Wednesday, December 7, 2011

VIRR Turkey Trot Race Report - 16 miler

Sometimes it's best if you don't know the race course in advance...

For most races, I haunt the website, review the race course and decide on a plan of action well before race day.  I like to run portions (if not all) of the course prior to race day so that I have a strategy and can be mentally prepared for the tough spots.  I like to look at the previous year's race results, check times for my AG, and think about where I might end up in the standings.  I'm sure a lot of athletes do this.  At least the Type-A athletes do, even if they know they aren't going to place in the top (that would be me, chaser of the FOPs (Front-of-Pack'rs).

This race was going to be a little different.  It was my first time entering.  It was a fun run.  It was FREE.  It fit fabulously into my training schedule and took the place of my long run for the week.  IT WAS FREE!

The course map was not posted until a couple of days before the race.  I've run races with VIRR from Rice Park (the start), so I assumed it would probably be an out-and-back to Grandma's, with two loops to get to the 16 miles (they also had an 8.4 and a 2.6 mile run that day).  When I finally glanced at the posted course map, I did not zoom in, and I assumed it would be down Kula Highway, then back up Lower Kula Road.  OK...different, but extremely do-able.  Then I got the surprise.

A group of us were standing around at check-in and I overheard someone say, "It's the same course as last year."  So I told him this was my first time and asked "what, really, is the course?"  Turns out the "down Kula Highway" part was right, but then we turned right at the high school and ran UP AND AROUND Kekaulike Hwy.  Oh, s%@t!  This is an approximate 2,000 ft elevation gain.  It is an uphill run from about Mile 7 to about Mile 13.  (FYI - I chickened out and didn't sign up for a 10K in May of this year because it was primarily THIS section of the course - billed as a "one hill" race.  Ha Ha!  The entire race is that one hill.)

But the race was FREE.  And my training was going well.  And I completely rescheduled my training plan for the long run on Thanksgiving.  And I was there.  What the hell?  It would be fun, right?

Standard pre-race smoothie at 4:30 a.m.  Race started at 7:00. FYI - I've pretty much decided that the 2-hour window is too short.  It leaves me feeling a bit sloshy.  Next time I will get up earlier and drink the smoothie prepared the night before, then go back to bed for a little more snooze.  It works!

Warm Up/Race Prep
Ha ha!  It was 53 freaking degrees at the race start!  That is downright COLD for us Maui folks.  I kept my sweatshirt on, did a little light jogging to stay warm.

After hearing about the real race course, I added 10 minutes to my "guessed" time.  Those who come closest to their guess can win a prize (no watches, garmins allowed).  I originally planned to go for 3:00, but added 10 minutes for the serious climbing.  (I was going to wear my Garmin as this was supposed to be a training run for me and I wanted to watch pace, heart rate, etc., but one of the long-time runners cajoled me into leaving it in the truck.)

We also found out at check-in that there were no "official" aid stations on the course, but that someone was going to leave water at about Mile 6 and Mile 12.  Although I had my Nathan carrier with my bottle of Heed and two Hammer gels, I decided to grab an extra water bottle from my truck just in case there was no water.

Off came the sweatshirt, but I wore my new YMX Yellowman long-sleeve dragon shirt underneath (more about that in a later post).

There were 24 of us in the 16-mile group.  The ultra-runners (one only clad in black running shorts and shoes) took off and never looked back.  I ended up with a group of about 4-5 runners at the tail end of the pack, but I was OK with that.  This was supposed to be a long training run, not a race, and I was perfectly content to let everyone else take off.  I figured this would be a good way to practice pacing and see if the rumors were true: that I would eventually pass some of the runners who took off too fast and paid for it at the end.

The first 6 miles were mostly on a gradual downgrade, a pleasant way to warm up.  Several of us chatted as we ran along.  I felt good and even though I felt I could pick up the pace, I tried to stay slow.  This is where I sort of missed my Garmin, but I realized it was probably very good for me to run by feel for a change.  Mentally I felt good because I wasn't DFL in the pack, which is a driver for me, for better or for worse.

We made the turn at the high school and started the climb.  There was no water at the first "drop" but I was OK - I popped my first gel as planned and finished the bottle I was carrying.  We began the ascent, and this is where some runners started dropping off in pace.  I was still feeling good and elated that I felt so the tougher sections I reminded myself that it was OK to walk portions.  My pace slowed and I walked what I thought was quite a bit, but I still felt good and strong and ran as often as I could.  I enjoyed the beauty of the day, the fact that I was out running sixteen miles (which still amazes me - it was the longest distance I have ever run in my life!), and kept a positive mindset.  I even stopped to take a couple of pics:

A friend of mine says I look like I was hitchhiking in this photo!
I thought I knew the stretch of highway fairly well as I've driven it many times, and I got excited when I saw the houses just before Kula Lodge because I thought I was near the top.  I wasn't and it was still quite a ways to the Haleakala Crater turn-off where the second water drop was.  When I got there I was glad so see there were still plenty of bottles because I'd burned up my HEED on the climb.  I took a quick break, took my second gel and topped off my water bottle so I wouldn't have to carry another, and took off.

After this stop my legs protested a bit.  There was still a bit of climbing left to do and I got back to it.  This is when I noticed that I was getting a blister under the base of my big toe (at the top of the ball of my foot).  I stopped to adjust my sock, which was bunching a little in that area, and took off.  Side Note:  I noticed that I am getting more blisters as my runs get longer. I thought my feet would toughen and callus up, but they aren't.  For this race I wrapped my 4th toes with bandaids to avoid the nasty blisters I got in the Harbor-to-Harbor, and really rubbed my feet up with Body Glide.  I wore socks with my Mizunos.  Mostly a winning combination.  I still have several long runs to test shoe/sock/no-sock combinations before race day.

I caught a few more runners in this last climbing section, then the glorious downhill began!!

About Mile 12-13 my quads started getting cranky with me, but I told myself the same thing I told myself at Mile 10 in the 1/2 marathon: as long as the pain doesn't get any worse, I am fine.  I can run with this.  I can deal with this.  I still felt strong, and if I hadn't had the blister really yelling at me at this point, I could have even picked up the pace a little bit.

Soon I saw the intersection at the highway and made my turn for the home stretch.  As I came up the last little hill before the finish, I saw my family on the sidelines cheering me on.  It was awesome!  I left them all, still sleeping, that morning (I had told them the night before that I would finish at around 10:00 IF they wanted to meet me at the finish line).  It was great!

I finished in 2:59:58!  If I wouldn't have added that last 10 minutes, I would have only been 2 seconds off my time and would have probably won a prize.  I can't believe how consistent my pace is, even without the Garmin to check.  And that was despite that crazy incline!

My uncle said he couldn't believe I wasn't even breathing hard at the end and I looked as if I barely broke a sweat. 

I am very pleased with this race and the results. It did wonders for my self confidence - I know I can tackle just about anything with good, consistent training.

Can't wait to see what happens next year!