Keeping it steady

Two of my running girlfriends and I were chosen as Pacers for the Lake Michigan Half Marathon this weekend. The race goes along Muskegon Lake and takes a jaunt along Lake Michigan.

Running this race as a pacer is perfect timing for me. While I would love to do another race, I’m not mentally ready to challenge myself for that level of exertion. Pacing is giving me some time to run easy and think about what went wrong at Bayshore and how to better prepare for the next race. I’m hoping that I can also line up at the start of this race without the emotional anxiety that I experienced at the marathon. There’s no pressure to push myself to a PR or a Boston Qualifier. I get to run with some very cool people  and help them achieve their goals.

 

Being a pacer comes with its own challenges. If everything is going well, I’m not too bad at keeping a consistent pace. As a pacer, I need to keep a consistent pace that is a specific pace. Our assigned group pace is about a minute and a half slower than my average, everyday pace. I shouldn’t have to worry about falling off pace or going too slow and disappointing the runners who are seeking personal bests. I’ll be able to encourage people, chat with other runners, and carry the pace sign.

What I’m struggling with is that slower pace and not getting carried away by the race atmosphere. Sometimes while talking (especially if it is about something irritating) I start pushing harder and suddenly I’m running a minute faster than my normal pace. Once I get into the groove of that pace, it’s difficult to slow down. I don’t want ruin another runner’s race by not sticking to the pace they need.

I’ve tried some treadmill runs at the desired pace so I can get a feel for the turnover rate. I plan to wear my GPS so I can check and correct our pace frequently. Certain conversation topics are off limits.

What tips do you have for being a pacer?

Hurt the Dirt Half Marathon

I did both this weekend. Separately and together which is what happens when you race on a trail tired.

I’m at the peak mileage weeks for my marathon training, so I was going into this race tired. I rearranged workouts so that I had a day off before the race, but after putting many 50-65 mile weeks my body wasn’t as ready as I hoped to tackle the treachery of a trail race.

When I’m tired on a trail run, I fall… spectacularly. Or at least it feels that way in my head. This one was a pretty hard thud on my left shoulder that didn’t bruise nearly as much as I thought it would. I’m probably lucky I didn’t fall more.

 

Hurt the Dirt is at the Luton Park in Rockford Michigan. They offered a full marathon, which was four loops around the course, for the irreconcilably crazy; a half marathon, for those of us who haven’t fully embraced our crazy, and a quarter marathon, whose participants were looking smarter by the mile.

It’s trail race which  I haven’t done since college and even those were wider pathways which allowed room to pass without sliding down the side of the hill or clipping a tree. The ground was soft and the course was shaded and cool; all pluses in my book. Except for a brief mile or so, the trail consisted of ups, downs, and hairpin turns. None of the ups were especially steep or long, but they were frequent. The hair pin turns meant that you could often see other participants in the race if you dared to lift your eyes from the trail in front of you.

Tracey, from my running group, and I ran together for most of the race, which was great. She was brave enough to look around and could see a few of the other runners from our group and cheer them on. That was one of the best things about the race, being there with my running group. We could help each other prepare, we could cheer each other on, and we could commiserate about the scratches and bruises (I wasn’t the only one who got a closer inspection of the dirt.).

After a tough run, I had one more surprise… first in my age group. I guess all the other runners my age had better things to do Saturday morning.

Flashbacks

Last weekend I did a half marathon on the course where I did my first marathon in thirteen years. While I was prepared for the distance, I wasn’t prepared for the memories that would find me along the course.
The course followed the bike path around the lake. One lap for 13 miles, two laps for 26. When I did the marathon (my first in 13 years), I expected there would be less people on that second lap and that I would probably be running by myself for most of it. I could handle that. I did most of my training runs alone. It wouldn’t be much different. Right?
Wrong.
The first lap went well. There were lots of runners. The course was beautiful. The weather was perfect. There were spectators everywhere. My husband was biking around to take pictures and fill my water bottle, catching me every mile or so. It was great!
At mile 13, the majority of my running companions siphoned off the course to the finish line and I had to keep going.
In two miles, my kids would be cheering, so I had some motivation to keep going. I was also working on my caffeinated energy gels. Got to keep fueled up and the caffeine gives you an extra boost, right?
Wrong. Well, maybe for you.
I’m not a coffee drinker. In fact, I turn into a carsick hummingbird after a dose of caffeine. Unfortunately, I hadn’t made this connection with my energy gels. I figured my woozy stomach was from lack of fuel and water. (Let’s just say it took months to make this connection rather than days.) So I swallowed more gels. Those last miles were more unpleasant than they should have been. My husband missed me at one of his stops and didn’t catch up until I was 6 miles past him.
As I ran this past weekend, flashes of this race triggered in my head. Seeing the crowds cheering as we came around a corner and tackled a hill. Walking by a house. Walking by another house. Nobody cheering at that corner. The hill where I leap-frogged with another runner who had also adopted a run/walk strategy.  Walked by that house too. This stretch by the park, yes, this is where the swearing started.
As I came through the final mile, I remembered watching the half-marathoners veer to the right and the finish as I turned left and headed for the second lap. Their cheering sections were meeting them to celebrate.  This course ended at a different place. Again I had to keep going. I had lost sight of the runners in front of me and was once again running on my own.
But not really running on my own, I was running with the memories. As I came through that final stretch of the marathon course, some fellow runners who had completed their half were cheering me to the finish. I took that support with me through the last mile of this year’s half.