Showing posts with label race day. Show all posts
Showing posts with label race day. Show all posts

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Well-Read Runner: Right to Run 19K RECAP!

It's time to tell you about one of my most fun race experiences EVER!  Settle in!

I ran the Right to Run 19K in Seneca Falls, NY on May 7.  I registered way back at the end of 2015, when I first heard about it, even though I was already committed to the Four Seasons Challenge for 2016.  It just sounded too unique to pass up.

This was the inaugural year for the race, which celebrates women's rights (and women's running in particular), hence the 19K = 19th amendment.  The race was co-ed though, and I saw just as many guys as girls at the starting line!  The proceeds from the race benefit the National Women's Hall of Fame (in Seneca Falls), and the spokesperson for the race was Kathrine Switzer.  All of this put could I NOT run it?  Especially when it's so close to home??

Race start was at 9am, and I live about 75 minutes away, so I got up at 5:30 and left my house at 6:45 to get there with plenty of time to spare.  The 19K and the 5K (the other race option) had starting lines in two different places (but finished in the same location), so I headed out to the farmland beyond Seneca Falls for the 19K start.  Plenty of parking available and lots of port-o-potties--we were off to a good start!  I got all my stuff together and left my drop bag at the registration table--this was a nice perk, as they transported the drop bags to the finish line in downtown Seneca Falls, so you could pack up your flip flops/extra layers/snacks/etc and have them waiting for you at the finish.

Just before 9, I walked down the street to the start line, and was delighted to find that Kathrine Switzer was there to help send us off!  I was hoping I'd get to meet her at the finish, but seeing her at the start was a HUGE inspirational boost for me.  (In case you missed my review of Marathon Woman earlier this week, Kathrine Switzer was the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon in 1967, and is an enormously important running idol of mine.  FANGIRL ALERT!!)

There were technical difficulties with the national anthem, so the race director had all the runners sing it together, and it MIGHT have been the best race national anthem ever!  Right after that, we got ready to go and Kathrine started walking through the start line crowd, giving high fives/hugs and sending us off.  I was like, "OH HELL NO, there is no way I don't get a selfie right now."  And I did, with 90 seconds to go before start:
And so the gun went off as I was posting to Facebook, with an enormous grin on my face.

Race conditions: low 60's and full sun.  Sounds pretty good, right?  Not to mention that I was feeling so awesome after that amazing start line experience. I shot off the line and had to curb my enthusiasm a bit.  I will admit that I didn't prepare as well for this race as I should have--I had no solid goal in mind, and because I ran Flower City Half only 2 weeks before, I hadn't done much as far as training in the last 14 days.  Plus (and this feels dumb to admit), because I had just done 13.1 miles recently, my brain kept telling me this race would be easy-peasy, because it was ONLY 11.8 miles.  (In hindsight...that it NOT that much shorter than 13.1!!  What was I thinking??)  Despite all that--I just wanted to have fun with this race, so after the first couple minutes of running, I felt good and decided to hold my half marathon goal pace (9:00/mile) as long as I could, and see how it went.

The course itself was very beautiful, and very flat.  Like, so flat.  If you hate hills, this is the run for you.  That said, there was also ZEROOOOOO shade.  NADA.  For the first 6 miles.  Nothing but open farmland as far as the eye could see:

No shade, and full sun?  I was dying from the heat by mile 4.

I started pulling back a little at that point, but I realized quickly that I had pushed too hard in the heat for the early miles.  There was a water stop at the 6 mile marker, and right after it I walked for about a quarter mile.  Got my breath back, had a Honey Stinger gel, drank a bunch of water.  Then kicked it back up again feeling MUCH improved.  At this point, I vowed to stop looking at my Garmin so much, and just run for comfort.  I mean, it was a 19K, I was going to PR no matter what, right??  :)

Thankfully, at this point we got close to Cayuga Lake, as well as some treed areas, so we had a bit more shade and wind coming our way.  Crowd support was not big for this race, but the enthusiasm of the runners was high, which helped a lot.
Me and Cayuga Lake. I am honestly dying a little bit here (see: red face), but I smiled for you anyway.
The later miles were, admittedly, a mental battle for me--I knew my legs were okay to keep it up, but my head was berating me for going out too hard at the start and losing steam.  That, paired with the fact that I desperately needed to pee from mile 9 to the finish (couldn't find a portapotty anywhere!!), made the last 3-4 miles pretty tough.  But I hung in there as best as I could, walked when I had to, and kept on.  Plus (and I'm not saying this to be cheesy), I kept thinking about Kathrine Switzer being at the race, and how much adversity she had to push through in her running career, and that  helped me refocus and get my groove back more than once.

Crowd support picked up in the last mile as we headed into downtown Seneca Falls, which provided a great boost.  I passed a woman who runs a Facebook group for westside (of Rochester) runners/walkers, and her cheering sign had my name on it, which was fun and unexpected!  Despite the tough go in the last few miles, I crossed the line with a smile on my face at 1:55:36 (roughly 9:47/mile).
Insert self-deprecating remark about using watermarked race photo here.
Afterwards, I was happy to note that my stomach felt okay (I knew if I'd pushed too hard, I'd have my usual nausea problems).  I drank some chocolate milk, ate a granola bar, and hydrated like crazy.  I know it doesn't sound like much, but any race that ends with me being able to eat/drink ANYTHING without feeling like vomit is a reeeeeeally good race.

I got in line to meet Kathrine Switzer again (a bit more formally this time), as I wanted to say hello, thank her for all that she's done, and (in true book blogger fashion) get my copy of Marathon Woman signed.  Switzer is incredibly gracious and funny, and I was so happy for the opportunity to chat with her!  She signed my book and my race bib, and I also picked up a copy of 26.2: Marathon Stories, which she co-authored with her husband, Roger Robinson.  (Because I need more books, yes?)  Plus, I bought a Marathon Woman shirt, which I have told myself I am NOT ALLOWED TO WEAR until I finish the marathon in September--good motivator, right??  :)

Despite the fact that the race itself was a hard one for me, I still chalk this up as one of the most fun and unique races I've ever done.  They've already announced the 2nd annual Right to Run for May 13, 2017, and I hope to be there!

Have you ever run a race with an unusual distance?  Ever met one of your running idols?  Any races coming up??

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Well-Read Runner: Flower City Half RECAP!

It's recap day, runner friends!!  Who doesn't love a good race recap??

Well, the basic gist is that FLOWER CITY WAS AWESOME.  It was, by far, the best half marathon race day I have ever had...potentially my best race day, period.

As you may remember, I decided a few weeks ago to trash my original plan (to train for a sub-2 half) and just train to complete this race for fun.  And oh my--let me tell you, my running felt REJUVENATED!  It was no longer a chore to get up in the morning and run.  I still got all my miles in, but stopped pushing myself with race pace and tempo runs and Yasso 800s.  It was a beautiful epiphany for me.

Enter race morning (yesterday).  I woke up SUPER PSYCHED for a fun day.  After changing my training plan, I decided my best bet was to start the race with the 2:00 pace group (just to make sure I didn't go out any faster than that--which is my running kryponite), but then fall back as soon as I felt like I was starting to toe that line where I would end up miserable and vomity at the finish.

I got up at 4:30, had breakfast, made 1000 wardrobe changes (low 40's is great racing weather, but hard to dress for!), packed up and drove to my friend Mandy's house to pick up her and our friend Michelle.  I drove us into downtown Rochester and we were at the Blue Cross Arena by 6:30 (start was at 7:30).  I was glad we got there so early, because we had plenty of time to stretch, use the bathrooms, check out the set up in the arena, etc.

We headed out to Broad Street just before the start to line up.  Mandy and I were both starting with the 2:00 group while Michelle was heading further back, so we said our goodbyes and jumped into the crowd.  It was a beautiful (and packed!) starting line!:

Mile 1: 8:47

The gun went off right at 7:30, and...due to the push and pull of the huge crowd, Mandy and I crossed the start only to realize we'd been pushed wayyyyy back behind the 2:00 pacer.  Eeek!  We had some catching up to do!  First mile was fast because we were just pushing our way through the crowds to get to our pace group...haha.  The congestion was a little tough to handle in the early miles, but thankfully everything evened out about 3-4 miles in and we had more elbow room.

(I also noticed a completely barefoot runner during the first mile!!  I thought that was so cool/gutsy/insane!!  Couldn't help but take a pic):

Miles 2-6: 8:47, 9:01, 9:03, 9:02, 8:59

OH MY GOD, YOU GUYS.  FOLLOWING A PACER CHANGED MY WHOLE LIFE.  After so many races where I just depended on my own pacing (and inevitably went out way too fast), at Flower City I tucked into the 2:00 pacers and enjoyed the ride.  Thanks so much to Wendy and Tom (especially Wendy, for whatever reason I ended up on her side of the street more often) for letting me be glued to their butts for 6 miles.  There were SO many times during these miles when I felt my legs saying, "Hey, I feel pretty good, I could go faster than this!"  And then my brain would say, "You shut up, legs!!  Just follow Wendy and SHUT UP!!"  As a result, these were the easiest 6 race miles I've ever done.  The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, lovely Roc City was waking up, I was high fiving everybody, and I felt FAB-U-LOUS.

Mile 7: 9:34

The slowdown begins!  We hit the first hill on Goodman Street towards the end of this mile.  I knew as soon as it started that I was done with 2:00 pace.  I waved a silent goodbye to my beloved pacers (and Mandy), kicked up my tunes, and got ready for the hills to roll.
Goodbye, wonderful pacer Wendy.  I found out afterward that she just ran the Boston Marathon on Monday.  WHAT!!
Mile 8: 10:56

HILLS WITH A SIDE OF HILLS!  We headed into Highland Park and Mount Hope Cemetery, and it was one roller after another.  Some pretty nasty ones thrown in there for sure!  One of the worst ones was on uneven cobblestones, for added pleasure on your ankles.  This was the point where I knew I would kill myself for the second half of the race if I pushed too hard.  So I dialed it down, enjoyed the scenery, waved to the crowds, and powered through.  I also had to make a fast Porta-Potty stop when we entered the cemetery, which explains why this is my slowest mile of the race.  (Mucho apologies to the girl I threw the door open on, but darlin', you gotta LOCK that thang!!)

Mile 9: 9:07

The second half of the cemetery was surprisingly flat/downhill.  I was so happy to be out of the worst hill section that I felt like I was flying!
Out of the hills and loving life!
Miles 10-12: 9:37, 9:44, 10:03

These miles were mostly along the Genesee River, and while they were pretty, they were very quiet (not many spectators here), and kind of mentally difficult because you could see downtown Rochester (where the finish line was) but it was VERY VERY FAR AWAY.  Physically I felt good here, but my paces reflect more of the mental challenge of staying in the game and not giving in to my desire for walk breaks.

Mile 13: 9:50

My most favorite mile!!  I could see downtown, the crowds were getting bigger, I knew I had run a great race, and I felt AWESOME.  I saw 4-5 race photographers, and I jumped and smiled like a goon for all of them.  My husband and kiddos were waiting just before the finish line with loud cheers and high fives.  I saw the 2:05 on the clock when I got close and grinned, because I couldn't believe that in a race where I consciously did not (often) look at my Garmin and tried to hold back, I still was running close to my PR.  That felt damn good.

View from mile 13!
I only missed that PR by 29 seconds: final time was 2:05:40!

(EDITED: When I wrote this post, the results on the race website only included gun times.  Afterwards, they posted chip times, and I found out I actually did PR, by 2 seconds!  Haha!  2:05:09.  A pleasant surprise!! (I know some people consider gun time as "official" since it is used for awards placement, but when it takes me 30 seconds to cross a start line--I'm going with the chip, thankyouverymuch.))

 And, the bling was pretty sweet: the Flower City medal is a bottle opener, and I also got part 2 of my Four Seasons Challenge medal:

On top of the awesome race experience, I have to say this is the best I've ever felt physically after a race.  My stomach did not rebel against me (as it usually does)--I pounded a bunch of water, a piece of pizza, and some cookies after the finish.  With no repercussions!  It was amazing!  I also got to run Small Fry's 1/4 mile race with him at 10:30, which was so fun--that kid is turning into a little speed demon.  He'll be smokin' his momma soon.  :)
Mandy and I at the finish
After we came home and had rested a while, I turned to my husband and said, "I had so much FUN today."  Not something I have ever uttered after other half marathons.  But I hope to do so again soon!

I hope everyone who raced this weekend had an excellent race day!  What race has been the most fun for you?  Why?

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Well-Read Runner: WINTER WARRIOR Recap!

Hello, running friends!  Last night was my first half marathon of the year (and part 1 of the Rochester 4 Seasons Challenge): Winter Warrior.  Let's recap!

As you may remember, I decided a few weeks ago that I was going to try to run this race in under 2 hours.  I was nervous about this attempt, but after running a 10 miler at 9:04 pace two weeks ago, I felt confident that I could go for it.
One of my mantras going into this race (from one of my fave running Instagram accounts!)
Well, let's just get it out of the way now: I did not run under 2 hours.  BUT, I am still very happy with my time!  2:05:11, a PR by 9 minutes!  Can't be sad about that!  Also, I think I am going to start giving lessons on how to PR with positive splits, because I am becoming kind of amazing at it:

Mile 1: 8:44
Mile 2: 8:40
Mile 3: 8:46
Mile 4: 8:55
Mile 5: 8:49
Mile 6: 9:01
Mile 7: 9:33
Mile 8: 9:19
Mile 9: 9:32
Mile 10: 10:11
Mile 11: 10:15
Mile 12: 10:18
Mile 13: 10:37

This is totally NOT a pattern to aspire to, but I guess I still got the job done!!

Here's a look at the journey behind those numbers.

So, I got to the race site about 45 minutes early: enough time to get a snack and evaluate the weather to see if I needed to add/drop layers.  It was a 4pm start, so I'd been checking the weather all day, but it was about 45 degrees, overcast and windy at this point.  (That's FORTY degrees warmer than last year's Winter Warrior!!)  I ended up in my fleece Sugoi tights, a Nike dri-fit long sleeve tshirt, hat, gloves, and Darn Tough socks.  In the end, the tights and socks were a good call, but I was sweating my butt off in the shirt, gloves and hat!  Nothing I could do about the shirt (didn't have a layer underneath to strip down to), and I kept the hat because I had nothing else to keep the hair out of my eyes, but I ended up throwing my gloves at my husband at the halfway point.  :)

As for fuel, I was carrying about 12 oz of water in a bottle, with a plan to refill at a water station if necessary.  I also had 2 Gu's in the pocket of the bottle.  I had hydrated all morning but stopped drinking 2 hours before the start, which worked out great--NO potty stops this race!!
Another mantra for the day!
I got in line for the bathroom at 3:35, and started getting nervous because the loooong line was moving verrrrry slowly.  I finally got to the porta potty at 3:52, did my business, came out and had time to give my husband, kiddos, and friend Mandy a quick hug before heading to the start line.  The only thing I had to do was get my music started.  And wouldn't you know it, my wireless Yurbuds (which had been working FINE at 2:30pm when I tested them), would not turn on!!!  I tried and tried, but no luck.  I have to believe I was just flustered because the start was so soon, because they worked fine when I got home.  I was super bummed to not have my awesome playlist available, but oh well.
Photo from the start line.  Great turnout!
4pm and we were off!  Headlamps were recommended because sunset was a little after 5, but I get a headache if I wear my headlamp too long, so my plan was to hold it in my hand for the first half of the race and put it on around the 6 mile mark.  Gun goes off, I get about 20 feet past the start line, and the light from my headlamp pops off the band and falls on the ground!  "SHIT!" Luckily the girl behind me quickly picked it up for me and handed it back.

Okay, my earbuds aren't working, and my headlamp is broken.  Maybe we can be done with the technical difficulties now???

I put all that chaos behind me and started running.  The course was 4 laps (roughly 3.3 miles each) around a local industrial park.  My target pace for sub-2 hours was 9:09, but accounting for not running the tangents perfectly, I was shooting closer to 9:00.  I was feeling pretty amazing (as we all do in the first 5K of a half!), and of course went out too fast, as you can see from my splits.  TYPICAL.  I flew through the first lap with no problems, ended up throwing my earbuds and head lamp at my husband when I passed my cheering crew around 3.5 miles in.  (Really so appreciative of them catching all the crap I threw at them during this race.  Haha!)

Lap 2, things got a little tougher.  I started feeling hungry--ugh!!  I thought I had fueled okay during the day, but a 4pm start is so hard to plan for, and I guess I missed the mark.  I took my first Gu at the 5 mile mark.  Didn't really feel much of a boost from it right away, and was generally just feeling kind of junky in my stomach by the time I finished the second lap (6.6 miles).  Mile 7's slower time is a reflection of the fact that I walked through the water station to get some electrolyte drink.  Not something I had planned for, but I felt like I was sweating like crazy and could benefit from the extra electrolytes.  The drink plus the Gu started to give me a little boost at that point, and my stomach stabilized a bit.

The rest of lap 3 was pretty uneventful, though it is worth mentioning that there was 1 "baby" hill on this whole course, and the general consensus is that it was definitely about 100 feet taller during lap 3.  :)  Lap 4 was a real beast though.  For whatever reason, I started to feel super sore in my hips--not a place that I tend to get much soreness, so that was unexpected.  The race was counterclockwise the whole way, so I wonder if all the left-leaning turns aggravated it?  A day later, my left hip is definitely the most tender area on me.  But anyway, that pain explains much of my 10+ minute splits for the last few miles.

Once I started that last lap, it was so tempting to want to walk, given the pain my hips, but I kept telling myself to keep putting one foot in front of the other--if I started walking, I knew I wouldn't want to stop!!  I ran the whole final lap, which I was really proud of because it took some serious mental fortitude to keep going.  (Lap 4 was also when I had all the typical half marathon thoughts: why do I do this to myself, I am never running one of these again, there is no freaking way I am running a marathon later this year, etc. etc.  All forgotten within 10 minutes of finishing.  Haha.)

Despite the pain, and knowing before I reached the finish that I was not under 2 hours, I smiled big when I reached the line and saw 2:05 on the clock.  Major PR!!  I may not have run this race perfectly, but I still felt amazing for all the work I had done.
Snapchatting with Small Fry  :)
I met up with my family, and laughed as Small Fry ogled my race medal (which is definitely the biggest one I've gotten so far, it's pretty blingy!).  I brought him into the post-race tent with me to collect the first quarter of my 4 Seasons Challenge medal as well.  (Small Fry very solemnly placed it around my neck, which was adorable.)  My stomach was feeling awful at this point, but I managed to get some water and choke down an apple.  (Honestly, my stomach suffered for the rest of the night--it wasn't until about 11pm that it finally started to feel normal.  Why does this always happen to me post-race, but never after long runs??  Something I need to figure out...)

Today my left hip is in a world of pain, though a little time at the YMCA pool with our boys this morning helped a lot.  Otherwise my stomach is back to normal, and I'm looking forward to some foam rolling today (and yoga tomorrow) to help things along.

Another race done!  As always, it had its difficulties, and I continue to learn more running lessons with every race that I do.  But I'm happy with how this one went, and I look forward to the challenges ahead!
2 medals = bling bling!
Did anyone else race this weekend?  Any other chronic positive-splitters out there??  :)  (We need a support group!)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Well-Read Runner: Monster Scramble 10K recap

A quick recap for you of the Monster Scramble 10K that I ran last Sunday, October 18.  You may remember that this was the 10K I was fundraising for in order to support the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.  I'm DELIGHTED to report that I was the #1 fundraiser in the Rochester area!!  I reached a grand total of $765, and am so appreciative of every single person who donated.  It felt awesome to hand all that moola over to a great cause!!

The race took place at Mt. Hope Cemetery in downtown Rochester.  I'd never been to the cemetery before, but heard it was a great place to run if you love HILLS.  Knowing that beforehand, and taking my recent health issues into account, I knew going in that this was not going to be a PR race.  I was happy to take this one easy and enjoy the ride.

The race started at 10am, but I was parked at the shuttle pickup by 8:45.  I am not real familiar with downtown, and knew that I would have to park a few blocks away and take the shuttle to the race.  Plus, the night before, Tater Tot got a cold, and my husband and I decided that they would not be accompanying me to the race.  (There was a 1 mile trick-or-treat walk for families at the same time as the race...Small Fry was sad to miss out!)  So I planned to get there early in order to give time for the shuttle, packet pickup, and then a possible shuttle trip back to my car to drop off stuff (there was no bag drop...kind of inconvenient when they were giving out so much stuff at packet pickup) before heading back to the start line.
Pre-race.  Those are some super-cool Halloween tights/stockings from Target.  Never ran in stockings before this.  Was not as terrible as expected.  ;)
Unfortunately, I overplanned this one, because I was fully checked in by 9am, and had an hour to wait for race the cloudy 39 degree day.  I was not the only one who was early, and you could tell we all regretted it!  My fingers and toes were fairly numb by the time the race began (and that was with gloves and Drymax socks on).  Note to self: don't get there quite so early next time!

I'd had peanut butter toast for breakfast, and ate a banana around 9:30.  I probably could have done with more fuel, but I have such a hard time working up an appetite on race mornings.  I had my small handheld water bottle with me during the race, though the course was very well stocked with water along the way.  (I also held my friend Liz's bandana from a Muck MS event she did earlier this year, that says "I Muck It With MS" gave me some extra good juju when I needed it!!)  :)

Finally, 10am approached.  The start line was at the very bottom of a very, very, very long and steep hill.  3, 2, 1, GO and off we went up that hill!  I was feeling my lack of recent hill training immediately, and made it about 80% of the way up before I had to stop and walk the rest.  Oh well.  Kind of a kick in the pants right at the beginning, but I didn't get down on myself about it.  Hit the top of the hill, and back up to pace I went.
Pretty much all of my race photos are awful because the photographer was stationed at the bottom of a rocky hill that required you to be looking down and watching your footing the whole time!  Oh well!
Honestly, much of this run was very uneventful.  The cemetery actually made for beautiful scenery (as odd as that may sound), and it wasn't a very crowded race (even less so in the second half, when the 5Kers peeled off).  Just me and my music, trying to keep a decent pace and enjoying the run.  Yes, I did walk many of the hills, but because I knew I hadn't trained like I should, it didn't bother me.  But the 10K was two loops of the 5K course, and it was a bummer to watch all those racers finishing while I made my way up that killer hill again!!  :)  However, I did enjoy that everyone was much more spread out for the last 3 miles.

I finished this one in 59:29.  Not close to my fastest, but still under an hour, so I was pleased.  My stomach was feeling a little delicate afterwards (what else is new for me??), so I walked around for a while and watched the Best Costume awards being handed out before getting back on the shuttle and heading home.

Overall, this was a very fun race that supported an excellent cause.  Even though the course itself is challenging, I would love to do it again in future years, if only for the opportunity to fundraise again.  That said, I think this race would benefit from two things: a bag drop, and some sort of warming tent (depending on the weather).  But, neither of these things were a dealbreaker...just would have made the day a bit easier.

Have you done any Halloween-themed races?  Any great running costumes to share??

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Well-Read Runner: Vino and the Beasts 5K recap!

This weekend's race was quite different from any other I've done before.  It was my first obstacle run!  I had no idea what to expect going in, but it was a great day and has definitely piqued my interest in doing more of them in the future.

Several months back, one of my fellow moms in our local MOMS Club chapter suggested that we form a team for the Vino and the Beasts 5K run.  The run takes place at Three Brothers Winery in the Finger Lakes (just over an hour from us), is advertised as fun and team-oriented, and there's wine.  (Did I mention the wine?  So much wine.)  It did not take much to convince 6 of us to sign on for the race.

I have been leery of obstacle/mud runs for a few reasons.  First and foremost are stories like this one, about mud runners who get vomity gross infections after ingesting mud from the runs. GAH.  I am such a germaphobe to begin with, that does not sound like a good time for me.  Second issue I have is with obstacles that seem potentially life-threatening.  Like that ice bath you have to jump into at Tough Mudder.  That's got to be bad for your heart, right??  And the electroshock thing?  Just no.

However, Vino and the Beasts sounded low-key enough that no one would be dying from electroshock, and I could hopefully keep all the mud out of my mouth.  :)

The race started at 11am, but our heat wasn't until 12:20, so we rolled into the winery just after 11.  There was a decent crowd, but parking was easy and because there were so many heats (over 15 of them, and only a few teams in each) there was almost no line for registration, bag check, or porta-potties.  I was a little annoyed at the extra charges ($5 for parking is one thing but $5 for bag check??  Seriously??), but overall everything was organized and easy to navigate.
Pre-race by Cayuga Lake and still so fresh and so clean, clean!
Our 6-woman team (me, Amanda, Erin, Emily, Jessica, and Aimee...a better list of popular girl names from the 1980's there never was) had a range of fitness levels: a few regular runners of varying speeds, a few who did a lot of interval/body pump/etc training, a few who didn't train and were just planning to wing it.  :)  We all agreed that we would stay together though.  No soldier left behind!

Right before our start time, we were offered a shot of wine: YAY.  Great way to start the race!  Our heat started and off we ran.  We did about a half mile before the first obstacle showed up, the Walk of Shame: basically two upside-down V-shaped boards that we had to walk up and then down.  Not to tough.  That was the theme for most of the obstacles, as we found most of them to be a laid-back break from the run rather than a tough challenge to overcome.  Appropriate for a wine-themed run, I'd say!

Two more obstacles followed shortly (some hay bales covered in a tarp that we had to crawl through, and a rope web to climb), then a water stop, and then came the longest period of straight running.  Much of it was on wooded trail, which was beautiful, but a large section of it was also through a corn field, in full, mid-day sun.  The heat was pretty killer.  To keep all of us together, we alternated walking and running throughout this section.  We were all excited for the second water stop, which offered both water AND wine!

It was fun to experience the race with friends who are not all runners.  Emily is a soccer player, and while she's in great shape, she gets insanely bored with just running.  So partway through the race, she started weaving back and forth on the course, pretending she had a soccer ball to dribble, just to keep herself entertained.  Ha!  Jessica powered through by pretending all the obstacles were on American Ninja Warrior ("I'm taking on Mount Midoriyama!!  Where's the Warped Wall??" lol).  Do what you gotta do!  I was just enjoying the fact that I was running a 5K without a time goal!  I don't usually sign up for a race unless I plan to run it full-out, so it was fun to kick back this day.

Then we had more obstacles: several hay bales to jump/climb, followed by the two water obstacles.  The first was the Mash-Up, basically 12-18 inches of water with a net draped over it that we had to elbow-crawl our way through.  (Cue me trying to keep muddy water out of my mouth...haha.)  Soon after was the Beast Bath, a 15-foot deep mud/water pit that we had to swim across.  It wasn't a terribly huge obstacle, but this was hard!  I soon realized that swimming in soaked sneakers is tough stuff...haha.  But, we all made it across, and it felt pretty awesome to be soaking wet at this point in the race.

More running, and more obstacles (some wooden boards we had to hop over/crawl under, Mt. Vino (a giant wooden wall we scaled with a rope), a tangle of elastic bungees to crawl through, and a potato-sack jump) before finally, the finish!  The 6 of us linked arms and cheered through the finish line (53:43 final time).  We all made it, no one was crying/collapsing, a success all around.  :)
Done!  Not muddy, but very wet.  (And yes, I did wear my Forerunner 10 and it did great even in the water obstacles!)
By the end, I definitely saw the appeal of obstacle runs (especially low-key ones like this) as races to tackle with a group of friends.  This 5K wouldn't have been half as fun if I did it alone, or with a time goal, etc.  A course like this lends itself to joking and camaraderie, while still providing a good physical challenge along the way.
Team Moms With Muscles is ready for the vino
After the race, we all got changed (in the porta-potties...they really need to provide changing rooms, this was more challenging than the obstacles!!) and then picked up our finish-line wine glasses and tasting passports.  This allowed us to do free tastings at the three local wineries (Stony Lonesome, Bagg Dare, and Passion Feet) and one brewery (War Horse) on the grounds.  We grabbed a quick lunch from the local food trucks, then headed to our tastings.  While I didn't love every drink I tried, they sure did go to my head fast (running 3 miles in 85+ degrees and not hydrating enough will do that to you)!
Me so happy about wine.  Mmmmm wine.
Tasting time was a blast, but I think we were all ready for some R+R by the end.  Time to head home.

First obstacle run = complete!  While I'm not sure I'm ready for a Tough Mudder just yet (the electroshocks, y'all, let me just reiterate that), I would definitely do another 5K mud run with friends any time.  Awesome experience all around.

Have you done any obstacle runs?  Did you race them with a time goal, or use them as a fun way to run with friends?

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Well-Read Runner: The PR That Wasn't

I'm a week late here, but I ran the Shoreline 5K in Hamlin, NY last Saturday (the 18th), and it's about time for a recap!

You may remember that my goal for this race was to beat my 5K PR.  This has been a goal of mine ever since the 10K I did in May, because my Garmin showed that the first 5K of that race was better than my 5K PR time! I knew I had enough training under my belt to smash it.  Shoreline was described as a "fast and flat" course, so I signed up and got ready for race day.  I did some speed work in the weeks leading up to it (intervals, race pace runs, etc) and felt more than ready on race-day-eve.  Plan: run a sub-26 5K (my current PR was 27:02).

Day of the race, I got up early and did my usual bagel-and-banana routine.  Weather was calling for 70's and overcast in the morning, which sounded good to me; however, what I REALLY should have looked at was the humidity, which was hovering around 88% and climbing (eventually reached 94% by race time).  It wasn't until I got out of my car after the 45 minute drive to Hamlin (which is right on Lake Ontario) that I realized how thick the air was going to be.

At this point, I probably should have adjusted my plans a bit, right?  With humidity that high?  But, I didn't.  I was jammin' out to my favorite tunes, getting pumped up, and I was ready to DO THIS THANG, humid or not.

As race time approached, I stretched, had a Honey Stinger waffle, used the bathroom, etc.  Our original start time was supposed to be 8:15, with the Shoreline half marathon starting at 8:00, but they moved our start to 8:30 after some last-minute course changes caused a bit of chaos.  This was kind of nice, because the half marathoners cleared out of the bathrooms/refreshment area by 7:50, giving the 5K'ers ample time to get ready.  The 5K was a much smaller crowd than the enormously-attended half, so I got comfortable at the start line and was ready to roll.
Race map from my Garmin
Before we knew it, BOOM, we were off!  I pushed hard right out of the gate, catching glimpses of 7:45 pace on my Garmin.  My target pace was around 8:15, but I figured if I was comfortable going faster in the beginning, I would roll with it.  At the half-mile mark, we were running down the state park entrance road, and my husband and kiddos were driving in from the other direction.  They rolled down the windows and gave me some enthusiastic cheers, which was an awesome boost!

I hit the 1 mile mark with a 7:54 split.  While that felt great to see, I started to get an inkling that I was in trouble.  I was sweating like I had just gone through a downpour.  (Is there any grosser feeling than trying to wipe the sweat off your sweaty face, only to realize that your hand is equally sweaty, thus just adding hand sweat on top of the face sweat?  Really.)  I figured I could still PR, but maybe just not by as much as I had originally planned.
During mile 1.  Not the most attractive, but looking kind of bad ass, let's be honest.
That was a nice thought, for a while.  But by the time I hit the 2 mile marker, I knew party time was over.  8:37 split, over target pace, and the thought of chugging through one more mile of this humidity was awful.  I felt like I was breathing underwater.  Not long after that marker, we turned onto the path that goes along the lake, which provided some breeze--but not nearly enough to make it bearable.

The last mile was a trudge, and I could tell that I was not alone.  A guy I had chatted with at the start, who said his target pace was over a minute faster than mine, was running right next to me and visibly hurtin'.  No one was looking pretty in this race, that's for sure!

I pushed myself to keep on, but it was a struggle.  Just before the finish, the hubs and my boys were there yelling, "GO MOM!  GOOOOO MOM!!" which was pretty fantastic and brought many laughs from the surrounding crowd.  It was also the only thing to put a smile on my face in that last mile!  Third mile split was a lousy 9:14, final time 27:18.  Over PR by 16 seconds.

While I was, of course, disappointed in my time at first, I didn't remain disappointed for very long.  I quickly realized that it had been foolish to think I would run amazingly well in humidity that high.  I had never really had to adjust my goals for that type of weather situation, but lesson is now learned for sure!  Physically, I still feel like a PR is in my near future, but it will have to be on a drier day.  (I was also very glad to not be one of the half marathoners this day--a LOT of people were getting pulled off course for medical attention during that race.  Scary stuff.)

Given that, to be only 16 seconds above PR, and 9th out of 42 in my age group, is still pretty darn good in that weather!

To add to this positive swing, an hour after my race, Small Fry got to participate in his first 1/4 mile kid's race!  I ran it with him (at his request), and he had such an awesome time.  They didn't time the race, but he ran his little heart out.

When he got a medal after crossing the finish, he started yelling, "I WON!  I WON!!"  Cutest thing ever.  He got some serious bling-bling too!  Heavier than both of my half marathon medals.  Dang.

He is signed up for another 1/4 mile race in September (I am doing the corresponding 5K again), and he is VERY excited.  Perhaps another runner in the family?  We shall see...

And so, the 5K PR dreams will wait for another day.  In the meantime, I've learned yet another lesson in running via this race--as I seem to do from all races!

What lessons did you learn from your last race?

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Well-Read Runner: GLCC Wavy Waters 10K Recap!

Week 8 of training for the Mystic Half Marathon is done...two-thirds done!  I can't believe it.

Total distance for the week: 18.12 miles

The real story this week is my 10K race (see the end of this post), but here's a review of my training during the week leading up to it...

Monday: Rest.  Much needed after the 10 miles I put in Sunday.  I was soooooore.

Tuesday: 4.5 miles, easy pace.  Not gonna lie--this one hurt.  I did my best to get into bed early the night before, but Small Fry was up (no lie) every 30 minutes between 11:30pm and 4:00am.  When my alarm went off at 5am, it felt like a terrible practical joke.  But I got up and did the run.  My left quad was aching for most of it, and my splits were all over the place.  Part of me wanted to go fast (I always do that after a long, slow weekend run...I get antsy and want to see a faster pace), but the other part of me was hurtin' fo' sho'.  At the 3 mile mark, I asked myself, "Could I have a conversation with someone right now?"  And the answer was a definite no.  So, this was not as easy as it should have been.  But I did feel good afterwards, knowing I pounded it out.

Wednesday: 40 minute tempo run.
  On the treadmill.  Hard as per usual.  Nothing new to report!

Thursday: 3 miles easy pace.  SUCH a better run than Tuesday.  No soreness, and I could tell right out of the gate that I was feeling gooooood.  I did the first two miles easy (9:39 and 9:36), then decided that I wanted to do the last mile at 10K pace.  I've done 10K pace on the treadmill a few times here and there, but I haven't done it outdoors in a long time.  I wanted to practice for this weekend's race.  10K pace for me is roughly 9:10, but after feeling so good the first two miles, when I sped up I had a REALLY hard time keeping it under control.  I ended up finishing the last mile in 8:47.  Okay, a bit faster than what I can handle running for 6.3 miles, but I guess it's good that I felt so strong?  :)

Friday: Rest.  I spent almost the entire day playing outside with my boys (including dragging their bikes to the park down the street...I should have driven instead), and was more tired by the end of the day than I ever am on a running day!  Haha.  So much for rest, but it was a lovely day.

Saturday: Rest.  Made sure to take it easier today in preparation for tomorrow's race.

Sunday: GLCC Wavy Waters 10K.  Much like the Hearts of Iron 5K, I chose this race simply because I needed a 10K in my training plan, and time-wise, this one fit perfectly.  I did very little research about the race (how big it was, course map, etc) before I signed up in March.  I knew that it benefitted a local daycare center (I like that, good cause) and it was taking place along Seneca Lake (scenery!).  However, this past Tuesday, I did a little more Googling to check it out.  And it turns out...that exactly 22 people ran it last year.  TWENTY!TWO!  If I had run it, I would have definitely placed in my AG...because there were only 2 people in my AG.

Commence race nerves, yet again--because as with Hearts of Iron, the thought that I could place had me SUPER excited.

Race morning, I woke up at 5:45am.  Ate 2 pieces of peanut butter toast and a banana, slugged down my water.  I was wearing my Nike Pro knee-length compression shorts, but I had no idea what to do for a shirt.  Weather was calling for 65-ish degrees by the 9am start time, but it was on Seneca Lake (windy).  So, I put on a New Balance tank, then packed a t-shirt and a long-sleeve shirt in the car just in case.

I had an hour's drive ahead of me, so I left around 6:45am and got to the race location in Geneva (Lake Trout Capital of the World! Things I learned today) a little before 8am.  As I suspected, it was windy and chilly.  I decided that I should change into my long sleeve shirt.  BUT...then I realized that, of the 3 shirts I had with me, only 1 had a pocket for my car key, and that was the tank top.  Hey, no problem, I'll just tie my car key into my shoe laces, like I do for my house key when I run at home sometimes.

Apparently I forgot that my car does not have a regular key (push-button start, so I don't look at it much), and there was no way this big honkin' thing was getting tied to my shoe.
Damn you, giant key fob!
Le sigh.  Tank top it would be then.  I was afraid of being cold, but at this point I had wasted 15 minutes on this shirt decision, so I ran into the building to check in and warm up.  I pinned on my bib, then went outside to do a little bit of a running warm up, as much to get my legs going as to get used to the temperature.

(In hindsight, the tank top was a good choice--the sun was on us for the whole race, and by the end it was almost 70!  I warmed up by the 1 mile mark anyway.)

I brought my Clif Shot Blocks as pre-race fuel.  I ate 3 of them 20 minutes before the start, and chased with a bunch of water.  No issues to report and I had good energy during the race.

At 9am, 10K runners were called to the start (there was also a 5K starting at 9:15).  There were 24 of us at the start line--definitely my smallest race so far!  One of the guys started asking everyone if they had any idea where we were going, and we all started laughing when we realized none of us had any familiarity with the course.  "Well, I hope someone out there does!" someone joked.  The race director came over and gave us a rough idea of how we would be starting out, then some rather complicated directions about following yellow balloons and red balloons...I just started hoping that the people in front of me would figure it out.  :)

Then, we were off!  And wouldn't you know it...we all crossed the street and promptly took the wrong right turn.  Fortunately, we figured it out fast and looped back to the correct road.  OOPS.  After that first turn, we went through a pedestrian tunnel and came out right next to Seneca Lake.  What a gorgeous view:

The entire race was along the lake.  I could get used to running like this!

I had a bit of an equipment malfunction at the start...I started my Garmin, then went to start my Nike+ app on my phone (in the armband) music started.  Huh?  I tried to get a look at my phone, but with the sun reflecting on the armband, I couldn't see what was wrong.  I finally gave it up and left it alone until about 1 mile in, when we hit some shade and I was able to fix it.  Yet another reason why I need a FlipBelt instead of this freaking armband.

Between the wrong turn, the phone malfunction, and my amazement over the lakefront, I got rather distracted from my pace, and when I finally looked down at my Garmin a few minutes in, it said 7:25.  "DIAL IT DOWN, LUTHER" my inner voice said.  (Please tell me that I'm not the only one who uses Luther the Anger Translator as a mental coach?  If you're not familiar, click the link and thank me later.)  My goal pace was between 9:00-9:15.  I tried to slow it down, but it was hard to keep myself in check.  Finally, I kept hitting 8:45 pretty comfortably, so I decided to just let it ride there for a while and hope for the best.

With so few people in the pack, we spread out pretty quickly.  There was a girl in black who passed me around the 1 mile mark, and stayed ahead of me by about 15 seconds for quite a while.  The next person in front of her was a girl in purple who was waaaaaayyyyy ahead, barely in my sights most of the time.  So for much of the race, I was running solo, which was fine.  I had a good view and (after the first mile) some good tunes to keep me happy.  Even though I was trying to PR this race, I made sure to spend a lot of time just soaking up the was a beautiful day, and I have a tendency to lose sight of my surroundings when doing a race.  I wanted to try to enjoy it all a bit more.  :)

Just before 4 miles, I noticed I was coming up on the girl in black.  I stayed right behind her for a half mile or so, before I realized I was kind of just using her as a pacer.  And I didn't want to pace with her, I wanted to PASS her.  So I dialed it up just enough to get the job done.  (After we finished, she told me she used me as a pacer for the last two miles...haha!)  Purple girl was still eons ahead of me, so with that pass completed, I was truly solo the last two miles.

The course itself, other than being picturesque, was also amazingly, awesomely, fantastically FLAT.  We basically curved down along the lakefront and then looped back.  The nice thing about this is that the sun was at our backs for the second half.  The not-so-nice thing was that when we looped back, you could see the white tents at the finish line...three loooooong looking miles away.  Kind of a tough thing to be staring at the whole second half!

After my stellar first mile or two, I did lose steam towards the end.  I looked down at my Garmin at one point during the last mile, and saw 9:55.  WHAT!  I knew I was getting lazy, so I pushed it up a little more.  Then, at the last turn heading toward the finish (quarter mile to go), a volunteer was clapping as I passed and said, "Way to go!  Way to go guys!"  GUYS??  I thought I was alone!  Did the girl in black really save herself for a last minute pass??  I started sprinting, then realized that that made me feel like I was going to puke.  Considering that the finish was at the daycare center, with tons of little kids all around, I thought puking at the finish might be a poor choice this day.  So, I took a few deep breaths, kept my form in check, and just went as hard as I could, sans vomit.  I did get passed--by a total sleeper cell, a woman who I saw a good minute behind me at the second water stop.  She kicked it up in the second half for sure!!

I finished strong and ended with a final time of 55:55--PR by over a minute!  I was delighted.  Despite the fact that I positive-split the entire race, I was still overjoyed with this performance.  (And hey...the last two miles were slowest, but they were closest to my target pace...haha.)

Mile splits:
1 - 8:31
2 - 8:38
3 - 8:52
4 - 8:52
5 - 9:01
6 - 9:25

And yes--there were only 2 people in my age group (the other one was that distant Purple Girl), so second place AG for me!  And a medal this time!  Ooooh, fancy.

Overall, this was a fantastic training race for me.  I was able to practice with fueling, as well as a possible race-day outfit for the half, and I had plenty of times during the race when I felt like I was flagging, but I kept myself mentally focused.  Plus, the ego boost of an AG award never hurts.  :)

I am linking up again with Tara's Weekend Update at Running 'N Reading (a fantastic blog for runners and readers alike!!).  Check it out!

How was your running week, friends?

Anyone else race this weekend?  It was a beautiful weekend for it (here in the Northeast, at least).  :)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Well-Read Runner: Hearts of Iron 5K recap!

Week 2 of training for the Mystic Half Marathon is complete!  Here's a recap of how the week went...

Total distance: 12.34 (not as much because I skipped a long run in favor of a 5K, see below!)

I won't give a day-by-day breakdown (I had 2 treadmill runs that were so-so, and two strength training days that were the same...I'll be honest, strength training is not my jam), but I will mention my Wednesday tempo run.  This was my first time doing a tempo run aaaaaand...I was not very good at it!  I did the run outside...10 minutes at an easy pace, then started trying to slowly work up to 10K pace (as Hal Higdon suggested).  I was really bad at the slow pace increase.  I went from 9:45 easy pace to 8:00 in about 3 minutes...what??  8:00 isn't even my 10K pace (too fast).  Then I tried to dial it back and ended up going too slow.  I was all over the place.

Finally, I stopped looking at my watch and just ran REALLY FREAKIN' FAST until I hit 25 minutes, because I wanted to make sure I got some kind of speed work in.  Finished with a 5 minute cool down.  I know that's not the best way to do speed, but I tried.  I obviously need more practice on these tempo runs!  In the end, the run felt good (and HARD), but I know I didn't do it properly.  Ah well, next time.

Anyway, let's talk about the Hearts of Iron 5K!

I am excited to add 2 real races into my half marathon training (I am also doing a 10K in early May) because I didn't do this when I trained last year, and I think it would have helped with day-of nutrition, equipment prep, etc.  At the very least, I need to practice dialing down my race nerves, because they KILLED me at the half marathon last year.

I chose the Hearts of Iron race for two reasons.  One, it gives money to a good cause (cancer research/treatment centers), and two, I looked at last year's results and realized that this race is so small that if I ran my 5K PR time, I could WIN MY AGE GROUP.  You have NO idea how excited this made me--I have never won anything race-related, ever!  And knowing that this was a possibility made me realize that my race-day nerves were bound to be ON FIRE, so what better race to use as practice for lowering my anxiety?

(I did, soon after registering, read that from the 1.5 mile to 2.5 mile marks of the race there is one long, continuous hill...which was mildly terrifying.  But whatever.  It's just a hill, right?......)

The race was in Rushville, NY, just south of Canandaigua in the Finger Lakes region.  This was about an hour from me, so I got up at 6:30 and had my usual race day breakfast (2 slices of peanut butter toast and a banana).  My husband and kiddos were still sleeping, so in typical Well-Read Runner fashion, I had my breakfast with a side of Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum:

Outfit for the day: Nike Pro tights, a thin Nike long-sleeve shirt, my C9 Champion running hoodie, Smartwool socks, and my usual Nike Lunar Eclipse 4 shoes.  I brought my running gloves and winter hat (both C9) as well, wasn't sure if I would need them, but I definitely did.

(The longer you follow this blog, the more you will realize that my running wardrobe is NOT extensive...haha.)

I drank a bunch of water, tried to get rid of the usual anxious race-day knot in my stomach, and left a little after 7:30.

I arrived at Marcus Whitman High School (site of the race) around 8:45.  I was not super psyched about race conditions at that point...32 degrees, cloudy, and some snow/slush still on the roads.  However, it warmed up just enough that the snow/slush was gone by the 10am start time.  Cold I can do!  Slush would have been less fun.

I ate a Nutri Grain bar, did some stretching, had some Cheez-Its (I know, I didn't really do nutrition that well) about a half hour beforehand, and then did some laps around the parking lot to get warmed up.  Most of the crowd was made up of the local girls and boys cross country little buggers, those ones!  But a local Crossfit group also showed up, as well as some other random runners like myself.  Only about 90 total, the smallest race I've ever done.  I did love it though, because it's the first race I've been in where I didn't have to push people out of the way at the start!

As I was milling about, all I kept hearing about was that mile-long hill halfway through the race.  "OMG, are you ready for the hill??"  "That hill killed me last year."  "Ugh, I totally didn't train enough for the hill."  Oh boy.  I saw a guy wearing a shirt that said, "It's just a hill, GET OVER IT" and I decided to make that my mantra for the day.

Race began at 10am sharp, into an immediate downhill...woohoo!  I knew that The Hill was coming, and I told myself not to squander this downhill while I had it.  At one point I looked at my Garmin and saw 6:55 as my current pace...WOWWW.  Haha.  I finished the first mile in 7:45, the fastest I've recorded on my Nike+ since I downloaded that app (1 year ago).

I wish I could have snapped some pics of the scenery, because it was nice out there.  Lots of rolling hills and farmland.  A great backdrop for a small race.

Then, as expected: The Hill.  As soon as I saw that thing, I thought, "This is NOT a PR course."  Not for anybody.  It was relentless.
The Hill.
I just kept thinking of that guy's shirt though.  "It's just a hill, GET OVER IT."  So I did.  I ran up it until I thought I was going to puke, and then I did stop and walk for about 30 seconds.  Started running again, stopped again for another 15 seconds.  Then ran the rest of the way to the top.  This was a good test for me, because when I stopped for walk breaks in my half last year, I really beat myself down for it for the rest of the race.  But this time, I kept telling myself I was pushing as hard as I could.  I kept the breaks as short as I could, and then kept running.  I passed a lot of people on that hill!!  So I made sure not to let the walk breaks bring me down.  I finished the second mile mid-hill at a 10:00 pace.

After an eternity, I made it to the top of the hill.  The last 3/4 of a mile were fairly easy, some small rises and dips.  I pushed hard for the last .1 and crossed in 27:50.
Immediately post-race and lookin' haggard!
Considering that 1) my PR is 27:02 and 2) I had to walk twice during this race, I'd say 27:50 is excellent!!  I was very happy with my time, and really felt like I pushed myself as hard as I could.

Aftewards, I waited for the results to post.  I looked down the list to see if I placed.  They didn't have age group placement listed next to the times (just age group) so I had to go down the list and count how many were in the female 30-39 group finishing before me.  I counted 3, so I thought I was in 4th place.  So close!  Before I left, I decided to double check...and turns out, I was actually 3rd!  (One of the 30-39 that I thought was in my group was actually a guy...his name was Jody so that's why I had mistakenly placed him in the female group.)

So yes: I took 3rd in my age group!  WOOHOO!!!  This is a BIG BIG deal for me.  I know it was a small race, but I have never come anywhere close to age group placement, ever.  I mean, up until 8 years ago, I hated running with a FIERY passion.  And now I placed 3rd in my age group.  I was ECSTATIC.

I stuck around for awards (got my sa-weeeet certificate) and promptly put myself on Facebook/Instagram blast, as you do.

Overall, this 5K was a huge win for me all the way around.  I did really well controlling my race nerves, I kept myself mentally focused even during the toughest parts, and I got a huge confidence boost from my age-group placement.  Let's hope my half marathon race day can be this great!

How was your running week, friends?  Anyone else race this weekend?  Have you ever placed in your age group before (or if you're an old pro who places all the time, when was your first time)?
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