I can't believe I'm inside writing a post on such a sunny day - but I can't be outside all day and did need to come inside to warm up after an easy run this morning.
Yesterday was the Steveston Icebreaker 8km. I had never done this race before, and woke up (early - yikes) to a totally clear sky - so I was very excited! (there has been a lot of training in the rain lately...)
I really like the 8km distance (with my total of 8k's now at 2), and was happy to be running along the water. So after a fairly early up-and-at-em with rice cereal (aka adult pablum) with bananas and agave, we loaded up the car with VanRunners and teed up the Garmin (I can't get away from them) to lead us to Steveston.
It was so fun to meet up with so many people from our training group at the community centre and head out to the start line. I've done quite a few races on my own, showing up at the start line to do a warm up by myself, looking around at other people running in their groups, not necessarily feeling jealous, but wishing I could be more relaxed like 'those people'. What I realize now is that the group provides a great environment of fun energy, because everyone brings a mix of feelings, hopes, predictions and goals. It's so nice to have people around, on the start line, seeing them out on the course, and knowing they'll be there at the end to celebrate (or commiserate).
So race start - quite exciting! This was a gun-time only race (no chips) so there was a lot of vying for the start line spots on a narrow start line. On one side was intermittent knee bashing benches, and on the other side, some very chilly Steveston ocean - so you definitely needed to stay midline. Almost immediately after the gun, some guy must have mis-stepped and took a tumble to the floor - which was tough with 200 people behind him. I had to almost piggy back the guy in front of me as we both had to hurdle over this poor soul (along with many others). So, had to quickly recollect my thoughts and get back to being reasonably calm and in control of my pace after so much excitement off the line.
I really did spend the first 1/2 of the race mostly looking at the ground to make sure I didn't slip on any ice (plus the sun was shining straight into our eyes - not that I'm complaining about sun!). The race travels along the water, firstly along the gravel side outbound, and road side inbound. I found the gravel path pretty narrow and not easy to pass people, so you had to do a little bit of skipping around side to side. Overall, though, I was feeling pretty good to the 1/2 way point and decided to pick it up from there.
The road back was quicker than the gravel and we had a bit of a tailwind, so that was nice - and you got to enjoy the view a little more because the sun wasn't in your eyes (not complaining!) After a lot of twists and turns at the end, it was a straight 250m shot to the finish line, with all types of sprints to the finish. I ran behind the same guy for at least 2.5 kilometres and despite one challenge off his shoulder, he had more gears and managed to finish 1 second ahead of me at the finish. So, new goal for 2011 now includes beating him at a race, somewhere, somehow. Because I know him, I just wish he wasn't such an experienced runner - it is going to take a special sneak attack off the shoulder when he's looking the other way, Tour de France style. So it's my new resolve. People who run in our group will know who I'm talking about but I am not making public declarations because I'd really rather he didn't know I am gunning for a win - because it isn't going to be easy!
Overall, I finished 7th, 5th in my AG, and set a PB of 29:50, which wasn't quite as fast as I would have liked, but it wasn't the fastest course in the world (despite being the flattest course I have ever run - I don't even think there was 1m elevation). Still, 30 seconds faster than 2 weeks ago. So, goals for next time! I am quite excited to be getting back to the longer distance of the 1/2 marathon - more in my comfort zone of endurance racing - so very excited to see what I can do. The First Half half marathon is next - only 2 weeks away!
In the end, we all regrouped and (some of us) did some strength work and (again) did a pretty crap job of the cool-down (we walked to breakfast though - for about 10 min - does that count?). I knew I was getting back on the bike for a spin in the afternoon so wasn't too worried. We went to "Cinnamon Bar" - also properly known as "Cimona" (but interestingly enough that lady knew where we wanted to go? ) and chowed some food and do what runners do best - talk about running. All said and done it was still not even 11am - that would be the benefit of early race starts.
I named this blog post "Team Effort" because I would really truly encourage anyone who has been running on their own to find a group of people to run with. It doesn't have to be a competitive team, it doesn't have to be professionally organized, it could just be you and a couple of your friends - but make a resolve to go to a race or event together. There are so many people that run, so many groups, that it really is accessible to anyone who wants it.
I ran on my own for 4 years and was really hesitant to join a group - which seems to surprise people when I tell them that. But it's true. It was like pulling teeth to get me to join Forerunners running clinic. Even though (I think) I'm a pretty shy person, and it took me a few runs to get to know some people in my group, by the end of the clinic I couldn't believe I had been doing so much running on my own - and how much easier it was for me to get the speedwork done when I was doing it with a group.
I joke about it, but I really did try, maybe once, maybe twice a year, to actually commit to doing speedwork and made up some random (and much too difficult) track workout, feel totally defeated by it, and have nothing to compare it to. And I really do think, now getting to look back on my year of training and my improvements in running, that finally doing some speedwork is what made all the difference to my times. Every year, I managed to take ~2-3 minutes off my marathon time, and the difference for me this year between Oct 2009 and Oct 2010 was 13 minutes - that's a lot! And I'd be pretty happy if I could do 13 minutes again - which isn't an impossible goal at this point. So trust me - groups are good - and speedwork is even better!
So thanks to Sue, Steph, Paul, Jerry, Jeremy, Art, Sarah & Jeremy (aka Saramy), Kelsey, Rachel, Brendan, Andrew & Amy, and everyone else that keeps coming out to cold nights on the track, dark nights on the hills, and early mornings at the races. Your efforts don't go unnoticed and I hope that it helps you as much as it helps me!