Wednesday, January 1, 2014

CJRRC Hangover 5k Run, Westfield, NJ. 1/1/14 (Higher Mileage Goal, and Running Orthotics Free)

And Let the Racing Begin! 

Last year I started the year off with a fantastic 5k at the Hangover Run in Westfield NJ.  The course is a good one for fast times with well placed inclines that show up when energy is highest and then turn into declines that carry you home when the race is coming to a close.

I am not in 5k shape. I have done no speed work in months. I did not race all of December, so I didn't sneak any in that way. I have been focused on building a solid base of higher mileage for bigger goals in the future.  I want to start the New Year ready to log the type of weeks that will allow me to run my best year to date.  I ended December with 326 miles for a 10.5 mile per day average that month.  I would like to hold that as long as possible this year.  I had also started ramping up the paces of some of my mid-week training runs since I am returning to the race courses and feel a little stale.  This made me feel beat up and exhausted. But that is ok sometimes.

Transitioning Out of Orthotics
One of the biggest changes I plan to make for 2014 is to finally free myself of my orthotics. It is going faster than expected, but I am still not feeling safe.  I got my first pair back when I was 15 years old. I needed them after repeated, recurrent injuries related to some bone alignment issues.  The final straw was ending up in a soft cast to help heal some seriously debilitating tendonitis.  I also had shin splints that would cause my shins to bruise badly from the inside out, as well as chronic and painful plantar fasciitis.  I was also a newer runner and not training nearly enough back then.  After an asjustment period, the orthotics helped me to run when I couldn't.  Since then it was a no-brainer for me to just wear them if I wanted to run as pain-free as possible.

My first pair lasted me 20 years! 20 freaking years and they were fully intact.  After my first years of ultras, my feet were hurting so bad that I decided to get a new pair made. I suspected that I was long over-due anyway.  Since then, I had two separate pairs, and both were no match for my high-ish mileage running.  I cracked both pairs in half.  Duct taped them back together so I could keep running, while I waited 3 weeks for new ones.  After the second time, I just couldn't help but think if I can run with orthotics that are taped together there is a really good chance these things are no longer doing as much for me as I think they are.  I suspected that my high mileage running has strengthened my feet so much that I could try to go without them.

Starting on December 19, I opened a new pair of Brooks Launch and decided to go for it Orthotic Free.  I actually intended to ween my way off.  But that was the first run in about 24 years where I was finally able to feel the soft cushy soles of my shoes. OMG. I had no idea this is what running shoes feel like for other people! No hard plastic between my feet and my support.  It was heaven.

I decided to stick to the treadmill at first, so that I could step off if I felt any pain. I went back to the orthotics for my long runs, but by 10 day I was doing my long runs without them as well.

Today's race would be my first orthotic-free race since I was 15 years old.  The only issue I had was I did not save the insole to my racing flats.  I did have a new pair so as much as I hated doing this, I took the new insoles and put them in the old racing flats, which only have 36 miles on them.

The Race
- Weather: 29, feels like 23 degrees. Winds 5 mph from W. Humidity 42%
- Clothing: Capri pants, calf sleeves, thin tech long sleeve, tech T-shirt over the top, thin fleece neck warmer (for neck or over ears), throw away gloves not thrown away.  Took Neck Warmer offer at mile 1.5 and wrapped it around arm.
- Shoes: Brooks T7 Racing Flats

I was pretty tired from two fast 10 mile training runs the two day prior to this race.  I am doing a few experiments with my running and knew I would end up at the starting line tired.  This was ok, every race can't be a goal race.

I am used to racing a lot. When I don't race weekly I start to feel out of practice.  I actually get very nervous about racing.  The idea of putting myself out there and risking failure can be stressful.  I feel like life is full of stressful situations and risks of failure, so if I can handle stressful events on purpose then I should be better prepared to manage the unplanned stressors.

I warmed up 2 miles, lined up towards the front, about one row back of a wide street with runner across the entire way.  I appreciated that just before we were ready to go a guy then stepped up and planted himself directly in front of me as if I would be holding him back. I wish I got his bib number so I could see if he beat me.  It is fine if he did.

The gun went off, and my legs remembered just what to do.  Up the first incline I started counting women.  4 were in front of me.  Around the first loop we completed the first mile. M1 - 6:12

I didn't feel like it was too fast, but at this point we are back at the first incline again, and doing it a second time took its toll on me.   I could also feel my left Plantar Fasciia feeing irritated and I wanted to pay attention to it.  A female passes me, and then a guy who starts coaching me.   He tells me to get back on their heels (but I don't want to do that)  Then passes me and then waves me up. (I don't respond)

Honestly, I do understand that people are trying to be helpful.  It is better than people being unkind, but it is interesting to me.  If you race enough this is bound to happen to you, the Mid-Race Coach. Now I may not mind as much IF this person had already finished, then ran back to me and offered some support and guidance.  But I always wonder what makes people who are running at the same exact pace as me, feel that it is there job to spontaneously start telling me what I should do.  Usually a male that does this, but not always.  I cant help but think that if I am a female and I am running just as fast as that guy, who is technically supposed to be genetically pre-determined to be faster than me, then possibly I should be the one coaching him. ;)

Although I was encouraged to speed up, I held my pace because that is what I felt was best for me at that point in the race.  At 1.2 miles, it was way too early to make a move. I was more interested in pacing myself in a way that allowed me to run a fast last mile than crash.  I could feel I was on that line and was happy holding my pace.  The guy pulled away, the ladies stayed in range and I continued onward.  

Before we hit mile 2, one of the ladies faded a bit and I passed her.  I pulled up to another and sat there.  My "new coach" stepped off the course and I not sure why.  I did not see him again. M2 6:40

This race has a fast finish built in.  I was feeling very tired at this point.  The 10 milers I have been doing in training had taken a toll on me.  But I wasn't ready to give up yet.   With about a half mile to go, I passed the girl who I was tailing. She did not challenge, but she also did not allow me to pull away.

And this is why (many) serious racers do not race with music.  I could hear her breath.  I knew she was close. I knew exactly where she was. She was sitting on me now. We were approaching the finish. And I knew exactly what she was setting herself up to do.  The Sit and Kick.  She was planning to blast past me at the finish.  [If I had on headphones, I would have missed all of that.  I do understand that there are many serious racers who do listen to music while racing.  This would a rare experience for me. I have listened to music at a few 24 hour races, but in short fast races, I want to know what is going on around me).]

The only defense to the Sit and Kick, is the Pre-Emptive Demoralizing Burst even if you can't hold it the whole way. If you break the spirit of the Sit and Kicker by making a move early, they won't kick and usually they let up. If you fade just a bit later, it is usually too late for them to kick to get you.  Unless this is for the OA win and the Sit and Kicker is just messing around, most people using the Sit and Kick strategy do so because they are tired and redlining as well.  Some people use it when they only want to run fast enough to win and the race is easy for them.  Most Sit and Kicker don't feel they have enough energy to race you all out to the finish (if so they would simply pass you with authority and see if you challenge). Instead they have to use a strategic plan to save themselves for a short surprise attack at the end.

Bear in mind, there is nothing wrong with this strategy.  I do it all the time.  When you are racing your hardest, sometimes you have to do everything you can to move up the leader board and strategic racing is still racing.  To break the Sit and Kicker,  burst early (but not so early that you fade and they Kick past).  Timing is key.  Put some distance between you and the Sitter.  If they don't give in, it will force them to shift gears early.  They already feel they cant hold a kick that long, so you just have to do everything to hold the kick until you break them or you finish.  But often they don't even bother to chase you down and let you have the position..  M3 6:24

Well, I somehow managed to reel in a social butterfly, a teenager, who was treated his 5k like it was his personal parade.  As he saw his friends he would wave and yell stuff.  He was having a lot of fun. At one point I said, "kick now and break 20" (hoping it would remind him he is in a race and I was behind him trying to hurry up.) He turned back to look at me which slowed his pace.  Since we were running a tangent, I was directly behind him.  His slow down, was just before the final turn and where I needed to execute my Pre-Emptive Burst to hold off my Sit and Kicker.

As I pick up my pace, I can hear her coming up on my shoulder.  Then I can see her in my peripheral.  A blur of green in the corner of my eye.  So I move out to pass the teenager and I KICK just as the Teen decides to extend his left arm out across my line of travel so that he could wave to his fans, almost knocking me in the face.  I bob and weave out of his way, and fully turn on whatever I can muster. I somehow still manage to hold her off through the shoot.  She was a very good Sit and Kicker and thanks to her, I ran my second fastest 5k ever! Last .1 - 0:39

Time - 19:55 (6:25 pace)
Place - 25 OA of  786
Gender- 4th of 375
Age - 1st of 51


  1. "And this is why serious racers do not race with music."

    Thank you. Seriously, no snark, no joking, no sarcasm on my part.

    1. LOL. Thank you.

      But even though I wrote it, it is not an absolutely true statement. Lot of people who take their racing seriously listen to music at certain points if it is allowed. I should (and will) edit that to say "This is why many serious racers do not race with music."

      I do believe, for myself at the very least, that I can't hear details about what is going on behind me if I am running with music. However, there are plenty of times music may be appropriate... like in a stretch of a race where you are just focused on your own pace and it doesnt matter what is happening around you. (I am thinking about an interview I read with Zach Bitters who said he used music when he set his new 100 America Record on a track in Dec. So it would a bit over-broad for me to imply that if someone listens to music while racing they are not serious. However, I do think that there are many serious racer who do choose to forego music b/c they want to hear what is going on around them in their race

  2. Nice race and thanks for the report. One of the benefits of racing frequently is the personalities you come across- Mr. Unsolicited Advice, Mr. Social Butterfly, and the Kicker. Great observations on all. I've always felt the Social Butterfly (or even Talkers in general) tend to annoy me more when I'm struggling and not having a great race. Nice advice too on the Kicker about putting enough distance (if you can) between yourself and him/her so that it doesn't come down to a kick. While warming up yesterday for my race, I saw someone who had Kicked me in the final stretch of that same race the previous year. During the race in the back of my mind, I knew I couldn't let him be too close to outkick me at the end. So when I passed him a little after Mile 1, I made sure to put in a bit of a surge to get some distance, and that ended up pretty much being the difference between second and first.

    Agreed too on music- I know I've read that, in general, elite runners tend to associate with their running rather than dissociate with things like music. There is enough to pay attention to with yourself, your pace, how you're feeling, etc., not to mention your competition, from which music may distract. Mr. Bitter is forgiven since he was running a 24-hour race (that ended up being 100 miles) on a 400-meter track, and his competition was the American record for 100 miles.

    1. What a wonderful well thought out comment! Thank you Nick for reading and posting about my race report :)