheme, the water post was at 15 km, and I had just run only 3 km. Wow, they look surprised. Wow, they're still pouring water into empty cups. The herd hasn't been here yet. Then another woman wearing a race bib came running up too. 

Turns out the bike patrol was pulling up the signs, and without any signs to tell us to keep going north, this gal and I had missed 10 km of the race - the whole of the north loop - and had taken the turn that you would see after completing the north loop. (the course kind of resembles a shoe lace bow. not really, but that will give you a vague idea). 

She had gotten very lost trying to drive to the start, and had started after me. She seemed a little upset and told me she had really wanted to do the whole 25. I started joking around with the volunteers that I didn't mind, I would still get the shirt and the apple cake, and told them I was withdrawing from the race (An "out-faller"). We ran a small loop back north and around to the water table again; she was hoping to wait for the herd to catch up. I knew for myself that was rather pointless, since the herd was so much quicker than I that they'd run me down in a stampede. (The guy who won (1:35:22 , 25 km) is a tall, nice looking, incredibly graceful runner. I had the pleasure of watching him run right past me. He was speeding by without any visible effort).

Anyway I thanked the universe for cutting 10 km off the run and making it possible for me to thoroughly enjoy the day and run 15 km and finish. The course passes the path back to the start line on its way out for Loop 2. And it passes the road to my house..... I was tempted to run an even shorter course, but decided I would simply run the rest of the course and enjoy myself, taking the pace as I wanted. Absolutely no anxiety about being too slow, being last, etc. The herd was way behind me. I folded my bib to indicate I wasn't racing and started looking at the gorgeous oak leaves as the course took me into parts of the dunes where I had not run before. 

There is a sweet spot in running where I find pure pleasure. Colours become more intense. I lose a sense of time. Motion is effortless. This sweet spot eludes me when I am doing interval training or other kinds of pace work. Sometime if I don't run hard enough, I can't find the zone either. But today was sweet. 

I haven't run with music in more than a year, after my son borrowed my iPod to replace the one he lost. And after I grew more confident in just going out for a run by myself, without music. But today, the music was great. I have some running tracks that are composed with specific running paces - they sound like trance music and they'd probably kill you if you listened without running. But they melt my mind so my body can run.

Soon the gazelles started passing me. A thing of beauty. These fast men. Tall, lean, some loose, some tight. nearly all the leaders had the same body type. I'd run like that with those legs too. Glide, I told myself. 

I remembered to eat some gel and drink some water and drink some gatorade. My stomach wasn't that interested in too much. And the run wasn't that long. I ended up with 15.5 km. I had a little trouble with temperature control. I really hadn't needed my coat. But did need it sometimes when the wind picked up. So, the gloves came off nearly immediately. Same with the hat. Zip up shirt & coat. Unzip. Take off coat. Put it back on. Zip shirt, unzip coat. The problem was I let myself get sweaty, which made it very easy to feel cold. Most of the race I ran with my coat rolled up and tied around my waist.

I got big cheers at finishing and had to unfold my number, since they kept asking for it. Then I reminded the gal who was recording the finishes that I was an uitvaller. I saw my fast lady friends who had passed me earlier, and some who finished behind me. We cheered on more finishers and then went into the pancake house for baked apple cake and coffee with lots of fresh whipped cream.

The event is really well run. The volunteers are friendly and offer encouragement. The paths are gorgeous. The number of runners make for an intimate race. Perhaps next year, they'll hold the bikes back ten minutes after the official start to let me enjoy having my coffee in bed without losing the signs on the course. Or maybe I'll get out of bed a little earlier, set out my race kit the night before, and run the whole race. Third time's the charm. Til next year!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Amsterdam 8

The Amsterdam 8km race was great. Getting there was a little too exciting. The bus connection skipped the stop at the marathon expo center due to the marathon and took us up and around so we had to literally run 15 minutes back to the start area. one of my colleagues thankfully was able to pick up our start numbers from the expo and bring them to us, so we could start on time.

I planned a pace I thought my new running buddy C could handle (under 7 min/km) with a one minute walk break every 1/2 km (so every 3 1/2 minutes, more or less, like we practiced). She did beautifully, though the last couple km saw her stop talking and refuse to tell me any jokes. I was trying to keep her talking so as to make the distance fly by faster. She told me afterwards she was thinking evil thoughts when I was trying to keep her from falling behind too far between walk breaks. We finished together in 55 minutes, which was so fantastic for her first time. She said in the beginning of the race she was self-conscious, and didn't feel at all like she had any business out there on the course. She was particularly nervous about all the spectators. She got a big charge from spectators calling out encouragement to her by name (names were on our bibs). By the end, Christel had such an adrenaline rush, finishing in Olympic stadium, making half a lap to cheering crowds. She earned her finish medal! 

The temperature was perfect - a bit on the chilly side but clear blue sky and sunny. A new women's course record was set. We stayed in the stadium to watch the men's and women's winners finish. I felt so inspired watching these talented runners.