13th Annual Just a Short Run

Last Saturday, I participated in the 13th Annual Just a Short Run 30k on the 30th day of the 3rd month of the 2013th year, 13 days after I turned 30. COULD THERE BE ANY MORE THREES. Maybe, but I’m not going to make the effort to find any.

I decided to run this race again back in January, after my training plan outlined a 20 mile run for that day. 30k is approximately 18.6 miles, so I figured I would run the extra mile and a half before the race to warm up. Besides, I know myself. If I run an 18.6 mile race, there’s no way I’m going to skip the snack line at the finish line to run for another 15 minutes. THEY HAVE COOKIES.

Last year, this race kicked my ass. I decided that I was up for a rematch, especially since I had trained so poorly last year – not for this race in particular, but all around. I’ve learned a hell of a lot this cycle, but this is not to say I’ve been the perfect runner. I’ve skipped runs when I wasn’t sick, eaten many a burrito bowl, and not cross-trained like I should have. However, I’m running better than I ever have, so I know I’m doing something right.

The week leading up to the race was one of my bad weeks – I skipped every single workout I had scheduled. At first, when I skipped my track workout on Tuesday, I told myself I was still recovering from the hills of the Marine Corps 17.75k. Wednesday night I was tired, so I didn’t go to spin. Then I talked myself out of Thursday’s run because it was windy. Yep. Windy.

So, there I was, going into a 20 mile run with a full week of rest in front of it. I’m not sure that it was the best idea, but to be honest, I didn’t feel that nervous about the run. This is strange, because in case you didn’t know, 20 miles is really far when you have nothing to propel you except your own feet. Why wasn’t I worried?

I figured I would be a nervous wreck the morning of the race, so I went about my Friday as usual. Electrolyte-enhanced water all day, extra carbs for breakfast and lunch, and then a truly epic bowl of carbs for dinner. And then a giant bowl of cereal after that.

Carb day is my favorite day!

Carb day is my favorite day!

I prepared all of my race gear, laid out my clothes, and packed up my car. Now all I had to do was sleep. I had gotten magnificent sleep Thursday night, so I figured I would sleep terribly Friday night. Fortunately this was not the case, but I did have to leave the house earlier than usual. See, I needed to be able to secure rockstar parking, because remember the last time I parked at North Park?

In order to park where I wanted to, I needed to leave home at 6am… for an 8:30 start. Wheee! However, it was worth it. I was able to secure a good parking space that was along the race course – in fact, it was basically the same one I had last year. This way I could wear some decent gloves and be able to ditch them onto my car instead of throwing them away somewhere along the course. Plus if I was having trouble, I would be able to stop at my car and get whatever I needed.

I was parked by 7am and put on my giant fluffy winter coat to walk the quarter mile to the start/finish area. Despite my awesome parking, I wanted to leave a bag at the drop tent so I could put on dry clothes immediately after finishing. The weather was freezing at the start, but promised to quickly warm up. It turned out to be a perfect cloudless day, although I would have preferred a few clouds because I forgot that I have to wear sunscreen. Yep, I got burned. In March.

I hit the bathroom before returning to my car, and then prepared everything I would need. I situated my fuel belt with gels, my phone, and key. I put on arm warmers and gloves and headed out to wait in what I assumed would now be an epic bathroom line. My plan was to meet up with my fellow Steel City Road Runners for a pre-race group picture at 8, and then run my 1.4 miles to warm up before the race.

Of course the bathroom line was more epic than I imagined, and I watched the time tick by as I waited and waited. I finally made it through, took care of business, and basically sprinted to our meeting spot. Of course I had time to spare as we were waiting for some other people, but I wish I had realized that there was a porta-potty right near our meetup. I would have saved myself some stress.

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After our photo-op, I hurried off to finish my warmup before the starting gun fired. I ended up running too fast (shocker) but I was eager to get to the start line to meet up with a few people. Shannon, Keith, Lori and I planned to run the race together. I was excited to have people to run with again – in fact, I’m now actually finding myself anxious about running longer distances alone.

Our plan was to try to maintain an 11:00/mile pace, which of course went out the window almost immediately. The excitement, the chill in the air, and the huge crush of runners encouraged us to run quicker. However, about a mile into the race, we faced our biggest hill and slowed down appropriately. I always have to remind myself that effort is more important than pace when climbing hills. Keep the effort even, and the pace will even out later. Besides, what goes up must come down (usually) so there’s almost always a chance to make up the lost time later.

The 30k event begins with a 3.6 mile loop around the roads by Marshall Lake before returning to the boat house parking lot, at which point you have three North Park Lake loops to run. Hooray, only three laps! The laps were run clockwise, which I find to be slightly more difficult than running counter-clockwise.

I had removed my arm warmers during that first challenging hill and tucked them into my fuel belt, but I didn’t want to worry about losing them for the next 15 miles. With my convenient parking space, I was able to make a lucky toss of arm warmers and gloves, which landed right on my windshield. No time lost. Bonus! There was also no wind, so I didn’t worry about them blowing away.

We finished our first 3.6 miles in 39:17. Last year, it took me 43:26. Yay, improvement! The first lake loop was also our fastest, and we realized that we had better save up a little something for the last lap. At the end of the first lap, Shannon stopped for a porta-potty break and said she would catch up to us. At this point, Keith and Lori had pulled ahead, and I was running alone. I kept looking over my shoulder, looking for Shannon’s bright blue shirt, but I never saw it. I worried that she might have been sick or injured when she stopped, and didn’t let on. I chastised myself for not running slower to wait.

I really struggled with the second lap. I think a lot of it was being alone, but my legs were starting to fatigue. Particularly, my IT bands – something I notice a lot when running North Park. A friend mentioned that he thinks it’s the camber of the running path along the lake, and I agree. You’re basically running sideways on a hill for miles at a time. Eventually, you’re going to feel it.

With about a half mile left in my second lap, I heard someone call my name behind me. It was Shannon! She had run this lap impressively fast, trying to catch up with us. It turned out there was someone in the porta-potty who took quite awhile, and she had the internal argument we all have: wait them out, since you’re there, or push forward while feeling uncomfortable?

My spirits were lifted, but my body was still pretty achy. Lori must have been feeling the same way, because we caught up to her within about a half mile. Keith was long gone at that point, so we all decided to finish the third lap together. When we reached approximately the 14 1/2 mile point, I had to ask the girls if they minded stopping to walk with me. I was extremely disappointed in myself, but had to remind myself of the momentousness of what had happened: I had run fourteen and a half miles, without stopping. I had run the distance in the past, but always with walking breaks or just plain stopping interspersed throughout. It was a big moment, but I didn’t truly appreciate it because I was feeling so negative.

After this point, we run-walked the rest of the lap. Running mostly, and walking through and after aid stations. I had my hydration pack with me, but it was becoming hotter as the time went by, and I was losing a lot of salt. I began taking fluid at the aid stations, both water and gatorade.

Soon we could hear the finish line festivities, and realized we were a mile from crossing that line. We ran the last mile, steadily increasing our pace until we finished. It was so great crossing the finish like together!

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Let’s look at 2012 vs. 2013, shall we?

Laps

2012

2013

3.6 miles

43:26

39:17

5 miles

1:05:42

53:47

5 miles

1:07:32

55:47

5 miles

1:17:06

1:00:58

FINISH

4:13:46

3:29:47

In case you can’t math, I will do it for you. That’s a PR of 43:59. FORTY THREE MINUTES AND FIFTY NINE SECONDS. Look at what happens when you train properly! (And not run a 50k two weeks prior.)

We did it!

We did it!

My 20 mile (actually 20.2 miles) time was 3:44:04, which is definitely also a PR. Despite my disappointment in walking during the last lap, it was a huge accomplishment, and I’m pretty proud of myself. I know I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my running buddies – they made it so much easier to push through. The best news: I don’t have to run the lake loop again until I decide to sign up for another North Park race!

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One Response to 13th Annual Just a Short Run

  1. Rachel says:

    Holy speedballs!! You are a beast! So impressed.

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