Monday, March 31, 2008

The 31st Annual Winter Park Road Race

"Champions do not become champions when they win the event, but in the hours, weeks, months and years they spend preparing for it." - on the backside of the medal for the 31st Winter Park Road Race

Eight weeks ago I set out on a mission. I was going to train...really train...for a shorter race distance (read that as non-marathon) and see if I could snag a PR. My 10K distance was the only distance I ran in 2007 and did not get a PR. My last 10K was this very race, the 30th WPRR, when I ran the course in 1:07:54. My 10K PR was set in the fall of 2006 when I ran the Celebration 10K in 1:04:00, a 10:18 min/mile pace. My goal for this year was to train and run a sub 1:04 10K.

So 8 weeks ago I found Higdon's 10K Intermediate program. It looked to be doable for me. Instead of just running - it incorporated 2 days a week of strength training and one day of either tempo or interval running. I had never really done the speed work so this would be new for me - but I looked forward to it.

For 4 weeks I stayed pretty much on track with my training program - then things went crazy at work. Instead of running 5 days a week, I was sneaking in 2-3 runs a week with no strength training. I seriously thought about not signing up to the race. But my training runs leading up to the race indicated that I possibly had the 10:15 min/mile or so pace in me that I needed to PR - so I figured what the heck. If I can get a decent night's sleep, maybe I will get lucky! But even sleep has been hard to come by these days...

Race Day: Compared to Maddy, I got to sleep in a bit and didn't get up until just after 5:30 am, leaving the house around 6 am. I ate a snack bar at the house and took a couple of Clif Shots with me. I haven't been running during the early morning hours in some time, so I figured I might need some morning fuel. Once at the race location, I found a Starbuck's tent with free coffee....caffeine. I normally don't do the caffeine thing, but it was worth a shot.

I met Maddy in that familiar pink bandana (it's a trademark now, Maddy, you can't ever not wear it to race again!). We chatted up until the race start, ran a little of the crowded 1st mile together and then parted ways. She was looking to break 1 hour, but was also hoping for a possible PR. I settled into a 172 bpm Podrunner mix and a rhythm of sorts and told myself it is just an hour - I can do it.

I hit the first mile in 9:30 min. Good! I was a little ahead of pace - some time in the bank so to speak. I did feel like I went out a bit fast, and 9:30 is more like a 5K pace for me. My heart rate was already starting to climb (which it does when running with less sleep) and maxed at 174 during that first mile. I felt ok so I decided to see if I could hold the pace.

I hit the second mile at 19 min - another 9:30 mile. I was pretty excited. More time in the bank. But by this time I had already started to trip my heart rate alarm which was set to make noise at 180 bpm. I managed to hit 181 bpm in the 2nd mile. Hmmmm, not so good. I probably couldn't finish this race if I ran at 180 bpm with more than 4 miles left. I slowed my pace a bit and tried to keep the heart rate from setting off the alarm. I ran through the first water stop.

My 3rd mile was in 10:05 min - much more in my range. I managed to keep my heart rate below the 180 bpm mark - and averaged 177 bpm during that mile.

My 4th mile I began to struggle with keeping the heart rate low again, with an AHR of 179 bpm. I am not sure I have ever maintained such a high HR level for such a period of time before. It was a cool, but not really chilly morning, so at least heat was not playing into the equation. Fortunately the race was run mostly in a shady area. If we were in the open it would have been warm and I would have struggled much more. Mile 4 was in 10:29 min. I took my Clif Shot at the 2nd water stop and walked a bit.

During the 5th mile, the heart rate stayed high and I went between running slower and faster - but tried to keep moving. It dawned on me that the Winter Park course had more "hills" than the Celebration 10K (which had been really flat), so I was going to have to work harder for a PR here. I was still on track at the 5 mile mark, and although my 5th mile was in 10:37, my overall pace was in the 10 min/mile range - so that kept me going, even with an average HR of 178 bpm. I began to wonder if I could hurt myself pushing my heart so hard.

The 6th and final full mile and the race headed toward the familiar finish area. I walked through a water stop for about 20 sec and took another 15 sec walking break when I couldn't get the heart rate monitor to shut up. I was almost there. I hit the 6 mile marker with about 1:02 and change showing on the clock (a 10:36 mile). I could do the last .2 miles in 2 min and possibly make a PR. So I tried to pick up my pace but I had pretty much spent all I had in the tank - and with just .2 miles left and the finish line in sight off in the distance, I was wondering if I could make myself run without stopping to the end. I was almost there.

The last .2 miles was kind of surreal. My Garmin heart rate alarm was bleeping noisily in the background and I could see the Finish line slowly getting closer ahead of me. I thought of how ironic it was that at work I was in another final sprint to the finish, and not quite sure if I had the "gas" to get to the finish line. I started to look for Maddy, and just before I got to the finish line, I was maneuvering around a crowd on one side so the photographers could get a clear shot of me, I heard her cheering me on - just yards from the finish.

I crossed the finish line, arms in the air. A couple seconds later I hit my Garmin stop button...1:04:03.

Did I PR? Usually my Garmin time is pretty close. I knew I had a couple of extra seconds on there because of the time from crossing the mat to shutting off the Garmin. I am usually within a couple of seconds.

I didn't know...I could have possibly just missed a PR by 1 or 2 seconds. But I was completely spent. I ran the best race I could have possibly run that day. I drained the tank and found I had more gas than I thought in there - but it was GONE! I was happy with my race - but wasn't sure how I would react if I missed the PR by 1 or 2 seconds. I did know I had a course PR, although I thought I had run it closer to 1:06 the previous year, so I really outran my time last year by almost 4 minutes.

Maddy met me at the finish with a big bottle of water. My heart was thankful I was finished with the punishment, and we sought out some food. Usually they post preliminary results shortly after you finish but today they only posted the 2 miler results. Maddy was a little disappointed. Her watch showed her missing her PR by 17 sec.

On the way home I checked my Garmin to see where my heart rate ended up: 190 bpm max. What?? I have never had a heart rate of 190 bpm. A new HR PR :-)

Well, you know the end to this tale. After checking the website over and over in the early afternoon, they posted the times....and I had a PR with a net time of 1:03:57. I could hardly believe it! And I was very excited. Somehow I managed to PR afterall.

Next post, my Simply Stu results....not so good.


runninggeezer262 said...

Nice post, very descriptive! I was beginning to hear the heart rate monitor alarm going off :-) Those hills can be deceiving and do require extra work. Congrtulations!

Maddy said...

Way to go Chris! I'm glad I was there to witness your new PR!

Job Well Done Girlfriend!

Susan said...

"It is just an hour - I can do it." Now that is a great statement! I love it!

You did it, my friend! I loved your tale. And how wonderful to have Maddy there with water at the end.

Looking forward to your Simply Stu post!

ShirleyPerly said...

Congratulations Chris!!!

And what a great race report. I felt like I was right there alongside you. I wish I could have been there to see everyone there and maybe help get those race results posted sooner. But you got your PR and that's all that matters. GREAT JOB!!

lizzie lee said...

Dear Chris... I HAVE GOOSEBUMPS. What a wonderful post. Congratulations from the bottom of my heart. What a way to go. Amazing, inspiring and I will emulate it. I am planning on doing the same about a PR in a "short distance" race, a 5K. I am working heavily in Intervals and Tempo (BTW thanks also for the dashboard advice! as I told Shirley I will follow it).

Marathon Maritza said...

Congrats!!!! Awesome run!

Rural Runner E said...

One heck of a blog.....nice, I always enjoy reading your experiences....thank you for sharing.

I really enjoy reading your blog...and as since I do.....I thought I would share a little fun BLOG THING you might enjoy....across the running blog community. TAG YOUR IT:

Tag-you're it-blog across the blogosphere thingy....thought you might have fun writing your own!
Go to

IrishBlue said...

Awesome job on your new PR. Woo-hoo!!! Sounds like a great race and a great day.

Petraruns said...

Hey sweetheart - are you working too hard? Should I even ask? Just saw your twitter and you just sound at the end of it all. Let yourself off the hook sometime ok?

lizzie lee said...

where are you????