Friday, March 18, 2016

Race Report: Inaugural Kiss Me I'm Irish 5K/10K/10K Relay 3.13.16

Warning: You might need to break out the popcorn, prop your feet up, and plan to stay awhile for this one. As my running mantra says, "Every Mile a Memory" and this race had miles of them...

The race that took me WAAAY out of my comfort zone ended up being a surprisingly great start to the 2016 racing season
I will start out by saying that the Inaugural Kiss Me I'm Irish 5K/10K/10K Relay was by far the toughest course of my short running "career." Had I known the entire race route minus about one mile was going to be comprised of rolling hills, I probably would have chickened out and not run the 10K but perhaps stuck with the 2-person 10K relay or 5K. Don't get me wrong, those would have been challenges as well because all three distances utilized the same course, the "suffering" would have just been half. LOL For people who run hills on a regular basis, I'm sure this course would have been a piece of cake but for me, the race was a beast…and everyone whom I raced with me Sunday shared my sentiments. With that said, I am glad I didn't know ahead of time what I was in for because despite the challenges, it was a great race and I really hope they offer it next year because I'd do it again in a heartbeat. Ha, I guess you know it's gotta be a good race when it kicks your behind yet brings you back for more. =O)

Going the distance
Before I go into the race details, a little background. While I have several 5Ks, a 5 miler, a 10 miler, and a half marathon under my belt and I've run a 10K distance more times than I can count during training runs, I had never raced the 10K distance before so when they announced this one, Paul and I decided to sign up for the 10K. He had run a 10K in the fall but I was out of town and missed out and since this one was close and from my experiences running the Race for the Place 5K which takes place practically right across the street (a relatively flat and "easy" neighborhood type-course), I figured it would be a great 10K to try. Ha, little did I know what challenge I would be up against.

At the end of January, a couple we are friends with challenged us to a "loser buys breakfast" competition with the 2-person 10K relay. John is a pretty fast runner and places in his AG in just about every race he does. Nicole just started running last year and hadn't run since the last race we all did together, the Run Santa Run 5K.  I am certainly not anywhere close to being as fast as John and Paul just started running last year and had only run a handful times since the Santa race so the teams weren't exactly balanced but we didn't care, it would be fun no matter what. However, I really wanted to try the full 10K so we decided our son could run on a team with Paul as long as we could change Paul's registration to a relay team and include our son. I contact the RD and he gladly made the change and team The Geek Squad was born. With our son on the team (he runs XC and whose PR is close to John's), it would greatly level the playing field. Unfortunately, when he hurt his foot several weeks ago, we didn't think he'd be able to run the relay so we asked my brother-in-law if he was interested. Eric is an avid runner and has several races, including marathons, under his belt, and often places in his age group so he would be good replacement. I contacted the RD again to see if it was ok swap out our son for Eric. Again, it wasn't a problem so the "grudge match" between The Geek Squad and The Old Married Couple would go on as planned. My friend from work who runs several races with me signed up to do the 5K and Paul's friend who started running last year signed up for the 10K. He is also signed up to the 10 Mile Drop that we are doing next month so he thought the 10K would be good bridge between 5K racing to 10M racing.

Oh what a course, oh what a beast

The race began and ended at an outdoor shopping complex called Legacy Village. When the race was first announced, the route was supposed to just go through neighborhoods and city streets with the 10K route running the 5K route twice. About a week or so before race day, we noticed they posted an updated route. We talked with one of the RDs afterwards (who happens to be our son's XC coach as well as owner of one of the local running stores and co-owns the time/race management company that the majority of my races, including this one, are through) and he explained why they changed it. Even though this course was more than what I bargained for, looking back I'm actually glad they changed it because running a loop twice would have been kind of boring and this course DEFINITELY pushed me out of my comfort zone.

The only completely flat part was at the very start heading out of the complex, the very end heading back in, and a portion between approx. miles 3.25 through 4.35 that went through a neighborhood. Also, with the exception of the first and last miles as well as the portion mentioned above, the rest of the course was on a golf cart path in a former golf course turned metro park, mostly paved but there was a short section that was gravel. I looked at the course map ahead of time so I knew it was going to be very snake-like, just not so dang hilly. At first I was concerned how I was going to be able to hug the curves with so many people running the race but by the time I reached the park during the race, the pack had thinned out making "lane changes" on the very narrow path rather easy to do. There were times the course curved back and forth so quickly I just stayed in the middle. Even though the path was narrow and there were so many people running, there were actually many times I was running alone which was an unexpected surprise and I have to admit I kind of prefer the "park-like" race over city/street one.

So getting back to the race…
Originally I thought there were 1,000 people signed up for the race but actually there were "only" 800 and on race day, there were less than 700. I suspect the chilly and rainy weather kept people away. Of course, the weather on SATURDAY would have been perfect for a race; blue skies, sunshine, and upper 50's/lower 60's. No such luck for Sunday. It rained most of the day and temps were a RF of 37 degrees at the 9:00 a.m. start. Paul's friend picked up our race packets the day before so we didn't have to be at the venue too early and decided to meet at him 8:15. We arrived and the drizzle had pretty much stopped but the radar for the race didn't look very promising. I usually only have one cup of coffee pre-race but this morning and I had two and that, along with pre-race jitters and not knowing what to expect from this race made me a little more anxious and bouncing off the walls than usual and the crappy weather wasn't helping matters.

Since runners were encouraged to dress festively, I did just that. I'll admit when we first arrived and I saw other runners walking to the staging area, I felt a bit overdressed and felt that perhaps I went too overboard because not many people had dressed up. An interesting observation when we were waiting for the race to start is how few of the "real" runners (that's what I call the people from the running club whom I see at most of the races and run competitively) dress festively. Paul commented that it's probably because they are there to race and win, not style points, which I can understand. Not everyone likes to get all geeked up like I do but I sure did have fun putting my outfit together. Several of the other racers came up to me and commented how great my outfit was and quite a few said if there was a contest, I'd definitely win so I eventually got over feeling out of place. Surprisingly every single thing I had on stayed put not only during but well after the race was over.

My brother-in-law and my sister (who came for moral support and ended up helping the race crew move the timing mats, hand out water to the racers, etc. while she waited for us to cross the finish line), arrived and we met up with our friends, The Old Married Couple, to chat a little before the race. About 8:40, I decided to do a quick warm up jog. I still don't really know if a warm up jog has any benefit to me personally when I race so I only jogged for about 10 minutes. Too much coffee made for an extremely dry mouth and while I've never raced with gum before, I was desperate. You know the saying "can't walk and chew gum at the same time?" Yeah, well that's me. I've always been afraid to run with gum in my mouth for fear of choking. Luckily Eric had a piece and gave me half. It was a life saver and I managed to run most of the race with it in my mouth. The rain held off so we were able to start the race "rain free" but probably around mile 5 it started to mist and by the time I crossed the finish line, it was drizzling. Fortunately, because of where the race start and finish were staged, there were plenty of places to hang out after you finished so you didn't have to wait around in the rain. One of the bars in the complex offered a free beer to anyone who raced plus they were donating 20% of all sales to a local food bank so that was a popular spot as was Starbucks.

I went into this race with no expectations because I had never raced a 10K distance before. As a matter of fact, when I saw John at the starting line, he asked me what my goal was and I told him I had no idea. All I knew is I wanted to beat Paul's 1st 10K time (which was 58something). =) I arbitrarily picked 8:00 and 9:45 for my low/high pace alerts on my FR220 and planned on running a slower pace in the 9:30-9:45 range to start off. Even though I was pretty close to the starting mat, it was pretty chaotic trying to get out of the complex with so many people. Add the race adrenaline and I found myself running WAY faster than I should have been (8:15-9:30 range). This would not serve me well. When I got to the park at approx. mile 1, I was already tired and didn't really know how I'd be able to run another 5.2 miles, especially seeing the course I was now realizing I had to run. I would glance down at my watch from time to time and was surprised how often it read 9:20 because I felt I was running much slower. Yep, I was tired and seemed like it was taking me forever to make any progress. It's funny because when I got to the spot where the 5K runners split off to head back, I was half tempted to just say screw it, take a DNF, and just follow the 5K route back but I told myself that was crazy talk and to just keep running. I also had to remind myself that just because people were passing me didn't mean I was running poorly, there were just some only running 5K distances where I was running the full 10K.

I got to the relay exchange point at 9:28 and John was there waiting for Nicole to hand off the timing device. He cheered me on as I ran past and told me I was making excellent time. Ha, I was dying, couldn't he see that? LOL Since Eric was runner number one for The Geek Squad, he has already made it to the relay point and Paul was well head of me. Eventually I made it to the neighborhood and passed Paul's friend. I hadn't seen him up to this point and I guess I was surprised he had been that far ahead of me the whole time, especially since I had been so close to the starting line. Guess that's what happens when a race has so many participants. Running the streets in the neighborhood was a much needed break but my stomach started churning and I started to panic…too much coffee perhaps? What would I do if I had an emergency? I looked down at my watch and I was running anywhere from a 9:45-10:45 minute pace. I was really starting struggle and then all of the sudden, out of no where it seemed, Eric came up behind me and ran with me for a bit. Even though he had already finished his leg, he decided to run the 10k distance anyway. We talked for a bit and it was almost like he was my running guardian angel when I really needed one the most! He eventually had to pick up the pace because his legs were starting to cramp up so off he went….and so did my churning stomach and moments of self-doubt. Yep, a running angel indeed.

The finish

After I made it through the neighborhood and was back in the park, I happened to notice one of the women from the running club a head of me. At first I saw her walk through a water stop and then I saw her walk part of one of the hills. I guess I was surprised to see one of the "real" runners walk. Don't ask me why, maybe in my weird brain I've always assumed walking was for amateurs. But I guess even experienced runners need to take a break every now and then. Anyway, I was able to pass her which gave me a little bit of a mental boost. She eventually regained her lead but I able to keep her in my sights for the remainder of the race until she entered the complex toward the finish. 

I eventually made out of the park and had only about a mile to go. It was the same road going back into the complex as it was going out but I guess I was in such a "zone" at the beginning of the race I didn't realize the hill we ran down at the start was going to be a beast to run back up…and it was a hill that just kept going…and going…aaaannnnd going. I saw several people stop running to walk it, even that woman from the running club I just mentioned. I thought I was surely doomed. The woman who is the official blogger for this particular running series came up from behind me just as she did in the Run Santa Run 5K in December. While I was able to keep her in my sights until she rounded the last corner to the finish, I would not be able to keep up with her much less pass her this time around. Dang, she didn't skip a beat on that hill either. Not me though, about half way up the hill, my legs just stopped…just like that…any other race I probably would have had major guilt for walking but this one I did not, not after the beast of a course I had just run and especially not after seeing that even experienced runners need a break sometimes too. Ten seconds was about all I needed and I started to pick up the pace again. Exhausted by the time I made it to the top, I decided this was the race where I would not be able to summon the energy to make the mad dash towards the finish. I just didn't think I had it in me. The end of the course had a few more turns and then with 0.2 miles left to go, it was a straight shot to the finish line. By this time the drizzle really started to pick up. Thank goodness I was almost done! As I rounded the last curve, I could see Paul and Nicole standing along the way watching for me. Then I heard John's voice (he must have been standing on the other side of the street but I never saw him) say "keep pushing, you'll make 57 if you keep pushing." Out of no where, I felt this surge of energy and it was almost like someone had jumped into my body and was running for me. Strangest.feeling.ever! Mad dash towards the finish and my first 10K was officially in the books! Interesting while it was the most challenging and demanding race to date (I'd say it was a lot tougher than my half marathon in some respects), it was the first race where I didn't feel like I was going to hyperventilate  after crossing the finish line and the first race where my breathing and such got back to normal the quickest as well.

Official time for my first 10K 57:17.

Stats per my FR220
Mile 1  9:08
Mile 2  9:20
Mile 3 9:29
Mile 4 9:25
Mile 5 9:21
Mile 6 9:26
Mile 7 7:25

Stats per my chip
1st 5K  9:16
2nd 5K  9:11
Final 9:14

I was definitely running a lot faster than I was feeling I was  (just goes to show  how clueless I am when it comes pace v. perceived effort or being able to run by feel)  and I am surprised how well I was able to maintain a relatively steady pace. Also, while I didn't have negative splits when the miles are broken down, my second 5K was faster than my first. That counts as negative splits, right? =O) As far as my placing goes, I was 4th of 17 in my AG, 47th of 159 of all females, 99th of 241 overall. Shocked to know I made the top 4 in my AG but a sweet and unexpected victory!

Race swag and post race food were excellent once again. Everyone received a short-sleeve Brooks technical T-shirt and the first 500 people who signed up received sweet-looking finishers medals (which also double as bottle openers). They offered pint glasses to the additional 300 participants. However, after you crossed the finish line, you were given the option to either take a medal or glass which I thought was a great idea because not everyone wants a medal and not everyone wants a glass. Food included really good pizza, rice krispies, granola bars, bananas, coffee and water. The Lake Heath Running Series once again did not disappoint.

After the race, we went over to Bar Louie to claim our free beer. All five of us who ran the race, whether we ran the full 10K or part of the relay, agreed this course was a beast! So glad I wasn't the only one.

Festive costume that went the distance...literally!

Final Thoughts

Even though this was my toughest course to date, it ended up being a great start to the 2016 season and I'd like to think that my hard work these lasts couple months of building a solid base and increasing my mileage helped me do as well as I did.
  • At first when I realized my time was only a minute or so faster than Paul's 10K time in October, I was a little discouraged because I have been running more now than I ever did last year and I personally thought I should have been MUCH faster. But then I put things into perspective. The courses were so vastly different where his was a flat out and back route on a tow path and this was anything but. I wonder how much faster my time would have been had the course been comparable.
  • The closest race distance to this one was my first 5miler last July. My chip pace was 9:29 for that race. The course was a relatively flat street race as well and my MPW was all over the place. By comparison, chip pace for this race was 9:14. Not too shabby considering just how hard those 6.2 miles were.
  • Although I know definitely need to run more hills, I'd like to think my increased mileage helped with my overall stamina.
So that's the race in a nutshell. LOL I apologize for the length, there was just so much to say about the experience and my first race of the season that just a paragraph would not have done it justice. It truly was an amazing race and it makes me so excited to see what the rest of the 2016 racing season brings.

Oh, I was so busy talking about me, I forget to mention who won the grudge match 10K relay. The Geek Squad finished in 7th overall with a time of 52:52 (2nd in the all male division) and The Old Married Couple finished right behind them 8th overall (5th in the co-ed division) with a time of 55:26.  Looks like Paul and I have a free breakfast coming our way. =)