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Lawyers Have Heart 10K

Summer In The City Ah, Georgetown on a warm summer morning! Alright, technically it was a muggy spring morning. There's still nothing like waking up and running out your door to take in the sights and sounds of the city on a Saturday morning. Seeing those souls who are out and about on bicycles or walking their dog or baby or both, gathering at the Farmer's Market on Wisconsin Avenue or strolling to the nearest Starbucks, for me it's a tiny reconnection with humanity.

After our 25-minute warm-up run to the waterfront, we wriggled our way through the crowd. The Lawyers Have A Heart 10k used a wave start. Bright orange construction netting stretched between wooden poles clutched by antsy pace group leaders kept entrants from surging ahead. Brilliant! We sort of started in between Wave 1 (8:00 minute mile pace and under) and Wave 2 (runners expecting to finish in 50 minutes or more). Based on our respective finishes, that was probably about right.

The Course It was a very fast course, an out and back that ended in a long downhill. No chance of getting lost and no trail markings, but not once did I fail to muse "how about that" at the sight of a big number on a sandwich board every mile!

Race Strategy - The Good: I've been doing more speedwork this year, and lots of core and hip work that has made me feel stronger and has noticeably improved my running form. I
wasn't sure how fast I could run, but I was optimistic. I'd had a strong and smart race at the Lehigh Valley Half Marathon, and felt I could have started my finishing kick earlier as I passed so many people and still had a long sprint in me as I rounded the track.

The Bad: I had gone to bed late all week leading up to the race. According to new research, simply
getting more sleep can improve athletic performance.

The Ugly: The night before I indulged in wine and cheese and brownies and a beer and dancing at the Gipsy Kings concert and didn’t get to bed until after midnight. I hadn't followed a 10K-specific um, any training plan.

Last-Minute Race Strategy I decided I'd give the race my best effort and consider
it good speed training.

The Race After about a half-mile into the race I felt like I could run a pretty good race. A 10K pace should be tough but sustainable -- I know it when I feel it -- "moderate discomfort." I tend to run too conservatively, so I tried to stay at that cardiovascular threshold while paying attention to how much energy my legs had in them. There is always the danger of not respecting the distance when you are used to running ultras. Six miles can be a long way! I’d just read another great article about Jeff Galloway's
run-walk method, which I’d used to complete my first marathon. I decided I'd put that into play. I walked briskly for 30 seconds every mile, which was about every 8:30. My legs enjoyed the rest and really felt rejuvenated when I resumed my running pace.

I spied my husband Tom running toward me on his way back from the turnaround, cruising at a brisk but controlled pace. He looked great! I'd just been sucking down the single GU stashed in my pink Gym Girl running skirt pocket, and was glad he hadn't seen me walking.

Delusions of Grandeur A few minutes later I reached the turnaround and then the 5k mark at 26:56 on my watch. The wheels started to turn. Did I have a shot at a Personal Record? What was my old 10K PR? 53:something. I think. Could I run even splits, or faster? My legs still felt strong, but I was running near the limits of my ability and wasn’t sure If I would be able to maintain that pace for another 3.1 miles.

The Wheels Came Off It didn’t last long. A debilitating side stitch derailed my progress just after mile 4. I can't remember the last time I had a side stitch. Ultra marathon running is a totally different sport from road racing. I simply don't run hard for any length of time except during my mile repeats, and then I get to recover every m
ile. I tried running with my arm above my head and sucking in my abdomen (I still remember a few of those road running tricks!) but I was forced to slow to a walk, gasping and ow!-ing for a good two minutes before I could resume. After that I couldn’t bear the thought of walking any longer so I started running, and it slowly dissipated. I was disappointed at the time I had lost, but reasoned with myself that I could not expect a flawless race today. I had not focused on it enough to expect to earn a PR. I decided I would run my best from this point on to the finish, and cheerfully. And truthfully, I was glad to be out there, testing my mettle. And not getting rained on.

The Finish My official time was 53:41. I managed to run the last mile and a half at what
seemed like a respectable pace, but it was hard to tell. My legs were all but done. I pushed it hard but not as hard as I could; the sensation of nausea was beginning to simmer and I wasn't willing to give this race a lung-searing, eye-bulging, cookie-tossing, all-out effort. I didn’t have much of a kick at the end despite the aid of the downhill ramp leading to the finish line. Maybe that meant I had found the right pace for the bulk of my race. Maybe it meant wine should have been consumed less freely.

Tom finished in 49:12 which was good for fourth place on my law firm's team. I'm pretty sure he really earned second place based on race photos, but that's another story!

It had been so long since my last 10k I wasn't sure if I had notched a PR. After I rifled through my dusty ‘Running’ folder for old race numbers and Googled my name for finish times, I foun
d the answer: My 10K PR was set in (zoiks!) 2003 at the St. Patrick's Day 10K. I was 21 seconds faster. Looks like I now have a new goal!

After the
Highlands Sky 40 Miler this weekend, that is.

Next blog topic: Can one train for
The Ring and a 10K PR concurrently?

Bushwhack, Don't Backtrack

I'm going to start my Bushwhacker 10 Mile race report by digressing. You should know that I've been suspicious of the institution of marriage from an early age, despite the fact that my parents have a good, solid marriage that's still intact. Call me The Cynic, and believe me when I say I've come a long way from early adulthood. [Random fact: I was once the proud owner of a novelty lighter that read 'Marriage: It's Not A Word, It's a Sentence!'] So when I finally met Tom and he pulled that crazy 7-weeks-in proposal, I wanted to be sure we kept things free of the drudgery I believed could be lurking just beneath the surface. 

Thus, the Secret Date was born, where one person declares a slot on the calendar as such and the other knows nothing but the basics of where to be and what to bring.

One such date consisted of telling Tom only that he needed to wear clothes to go for a bike ride. That one ended at a Nats baseball game. Tom upped the ante by getting train tickets and a hotel for a day and night in New York.

This time I chose the Bushwhacker Adventure Running Race put
on by EX2 Adventures. We'd been dying to do one of their popular Backyard Burn series, but there always seemed to be a conflict. This incarnation, from Hemlock Overlook Park to Fountainhead, had a twist: Racers are allowed to bushwhack or shortcut within the boundaries of the park. This was something we had never done despite the number of times our trail shoes have worn the dirt off that path. I signed us up without hesitation.

As the race drew closer, my competitiveness percolated. I debated letting him in on the secret so we could study the course and devise a strategy. I resisted.

We awoke to a downpour. But by the time we left the house it was turning into a beautiful sunny day. We dropped Tom's truck at Fountainhead where we would finish, then drove my car to Hemlock where the race started. Valerie Meyer was doing the timing and she had the most innovative devices called e-punch timing keys.
They were fitted with a string you slipped over your wrist and a velcro strap that hooked onto your index finger. They worked wonderfully and were comfortable to wear. There were three checkpoints on the course and you had to stick your e-punch into a sensor which kept track of your splits. There was also a sensor at the "finish area" which consisted of a plastic-fenced square rather than a traditional finish line.

We studied the map for a short period but weren't able to settle on a strategy so we agreed to wing it. We stuck to the trail for a bit and then went bushwhacking, following others. Our first bushwhacks did not pay off as the terrain was dense with downed branches to jump over and low-hanging branches to duck. It took a lot out of us and we repeatedly emerged just ahead of the people we had been running with before leaving the trail. As we reached the river Tom spotted someone heading upstream. They were in for a long day!

We continued at a pretty good pace (for me; my romantic husband had decided to hang with me since it was an official Date or he would have been long gone). We paused to look at the map a few times and rack our brains as to the topography we would encounter at each bushwhacking opportunity. Our best bushwhacks were between Mile Markers 13 & 14 and
where we chanced upon a very runnable downhill wagon trail between Mile Markers 15 & 16. Anyone who has hashed knows well the thrill of running wild through some great shiggy. This was a marriage of shiggy and competition. Pura Vida!

We finished in 1:49 and no one was more surprised than me when the RD announced me as Second in my age group (and Fourth woman overall!). Tom finished less than three minutes behind the third, fourth and fifth place men in his age group -- who knows what he could have done had he been racing.
Cherry-picking races may just become our new hobby!
EX-2 Adventures put on a great race and gave away lots of gift certificates and some nice schwag. We had a blast and escaped with only a scratch or two, that is until in my excitement I hopped up on the wet and slippery finishers podium a
nd smashed my shin into the 1st place platform. Ouch.

Knowing these shortcuts is gonna make sticking to the Bull Run Run 50 Miler trail a lot tougher next year!