Race Report: The 2012 Palmetto Half Marathon

13.1 x 2 = Awesome

Rewind. Stop.

If you just want to read about the actual race, scroll down to “The Starting Line” to begin.

Seven days before race day

Week 7 of my marathon training has me running 12 miles on Saturday. In order for that to happen without risking personal humiliation I needed a change of scenery and I needed to arrive there feeling like Wonder Woman, so I opted to take the bike and check out a paved trail along the Savannah river, running along the fall line of the Piedmont and the Coastal Plain. What can I say? I get bored rather easily and I need distraction. This time I actually had the opportunity to steal the Sponsor’s truck which was parked in the driveway while its owner was sleeping off the nightshift.

I jumped into my running gear, and “half-squidded” it across the river to the North Augusta Greeneway. Yes, I basically rode half naked. Top half in leathers, bottom half? In a world of pain if I end up on my side for one reason or another. Some of my motorcycling friends are going to give me hell for this one, since I am a rather loud-voiced advocate of ATGATT (All The Gear All The Time) and that such gear should also fit properly and have the minimal features required to actually be considered safety apparel. But that is a different story for a different post.

I get there, secure my gear on my bike, check the park’s map to figure how to run the trails without the least amount of repetition, refill my water bottle and make one last pit stop before hitting play on my Nike+ app and get moving. It is already in the high seventies, if not the lower eighties and it’s humid. But I have new food for my senses to soak up. For some reason I feel alive today. Happy, even. I am enjoying the new sounds, sights and smells and am actually happy to be running.

Wait a minute here! Happy to be running? Who the heck are you and when did the pods take over the body? Yes. I can’t deny it, but I am actually happy to be running. It’s only been about a mile, I’m sure I’ll snap out of it here shortly. Two hours and thirty-eight minutes later I complete my scheduled 12-miler with having set a new personal best for the half-marathon distance by nine minutes.

I ride home happy and secure in the knowledge that even though I might not make my arbitrary goal time of 2:26 (it’s twice my bike’s competition number, in case you were wondering what hat I pulled that out of), I can give my adrenal gland a rest knowing I will not embarrass myself in public by dropping dead halfway up the first steep hill I come to. Mission accomplished, even though that trail seemed uphill both ways. I swear it.

Race Week

During Week 8 of Hal Higdon’s Novice 1 Marathon Training, coach is telling me to run 3 miles on Tuesday. I miss out on that mileage due to unforeseen events during an unscheduled motorcycle joy ride that culminated in carbo-loading and beer drinking at the Carolina Ale House with the Slower Half. I said screw it and skipped the run. After all, it’s only three miles. And my calf muscles are still screaming bloody murder, and the right one is extremely unhappy where it attaches to the whatnots behind my knee. I don’t feel too bad, Hal himself said to take an extra rest day if we needed it. I needed it. I hadn’t been out with my baby in over four weeks. All work and no play saps the life force away.

Wednesday I’m supposed to crush six miles for the sorta-long run. As good as I felt Tuesday, I couldn’t understand why I felt so drained, unmotivated and sluggish today. I felt downright depressed. I was hoping that my mood would clear in time to maybe still get the procrastinated morning run in before it turned Dark:30. It didn’t. I ended up moping around until it was too late, succumbing to the misery and watching TV all day, not doing a damned thing other than wallowing in thoughts of self-sabotage.

Thursday. I don’t even remember Thursday. I didn’t run Thursday. I remember that much.

Friday is a rest day in the program. I rested. Surprisingly, when Mr. Slow woke me up with coffee and a few kind words, I’m not even sure what he said that served as the catharsis, but my mood returned to its normal levels. Now I was free to get excited and a little anxious about the race. I decided to hop on the bike, run a few errants and then book it the almost 100 miles to Columbia, SC to pick up my race packet and do a little pre-race recon to ease the nerves and scope out the traffic situation.

Oh yeah, that did it. Nothing like playing in rush-hour traffic at speeds 30 miles over the posted speed limit to make you feel alive. It  trains the senses, sharpens the reflexes and hones the skill. Playing a game of Frogger with the commuting crowd and getting your lean angle kicks on cloverleaf ramps is prescribed skill training for the redneck road racer. To my defense? I’m a goodie two-shoes in all other areas of my life. I have no other vices, I don’t even drink enough to be considered problematic and I’m a really cheap date, I don’t eat a lot and I’m buzzed halfway through my second beer.

When I returned home, after 196 miles, I was nicely tired out, I barely managed to eat a few more carbs, laid out my gear and set the alarm for 4:00 am and went to sleep.

Six Hours Later: Racing to Race Day

I get a call from hubby at 4:00 am. He will be back in time to come with me. This day is off to a good start already. I smile as I get ready. Logistics have just gotten a heck of a lot easier. Since I am now meeting my husband at his work, I don’t have to worry about what to do with my gear and how to pack it for the bag drop at the start. That saves time, too. I end up leaving the house 20 minutes late anyway, because I can’t concentrate. I’m excited, a little nervous, and my brain is mush.

I am freezing my tush off on the 40-mile ride to meet up with the husband. I’m glad I’m wearing my winter gloves, but I didn’t think it was cold enough for a neck warmer. Holy hell, the cold air is rushing straight down the neck hole into my jacket, I’m shivering by the time I get to the state line with 25 more miles to go. I’m in a full-on race tuck, my elbows dropped below my knees, hugging the bike tightly with not so much as a toe sticking out in the offending breeze, trying to stay in the bubble to keep warm.

I arrive with a massive neck and shoulder ache and the chills. I unceremoniously park the bike with a dive of the Beemer’s nose, kill the ignition and yank the key before the kickstand is even fully extended, jump off the bike and straight into the waiting pickup truck. “Damn, it’s freaking cold out there” serves as a good morning to my smiling husband and off we go towards half-marathon destiny in a more civilized fashion.

The Starting Line

That would be me rocking the pink mini skirt and the speedos with the go-fast hot pink accents.

We arrive with about 45 minutes to spare. There are people everywhere. Running to and fro, warming up, stretching, and standing around in small groups chatting. There is music playing over the PA system and the mood is cheerful. I am shivering in the cool morning air and since I am too restless to stand around we start walking away from the starting line so I can jog in place and get my heart rate up and maybe quit being so cold. 15 minutes before the race Joe hands me my gel so I can eat it. Espresso flavored, in lieu of my morning coffee. Yum! I head for one of the women only port-a-potties and relieve myself one more time, just as the newbie tips I’ve read online instructed me to do, even though I didn’t feel the urge to go. I immediately regretted that decision. I tried to hold my breath, not touch anything without falling over or peeing on myself, without much success. At least I didn’t have an accident and there was paper still on the roll. That’s something.

Note to self (and other first time racers): Bring a packet or two of single-use disposable antibacterial wipes to clean your hands with after the fact. Heck, bring a smallish stash of TP (or a single-use wet-wipe), just in case.

By the time I emerge from the plastic outhouse, the race is about to start. Everyone is instructed to line up in order of their pace, faster runners in the front, slower runners and walkers towards the back. Since we were already milling about towards the back of the crowd I didn’t have too far to go. I find a spot in the very rear where the 5K runners and walkers are hanging out. They are easily spotted due to their yellow bibs. I actually ended up standing next to my “bib mate” #782, and I wanted to say something profoundly geeky to the girl, but I bit my tongue and kept the mathletics to myself. When I’m nervous, I talk way too much and I also break the verbal speed limit of pre-coffee cadence and coherence and I blabber, sometimes about more than one subject at a time. No. I’m keeping my trap shut and smile and nod and radiate a friendly aura, but I’m keeping it zipped. I’m enforcing the five-word sentence limit.

Race Start

Joe tells me to keep to the left when I’m crossing over the starting line, so he can take pot shots at me with his Canon and with these last instructions he disappears into the spectator crowd lining the left and right sides of the road. I suddenly feel very alone in a sea of brightly colored, happy people. I feel lost and out of my league. The organizers have a prayer  before the race and then someone sings the National Anthem over the PA system.

Shortly thereafter we begin moving forward, slowly at first, but by the time I am crossing the finish line we are at a run. As promised, I am keeping to the left of the road but I can’t spot Joe anywhere. I scan the crowd, but he is nowhere to be seen. Now I really feel alone, I don’t know why, but I wanted to catch a glimpse of him one more time before I embarked on this experience.

The Race

Around Mile 7

It feels strange running with so many people. I train alone. The last time I ran with people was in the military, and we ran in formation for the most part, singing cadence and keeping in step. The pace was forced and falling out meant pain later, so you didn’t. They would round your ass up and make fun of you or make you run circles around the entire running formation as punishment. It wasn’t pretty and it meant more work, so unless you were croaking of an embolism you kept up, no matter what. Failure was not an option.

I’m starting to pass people because my legs want to go faster, the pace doesn’t feel right. It feels too slow. I fight the urge, reminding myself that coming out too slow is better than coming out too fast. I have two and a half hours of this and I haven’t run in a week! I can’t help myself and keep passing. I’m trying to be as courteous as I can and dance through the crowd without making contact and giving people their space. I find other people are doing the same thing. Everybody is being nice. Where are the elbows? They must not come out until Mile 13, I’m assuming. I smile to myself at the thought. There is a word for what seems to be happening here: Esprit de corps.

I am shocked to hear the first pace announcement from my GPS app: 9:38 I think it was. I have the application set to tell me my average pace every 0.25 miles, so I can adjust my pace accordingly.  I know that if I fall below 11:14, I won’t meet my time goal of 2:26. A week ago, my average pace was 12:02. I keep reprimanding myself to slow down, but my body doesn’t listen. I keep right on going. I tell myself that I will “deal with it later” my right leg isn’t bothering me too much and my body feels strong and my breathing and heart rate are normal. I’m surprised. Maybe it’s because it is cool and not as humid and I am used to working out in 80-90 degree heat with humidity, since I can’t seem to manage to get up early enough on my own to run in the cooler part of the day. My allergies also don’t seem to bother me as much. My sinuses and lungs feel clear and my nose isn’t running. In other words, the God of Speed is with me. The weather is perfect.

As we begin our decent down the Clemson Road cloverleaf ramp, I am happy I’ve been incorporating hill work into my shorter runs. I have read tons of articles on how to run hills and practiced a few things, and wore myself out on hills. Threw myself at their mercy, to be ground up and spit out feeling weak and like a failure. The torture seems to have paid off and I’m smoking the ramp, gaining speed as I let gravity do its thing, lengthening my stride and controlling my movement. I’m passing people left and right. It felt great to see all that work pay off in a quantifiable sense. If I had been on my bike, I would have been sliding sideways around the corner onto Two Notch Road. I can finally say I passed a motorcycle cop and didn’t rate a ticket. 🙂

[BTW, riding that slow on a motorcycle without dangling your feet or power walking the bike, takes tremendous skill. This cop had his machine under control. Dude knew how to freaking ride.]

As I rounded the corner onto Two Notch Road, I wanted to scream praises out loud and maybe do a little happy dance as the race continued up the next hill towards the first water station… with energy to burn and feeling fine.

I was waiting on my sub-10 pace to keep biting me on the bum and reducing me to walking the rest of the way, but the expected exhaustion never came.

Around Mile 9 or so I had to pop the two Advil I had stashed away in case the pain in my right leg became bad enough to slow me down. On a training run I would have slowed down, but this is a race. I’m eating the pills. These are desperate times, and I can’t come home with a DNF, especially not after I’ve managed to keep my average pace below the 10-minute mark for 8 miles. This is also when I switched to Gatorade from water because I could feel my electrolytes going whacky, or at least I think that’s what was happening because I started to have goosebumps and experienced chills. Another cup of Gatorade and an orange later, the chills were gone.

Around Mile 10 I knew I could have the time goal of 2:26 in the bag with lots to spare. But I kept waiting on the hammer to fall. Running this fast for this long on a body that isn’t trained but to run at a 12-minute pace AFTER taking an entire training week off must have consequences. Not to mention the abuse I’m putting my shredded right calf muscle through. And why the heck am I not out of breath yet?

Fight to the Finish

We need more cowbell! The fight for 642nd place. Why? Because THIS is racing. 🙂

Around Mile 12 I have to start fighting. My hip flexors are sore and are beginning to be painful; this is a sure sign that my legs aren’t going to want to go much further at their current pace. Now I am really glad I’ve taken those two Advils earlier. In my training this marked the time of a definite decrease in speed and stride length because my legs were starting to feel extremely heavy. It almost feels like I am running in water.

Getting back up that dreaded Clemson Road ramp is a feat of pure willpower. I see a girl two runners ahead of me simply walking up. I want to stop and walk, but I am afraid that if I start walking I would not be able to start running again; that my hip flexors and calf muscles would just tell me to piss off in a refusal to cooperate. I could have made better time walking up the ramp, but I just put my head down and baby step it up that puppy, concentrating on just keeping those legs moving at roughly the same speed they were moving before. Do not stop. Do NOT stop! After what seems like an eternity at a snail’s pace, getting passed by a few people, I finally reach the top of that awful ramp and things start feeling a little bit more manageable again. Once I was over the bridge and back to a slight decline of the road, I was back in business.

I never could catch the girl who walked up the ramp. I tried, because her strategy was sound. I wanted to employ it, but I didn’t dare. I regained my lead on a few people who passed me on the ramp. And I held off a few attempted passes by others.

When I finally round the last corner and saw the finish line up ahead I just want to die. I keep running but for some reason it doesn’t seem to get any closer. What the freaking hell!?! My running app’s voice-over announces something along the lines of being almost there and making it count and to please tap to hear my “power song.” My power song is “King of the Mountain” by Redline, the Isle of Man TT “theme song”. I would like to tap, but I don’t think I’m coordinated enough at this point.

Almost there! The fight to the finish.

The last few hundred feet to the finish line is like running the gauntlet. I feel claustrophobic and exposed all at the same time. All these people are cheering us on as we come in, but I can’t hear them. Yes, I have my music on, but I could hear people talk at the water stations, I could hear traffic. I can’t hear shit now. Eyes on the prize. Almost there. Why the hell am I hauling ass? I don’t know, but I’m now in “just want this to be over quickly” mode.

I see movement and a flash of color in my peripheral vision. Someone’s trying to pass me to my right. I turn my head slightly to check the situation.

My racer mentality kicks in. Oh, hell no!!!

I increase my pace, she keeps up and gains. I redline it, give it all I have; so does she. The crowd is cheering. I still can’t really hear them nor see them. I have tunnel vision at approximately 8-9 mph! Last time I had tunnel vision I was going a little faster than that… maybe 130 or so, more importantly I was pulling some Gs. This would be funny if it wasn’t so damn painful.

I’m thinking to myself that we are giving the crowd what they want to see. The glory of victory and the cruelty of defeat. We are crowd pleasers, true racers. I think I beat her to the finish line, but I’m not sure.

There are three pads lined up and I’m not sure which one is the actual timing pad. I would assume the first one, but I’m uncertain so I cross all three, but I’m already slowing down. I think I have her on the first pad, but she was passing me and had me on the second and definitely was ahead of me on the third.

We had them going! A podium worthy finish fighting over 642nd place. 0.85 seconds separated us in real time. Our chip times weren’t as spectacularly close.

I wanted to high five her and tell her that she has made the finish of my first race a thing to remember. Something that makes that side of me that is slightly crazy and overly competitive sing praises to the God of Speed. But by the time I’d gathered my senses and my finisher’s medal Miss 325 had already disappeared into the crowd.

The satisfaction of placing 643rd. 🙂 Who said I couldn't make this in 2:26? Proved y'all wrong I did. I kept true to my basic rules of racing: 1. Find someone to follow 2. Pass someone (don't come in DFL) 3. Finish ~ Oh, and I didn't throw up in my mouth sitting on the grid this time. >.<

Stats:

Finish Time: 2:14:05.60 (new PB and official first PR)
Finish Position: 643 (out of 933)
Finish Position [Females]: 291 (out of 511)

I also set a new (unofficial) PB for the 10K distance: 1:01:02

The Palmetto Half Marathon Course Map

Splits:

I try to run with a steady pace, rather than negative splits, since I don’t have the patience for starting out slow, it’s not in my nature. I’ve tried.
1.  9’56″/mi
2.  9’38″/mi [Fastest]
3.  9’50″/mi
4. 9’50″/mi
5. 10’01″/mi
6.  9’39″/mi
7.  9’50″/mi
8. 10’42″/mi [Slowest]
9. 10’30″/mi
10. 10’04″/mi
11. 10’38″/mi
12. 10’34″/mi
13. 10’33″/mi

Racing Firsts: Mementos of 643rd Place. This even triumphs the purse money I won in my very first motorcycle road race because I got up and the other guy didn't. And I placed 3rd then. 🙂


Pre-Race Jitters with a Side of DOMS

Here’s an article I came across while researching my current affliction courtesy of forgoing two weeks of training plan in favor of laying around the house depressed and then picking up where I left off, just to up the ante by a few more miles. Yes, I’m a dumbass. :/

ultraRUNNING Online – Dealing with DOMS

When I first started my marathon training my left knee eventually decided to tell me to knock off the silliness and get back on the couch. After all, my body parts are accustomed to the luxuries the sedentary lifestyle of a geek has to offer, only momentarily interrupted by the physical exertion required to throw a motorcycle around a few curves. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you want to look at this) I was endowed with a pretty fast metabolism and the genetic predisposition of being muscular, which allowed me to indulge in junk food and hours-long sessions in front of the computer without too much damage to the physique. But at 24% body fat, I wasn’t what you would consider healthy or in shape, even if I only weighed 115 pounds and wore a Size 2.

I solved the emerging knee problem by online research and then doing what was suggested as the first steps: making sure I was using the right footwear and paying attention to my stride and keeping things aligned properly. The first made the second so much easier. I’m not sure if my stride is what they would call efficient, but it seems easier on the legs, so it must be better than it used to be.

Since googling and self-diagnosis worked the first time I encountered a problem during my training, I am not shy about using the same strategy again. Is it medically advised? Probably not. Is it smart? The stupidity of the whole endeavor depends largely on how the research was preformed and on the accuracy of the self-diagnosis. But since I don’t really have a choice in the matter, it will have to do.

As with my motorcycle racing skill training, I have to learn most of it on my own and occasionally I might even get to spend some money on professional skill training to make sure I’m on the right track. I’d rather spend money on a racing school then pay for a personal trainer or a running coach and a sports doctor. Thank you, but if I had that kind of money, I’d rather see a world champion racer about a slide around a corner than a dude clad from head to toe in UnderArmour with a clipboard and a stopwatch about some pace-enhancing speed work. Since I have money for neither, at this particular point in my life, the option isn’t available anyway.

Now that I am trying to enhance my body’s performance and not just look the part, I realize that there is more to it than just going out there and doing it. Apparently, DOMS isn’t my only problem. I’m supposed to be fueling my body appropriately, too. However, I’m running on regular 87-octane pump gas, rather than the VP-110 racing fuel I’m supposed to be on. I severely lack in protein and am completely over on the fat. As a vegetarian this is probably the normal state of affairs for my body anyway. I never was one to pay much attention to how much of what and the overall quality of the foods I was eating. I ate what I wanted when I wanted it and how much I wanted.

Partial analysis, however, reveals that my diet is lacking and that I am probably malnourished. No wonder I am always tired, feel sluggish, can’t seem to get enough oxygen into my system and am irritable and moody. Not saying that all these problems stem from my diet and correcting my eating will not solve all of these problems, but it definitely won’t hurt.

I’m really getting nervous about the upcoming race. Just having the suspicion that something is wrong is one thing, but now finding out that there is a definite correlation between my habits and my lack of progress performance wise are two different animals for me. The latter is a hell of a lot harder to overcome mentally. I’m starting to be afraid to fail, even though I have shown that I can cover 13.1 miles without dying, I’m beginning to think that I won’t be able to make it, especially now that my body is showing the damage that I have done by proving that I can cover the distance in the first place, after being ill-prepared. My husband keeps telling me I’m overdoing it. I keep telling him that I have no choice. And I keep telling myself that racers do play hurt.

The anxiety builds. Yesterday I was fretting over the 6-miler, but against all I deemed possible, I made it. I was in pain the entire time, but I made it. Today I don’t want to run the prescribed 3 miles, because I’m still feeling the effects of the six-mile pounding from yesterday. And I don’t even want to think about the 12 miles I am supposed to run on Saturday. I feel like I’m going to a funeral this weekend. My own. I get nauseated just thinking about it.

Yes, I am definitely getting the pre-race jitters. Except this time, they arrive a week early for the wrong sport. And my response to this type of fear is always trying harder, going faster, taking more risks. And something tells me that this might not be the appropriate course of action in the sport of (sorta) long distance running. But I really am at a loss as what to do, and failure is not an option, since I already paid the entrance fee and a DNS is not preferable over a DNF at this point or any other. *sigh*


I’m Too Old For This!

We’ve all heard the expression: “I’m too old for this shit!” A few of us loudly proclaim our belief in the principle on occasion, but keep on keeping on. Some of us think it and quietly give up. Then there are some who use it as an excuse not to even start.

The subject of wether or not I’m too old to pound my body into submission and shape myself into an athlete by brute-force methodology has crossed my mind on more than a few occasions. My body is threatening mutiny, or so it seems. However, my mind has been known for its propensity of cracking the whip to quell the whining and the whimpering when the mission is deemed critical and worthy.

My husband’s view on the way I approach things? He just shakes his head and exclaims:

“Damn, baby! You never do anything half-assed, do you? You can’t help yourself!”

Even though my fervor must get on his nerves on occasion, I do believe he is sitting back, smugly, big shit-eating grin on his overly satisfied face, arms crossed at the chest, nodding and thinking to himself:

“Yeah, that’s my baby!”

He brags to his friends and co-workers. I know he does. Where others whip out their wallets (mobile phones) in one smooth and snappy movement to accost you with an array of baby pics and family portraits, he whips out his track photography. I think he has more pictures of me dragging knee on his phone than I do. That’s pretty bad. Where the wives (girlfriends) of others are gorgeous in their perfect hair and flawless makeup, he runs around flashing people with my sweaty helmet hair and unpainted countenance in dirty leathers.

He says I’m not like most 40 year-olds. But I don’t buy it. I feel too old for my own good on most days; and where I used to look ten years younger, frequent exposure to the elements and a high-stress work environment have finally taken their toll. I now am starting to look about as old as I feel. My crow’s feet alone could probably get me some premature social security benefits, if they didn’t check their paperwork. 😉

At least we don’t get the “so nice of you to take your daughter out” comments anymore. That was always a hoot, since hubby usually responded to those remarks with laying a fat slobbery kiss on me a few minutes later, after failing to correct the erroneous assumption. What a nut job! That’s why I don’t take him out in public very often… *giggles*

But there are a few individuals who defy the “life is over after 40” rule and they give me the drive to keep on going. Because a midlife crisis, after all, is a terrible thing to waste. =D

I almost didn’t start racing when I first got the notion and excitedly and very loudly exclaimed, while my nose was buried in Keith Code’s book A Twist of the Wrist: “Hell yeah! I wanna do THAT!” I’m glad I was on weekend duty and alone in the office. After the initial excitement wore off and my brain had time to process all of the information, it responded with an unkindly “I’m too old for this shit!” and that was the end of it for about a year or so.

A guy at work, who is a few years my junior, found out that I had crashed on my second race weekend and ended my first season prematurely, decided that he should save me from myself and told me the following: “I know you don’t want to hear this, but you’re too old to race. You crash and your body takes forever to heal and your injuries are probably going to be more severe. That’s probably also why you’re slow. You’re afraid to go fast.”

[Note: I only sustained minor injuries to my left hand due to my glove failing. The season ended prematurely because it took a little over three months and most of my saved up money to repair my bike, and it was decided it was best to prepare to race a full season in 2012, with a dedicated race bike and a lot more cash saved up.]

Excuse me?!? Dude, you better thank your lucky stars that we’re at work, because if you had said that to me anywhere else, I would have put you in your place, you presumptuous little prick! And then raced your cruiser riding ass for pinks. In first gear, with one hand. Asshole!

He stopped riding sport bikes (“crotch rockets” is the term he actually used) because he, by his own admission, was “too old for this shit” and had crashed and it took him forever to heal.

The reason I started racing, despite my misgivings about starting so late in life and only having been riding motorcycles on the street for a little over two years? Burt Munro. The old fart showed Bonneville how old timers roll, and he didn’t even pre-register. 😉 He bet “the farm” on his dream and it paid off. Against all odds, with plenty of obstacles and no sponsors. Yeah! He’s still my hero.

Read up on him sometime or watch the movie ‘The World’s Fastest Indian’. Very inspiring story, even if you are not into racing. His story transcends the sport. It’s a testament to the fact that “I’m too old for this shit!” is just another fallacy we’ve been brainwashed with by the media, societal norms and rate-of-return expectations. Youth is wasted on the young. Whoever said that, they have it pegged.

I ran into a man of the “over-the-hill type” at my inaugural WERA race. He’s freaking awesome. I think he said he started racing when he was 67 and that was a few years back. But don’t quote me on his exact age. The man is my hero. He doesn’t know it, but I secretly look up to him. He’s having fun doing what he does, has a wicked sense of humor, and he’s fast.

My “sister in speed”, whom I met during a racing school we both attended, just shrugged when she first heard how old I was and said: “You’re just a baby.” She doesn’t look it, but she’s ten years my senior. And crashing does not slow her down a bit. She’s having fun, too.

There are many other people to whom I look up to, who defy the norm. People who do in spite of it all. Did you know there is a dude who races motorcycles and only has one arm?!? I didn’t know it was possible. I saw him at Barber, while I was walking to the race control building he was making his way onto pit road to go on track. I did a double take, shaking my head because I thought I was hallucinating, and then did a triumphant fist pump in his direction. He didn’t see me, because he had already passed the spot where I was standing to let traffic through. Yeah, get a load of THAT. That’s what I call passion! That’s what I call drive and determination. Freakin’ awesome. I still don’t know who he is, but there are a number of amputees still riding and racing motorcycles. Still think you’re too old, too disabled, too whatever?

Today I am researching a few topics of interest on running and come across an article that talks about fears first time road racers have. One of which is also a very real fear for first time motorcycle road racers: the fear of coming in last. It takes one race to get over that silliness. 🙂 But I digress. One of the items listed was the fear of being too old to run, let alone enter an official road race. The article ended with:

“You’re never too old to start running, and it’s definitely never too late to start road racing.”

And that is the truth.

Obstacles are placed in our way to test our resolve, our determination, our passion, and our will to succeed. I can’t do nothing about my chronological age; but I can work on being in the best shape of my life and not let my age stop me from achieving my goals. My age also can’t keep me from dreaming!

And as the clock keeps ticking away, forcing me to grow even older than “too old for this shit”, I still try and retain my inner peace and happiness while I’m waiting for my turn again.

Three basic ingredients are needed for sustained happiness:

  1. Something to do.
  2. Something to look forward to.
  3. Somebody to love.

I have lost my main “to do” four months ago, but I am keeping busy with my marathon training and writing, to keep the depression and anxiety at bay.

I am looking forward to racing my motorcycle again, which will happen once I have secured re-employment and have regained a positive cash flow and met my other financial responsibilities. 2013 could be my year and I have to be ready, mentally and physically.

I have the third item covered in spades. No, make that hearts, even though it is not the trump suit, it works better in a literary sense.


Race Pace

I like numbers. I have a semi-pathological obsession with numbers. Numbers, unlike words, never lie. You may be able to misrepresent them, which takes words, but in and of themselves they are true to the nature of their representation. Numbers prove words true. Applied mathematics makes sense out of life, for the most part. Theoretical mathematics are just plain fun. “What is” versus “what could be”. Hence, my obsession with lap times, mostly my own, rather than anyone else’s.

I’m a very competitive individual. When I’m lacking decent competition I will compete with my own self. Decent competition here is defined as competing with racers who are at similar skill levels to my own, preferably on the faster (or better) side of things. An easy win isn’t anything for me to aspire to. I do like easy wins, don’t get me wrong; but “cherry-picking” my way around the competition just doesn’t feel nearly as good as that win you’ve earned. The win you’ve fought so hard for, you weren’t sure if you’re going to make it, and in doing so scared yourself on several occasions because you were giving 110%, pushing the envelope way past your personal comfort zone. I like those. Those are awesome! That’s the stuff a great story is made of. A story worth telling. A story worth reading. An inspiration; the fuel that keeps the flame alive and burning brightly. Coincidentally, those are also the races that will be remembered: the nail-biting, edge of your seat, heart-pounding close ones. Good times! Good times!

It would be utter nonsense to compare my “PR” of the best lap I ever turned at Barber Motorsports Park with that of Mat Mladin, who currently holds the track record of 1:23.664, with an AVERAGE speed of 115.474 miles per hour. I barely haul that on the front straight, never mind averaging it. Not even close. If I could get into the upper 1:40s consistently I’d be holding a press conference. My PR for Barber is 1:52. And that is NOT my consistent average.

Here’s a word problem for you:

“If Mat and Em left pit road and entered the track at the same time and there was no other traffic, where on the track would the lapping pass happen and at what time in the race?”

I give you a hint: When Kevin Schwantz crosses the finish line on a Saturday afternoon sighting lap with no brakes, Em is still trying to figure out whether or not to shift on top of the curb or before it, even though it really doesn’t matter either way at her current speed or the gearing she’s running, not that she would have to shift at all if she didn’t want to.

Another hint: She wouldn’t see Mat again, short of catching a quick glimpse of him heading out of Turn 6, once he disappeared from view in the middle of Turn 3, until she was unceremoniously lapped a shortish while later.

Go!

I try not to make it a habit to keep tabs on my competition. An activity, a friend of mine calls “lap time stalking”. She says it helps her confidence to know what she’s up against beforehand. I rather not know how I stack up against others. It becomes self-evident once you’re on the track with them. You either know wether or not you have a chance to keep up and possibly even have a chance at beating them. If they pull away from you like the newbie equivalent of Mat Mladin in my silly example, you might as well pick on somebody your own size… I mean, speed.

The same also holds true if the roles were reversed. It wouldn’t be any fun for me to pass another rider who runs in the 2:20s at the aforementioned racetrack. It’s boring and uninspiring, just like Mat would feel about my hanging out in the raceline with him. Non-consequential at best, a liability at worst, and an inconvenience every third lap or so. Like a sprint runner passing the fitness walker at the gym’s indoor track.

The stalking of lap times has the opposite effect on my psyche. If I had known what kind of times the boys were handing in during my first race weekend, I would have stayed home; not that I left the house thinking that there was even a remote possibility of me winning anything. I just wanted to do it and be part of something fairly unique. I headed to the racetrack with only one goal in mind: I didn’t want to come home with a DNF (Did Not Finish) or, worse, a DNS (Did Not Start). The former meaning I probably crashed out, and the latter meaning I didn’t have the courage to grid up for the race in the first place.

That’s also my attitude about running in my first half marathon. I’m not entertaining any notion that I’ll be winning anything. I just want to say that I did it and crossed the finish line under my own power.

Last place is always preferable to being a no-show or a quitter; and who knows, there might even be a few people I could pass and finish ahead of. That was true for my first road race on two wheels, it will also be true to my first road race on two feet.

However, this didn’t stop me from trying to figure out where (and how fast) I would finish and where I could finish in my ultimate goal, which is completing an official marathon. On my quest to comparing the “what is” with the “what could be” I came across this nifty little tool. The runner’s (free) equivalent of the motorcycle racer’s (expensive) data acquisition: Greg McMillan’s pace calculator.

I plug in my PR of 30:00 for the 5K, which just so happens to give me the best projected outcome and furnishes me with all sorts of digits I can use in my marathon training. You can try it for yourself here.

Caught in the act by my daughter (I think she was trying to report on a heinous fashion crime though): At Barber Motorsports Park looking at posted lap times and race results.

Who said theoretical mathematics couldn’t be fun? Probably the same person who also insists that playing around with applied physics wasn’t a pleasurable activity. Talk to me once you’ve put your knee down for the very first time cornering your motorcycle or have set a new personal best for the mile in your run. We will then revisit the subject of “speed is relative” and can be enjoyed on any level, as long  as you have a grasp on what the accomplishment means to you personally.

I will never complete a lap in the 1:23s at BMP, nor will I ever complete a marathon in the 2:15s. What I will do, however, is be inspired to reach for my own personal best, by working hard and not giving up when things seem to get too tough; and enjoy my triumphs and be proud in my accomplishments, no matter how they may compare on a broader scale.

There is always somebody faster.

Just do it and be your best. Discouragement is highly discouraged. And discouragement happens when you compare yourself to others, especially to those (way) out of your (current) league. Don’t compare, but compete. And competition happens when you find someone who’s at your own level… and then the real race begins. The one you have a possibility of winning. The one that happens with the person directly in front of you. Let them inspire you to give it your all and then give a little more; and as you pass them, you’ll inadvertently do the same for them.

And that is where it’s at.

Chances are you’ll end up pulling each other along to the finish, crossing the line together in an impromptu team effort towards a common goal.

Chances are that the motorcycle you’ve been chasing and trying to hopefully pass for the better of five laps, inspired you to go faster than you ever have and you’ll still end up doing the happy dance in front of the posted race results, looking like a complete dork, even though you’ve finished the race in the back of the pack.

*overuse of the word “inspiration” in its various forms was completely intentional*


I just needed to share!!!

13.1

I wanted to share this with you! If you have read my previous two posts, then you probably know why this has me so excited and giddy that I can hardly stand being around myself. I’m way too perky to be enjoying my own company. 😉

I set out to run 5 miles…


Revenge of the Slacker

The God of Speed does not look kindly upon his charges when they fail to give proper tribute at the sacrificial altar of fast. I knew I was going to pay for this insolence. I set out with the Nike+ app in “basic” mode. In other words, I wasn’t sure of how far for how long I could manage to go before passing out on the side of the road. Also, I decided since I hadn’t done shit in the past two weeks other than feeling sorry for myself that I might as well forgo all that athletic-looking pro-runner stretching stuff, too. I just pushed the play button and hoped I wouldn’t croak prematurely.

The first mile I did on the 1/3-mile jogging trail near my house. A big ominous-looking cloud colored darkly with the promise of an evening thunderstorm was looming overhead. I’m afraid of lighting. However, I was on a mission. Failure was not an option at this point in the game, since I had used up my allotment of #EpicFail about a week or so ago. I was going to do this, no matter what. The park was busy with people. Great. I’ll have an audience to this training disaster waiting to happen.

After two laps I had to run raceline visualizations through my mind to keep from quitting. My legs felt like lead, my side hurt, and I think I could hear the beginnings of the death rattle down deep in my lungs. Taking a mental vacation by putting myself on my favorite racetrack turning virtual laps usually makes me sort out my body alignment, sets my running pace and keeps me from hurting my left knee by letting my stride get sloppy. It also keeps my mind from noticing how boring and torturous this activity really is.

Once my body found its groove, things got a little easier, but not by much. After completing the first mile, I decided that I’d rather brave the impending rain storm than to have eye witness accounts of my collapse due to oxygen deprivation. I headed for the wooden bridge that marked the exit to the park and made off into town.

Just about before I reached mile marker 2, I had to stop and walk, because my lungs were on fire and I could barely breathe. I walked for 30 seconds. Downhill! The only reason why I made it up that dreaded godforsaken hill is because, again there were people out walking and I didn’t want to look like a complete poser in my compression tights and club racing t-shirt. I crested the top, and as soon as I was out of the line of sight, all bets were off. This girl’s gonna take a break while nobody’s watching. I felt awful. My breathing was labored, my pulse insisted on racing faster than a Hayabusa on a deserted stretch of straight road, my allergies were making my sinuses scream bloody murder, and my lungs felt like I had just hot-boxed a pack of Newports! I was a mess.

Last time I ran up this hill, I wasn’t even breaking a sweat, amazed at how easy it had gotten over just a few runs. Last time I also went on to run seven more miles. Last time the pollen count was also outside of my comfort zone.

I struggled through the last mile, paying close attention to my stride rather than my pace, wincing every time I heard my average pace announced. Give every run a boost? My foot! I’m a good minute slower than I used to be. I have no excuses.

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What I have to do is up the mileage to make up for the distance I have cheated myself out of and not take any of the rest or cross-training days until race week. I’m not sure if that’s going to help my case at this point. I have only 19 days left until I have to line up for my half-marathon.

And that’s only the half of it. At this point in my marathon training, I’ll have to say that it is more likely for me to run a 2-minute lap at Road Atlanta than it is for me to finish 26.2 miles without thumbing a ride mid-race. And if you knew me (or rather my Road A lap times), you’d laugh and say… yup, this girl ain’t gonna to make it. 😉


Muscle Mama

Sundays are my cross-training days and I chose walking since I need to burn off some of this fat I have accumulated around the middle. Even though I jokingly refer to it as my spare tire, or more accurately, my spare 120/70 racing slick, rather than a muffin top, I really hate it. My pants are getting way too tight and fitting into my racing leathers without risk of busting a seam on the backside is starting to look iffy. I almost freaked out when I stepped on the scale the other day and found the digits accusingly close to the Moo Zone. Gag me with a spoon, dude. Something needs to be done. After all, I have to haul this extra junk in my trunk around on my runs. I need to get back to my trim 115. Make it 113 and I won’t crash this season. 😉 Because, I am supersticilious.

A good friend texted me today, wondering if I would go walking with her, since she too has decided that buying bigger pants is not an option. I let my friend set the pace and we spent the next hour taking a somewhat indirect route from my house to hers. Later GPS mapping reveals we walked approximately 2.93 miles. I only cover four miles when I’m walking by myself. Not too shabby for her first walk in years.

We covered some familiar running territory and I noticed to my absolute amazement that this is effortless. Hills that only a few weeks ago would have set my thighs ablaze and had my calf muscles screaming bloody murder almost felt flat. My breathing was relaxed and my heart calm. This was almost a Zen-like experience. I enjoyed being with my friend, even though it seemed I did most of the talking after a while. Only 18 runs totaling 63 miles in the past two months and suddenly I feel like Super Woman?

I can’t wait to see how I feel throwing the R1 around the race track this weekend. A 15-minute track session usually has me returning to the pits huffing and puffing like a chain smoker with asthma and my legs feeling like gelatin during an earthquake. Jiggle, wiggle. Boom. Fall down.

I feel strangely motivated.

We’re going to do this again tomorrow evening. I can’t wait. This walking thing is way more fun with a friend.

Miss Busa after her second 7-mile run

See Busa. See Busa run 6 mph. See Busa run seven miles. Run, Busa, run. See Busa go boom. Fall down. Not pretty.