My alarm went off at 6:45am so technically, I "slept in" and it felt great. I am a big fan of sleeping(napper, not so much) so for me I need a good 8 hrs of sleep to wake up rested. Although my sleep is rarely continuous with 2 cats that insist on eating throughout the night and a dog who loves to cuddle under the covers, but somehow, I seem to wake up rested on a daily basis.
I had a restful night of rest in my Zoot compression tights and I was looking forward to the Twilight 5K run in and out of downtown Athens. I did the run last year and had a personal best time of 21 minutes and 6 seconds and for the past few years I have always wanted to run 20 minutes for a 5K. Although I do not consider myself a sprinter, I have worked really hard over the past 8 months (since IMKY) to work on my speed for shorter distances, as I progress into longer distances. I figure I can't run fast long distance until my body becomes more efficient running fast at shorter distances. Although it has been a slow off-season and build season, my patience and quality training is slowly starting to pay off. I remember the time, not too long ago in Dec. when running 6 miles at 8 min/mile pace was difficult. However, through a slow progression of intervals, tempo and long runs (in addition to swimming and biking) 6 miles at 8 min/mile pace turned into 9 miles at 7:55 min/mile pace and now I am running 14-15 miles at 7:45-7:50 min/mile pace. I am hoping to keep myself injury-free by sticking to my strategy of intervals during the week and steady long distance runs on the weekend until June 5th (Macon GA Rock n' Roll Halfman)...then it is time to train for IMWI!
Anyways, after coffee,water and a mini snack of cinnamon raisin bread from the Days Inn breakfast w/ a little Skippy Natural PB (PB and nuts go with me whenever I travel 'cause I gotta have some type of healthy fat or else I am hungry 24/7) at 7am it was time to get ready for the race.
The forecast for Sat was rain, rain and more rain. Oh yeah, mix in a little thunder and storms for one exciting day in Athens. I won't discuss the face that Karel's 9:30pm Twilight crit is hard enough on dry roads.....
Luckily, there was a brief period of no rain as I walked up to the race start (.5 miles away from the hotel) but as soon as I stood at the starting line with several hundred other runners, the clouds opened up and down came the rain.
If you participant in athletic events, I agree that it is really easy to complain about the weather. However, having trained and raced in the rain, cold, wind and blistering sun, I have learned over the years that it is a waste of energy to complain about the uncontrollables. There was absolutely no complaining by Karel and me before Sat (and on Sat) even though I compulsively checked the weather on an hourly basis....just in case the weather changed from horrible to wonderful. It was a shame about the ugly and unfortunate weather conditions for such a big and important race but it is what it is and if the weather sucks, we were just going to suck it up and go with it. If anything, we tried to make light of it and laugh it off as much as possible.
The horn went off for the race and I started my garmin. The course is rolling from 2K until 4K and if you aren't running up a hill you are running down. The course is really fast but the hills are not very generous on your quads or calves.
The first mile went by fast and I was feeling good to go for sub 21 minutes. Based on my last few races, I felt I had it in me to hold sub 7 min/miles for 3.1 miles.
Just before mile 2, after a huge downhill and uphill, a pile of bricks landed on my shoulders and I began to run in quicksand...or so it felt like it.
My breathing was under control and I had plenty of energy but wow was my body ready to sloooooowwww down. As I approached the turn which was followed by Mile marker 2, a volunteer was yelling out times. When he said "12 minutes, x-seconds" I got a sudden boost of energy before looking at my Garmin.
I picked up the pace as much as I could and with my non-sprinting legs, I guess you could say that I sprinted the last mile. Once again, there were a few more rollers but I was determined to get a best time.
When I made the last right turn in downtown, I could see the finish line and the clock which did not read 20 minutes....
Instead, it was reading 19 minutes!!! I ran as fast as my 5 foot frame would let me run under 20 minutes and you better believe I was painfully smiling when I crossed the finish line.
19:54 (Best time by 1 minute and 12 sec!)
Average pace: 6:31 min/mile
Mile 1: 6:35
Mile 2: 6:22
Mile 3: 6:38
last .1 mile was 5:44 pace (OUCH)
I couldn't wait to get back to the room to tell Karel so after I found out I won my age group (wasn't shooting for anything but a best time but I will take it!) I sloooooowly jogged back to the hotel...in the rain.
Did I mention that it was pouring rain during our run?
Karel was super excited for me and he was very impressed with my "speed".
I decided to pass on the 100K ride after the run because I was in no mood to ride hills in the rain. Since I was already wet I decided to do my "long" run (which I left up to my legs as to how long I would actually run) around the morning race course.
I headed 2.5 miles down to the cycling crit course where groups of riders (in categories) were racing for a few dozen slots for the amateur final race at 5:30 (before the Main events which include the Women Pro race at 8pm and then Men's race at 9pm). Several of the guys do this crit as a "warm-up" race for the night race but I would say the majority of the riders actually race the race so that they can participate in amateur finals in the evening (by placing top 10 or 15 in their category).
Karel, Curtis and Ralph all did the morning race. Curtis and Ralph did the 35+ (age group) race and Ralph placed 7th, qualifying him for amateur finals. Since Karel is not "old enough" to do the 35+ race (hehe - Karel is 34 years old) he did the Pro 1,2 race "for fun".
I ran around the race course as Karel warmed up and had a great time running up and down some hills. Although slow running was all I had in mind, it was nice to push it up the hills. My legs were a bit sore from the morning so with my "fun" training run, I took a few stops every few miles to watch the race. After my run I took a shower, mixed together some whey protein and milk, mixed in some of my homemade granola and headed to watch Karel's race.
Stats from my run:
1 hour and 13 minutes
8:39 min/mile pace
Total miles for the day: 11.5 miles (+ 1 mile to get to and from the 5K race)
I wore my compression shorts during Karel's race at 12;45 pm but my legs were ready for some rest. However, this weekend was all in fun as our "vacation" and I always take time to remind myself how amazing the human body can be when we don't even ask it to do amazing things. I had been non-stop since my 5K that morning but didn't even miss a beat of the day in an effort to support Karel and watch him have a little fun at this morning race. He was super nervous for the night crit so it was enjoyable to watch him out there making it look super easy...considering that there would be nothing easy about the night race with the Top Pro teams racing for $120,000...in the rain!
Finally, after several small snacks throughout the day it was time for some lunch and finally by 3pm it was time to rest our tired legs.
Karel took a nap as I worked on some nutrition stuff on the computer and through the on and off storms/rain we just watched the clock tick on by....
Due to my top 15 finish at the morning 5K, I qualified to run in the $1000 mile at 7:30pm.
Last year I qualified but had to business running with college and HS runners who run sub 5:30 min/miles. This year I once again opted out of the $1000 1 mile race ($1000 pay out for top 5 men and women) which is held on Karel's night race course in downtown Athens....that is, until I saw Karel's teammate Curtis on the morning race course during my long run.
I told him about my race and that I qualified to run in the evening on their very difficult course (you would never guess it but there are several inclines and declines on the 1K course). He told me I should do it but I just laughed and said there is no way I am "sprinting" a mile and coming in last place. Plus, I had just ran all those miles with my PR and I was done for the day.
The deciding moment....
"Marni" says Curtis "Karel punished himself for 9 minutes on the computrainer last night I think it's your turn to make it hurt for 6 minutes"
Well, thanks to Curtis, I decided to embarrass myself and run the mile with thousands of people watching me come in last place.
To make the story short, my legs were toasted and the run started on the bottom of a steady incline. Let's just say I got dropped before the gun went off. The guys were aiming for sub 4:30 and the girls sub 5:30...haha, I'd be lucky if I could run sub 6:30!!
I nearly quit at the top of the hill before the first turn of the 1 1/2 loop course and within 5 sec. away from quitting, I hear my name from Karel's coach Shawn and our friend Saswata. I kept on running and after the second turn (still running alone with no one in sight) I hear my name again. Although it was a painful 1 mile, I just smiled the whole way (in the rain, once again) with my Czech Republic shirt (just for Karel) thinking to myself that this is a great experience and lesson for future races. As crazy as it sounds, no matter how "fast" you think you are, it takes a lot to actually participate in a race when you know 100% that you will come in last place. Although I was nearly 30 sec. behind the other girls I did feel kinda cool running on the course and being one of the top 15 finishers.
With my first mile for time...I ran a 6:03 mile for my last mile of the day (I think that makes it 13.5 miles for the day) it felt really neat to run on the Athens Twilight course in front of thousands of spectators.