Sunday, May 27, 2007


(Part One)

This is the 10k race we did this weekend in Traverse City, Michigan. There was also a marathon and half marathon.

The first 3 miles of the marathon, and the first half of the 10k are run along the east bay of Grand Traverse Bay, pictured here. You can see what a glorious day we had! The weather was perfect. (Unfortunately, the batteries in my camera died after only one picture!)

The weekend started on Friday. I had taken the day off months before, mainly in anticipation that my sister and I would take our dad to the casino on Memorial Day weekend, since it would be a long weekend from work for me, and I figured she would have time away from her chauferring kids to school routine that weekend. This was something my dad had been wanting to do for quite some time, since before his chemo started. Unfortunately, the weekend plans changed when my dad died in February. I still had the day off, however, so Don and I talked about what to do, when I remembered about my prize I had won last fall for a resort package to the Grand Traverse Resort. So the race became part of the plan to use the hotel package. We just can't seem to go too many places not connected with some sort of race!

We arrived in Traverse City around 3:30 in the afternoon, checked into the hotel, and then headed for packet pickup. We knew there would be some people at the race from GR that we knew, but didn't know how many. Most would be doing the marathon or half. Both races had filled up quickly, but there was no limit on the 10k, and I was quite happy to be running only that distance.

After packet pickup, we went to dinner. Dinner was a Memphis barbeque place, and arriving early there was no wait. Good food! Then we headed to the hotel and decided to use the pool for a short while. Usually, there either is no time for these things or we don't want to do anything that would take away from the race the next day, so we don't use the pool or hot tub. This time, we did both. And we had the place to ourselves for most of the time we were there.

While we didn't have to go to bed that early, both of us were sleepy, so it was easy to fall asleep before 11. Good thing too, because our wakeup call was at 4:45. We wanted to be able to head to the race by 5:30 to get a parking spot. I got up first and went to the lobby for coffee, since it was right outside the elevators, and our room was practically next to the elevators. Quicker than making my own. The hotel had already put the food out for the continental breakfast, and there were a few runners already taking advantage of the food and drinks provided.

The temperature was 41 degrees, but it was expected to get up to 70, so we both wore shorts, and I put on a jacket until the race started. Then I decided I needed a long sleeved shirt. My hands get cold and stay that way without gloves, so at least I would have sleeves to pull over my hands. We both put on chip straps, which set us apart from regular runners who wore them on their shoes. So convenient!

We arrived at the race site before 6 am and so began the long wait. The parking lot was already almost full. The half marathoners had needed to be there by 5:30 to be bussed to their start. Again, it was amusing to watch people in their preparations for the race, and again so different from a triathlon. But even with the differences, there was the common thread of doing the race and hoping to do the best they could on that day.

We headed over to the race start about 6:45. I forgot our race didn't start until 7:15 or I would have made one more inside bathroom break, so instead had to wait in the porta-john lines when it occurred to me the race start stagger.

This race used to limit the marathon to 500 when I first did the 10k about 11 or 12 years ago, and I doubt there was even 200 people that year. Five years ago, they increased the numbers to 1000 and immediately filled up. Now, I'm not sure what the limit is, but the total number of the three races was over 4000.

The pace groups were out with their pace signs when I spotted my favorite one: Shufflers. Now that one I could identify with!

Just before the race started, I ran into a friend, Nancy, whose husband, Bruce, was doing the marathon. He had wanted to switch to the half, but they wouldn't let him, so Bruce and Nancy had the plan that he would run to the marathon turn around and she would run the 10k and then go pick him up. So I knew she would be running faster than me--she always did anyway. While I like Nancy well enough, she can be a little condescending when it comes to running. As we waited in the start area, she said, "I'm going to be running slow because of an injury, but not as slow as you will." Well, that set the mood!

Finally, the race started and you could hear all the chips chirping as people crossed the start line. This was also a new feature: a chip start. The first time for me in this race actually, so I was able to not worry about starting in the back.

This 10k is pretty straight forward: run out 3 miles, run back, finish on the track. There really are no hills, just a few inclines, and you run along the bay the entire way. Its through a small neighborhood road with little or no traffic. I have no idea what my starting pace was, but I was determined to run only a pace I could hold the whole way, regardless of how slow that might be. People passed me, I passed people. It was pretty crowded, more than I remembered in the past. There were the usual people running ahead and then abruptly stopping to walk. Lots of them doing this. I just held a steady pace and only walked through the two water stops. Just before two miles, a car came onto the course, obviously trying to get out to the main road, so we had to suck exhaust for about 5 minutes. I don't know why people can't plan their departures for either before or after the race. She clearly was a nuisance, because at that point, there were return runners on the other side of the road, so of course those of us going out had to stay behind her.

At the turnaround, a half marathon runner came charging by. This would have been almost 10 miles for those runners, and he would have been right around 46 minutes. It wasn't long before the masses of half runners were coming through also.

After the turnaround, I knew I had to get some focus into what I was doing to get through this whole thing without breaking down into a walk. I am trying very hard to run a pace I can handle for most of the distance I am running, but believe me, the urge to go faster never goes away. The mind and legs here, however, don't match up. What I want to do and what I am able to do are two different things. I don't know why, but since that accident, I just have not been able to take it up a notch on longer distances, and I am slower than I have ever been. Add to that the aging factor and you get the idea. I am hoping this passes after this season, but I suspect for this year I am doomed to be back of the pack, regardless of what I think I am capable of doing.

My focus then was remembering what I did in races when I was much faster, when my legs actually did what my mind told them to do. The trick I found then, and I decided to use again, was to find someone in front of me to focus on, someone obviously running fast enough to be in front of me, but not so fast that I didn't have a chance to pass them. Then I focused entirely on their feet. By doing this, your pace starts matching their pace. You aren't looking down the road seeing how far you still need to go. You are only looking at those feet in front of you--until you come up even with them and pass them. It is almost guaranteed you will pass them using this technique.

So that is what I did for the rest of the race, and I passed many people, and it helped keep me focused on getting through step by step, and not worrying about the miles. I managed to pass everyone I used this trick on until the very end when there were too many people doing too many things for me to find a focus. At that point, people were sprinting to get on the track to finish, there were other 10k runners out for a cooldown, there were half marathon runners charging through, and both sides of the street were lined with spectators. But I held on, and the only ones who passed were 3 women quite a bit younger than me, and try as I might, I couldn't match their sprinting pace.

Onto the track for the victory lap, and I was very glad to be done. I had not looked at my watch the entire way, so had no real idea of what I was doing timewise. I hit the timing mats in 1:12:26, and another woman came through immediately behind me. She came up to me and "thanked" me for pulling her to the finish. "I just watched you and kept up with you." That couldn't have been that hard but I was glad to have helped. :)

Not a stellar time, but I did get through it. Fifteen minutes slower than the last time, 4 years ago. I am truly hoping I get faster at some point, but I guess I am just happy to be able to run at all.

Part two will cover the resort and spa.


Lisa - Slow & Steady said...

Sounds like you ran a good race! How lovely to be able to run along the waters edge as well. And it's nice that they had a chip start.

Shelley said...

Good for you Vickie!!!

Flo said...

Sounds like fun and you kept your head in the game. That's great.

WADDLER26.2 said...

Sounds like an awesome race to run. I would be very happy to be a waddler in with the shufflers.