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Fiddle-faddle footing it to a 15k PR

Posted Nov 20 2009 10:02pm
Lake Caroline 15k Race Report
1:22:47 – PR, baby!
6/15 in age group
105/249 finishers

The Lake Caroline 15k was one of my first Jackson-area races after moving here 3 years ago. At that point, my fitness had started to diminish as I wasn’t adjusting too well to my new life and working out was sporadic at best. In addition, I had put on the first 5 or so of my Mississippi-10 (kinda’ like the “freshmen-10,” only this was brought on by way too much fried food, sweet tea, larger than necessary portions, and sheer laziness).

I didn’t run the race in 2007 or 2008, but finally had the opportunity again this year. I like the Lake Caroline 15k. It’s probably one of the Mississippi Track Club’s biggest races with about 250 runners. It is run completely within Lake Caroline, a ritzy-ish golf course community that surrounds a large, 800+ acre lake. Sorta’ “out in the country,” it makes for a pretty run, especially on a day like Saturday, a perfect, albeit chilly, fall day with a brisk, cooling wind. ( Well, alright. It was cold. )

I had goals for the race. When I ran it in 2006, I finished with a 1:29:55. Much better than expected, but still over 3 minutes slower than my fastest 15k way back in 2003 (1:26:xx at the Frostbite 15k in Richmond, Virginia). Based on some recent races and “tests,” the McMillan Calculator said I should be able to run this distance in 1:25 and change.

That was the good news.

The not-so-good news was my foot. Specifically, my heel. Of late, it had been niggling me. Mostly, it was just a discomfort. Some days were more painful than others, but it had yet to actually keep me from running. Then, the week of the race, at the beginning of my Monday easy run, it hurt quite a bit for a good 10 minutes or so before fading away. It was the same during Tuesday’s tempo workout. Then, on Wednesday, every step of my little 20-minute run after my bike ride was painful. I ran using short, little steps, but I was very uncomfortable. Coach Debi responded to my note about it in my Training Peaks, telling me to take a couple of days off from running.

Okay, I thought. I can do “a couple of days,” but after that, I have a race to run. Because I’m registered, and it’s paid for. Because I have this marathon in 12 weeks. Because I really need to be running.

Over the next couple of days, I stretched. I took Hammer Nutrition’s Tissue Rejuvenator. The heel pain diminished.

Saturday morning, I was ready to run. I hoped.

I dressed for cold and the possibility of a slower-than-planned for run should my heel act up. So, I chose a long-sleeved tech shirt, capri tights, gloves, and a running cap. (Well. I actually chose the capri pants because I desperately needed to shave, and they only showed the bottom 12 inches of my very hairy legs.)

I did a very slow jog for 10 minutes to warmup and finalize my race plan. The heel was telling me all systems were go (only slight discomfort on the warmup). Thus, the plan was this: don’t worry about time, but run by heart rate. Target middle to upper zone 3 and stay there for the first 10k. Try to push the final 10k into zone 4.

The gun fired, and we shuffled off. The start was crowded, and I had put myself toward the back to keep myself from going off too quickly. I didn’t know if I would need additional warmup time for my heel now that I was moving at a faster pace. But I had no discomfort or pain whatsoever. Phew.

Because this race was on a Saturday and because our marathon training group usually meets for long runs on Saturday mornings and because so many folks in the group had signed up for this race, by popular vote, the Lake Caroline 15k was also the Fleet Feet marathon training group Saturday morning long run. It’s a large training group with at least 8 coaches. As I began to settle into my early miles pace, one of the coaches was flitting from group to group, checking on goal paces, making sure everyone was okay. She flitted to my side, asked me what my goal was. “1:25,” I replied, thinking to myself, “ please flit away.

See. Here’s the deal. I don’t like to run with other people. I especially don’t like to run with other people in races. The only “people” I ever liked running with were Samantha and Rusty. But they are in Fredericksburg, and I am in Madison. Our “head” coach, as it were, makes fun of me during our “group” training runs since I am almost always by myself, somewhere halfway between the 10 minute/mile pace group and 11 minute/mile pace group. And it never fails. No matter the race, the amount of people running it, or the distance, I always seem to end up in my own space at some point.

Rebecca, however, decided that she had a job to do that morning. And since I was the only one, so far, that did not have the handy-dandy Garmin to pace me (well, I did, but I was going by heart rate rather than pace, but she didn’t know that). Rebecca, by the way, is a wonderful young lady. I really like her and her husband. They have an adorable baby boy and a beautiful dog, and are just a nice family.

But I really didn’t want her to run with me.

How do you tell someone that without being totally rude and obnoxious? And she only wanted to help. That’s a lot different than the person who just wants “to run your pace.” So, I thought, “eh, what the heck? It might actually help.”

And you know what? It did.

Go figure.

We settled in together and every once in a while, Rebecca would mention our average pace. It was well under the 9:15s I needed to get to my 1:25 goal, but I continued to keep an eye on my heart rate, and it was exactly where I wanted it. In the meantime, this was obviously an “easy” pace for Rebecca as she was encouraging, high-fiving, and cheering on all the other runners we saw. Yeesh. Youngsters these days!

The first half of the race looped through the neighborhood on one side of the lake. It was pretty flat, and the loop-de-loop nature gave plenty of opportunity to see both ends of the pack (as I was pretty much in the middle). That allowed me to cheer on (or at least give the thumbs up sign because that’s about all I was really capable of) a lot of my friends.

Before I knew it, we were headed across the dam to the other side of the lake. A quick peek at my watch, and I saw that Rebecca had paced me to about 40:30 for the halfway point (approximately), and I was a little astonished that I might actually be able to finish in the low 1:20s on this day. Everything still felt pretty good. That’s not to say I wasn’t working hard, because I was. It was taking definite concentration and focus to keep the pace up, and it helped enormously to just hang on to Rebecca’s shoulder.

Before we had reached the dam, we had picked up another marathon training teammate, and he joined our little pace group since he wanted to run under a 9:00/mile pace. Our pace was under that at that point (which I knew gave me some wiggle room if I ended up combusting). The three of us cruised across the dam, up and over the little bridge, and another neighborhood loop. We saw the eventual winner as he headed into the last mile, and he was well ahead of any competition.

Once again, the loopy nature of the course gave plenty of opportunity to see and cheer on many friends. It really is a fun course to run.

The second loop, however, was harder than the first. On the way out, the wind was a bit stiff and in our face. I was starting to feel the effects of my efforts. It’s not as easy as I thought it would be to stay in zone 3 for over an hour. I stayed focused on Rebecca’s shoulder (when she wasn’t flitting off somewhere), and, all of a sudden, we were headed back across the dam with 1 mile to the finish.

Now, Karen, it’s time to put on the burners. Three, two, one…

Ugh. Never mind.

The return across the dam was the hardest part of the race. The wind was in our faces, and, although I knew it was still a full mile of running, the finish line at the clubhouse looked to be “right there.”

About halfway across, Rebecca and Oliver took off since he wanted to finish under 1:21. I still had a large cushion on my 1:25, and as I was fading pretty quickly, I just tried to maintain until we were completely across the dam and then went for the finishing “sprint.” (Also, I needed to get away from the very tall guy with the extremely heavy footsteps. It hurt me to hear him.)

Across the finish line, hit the watch, and done in 1:21:47. Almost a 5-minute PR. Woo-hoo!

I ended up sixth in my age group. Had I been in the 40-44 or 25-29 age group, I would have been third. As it was, I wasn’t even close. These 45+ year old women are smokin’ fast!

In the end, I feel good about this race and the effort I put into it. It gives me some slight hope that I can finally break 2 hours (again) in my upcoming half marathon this December.

I guess we’ll see.
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