Thursday, March 5, 2015

Race Season is Upon Us

Last year I ran 10 races and I PRed (Personal Record) in each one of them.  All of them were new distances, except the 10k, which was my only race before last year.  I ran two half marathons (13.1), a 15k (9.3), a 14k (8.6), two 10ks (6.2), a 4-miler and three 5ks (3.1).  Most of them were either free or at a reduced rate and they were all hard.  I dropped a minute off of my 5k time in three months and almost 10 minutes off of my half marathon time between May and October.  These are great feats for a girl who typically feels really slow and ends most races wheezing so heavily people stop to ask her if she's okay.

With Jo-Popa after his longest race.  He beat me, but I didn't have to walk up any of the big hills :)

Training runs are where it's at.  I love training and running and having that schedule and ticking off those miles every week.  However, races are fun and they give you a chance to test out your training, to help you keep your edge and to see how you do when adrenaline and nerves enter the picture and how you stack up against people your age and your training partners.

My favorite training buddies in Kentucky with the city behind us on one of our long runs this summer. 
Running buddies are really important on long runs and hard races.   

 At the same time, races are hard.  As Jo-Popa so lovingly reminds me every time, "It's a race, Kel.  Go fast!"  Most of the time they're uncomfortable.  They make your legs sore, your knees ache, your shoulders stiff and your lungs burn.  The ones you race the best leave you feeling so spent and yet so alive that you want to go back and do it again... after you eat your under-ripe banana and drink your water, of course.  They make you feel like you want to die; make you wish that you were at home, on the couch, in bed, anywhere but there.  They leave you gasping for air and feeling like you deserve all those snacks and calories that you don't really need to replace.

I was well-trained and well-fueled.  Felt awesome!!

There's a magic in the race, a camaraderie that you feel with the others around you.  There was my second 5k in a week when a woman told me "you can always sprint at the end," earning me a 6-second PR.  Then there was the girl I'd been leap-frogging for 2 miles at the end of the Queen Bee.  We rounded the corner to the final stretch and I told her: I'm going to kill it, and you're coming with me.  We both raced to the end, finished triumphantly, hugged, laughed and parted ways.  Races are magic, especially when they have chocolate milk and coneys at the end.

My favorite Brew Hog, hogging out on post-race coneys!!

Like anything else, there is an art to racing.
1. The most stressful thing for me is arriving at the race.  I worry about parking, being on time, using the bathroom, checking my bag.  This is mostly mental for me and I have to deal with that.  However, the bus stops right outside my apartment.  If it can get me close to where I need to go, taking the bus takes a lot of the stress out of race morning.
2. Lay everything out the night before.  I do this before my long training runs anyway, but it's especaillly important on race morning.  Pin your bib to your shirt the night before so you don't forget it and aren't scrambling around for safetey pins in the morning.
3. Most races are in the morning and it gets cold just standing around before the race.  Either suffer through, wear something lightweight you can tie around your waist until you find a family member to pass it off to, or buy something from Goodwill that you can ditch as you warm up.
4. Talk with the people around you.  Everyone is excited and nervous.  Make some new friends, have fun!
5. Pace yourself early on.  It's easy to get caught up in the excitement, but use the same discipline that got you to the starting line to reign in the adrenaline early on.  As practical as I am, this is not a problem for me, but it is for a lot of people, especially Jo-Popa!
6. Look at the course ahead of time.  Know where the hills are and where the finish is.  You don't want to start your kick too late to be of any use or too early and run out of juice. 
7. I always eat a trusty breakfast the morning of the race: banana and either oatmeal or white bread (hey, it works!).  Find what works for you and trust it.
8. For longer races, discuss where your fans will be along the course, so you know where to look for them.  It is easier for you to see them than for them to see you.
9. Bring warm and dry clothes for after.  If the race is during any weather under 75 degrees, bring extra clothes.  Don't leave your cold base layer on.  Peel it all off and put dry stuff on if you're going to be hanging around afterward!
10. HAVE FUN!!!!! Enjoy the race, show off your medal, wear your shirt with pride and take pictures.  You earned it!!!

If you don't bring enough clothes for after the race, you'll end up with a Mylar skirt to keep your tired leggies warm!