Thursday, March 31, 2011

Women's History Month 5K, Osan Air Base, South Korea

      I have been dying to take another crack at a 5K PR so I was very happy when it sounded like we were going to have a 5K on base that was a little more organized than the usual fun run. My goal is to break 25 minutes and I've come close, but just haven't quite pulled it off.
       The weather was absolutely perfect! Warm sun and cool breeze with temps in the upper 50's that might even have crossed into the 60's, GLORIOUS! I knew there would be a lot of people at this race (for a base run) so I picked out an obnoxious hot pink tu-tu to go with my black compression shorts and tank, and a matching pink anklet, you know, so my feet didn't look so naked :-) When I pulled out of the driveway to head to base, I turned on the radio and AFN was playing Eye of the Tiger, talk about a good omen!!
       My dog, daughter, and I got to the race start really early. I was flying on caffeine and carbs and could barely stand still to sign in. We milled about chatting with people and spotted several people wearing Vibram Five Fingers. About a half hour before the start I took off for a warm up run with my dog. I'm used to the stares, cars slowing down to look, and grimaces from people when they spot my bare feet, but the tu-tu and standard poodle added a whole new dimention. I'm pretty sure they figured I had escaped from the psyche ward.
       After a nice 1.5 miles, in which I had to constantly remind myself to slow down, I returned to the race start, handed the dog off to my daughter and reset my Garmin. The Wing Commander gave a nice speech and then asked the serious runners who were really going for a time to raise their hands. Out of over 100 people, there were maybe 10 of us so we were sent to the front of the start line. I had the distinct feeling that I was going to be face down in the road with 100 foot prints up my back because lined up behind me were about 100 young military guys who may not be "seriously running for a time" but could still run circles around me.
       Needless to say, I took off way too fast. I kept glancing at my Garmin thinking something must be wrong with it. Granted, the road away from the gym starts with a significant down hill, but I still couldn't believe I was running a sub 6 mpm pace. I was stuck between the need to slow down and the fear of getting trampled! My first half mile split was 3:38, GULP! 7:17 pace! As the crowd thinned out I started getting it under control, but then we stopped.
       Yes, stopped. Suddenly up ahead I noticed all the runners bunching up and milling around. WHAT?!? Apparently there was something wrong on the adjacent air strip so they were stopping all traffic on the roads around it. Several of the front runners had gotten past the lead car before they could be signaled to stop so as we stood and waited, they flew by on their way back to the finish. I didn't think we had been standing there that long, but those guys were blazing! At this point any kind of PR was out the window. One's fastest 5K cannot include a 5 minute break before the first mile.
        Fortunately, it hadn't taken me long to pause my Garmin so when they gave us the all clear, I hit the start button and once again and took off way too fast again, but I got it under control and my second split was right on target with 3:53.
       Then we hit the next, WHAT THE HECK! for the day. We were barely over the one mile mark when I realized I could see the water stop and what looked like people turning around just ahead of me. I was thinking maybe on the way back they were going to route us on a different path and add to the route through the buildings.
     Now past the turn around, my third split was 3:55. I was feeling good and getting into my groove and felt like I could maintian my pace for the second half of the race when a woman all in black slowly crept past me. She instantly became my target. I had to pick it up just a touch to stay with her, but I was determined. My 4th split was 3:57, still on track, YES! Although I was beginning to wonder if I could really maintain that pace for another mile and she once again began putting distance between us.
       As we rounded the corner onto the main road, I was scanning for the new turn that would add the needed distance to take us up to 5K and realized it wasn't going to happen, the runners were barreling up the street and making the same turn back into the gym parking lot. I decided to sneak right up on the heels of the lady in black and then blast past her in the final up hill sprint through the parking lot with everything I had left.
       This was a very low tech race. There was a clock, although it was sitting down low on a table by the snacks, so after the first 10 runners crossed the finish line no one else could see it to know their time. There were no bibs, or chips, just someone standing with a piece of paper writing down who came in first second or third. We were told at the start that if anyone was over 40 to please let someone know when we crossed the line.
   As we turned the last corner into the parking lot, I powered up into a full sprint and, pink tu-tu flying, bounded past my target and across the line. It felt really awesome of have that good kick in me and despite the uphill grind. The pace for my last partial split was another 7:17! I say partial split because it was about .4 miles long. The entire race was 2.4 miles.  Ummm, that's a 3.8K guys, not 5K!

LOVE the expression on this guy's face. Do you think it was the tu-tu or the bare feet, LOL
       I got lots of friendly cheers as I ran in and was told I was the first over 40 woman, YAY! As the rest of the finishers poured in the recorder kept asking for people over 40 to check in. No other woman would admit to being over 40, LOL, and I KNOW I was not the only one. I guess when you are used to racing and having your age posted in the results for all to see you get over being sensitive about it. I tend to forget that other women do not want their age reveled. Hiding age is also a very American thing. Europeans and Asians think nothing of asking you your age and telling you theirs, we are very silly on that point.
       For first place I won a nifty etched beer mug, some refrigerator magnets, a keychain pen, and a combination toe nail clipper/bottle opener/money clip (hmmm, open the beer with the thing you just clipped your toe nails with, HAHAHAHAHA)
       So, no PR in the 5K today, but now I can focus on the HM in a little over a week. My hip is very sore this morning (remnants of the RA flare) so I'm going to have to baby it for the week and hope for the best on race day. It seems speed work is its undoing so I won't push Wednesday's tempo run. Looking at my heart rates for the race I could have pushed harder. I seem to have lost a bit of VO2max so to get it up without doing speed work I'll get back to spin or the Stair Monster.
Notice the location of the timing clock in the background

   I am also experimenting with twitter. I was hoping to be able to tweet from the HM next week, but am still working out the technical issues (it seems everything is complicated in Korea). If you want to check it out, I'm listed as @Barefeeties These will be purely running tweets

Monday, March 28, 2011

Running progress and catching up

Catching up

       Wow, more than a month has flown by since my last blog! It has been a crazy month too. At the end of February, we went on vacation for a week in Hong Kong. It was a lovely trip with tons of walking, but only one short run. By the time I got home I wasn't feeling too hot, but chalked it up to too much junk food, not enough running, too much walking, and not enough sleep. I got in a lot of miles that first week back, but was feeling really off. Long story short, I had picked up a Giardia infection. A week of antibiotics did the trick, but they sure didn't do much for my running. Infections also make RA flare up so I was battling that as well, feeling 100 years old, but short easy runs helped loosen me up and feel better so I pressed on.

       This past week I have been slowing getting back on track. The temps were into the 40's and as tired as I have been I didn't want to get chilled so I put on my wool socks and Vibram Treks and set off around the flight line. I was cranky, my hip was sore, I didn't want to be out there and I really didn't want to run the 12 miles prescribed by my training plan.

        2 miles later I was HOT! I stopped and touched my hand to the pavement to gauge the temp. YIPPEE! Warm asphalt! I took my shoes and socks off my feet and moved them to my hands (which I'm sure perplexed the people passing me going the other way!) It was just what I needed, my attitude changed instantly! My only regret was having to carry the darn shoes. I tried tucking them in my water belt, but they bounced around too much. The tension carrying them caused was really messing with my shoulders, but not my disposition. The Flight Line is a 6 mile loop and I had started at the Gym so after carrying my shoes for 4 miles I was able to drop them off in my locker and continue on. Of course, half a mile out from the gym I realized I had left the keys hanging in the lock! Granted, the only valuable thing in there were my shoes and in a military gym they wouldn't be bothered. More likely someone would appropriate the lock, but I went back anyway.

       Keys now in my pocket, I set out again to go part way around the Line for an out and back. The would keep me from adding an extra mile to my run and making my husband wait even longer to pick me up. I felt much better not clutching my shoes, but the wind was starting to pick up and making it feel much cooler.

       By the time I got to my turn around point, I had run 9.5 miles and was starting to feel tired. Although I had felt good up to that point, flagging so early meant I'm not quite back to 100%. I walked for a minute or two and headed back to the gym. The wind on the way back was fierce, but I survived and finished my 12 miles. I was fairly happy with my time. Most of my mile splits were below 10 mpm and didn't drop off too much at the end, even with the wind.

       Monday morning I was feeling it in my hips, but they were now the right kind of sore, the kind you get from pushing you body outside its comfort zone to gain strength, rather than the sore I get from my immune system eating my joints. I'll take the former over the latter any day!
       On the horizon I have a little 5K fun run on base Thursday and my HM on April 10th is coming up fast! I'm not necessarily looking for a PR, mostly just want to have fun, but that is what I said last time :-) My plan, if the weather doesn't change unexpectedly, is to run the half barefoot. It will definitely be interesting to see the reaction of my fellow Korean runners!