Thursday, February 13, 2014

Massacre Marathon Relay

Running, spending time with friends, and dressing up in festive attire are all high on my list of favorite things to do, so it's no surprise that I'm a huge fan of relays.  Fortunately my friends are like-minded, and were on board with ordering the somewhat-overpriced-but-totally-worth-it holiday sweater tech shirts, so we felt confident in (at the very least) being the best dressed team out there!

Speed-wise, I wasn't really sure what I could expect of myself.  I threw a faster-than-jogging mile and some 400s into a run on Wednesday to test out the knee, and thankfully had no pain, but hadn't done any speed work or tempo running since my injury in December so even those short efforts felt incredibly hard.  I do think the cycling has helped me avoid getting completely out of shape, but I'm definitely lacking running fitness and had no idea how the 1.6 mile intervals would go.

Fortunately, I have very fast teammates, so I figured they'd give me a big lead and I wouldn't have to worry about it too much.  Last year we were edged out by four cross country girls, who, thanks to their homemade shirts, we referred to as the Puffy Paints.  Sure enough, the puffy paints were back, and we were determined to take them down this year.  Allie started us off with leg 1, which is a little longer than the others at just over 2 miles (to get the total to an even 26.2), and to my surprise, puffy paint #1 came in a few seconds ahead of her.  Allie is crazy fast, so that was not a good sign, and I hoped that, like us, they'd put their speediest woman first.  Caren ran leg 2, and kept even with her puffy paint girl, so I started leg 3 a few seconds behind.  As expected, they'd put their slowest runner in 3rd position as well, and to my pleasant surprise, I found that I was actually running faster than she was!  The first part of the course includes a relatively big uphill, some flats, and then another uphill section.  The great part about the course layout is that the corresponding downhill is at the end of the loop, so you can see the finish as you come out of the woods it's all downhill from there.  I was happy to hand off to Ellen showing an average pace under 7 on my watch, and even happier to have put a few seconds on the puffy paints.  

The remaining laps went by in similar fashion, with Allie, Caren, and Ellen pretty evenly paired with the fast xc girls and blasting laps at near 6-minute pace.  Though I was by far the slowest runner on our team, I was able to put additional time on Puffy Paint #3, who was finishing each lap in about 12 minutes while I kept it close to 11.  By lap 3, I felt that our lead was safe, but was inspired by my super fast teammates to not slack off too much, and was thrilled to average under 7 minute miles for all 4 laps.  Happily, redemption was ours, and we finished as the first women's team (5th overall) in 2:48:33. 


Overall, I was really pleased with how the race went.  I didn't think I'd be able to run sub-7 but my body is responding to returning to running pretty well.  I am not where I had hoped to be and have a lot of work to do, but the last couple of weeks have me feeling pretty optimistic.  When we did this race last year, I had a lot going on and was preparing to fly home to visit my mom in the hospital, so it was a very emotional time and I didn't really race well, but I decided to compare this year's splits to 2013.  While I expected this year to be quite a bit slower, my splits for laps 1 and 3 were actually exactly the same, and 2 and 4 were faster this year!  I'm definitely taking that as reason to be optimistic, and hope that all is not lost for my spring racing season after all!

2014 Splits
Lap 1: 10:55 (6:49; 2013: 10:55)
Lap 2: 10:48 (6:45; 2013: 10:57)
Lap 3: 11:02 (6:54; 2013: 11:02)
Lap 4: 11:06 (6:56; 2013: 11:17)

Big thanks to my awesome friends/teammates for being supportive and encouraging through everything! 

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