Thursday, March 13, 2014

Explore Your Limits 10k

I had not planned to run in the Mountain Junkies’ Explore Your Limits this year. I had already picked out a handful of races that I was going to run the first few months of 2014. I have really enjoyed running at the Explore Park, but I just need to limit myself on paying too many race entry fees. After sitting down in January to decide what races I wanted to enter this year, I came up with a list of 5 races I definitely wanted to take part in during the first half of the year.

 This list consisted of the Montvale 10 Miler, the Mill Mountain 10k, the BlueRidge Half-Marathon, the D-Day Memorial 5k, and the 25k at Carvin’sCove. The Mill Mountain race would be the only repeat (including distance) from last year. I would be trying the 10 mile course in the Montvale race, as opposed to the 5 mile race that I had run for the past two years. The last three races listed above would be brand new to me. These include a 5k around the D-Day Memorial in Bedford, in which I have very strong family ties. I would also be taking part in the most difficult half-marathon course I will have ever run and my first race longer than a half-marathon (on a trail too).

So, needless to say my plans for the first half of the year were going to keep me very busy. But was the Explore Your Limits race was getting closer, I had a strong desire to take part in the race again. So, with just a few days till the race, I broke down and registered. With the Montvale 10 mile race coming soon, I knew I needed to spend Saturday morning getting a good trail run in. So I figured that there would be no better way doing it that with a few hundred Mountain Junkies!

After reviewing my race recap from last year’s Explore Your Limits race, I remembered how I had got to race too early and ended up sitting in my car for 30 minutes trying to stay warm. So, I decided that I didn’t need to leave the house until around 8am, in order to get to the race and get my packet. In order to get out the door then, I knew I needed to get up between 7:00am to 7:30am. So I went to bed knowing that I had to get up before 7:30am, to make sure I had time to eat and pack my bag. What happened next was crazy.
The boys came into our bedroom and woke us up. I glanced at the clock and saw the “20” in the minute’s section. Of course, I was too tired to pay much attention to the “hour” reading. I guess I assumed it was 7:30am, so I stumbled out of bed and went to the kitchen, while the boys climbed into our bed to snuggle with Mommy. I made my pre-race cup of coffee, bowl of oatmeal, and grabbed a banana. Then I sat down in front of the computer at the kitchen table and enjoyed my breakfast and coffee. After a few minutes of browsing Facebook and eating my breakfast, it was time hop in the shower.

As I went back in our bedroom, Anna said, “What are you doing?” I said, “I’m getting in the shower.” Then she said, “It is 3:30 in the morning!” What!? In my sleepy stupor, I failed to realize it was 3:20am and not 7:20am. This was not my brightest moment. Anna asked why I didn’t realize the sun was not up yet. So, after eating breakfast and drinking the majority of a cup of coffee, I had to lie back down in bed and try to sleep for a few more hours. Luckily, I feel back to sleep very quickly. The next time I woke up, I was sure to check entire time on the alarm clock!

I woke up again, ate another bowl of oatmeal, drank another cup of coffee, browsed Facebook again, and hopped the shower (talk about Deja vu). As planned, I made it out the door by 8am and to the park by 8:30am. There was plenty of time to get my packet, pin my number, and take a short warm-up run. It was very chilly on this March morning. The temperatures were going to be below freezing up until race time. So, standing around waiting on the race to start was not too much fun. But after a short wait, we were off running.

After having run my best 10k time last year at this race, I told myself that I was not trying to beat any personal records. I went into the race with the game plan of running a comfortable race. After dealing with a couple injuries the past few months, I just wanted an uneventful race. Even more important, I didn’t want to be dealing with any extra pain for days after the race. So, with this in mind I told myself that I was not going to look at my time once during the race. I would hear my watch beep for the mile markers, but I was not going to peak at my time or pace.

The first mile of the race is mostly on a wide gravel path and the majority is downhill. It is very easy to fast and pay for it later in the race. I made myself start very slowly. As much as I hate having a bunch of people fly past me, I just ignored them. I even enjoyed the views of the Roanoke River as we ran adjacent to the river on the lowest section of the course.

By the time we made it to the single track, most of the faster runners were well out in front of me. This gave me the ability to take my own pace without feeling like I was holding up everyone behind me. As we started a section of incline, my side started hurting a little bit again. This is something I have been dealing with for the past few months. The doctor believes that is scar tissue from my surgery last year. I wouldn’t say it is painful. It is more of a nagging issue and it feels like someone is just sticking their knuckle right below your rib cage.
I had recently read an article in Runners World about side stitches. Since my pain is very similar to side stiches, I decided to try one of their recommended tips for dealing with this type of pain. They suggested that you exhale at the same time your opposite foot strikes the ground. I started concentrating a lot on my breathing and it seemed to help. I don’t know if it was just taking my mind off the pain or if it was actually helping relieve the pain. Either way, I was able to make it through the next couple of miles pretty comfortably.

The worst part of this course is that the 10k runners actually share the same first 5k as the 5k runners. So the 10k runners get to see the finish line, only to have to dive back in the trails for another 5k. It was sort of nice to know that I had made it to “halftime” very little discomfort. I finished the next couple of miles at an easy pace and I started to think about what my actual finishing time was going to be. After my 53:38 finishing time last year, I figured with my slower pace I was probably going to be well over an hour. I expected to see an hour and twenty minutes on the clock as I approached the finish line. So you can imagine my surprise when I turned the last corner and saw 58 minutes on the clock.

I came through the finish line with a time of 59:11. I was very happy with this time because I had run my own race at my own pace. I felt reasonable good for just having run 6.2 miles through the woods. I am very glad I decided to run this race at the last minute. It was a beautiful morning to be running through the woods with a bunch of other people. Sometimes it is nice to not being running by myself on the trails. As always, the Josh, Gina, and all of their volunteers put on a great race. I had some good food and enjoyed visiting with some friends after the race, even though I didn’t win any door prizes! I look forward to doing it all over again in a few weeks on my home turf! Until next time, keep on runnin’!