Monday, June 23, 2014

Ashburn Twilight 4-miler Race Report

This one is going to be a short entry, because (1) I'm behind, and (2) this race was done to memorialize Jamie Rowley, a mom of two killed by an SUV as she was out running, so I don't want to make too many fart or poop jokes.

Years ago, I'd done this race, and I'd done it poorly.  What was worse was that my ex-wife and daughter had come out to watch me, and I'd basically shat the bed.  I was tired, fatter, and generally not feeling it on a hot June afternoon.  I ran it, but it wasn't anything special.

Because I'd purchased a Potomac River Running Race Pass, I really needed to start USING my codes for races, and this seemed like a good choice.  I went and did mile repeats at a track earlier in the day, and then took my daughter out to Ashburn, to drop her off with her mom.  The course was right there in the evening.  Here we go.

The most pressing things I had to decide were these:

1.  Do I wear the sweaty shirt from the track earlier in the day?
2.  Do I wear the race t-shirt I'd just gotten from packet pickup?

Luckily, the answer was 3(!) -- I found an old "Team Justice" shirt from my 2013 Lawyers Have Heart race and just threw that on.  It's fairly bling-y.  It's got my Division and Section on the sleeve, along with a "Boston Strong" decal on the back, and the DOJ Eagle on the front/back.  Pretty noticeable.  I certainly noticed people noticing IT, which weirded me out a little.

I also had to do a couple of things:

1.  Come up with a race plan, and 

Sorry, I mean, SCRABBLE!

I'm a word game/scrabble FREAK.  I love them.  So instead of doing some VERY simple math about what kind of pace I needed, or even what I had in MIND to do, I just played Scrabble, answered some tweets, and then left my phone in the car to go run.  If only I'd noticed that I could hit sub-31 minutes with a 7:45 pace . . . .


No delay for this entry.  Packet Pickup was smooth.  People friendly.  All good.  Blew away the clusterfuck of the LHH race from a week ago.

BANG!  And we're off.

Mile 0-1:  7:38

I was definitely cooking here, but not breathing super hard.  I noticed a couple of people pass me.  One was a woman who had some sort of diagonal bottle along the small of her back, and the other was a guy wearing a distinctive t-shirt I recognized.  They'd pass me, then seem to slow down, then pass me again.  Ah well.  My Garmin showed me relatively steady.

Note:  If I'd bothered to race plan, I'd have realized I had a few seconds of cushion from my 7:45 goal pace.  Idiot.

Mile 1-2:   8:05

Hit the halfway point here, not knowing that I was less that 15 seconds off my overall pace at the halfway.  Looking back, this was the mile that did me in.  I just was racked with blahs, and we hit two minor climbs that made me even LESS interested in running.

Mile 2-3:   7:59
Somewhere during this mile, I started to say, "Enough is enough.  Screw this pity party and TOUGHEN THE HELL UP.  I started to do some math, and realized that, just maybe, I might come through with a sub-8 minute pace if I could just dig deep.  So I dug.  And I kicked.

Trust your kick.  Trust your kick.  Just KICK THE HELL NOW YOU HAVE ONE MILE TO GO.

Mile 3-4:   7:24

I passed the guy in the t-shirt I recognized.  I passed the lady with the bottle along her back.  I passed two more people I recognized from the start line, some of whom had eyed my shirt with curiosity.  I pushed.  I pressed.  I realized I had WAY more in the tank than I thought and OH SHIT THERE'S THE DAMN FINISH.

I watched 31:00 tick by on my watch, JUST as it struck me that, "Hey, I bet 7:45 per mile over 4 miles would equal 31 minutes.  Ooops.  Dork."

I'd missed 31 minutes by under 10 seconds.

I'll say this -- I wasn't even upset.  I'd run mile repeats earlier that day.  I'd had three people approach me (none of the ones I'd mentioned) to tell me that they saw me pass them towards the end, and couldn't stay with me.  So yay for negative splits!  

Also, I wasn't upset because, as I'd learned earlier this year at the GW Parkway classic, post-race beers are AMAZING.  I'd even found a way to ensure the precariously-hanging beer voucher would stay attached:  


My beer and food tags are hanging precariously from my race bib no more. #ProblemSolver #BeerHero

View on Instagram

I drank a beer, ate food, cheered runners coming in to the finish.  Finally, I chatted with some of the folks from the Run For Jamie support group, and of course thanked them for their efforts.  With that, it was time to go.

I stunk.

Race by the numbers:

Top 16% overall

Top 30% Men

Top 28% AG

Course elevation, FWIW:

Ashburn Twilight 4-Miler Course Elevation

Monday, June 16, 2014

Lawyers Have Heart 10K Race Report

I know I went on (and on) about how much I wanted to run a sub-4 hour marathon, and how much it meant to me when I finally did.  Another, less publicized goal for me has been to run a sub-50 minute 10K.  I'd come close in 2013, and kind of felt myself just . . . fail towards the end.  
So here I was again.

I pretty much run only a single 10K distance per year, and it's the Lawyers Have Heart 10K in DC.

I've run this race a lot, and I'm actually quite a fan of the course, which can be a little tough (some hills here and there, as well as exposure to the sun for good stretches, not often fun during June in DC).  As is my custom, here's an elevation map of the Lawyers Have Heart Course:

Nothing that exciting, but I like to include these.
Lawyers Have Heart 10K course elevation
 The team of attorneys in my day job have run this for a few years now, and we sign up as a running team.  But our main goal is to just run, have fun, and then meet post-race for brunch and LOTS of mimosas.

What I'm not a fan of, however, is poor race logistics, and this race was LOADED with fail on that front.  I know they're trying to raise money, I get that.  But at some point, you owe it to the racers to actually be, you know, competent and not overwhelmed.

For the race this year, I wasn't sure if I would run it, and signed up late.  But, I was indeed registered.  I know this because the organizers charged my card, and spammed me plenty, asking me to raise money to stamp out heart disease, and otherwise enter various contests (read: spend more money).  I chalked it up to fundraising, and let the spam just . . . be.

The race starts/ends in Georgetown, and getting there is a snap from Capitol Hill. You just have to take a REALLY early morning bus, which winds its way across DC to Georgetown.  I caught one, and arrived at what I thought was a good early time for packet pickup.  I figured I'd get my packet, t-shirt, goodie bag, go check it with bag drop, and head off to PR.

Instead I found two of the most epic lines I've EVER seen.  They were BARELY lines.  They were more piles of angry lawyers wondering WHAT THE FUCK:

LOL at the "Packet Pick-Up" sign over there on the left.
I got in one line/pile, which turned out to be wrong, as it was for the 5K.

I got in the longer one, which was for the 10K.  They wanted you to have your bib number.  Fine, so I went to their printouts to get whatever number I was assigned.

Uh oh.  I wasn't listed.

Meanwhile, the lines weren't just moving SLOW, they were basically immobile.  I've been to long packet pickups before, how could this be taking so long?

It turns out that they were accepting NEW registrations at the same time, intermixed with the packet pickups.

Oh, and then they RAN OUT OF FUCKING SAFETY PINS.  Not kidding.  This picture is of people using clear packing tape to affix their bibs to their shirts.  It worked about as well as you'd expect, based on the number of bibs I saw lying in the street as I ran.

Bad idea level:  MAX.

Finally, I got up to the table, and gave my name.  They checked multiple printouts -- nothing.  According to their records, I wasn't registered.

 Luckily, I had my phone with me.  I showed them the confirmation e-mail.

A woman then thrust a waiver form at me, handed me a bib, and had me fill it out as a new, "comped" registration (again, not really since they already had my money).  I guess I'm glad it took as long as it did -- during the delay, somebody showed up with a box of safety pins, and I got some.

After this shit show, I grabbed the "goodie" bag (I didn't have time to go to the t-shirt table, but I'll live), and just RAN to bag check.

The 5K had already started.  Suffice it to say I was losing my MIND at this point.  Pissing off a bunch of Type-A lawyers is NOT putting your best organizational foot forward:

At this point, all I needed to do, during the delay between the 5K and 10K . . . was pee.  The lines for the port-a-johns were (surprise!) quite epic.  Now what?

Well, I WAS at the Georgetown waterfront.  So I just sauntered over towards the woods along the river and . . . wait!  There's a solitary portajohn!  Right there!  Hmm, it's got a velvet rope around it.  And a woman with a clipboard.  There were MINUTES until the start, and nobody in line for this potty.  It was far away from the start line.  Yet, I watched a guy approach her, and get rejected like he was selling dildos at a celibacy convention.

So much for THAT.  So off to the riverbank I went.  I brushed through some vines, which clung to my ankles and shins (they actually kind clung around my leg, which was good, because I almost slid into the Potomac).  Finding a (discrete) spot, I did my thing.


I scrambled over to the start line, climbed over a pallet of water, and managed to get into the 10K corral before the start.  I was shaking, and plenty angry.  Flustered doesn't describe it.

I took just a moment to put my hands on my hips, look down at the ground, and remember my race plan.  Yes, I really had a race plan, if I could just get past being so angry to think about it.

In fact, I had a plan from this race from the beginning.  A sub-50 minute 10K requires roughly an 8:03 pace per mile.  I figured that, if possible, I could hold myself close to that pace for the first 3 miles, pick up speed, "rest" myself from mile 4-5, letting back just a bit, and then pour on everything from 5 until the 6.2 mark.  With luck, my kick would drive me just over the line before the clock moved from 49:59 to 50:00.

I had just enough time to ensure my Garmin was active and tracking me when

BANG - off we went.

And I went off.

Mile 0-1:  8:05

Normally, my first mile might be a little on the slower side as I navigate traffic.  But I had far too much adrenaline, and was still plenty angry over the clusterfuck at the start that I just kind of zoomed (for me) my way through the course, charging up the opening hill, turning up and running up the ramp, and proceeding on.  I hit the mile marker, and thought I should let up, just a bit, because the plan was to try and really aim for negative splits in this race.

Mile 1-2:  8:16

Ok, maybe I let up a little TOO much here.  I think I did.  I tried to calm myself from the opening salvo, and focused on sticking to The Plan.  I needed to make up a LITTLE bit of time, because I wanted to come in just a couple of seconds past 8 minutes per mile.

Mile 2-3:  7:58

Now we're talking.  I smiled slightly at the mile split, and then looked ahead to the turnaround at the 5K mat.  There was still traffic to navigate, but, strangely, I was quite comfortable on the LEFT side of the road, as I was passing folks here and there, and didn't want to get boxed in on the right.  Mile 2-3 had gone almost exactly as I'd hoped.  Just under 8 minutes, and I wasn't super taxed, effort-wise.

5K mark:  very close to 25 minutes exactly

You'd think, if I had half a brain in my head that I would have realized that if I just DOUBLED what I had just run, I'd hit almost 50 minutes exactly for a 10K, and that would make for a magic "49:xx" on my watch if I could manage an expected fast finish.

My internal dialogue, however, forgot ALL math, and instead just focused on The Plan.

8 minutes per mile.  This is key.  Stay close to it, and then trust your kick.  Trust your kick.

Mile 3-4:  7:54

I pressed on for this mile, aided by some tailwind.  I'd noted a slight headwind during the first 5K, and made a mental note to take advantage of it when we turned.  I wanted to put some distance between me and a few folks who'd been sling-shooting me.

Mile 4-5:  8:03

This was the pre-planned "stepback" mile, where I had promised myself just a bit of rest, and I didn't panic when the time came back over 8 minutes.  I dunked a little water over my head/back during this part, and just tried to prepare myself.  Because when I slapped down the "lap" button at the mile 5 marker, it was game freaking ON.

Miles 5-finish (6.2):  Just over 9 minutes (7:35/mile pace)

I slapped down the lap button at the mile 5 marker, and immediately increased leg turnover.  It seemed that there was far more room to maneuver, and a person who'd been passing/getting passed by me quickly fell back.  I wasn't even angry at this point.  Nor was I overly excited.  If anything, I was worried.  I really REALLY wanted this sub-50 finish.  I fretted over mile 2, and wondered if I'd banked enough time.  I pushed.  I looked for good tangent lines as the road flowed, and just kept pressing.

The Lawyers Have Heart finish involves a hairpin turn, and then a flying downhill (the one you run up at the start).  It's just that it's waaaaaaay down there.  As I ran, I could see the clock across the finish line.  I looked down at my Garmin.  I had some time, but not much.

Press.  Trust your kick.

I pressed.  I trusted my kick.

I violated all finish line rules by immediately looking at my watch as I finished, slapping down on the stop button.  I'd finished faster than 49 and a half minutes.  Sub-freaking 50.


Another running bucket list item, checked off.

I ran to get my bag, and discovered there was ONE -- ONE volunteer, who was just waving people past her to go find their bags.  When my boss later arrived, the bag check area was EMPTY of volunteers, and it was just "collect your bags" on the honor system.  Hello?  Honor system?  With LAWYERS?

Fail.  I got my bag (which had my phone in it!) and was thankful that I could go hunt for delicious brunch and even-more-delicious booze.

Race by the numbers:
Top 26% of all finishers
Top 37% of all men
Top 37% of men in my AG

This is what I'm about used to.  I figure I'm often in the top quarter of all race finishers, but damn, old guys really are freaking competitive, and knock me into the top third, plus/minus a few percentage points depending on the race.  But numbers like these didn't bother me.  I'd made it.  I pulled out my phone and re-told that same joke from a year ago:

(Yes, I do repeat some jokes on Twitter. But repeating this one was worth it, because, unlike the 2013 joke at the START of this post, this Tweet had a happier ending):

Anyway, my team met up, and I guzzled many of these:


Fast forward to the next day.  I went out and did 14 miles on the C&O Canal Towpath (gotta string back-to-back workouts because of JFK 50 this Fall).  As I was working my miles, I noticed my shin was . . . burning.  I mean, it was HOT.  I thought perhaps I had been stung by something.

Hrm.  Nothing.  Back to running.

Damn.  Burning again.  Weird.

I mean, what a weird spot.  Right there on my . . . shin . . .


So really, great race.  Kind of a shitstorm before and after, which I think was motivated to raise money for their cause no matter the "cost." But, if you told me I was going to get a bunch of gray hair and poison ivy in order to break a previously-thought impossible barrier, I'd take it (but I'd also buy some kind of cream as well, because . . . ouch).

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Cherry Blossom 10-miler t-shirt

Go on -- tell me this wouldn't win the 
Cherry Blossom 10-miler T-shirt design contest!


Instagram filter:  awesomeness.