The subtitle of this post henceforth shall be "delayed on-set muscle soreness sucks: what happens when you are not in shape and try to run fast even though you are really a 9-year-old girl" or in short, my first race of 2011.
Luckily, I had a teammate for this one. Cap'n Kirk and I drove to Redding Saturday night in time to meet his ladyfriend (who's waaaaaaay too good lookin' for him) and her Mom at Olive Garden for a good pre-race meal. We were running the Redding Marathon Relay the following morning. This may be the only race I've run three of the last four years, but it's just run so well and it's a cool course. I ran the marathon as a practice run for Napa in 2008, and even though I went out easy, I didn't drink enough and still hit the wall at mile 21. I skipped 2009 due to injury, but ran the first two legs of the relay (19.5 miles, with Dave doing the last) in 2010. An always cool, well-run race had me planning on coming back for the 5k, but late last year Kirk and I decided the relay would be more fun. After that, 2010 took a long walk off a short pier. For me anyway. I was struggling to run 30 seconds per mile slower than in May/June, and that was before I got the flu the last week of the year, and a nice recurence of last year's knee pain. That little bug pretty much sapped all the little gains I'd had over the previuos 12 weeks and had me running worse than I was in the early fall, right after a 12 week break.
This affected nothing but the pace I thought I'd be able to run. When in top shape, I think sub-60 would be the goal on this course, maybe a 58-59. I had hoped to be in the 64 minute range before the flu hit. Now? I had no idea. I'd tried but hadn't been able to hold 6 minute pace for very long in training, and hadn't been able to do anywhere near 11 miles either. I was feeling a little better as race day neared, but had no mental-boosting workout to fall back on. We soaked in the Holiday Inn hot-tub after Olive Garden, and I slept pretty darn good, especially for me. The beds were comfy enough that I wanted to curse at the alarm when it went off at 6:00. Kirk got his waffle at the hotel restaurant, and thanks to the ever-accurate directions given to us by the ass-clowns at googlemaps, we almost missed my shuttle to the start at the Shasta Dam.
As opposed to last year, when we started in the dark, fog, and rain, the sun was out and the skies clear when the gun went off at 8:00, and the weather was near perfect. I'd shared with Kirk the night before that one of two things would happen...I'd go out aggressive on the downhill start (3 of the first 3.5 miles) and die a horrible death later, or be a pansy and let people go right from the gun. As it was, only one guy took off like a bat outta hell, and he was a marathoner, not a relay runner. As Kirk noted on his blog, this guy would pay dearly for his breakneck pace later, as he had to stop en route more than once and would not finish anywhere near the leaders. Heck, I hit the first downhill mile in 5:25, which made my sphinchter do a little moonwalk up into my colon when I saw the watch, but I pressed on. That was easily my fastest mile. "Breakneck" as I'll call him, must have been 5:15 on that first mile, and would be just under a minute ahead of me by the time I got to Kirk at mile 11. I'd bank about 99 seconds under 6:00 pace by mile 4, but had a cramp by then and proceeded to chip away at that 99 seconds each mile between 4-10, hitting 60:11 at mile 10, & having slowed to 6:20-6:25 for each mile between 7-10. I ran around 6 flat pace for the last mile, and sped up when I noticed I was being reeled in from behind. I got to the exchange (just shy of 11 miles) right as the watch turned to 66:00 and Kirk took off.
I knew his first couple miles would be the toughest. They did pave the 12-13 miles of all legs that were trail, but hills are still hills. However, he got to the second exchange, where we were waiting with cowbells, in 1:57 and change. I had just said anything under 2 hours and we're golden when he came flying around the corner and into sight. A little quick math in the head told me he'd kept the pace juuuust over 6 minutes per over the hardest part of the course! If he hadn't expended too much to do so, our time would exceed our goal by several minutes. I ran with him for a minute or two, and he sure didn't seem to be slowing. We drove to the bridge and waited. At 2:30, I trotted across the bridge to see him and ran with him for a little out and back section, with cowbell in hand. We didn't know how long this section was, or at least I didn't, but when we made the turn, it became clear we'd easily be in the 2:30's, and we sped up to the finish.
2:37:39 at the line gave us the same 6:01 pace we'd been at since mile 10...the only difference was I ran 11 miles of downhill, flat, and a touch of rolling at that pace. Kirk ran 15.2 miles with a couple miles of actual hills at that pace! Way to go buddy!!! You're making me look good, though I am releived I exceeded my 9-year-old girl expectations. We ended up chopping 9 minutes off the relay record, were 8 minutes ahead of the first marathoner and 13 minutes in front of the #2 relay team.
As I eluded to in the title, I'm more than a tad sore today (and yesterday...probably tomorrow too), more like after a full marathon, or playing football without pads, but I'll deal with it. This was the best run I've had since I've been sick, but I've still got a lot of work to do, so hopefully I can start to build a little momentum. Lots of fun races coming, and I'd prefer not to get slaughtered.
Pictures coming soon.