Saturday, June 28, 2014

Bucket List Update and Jonno Gray 5K

I while back, I posted about the running club I had joined, the Sugarloaf Mountain Athletic Club, and how I was going to be taking part in their race series. The series includes fourteen races from April through November. I ran the first race in the series, the Ron Hebert 8 Miler, back in April. At this point, I had been having calf problems, and had to take it easy.

My calf continued to bother me through the spring, so much so that I sat the second race of the series out. (I wanted to make sure I would be in okay shape for Ragnar.) The third and fourth races fell on days that I was working. The fifth race, was the Lake Wyola Road Race; the first race I ever ran over two years ago now. It has a brutal hill, and at this point I was sick and my calf was just starting to get better, so I volunteered at the event.

Flash forward to today and the sixth race of the SMAC series, the Jonno Gray 5K. My calf was finally heeled due to a lot of work with stretching, foam rolling, massage, and a couple pair of new sneakers. Finally, I was going to get to run.

I'll be honest, at this point, and let you know that unfortunately, I will not end up being a SMAC race series finisher and will probably not re-join the club next year. Let me explain both reasons, since I make quite the big deal about the joining the club and was very excited to do so. After attending a few of the SMAC events, I feel like I haven't really been connecting with the club members. They are an older group than me, not very active on social media, and don't seem to do a lot of meet-ups for runs (one of my main interests in joining a running club). While everyone certainly seems nice, they just aren't a group that I feel is for me.

Also, over time, I have been connecting much more with the NE Spahtens, the OCR group I'm involved with. This is a younger crowd that I seem to have more in common with. They are easy to keep in touch with as they have a huge presence on Facebook. Also, I have to admit it; I love obstacle course racing better than just running. Training for OCRs lets me use so many more areas of fitness and allows me to do all the cross training I love. The races are a blast. I like how the obstacles break up the running. I love climbing things and crawling through things and swinging from things. Obstacle course racing as emerged as my main love, and there is no one better to do it with that the Spahtens.

The other problem that is coming to the fore with the SMAC race series is the fall race dates. They are all on Saturdays. I am starting at Simmons Graduate School of Library and Information Science in the fall. This is a program that I have been wanting to do for years, and will definitely be my main focus over the three years of the program. I like my job in fund-raising, but I am eager to learn new skills at Simmons and transition into a job in the information science field -- I'm strongly considering focusing my time at Simmons in Systems and Information Technology. I've talked with a few systems librarians, and feel this is the sort of field that would really interest me. I am hoping that with education and internship opportunities, I can develop the skills to move my career in that direction.

As exciting as all this is (and believe me, I could not be more thrilled than I am about starting at Simmons), it looks like I will be in class Saturday morning. That means the Saturday SMAC races are out because school will take 100% precedence over my other activities. So it seems being a SMAC race series finisher is not in my future.

I am also making adjustments to the bucket list for 2014 races. When I had last checked in, I had plans to do the Hogsback Half Marathon, and wanted to train to PR at that event. I had even signed up. Turns out that race is on a Saturday. I ended up transferring my registration and am now trying to figure out what my big fall event will be. The Newburyport Half Marathon, which was a bucket list contender, is a possibility because it's on a Sunday.

I also made some adjustments to the obstacle course races on my bucket list. Of course, Tough Mudder is done. Unfortunately, I couldn't do Bone Frog Challenge because of work. I am still dying to do this race and have my eye out for the 2015 dates. I was also waiting on dates for the Spartan Super in Boston, but this race is not happening this year.

Knowing all this, and feeling like I wanted to do more races with the Spahtens, I've signed up for a couple of things. The first is a weekend in July at Shale Hill, a very highly regarded obstacle training facility up in Vermont. I'll be going up there at the end of the month for a special Spahten training weekend. We'll do a training day on the course on Saturday and then a 5K or 10K race (I signed up for the 10K for now) on Sunday. I am the most excited about this event and seriously can't wait, since I've heard so many amazing things about Shale Hill. Apparently if you can do these obstacles then you're set for Tough Mudder and Spartan. I'll also be doing a Spartan Sprint (usually around 3 - 5 miles) in August in Amesbury with the Spahtens. Despite doing many OCRs at this point, this will be my first Spartan race.

Since I've gotten so into obstacle course racing I have two contenders for my big fall goal: Newburyport Half Marathon or the Spartan Beast (a 13+ mile course on a mountain in Vermont). Both of these are events on a Sunday, so both would be possible. I will wait and see. In the meantime, I am doing lots of pull-ups, running, and burpees to prepare for Shale Hill and the Spartan Sprint. Hopefully keeping up with this sort of training will leave my options open as I consider the half versus the Beast.

For now, I am still trying to take advantage of some of the SMAC events, especially since I get to see my friends, Maddy and (super running buddy) Dave, at the events.

The Jonno Gray 5K was being held at the non-traditional time of 4:00 p.m., not ideal for the month of June, as it was 86 degrees and sunny today (thought no humidity, which was amazing). The timing is probably my only complaint about the race, which was really a fantastically fun local event. Also, the race directors were super smart and added an extra water station to account for the warm weather.

The race check in was at the Elks Club in Holyoke, which sponsors the race. The course, was a loop that took us around a reservoir. It was flat and lovely! The start of the race was around a quarter mile or so from the registration, but the course finished right in front of the club. The race was clock timed only, which ended up adding a bit of time to my course time since I started far from the front, I'm sure. (Note: As of posting, race results are not yet online, so I don't know my official time.) Because it was warm, and I am rather slow as a runner, I started out towards the middle to back of the pack. This ended up being a good location because I didn't have to pass too many people and didn't have lots of people passing me either.

After some brief announcements, we were off, following the official race timer on the truck. The course was on gravel paths, which were nice and soft underfoot. The course was very flat and the area around was completely lovely!

I will admit, I got a little caught up in the scenery and started out a bit fast and had to pull myself back a little. Either way, the first mile went quickly. At this point I wasn't too hot yet, and was feeling good. I make a quick stop to get some water at the water stop because of the heat, took a quick gulp, and kept going.

During the second mile, I really started to feel the heat. My body was warmed up completely at this point, and we were running in the sun. I kept myself focused and motivated and sang tunes in my head. I knew I only had a mile to go until the next water stop. "You can run for just a mile. Easy." I told myself. This strategy worked, and soon the second water stop was in sight. I stopped for a quick swig of water and then poured the rest over my head as I jogged off.

I was hot and getting tired, but I only had one mile to go. I kept thinking about how nice the course would be on a perfect day -- it's an excellent PR course. I admit that at this point I started to speed up again. I was in a brief wooded area, and the shade felt great. However, next thing I knew, only a half mile out, I was back in the hot sun and feeling terrible. I pushed on. I did not want to walk at all on this easy course. I kept trying to think positive. "This will not kill you. Did anyone ever die from working hard?"

I had about three minutes to go, when I felt really dizzy. I gave in. I slowed to a walk. This may have lasted for a few second before I started up again, but it certainly felt like a failure. This was what I had not wanted to do and my body has overridden what I knew in my mind I could do. I reasserted my focus and turned the corner. I was feeling rough and the course had taken a slight incline, but I could see the purple balloons on the finish line.

I began to count down the seconds until the end of the run. I went as hard as I could towards the finish.

I crossed the line with my watch reading 31:20 (and 3.15 miles) with an average pace of 9:55. Definitely a weak 5K time for me (compared to, say, the last 5K I really raced with a good calf, Gives a Hoot back in October where I did 29:27). This was a good lesson in how having good pacing is so important. Really my pace was all over the place. I started too fast, then went too slow, then too fast again. It's was also a good reminder about how the heat can really have any impact on your time. I don't think that is 100% of the problem -- like I said, my pacing was an issue -- but the weather certainly made things difficult. This also reminded me about how I do a bit better at OCRs than at road racing. The last OCR I did, Merrill, I finished in the top half of my age group without really racing. At today's 5K, I am sure, like in past races, that I will be more towards the bottom. This is fine; I am not a fast runner. But I am pretty good at pulling myself up and over things!

At the finish line, I took a few moments to collect myself and reorient. I grabbed an ice pop and got some fluid and sugars in me. The Elks Club had a standing sprinkler where Dave and I refreshed ourselves.

The club offered an impressive post-race buffet of hamburgers, salads, and snacks. I couldn't stomach a burger at that point, so I opted for a glass of lemonade, a slice of watermelon, and a chocolate and peanut bar. Perfect!

I definitely want to go back to re-run this course in cooler weather. I would love to do a time trail for myself on this course and see how I do. I've been trying to do more speed training, and if I focus more on my pacing, I would love to see if I could really improve and run a good time when weather is not a factor. That might be a fun challenge for a cool morning later this summer. Either way, it's always nice to get out an run. My next event is the training weekend at Shale Hill. I can't wait! Time to keep training.

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