Monday, February 22, 2010

Winter Flight

(L-R: Molly Nunn, Caitlin Chrisman, Jay Holder, Boriana B, Bert Rodriguez cool down)

Might want to grab a drink. This is going to be a long one.

Doing the first race of your new training cycle is like going on a date with a beautiful someone.

Think about it.

You get nervous for the date because you have absolutely NO IDEA if the beautiful someone likes you. You contemplate all the 1943734986 different scenarios of how the date could potentially play out. If the date goes bad, you want to get over with it sooner. If the date goes great, you never want it to end. After the date, everyone calls you to see how you liked it, how it went, and if you think you'll do it again. Afterwards, you think of what you could have done different to make the beautiful person like you more or what you did wrong or what went great. You could also say that you feel successful at the end of the date if you get a kiss - the trophy of the date! :o)

Now apply this to your first race in over three months. You get really nervous for the race because you have NO IDEA what kind of racing shape you are in. You contemplate the 21433934 different races strategies that could happen. If the race goes bad, you want it to end ASAP but you know that it won't since you are probably running slower and want to keel over onto the side of the road. If the race goes great, you still do want it to end, but not so much the post-race festivities (especially if there is free beer). After the race, all of your friends call you, facebook you, text you to see how it went and if you would run that race course again. Using your running sense, you analyze every single aspect of the race: your mind, the course, the organization, the food, the awards...and the list goes on...At the end, you anxiously await to discover whether or not you will be receiving an overall or an age group trophy.

In so many ways, I had my first blind date with a road race in over three months yesterday in Salisbury at the Winter Flight 8k. There is something truly unique about racing that allows you to truly put your fitness to a test and to prove that the training has paid off. As far as I could tell, yesterday proved successful for most everyone in the Charlotte Running community who raced.

To start from the beginning, my team of Boriana and Jay met in the parking lot to pick up our race packets. Immediately we saw a slew of Charlotte running people who were out there to cheer us all on, which was extremely exciting. Like a true teammate, since the day boasted temperatures in the upper 60s, Jay was kind enough to bring his sport sunscreen so that this semi-albino's skin would not burn during the race. Teammate #2, Boriana, was also kind enough to let us store our stinky shoes in her car and be our driver for the day's activities.

After lathering up, we were off for the warmup. Knowing that we all had the support from our fellow countrymen, I began feeling excited to put everything on the line. Although my legs did not feel fantastic on the warmup, that is typically the way I like to start a race (never have raced well when my legs feel fan-freaking-tastic in the warmup). I will admit that I had several different doubts going through my head during this time. I was wondering if my breathing would be okay because my throat seemed really tight, as though I was coming down with a bad head cold. I pushed these thoughts aside because I really knew that the most important task at hand was to race to best of my potential on that day given the circumstances.

We made it to the start line to check out our competition. It looked like there were at least four girls who looked capable to run sub-30:00. Alana and I situated ourselves behind Bill Shires and, although it was hard to hear, the National Anthem was played. Immediately before the gun, we all gave each other a fist slap (is that what it's called??) as good luck. The race director blew the horn and we were off!

I could feel two people on my shoulder and instead of worrying about that, I focused on staying relaxed through the first mile. I settled into a groove with Molly, some guy in a red shirt, and Alana. It was nice to settle in behind red shirt guy so that I could get a slight break from the wind. First mile: 5:44. Perfect - ish. After a while I could feel the pace slowing and knew I needed to make a move to maintain the pace I wanted - 5:50s. Luckily, after the first mile, there was a decent downhill, which is where I pushed down and left the red shirt guy and the two girls. I said good job in my mind to them!

After the move, there were two other guys about 20 meters ahead that I could focus on for the next two miles over the rolling hills. I got a boost of energy when I saw Chris Jones and Todd Mayes at the top of the second big hill, especially because they told me that it flattened out from there. Thanks Chris and Todd!

However, I rounded one other turn and then there was a hill, or two, or three...again. I chuckled to myself, but instead of worrying about the hills, I focused on the guy that I was reeling in. I ran my fastest miles during four (5:40) and five (would have been 5:44), mainly due to the fact that I caught the guy that had been in sixth place and was trying to catch the guy in fifth place (never did). After running up the 400m hill in the last mile, we turned back into the Catawba campus, where a beautiful downhill awaited the runners before they entered the track for the finish. Running onto the track was fun and I felt fantastic considering it was fairly hot and the course a bit hillier than I had expected. As I rounded the last turn on the track, I saw my time ticking away the seconds - 28:37, 28:38, 28:39 - and I pushed harded so that I would get my reach goal of 28:50-ish.

As I stumbled through the chute, I was directed to a table where a woman wrote down my name and time with a pen on a piece of paper. Very old school, but very cool at the same time. I felt like I was in high school again. I met up with Jay and Bert and we waited for the next Charlotte crew. We cheered in Alana, Molly, Chad, Allen, Boriana, Larry, and Scott.

My favorite part of the race was cooling down with Molly, Alana (for a bit), Jay, Boriana, and Bert. It was refreshing to know that everyone else didn't feel like going faster than 8 minute pace on our cool down and also that none of else wanted to run up another hill. It was great to share stories of how everyone felt at different parts of the race, especially for Jay since he literally had NO ONE to race with the entire time.

The awards ceremony took place in the college gym and the trophies were probably the biggest I've ever seen. I did come away with $100 so I'm only $1400 away from my goal race earnings for the year. :o)

Really Big Trophies

While the majority of the success stemmed from the individual efforts each person has exerted over the past months in their own training, I also believe that a part of that success may also be attributed to the amazing support that was out there on Sunday (and Saturday too at Cupid's Cup!). The list of people who came just to watch was extensive: Théoden Janes, Chris Jones, Todd Mayes, Garrett Bullock, Lauren Robbins, the Hadley family, Terri Nunn, Kathy Seavers, and there were probably even more people that I didn't know their names! Clearly, what we've got going on in the Charlotte Running community is just amazing. Every person is so supportive, encouraging, and enthusiastic about everyone else's success that it feels like we all make up a very large family.


mrn said...

way to kick ass! see you tomorrow!

Kelly said...

congrats on an absolutely amazing race! wow, you dominated! i love your blog!


Aaron Linz said...

more money, more money more money! On the road to riches! Congrats!

maryanne said...

Wow - I am so glad I stayed up to read this. Your analogy of a first race of the training season to a first date is a unique perspective. I cannot wait to be pat of this excitement when you run under dc's cherry blossoms! Love you, caitliner - mom

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