Sunday, March 10, 2013

Miles for Music 20k. USA-TF NJ State Championship. 3/10/13

Photo by Elaine Acosta
So here I am again.  Just like last year.  Standing at the starting line of a 20k road race just one week after a 50k PR at Nationals and a 100 mile week of running unsure of what I am capable of doing. There are no guarantees after the guns goes off, except that I am going to try to do my best.

No rest.  Tired legs.  All that I can think of is "30k less than last weekend!" and that makes it sound reasonable for me to be here.

This morning, I woke up with the skin around my eyes swollen and raw.  It feels like I have a bad sunburn, that I somehow got while sleeping.  This happens a few times each year, and most consistently in the first week of March.  After months of test and many doctors visits, it was concluded that I have a faulty immune system (that could be related to the damage done by my chemotherapy).  My body gets confused and attacks itself at random.  It used to be worse.  I used to become covered in hives and have trouble breathing.  Once my throat started closing up.  At least once per year I am getting shot up in the ER with steroids.  I am not in pursuit of a more conclusive diagnosis.  I have had over 200+ needles to try to find what I am reacting to and nothing was identified.  So, I consider my faulty autoimmune system the price I have to pay to be alive and that price in my mine is quiet small.

I pre-registered for this race.  Had I not, I would have likely stayed home because the last time I had a puffy face and ran it did get worse.  However, the time before that running made it better.  The time before that I was not running at all and I had a reaction.  My running and my autoimmune disorder simply co-exist and do not seem to bother each other.  Regardless, I called John Phelan on the way to the race and told him that if I start to feel bad, then I may need him to take me to the ER.   However, on the drive over the swelling seemed to be calming down somewhat since I first woke up and that made me feel better.  The raw, burning skin sensation around my eyes and eye lids was still present, but at least I no longer looked like a monster.

I knew this was could go either way.  My plan was to hover just sub-7:00 and see how that felt.  My last 10 miler was 6:53 and I wanted to hit that pace for the 20k, but I did just race a 50k hard last weekend. I could very easily crash.  I needed to see how long I could hang on!

Weather said low 30s but I still felt cold.  I wore way too much to the starting line and ditched half of it before lining up.  I broke out a new pair of Brooks T7's and opted to go with my now lucky (as opposed to geeky) capri pants and calve sleeves in lieu of tights.  I had a long sleeve tech shirt and knew it was going to be too warm for me as the temps rose.

Gun goes off. I try to settle in with a pack of guys I know run about my pace when I am running really great.  We made our way up the incline, heading out towards the first turn around. M1-6:51

I was surprised that I felt so comfortable.  I found I was bouncing down below 6:40 at times, but knew I would not hold that for 12.4. I would rather speed up than fade, so I settled down.  Someone commented about my capri pants, stating that she had the same pair. She did. She made a few more comments about how she loved Brooks gear. A guys ahead said how much he loved the shoes.  I thought it was funny to be caught up in the middle of a Brooks love fest and I really did not say much at all.  I was trying to stay focused and in tune with my body.  I wasn't sure if my throat would start to swell or my legs would suddenly become jello.  Also, a sub-7 pace tends to be a little bit to fast for me to hold up my end of a conversation.  I felt good and just did not want to waste any energy.  M2-6:53

I sat on a pack of runners for many of the middle miles.  Actually I was just out of reach of them but moving close to their speed.  I could see they were slowly creeping away from me, but I knew that if I pushed a little harder this early, it would be too fast.  I planned to just run MY pace and feel comfortable until last 15k.  M3-6:53, M4-6:51, M5-6:50, M6-6:52.

I still had the pack in range and felt pretty good.  I saw my 5k split at 20:58 and my 10k split at 42:10. Just a small fade, but pretty close!  I wanted to see about getting to the 15k in under 1:04 (which I believe is still my 15k PR).   I had a gel tucked in my sports bra and decided I might as well take it.  M7-6:55.

As we started to round the turn around I realized I was gaining on the small pack I was trailing.  Again, I did not alter my comfortable pace because felt good and knew I was running well.  I just ran MY race and since I was not fading, I was reeling in those who started to fade a bit.  I passed some of that pack while a few pulled ahead. M8-6:56

As the temperature began to warm slightly I could feel I was sweating a lot. I decided with just under a half hour to go, I would ditch my long sleeve near the start finish line.  It was the best move I could have made.  I felt so much better and ready to try to finish fast.   You can't decided to run in a sports bra in the cold and not run fast (without getting cold, and/or simply looking a bit like an idiot ;) LOL).  So to not look like an idiot, I tried to run fast. :)  M9-6:53 (15k was sub-1:04)

I felt strong and took advantage of any fast parts of the course.  I wanted to get this over with fast.  I started counting down the mileage, ignoring that 0.4.  Ten miles done, 2 to go!  I knew there was a small uphill just after the downhill after the turn around. After that uphill I hoped to have something to offer.   M10-6:46, M11-65:55, M12-6:53

I realize that I actually did not have as much of a kick as I had hoped.  I was tired and just happy to still be running sub-7's.  I got my speed up as I got closer to the finish, running that last .4 the fastest of the day.  Last 0.4 - 2:52 

Time: 1:25:22 (6:53 pace)
OA Place: 93
Gender: 11
AG: 2

I can't end this without saying Congratulations to John Phelan, who ran a 50k PR last weekend and joined me today to run pretty close to his half marathon PR today!  Great job John!


  1. Great race. I think I was one of the fading runners you passed around mile 9.

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  3. Hey Shannon!

    Thank you for your inspiring blog, I'm encouraged to do the same activity because it seems that the participants are happy and enjoy the competition!

    All their efforts are worth it because they won the competition! Keep up the good work guys and good luck for the next marathon!

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