Wednesday, April 1, 2009

speedfreak way too fast, way too fast, gonna be the first and last

I am happy to report that the running is still going on. Graham successfully ran the half marathon in Prague with his son after taking 6 weeks off of running due to injury. No running in Prague for me this year, but the Dubai Road Runners 10K that Graham organised was a great time, and such a fantastic deal at 80 Dhs including breakfast at the Dubai Sail Club afterwards.

Graham and Katrina are really devoted to making races affordable for everyone, including doing all their timing and data entry manually and having reusable fabric race numbers to keep down the cost. That's a lot of work.

The fantastic volunteers as the 2009 DRR 10K, Safa Park

Another medal for my stash, a Saucony shirt, and a nice set of DRR mugs besides, great haul. A PB (personal best) for Cathy. She's racking them up no end, one after the other. Very cool.

The next weekend was the ABRaS 10K out at Mina Seyahi, the second of their three race series through the race season. This course, a loop repeated three time, had killed me during my first attempt at the series last year.

Second lap, see Atlantis in the background?

Nigel, my headband-wearing but distinguished running friend from Essex, England had convinced me to run alongside to keep him at a steady pace. He has a tendancy to go hard at the beginning, wearing himself out and having to fight the distance. Now, Graham once told me he enjoyed our training runs together since he knew they were "good solid runs at a nice slow pace." Er, thanks, I think? Nigel was looking to get some of that steadiness incorporated into his race, though he was also talking frequently about how I was going to take a minute off my PB time at the end.

Last year, same course, was when Nigel and I had fought for victory at the end and had come in at exactly the same chip time down to the hundreth of a second, thus cementing out friendship.

Now, I never run for time. I do my best, am happy if I get a PB, check the pace, and feel good as long as I'm either consistant or improving and tried hard. I want a good showing at the end. Nigel, like many runners, has a Garmin on his wrist telling him exactly how fast and far he's gone, calculating splits (how far you should have come in a certain amount of time...every kilometer, for instance). I hate to tech up the runs, prefering to take them as they come and not have technology betwen me and my experience. Well, except for those running shoes on my feet, sunscreen, and the joy of spandex.

can you spot the short runner in the dorky yellow headband?

Nigel, geared up, clawing at the start line, earphones on and AC/DC blasting loud enough for me to enjoy it as well, set us out at what I considered a hard pace. My whole job was to stay with him. I was nervous as all get-out. Cathy was wisely running the race at her own pace, more power to her. Nigel and I zoomed along, me noting that several runners around us were those I consider in a faster league than my own.

The first lap was doable, second lap was almost doable, our times were just slightly ahead of Garmin-dictated schedule, but I was struggling. I knew I'd had it when, halfway through the third lap, we got to my little incline spot that I'd flown up twice before and was now dejectedly flat-footing. Nigel, as per our agreement, was a gentleman, held up his end and took off. Out of his sight I gratefully, if disappointedly, slowed to a walk for a count of ten. Back to a forced run, I took off my sunglasses and headband and tossed them into a bush, they seeming too heavy to carry any further. (Race mentality is a funny thing.) Slowed to a walk for another count of 20 or 30. Back to a run, getting a little angry. Finally the last corner and the stretch to the end.

My sprint was NOT what I wanted it to be, but to my shock I had taken a minute off my 10K best time and achieved a sub 50 minute. It is telling that I was unhappy about how I'd run (OK, unhappy about how I'd walked, to be perfectly honest) even with the PB. At the DRR 10K my time may have been 2 minutes slower but I felt better about that race overall. I did enjoy the challenge of keeping up with Nigel for as long as I could, as much as one can enjoy such insanity.

Finished and medaled, I staggered to the water station at the finish line to be told, "Hmm, sorry, there's got to more water around here somewhere..." dragged myself to my backpack to get the camera to get a promised photo or two of Cathy running for the end. Nigel was, I believe, lying in the grass somewhere recovering and enjoying the spoils of his awesome finish.

I limped dazedly back up the course to the station there, thankfully finding some bottles of water for me and my compadres. I borrowed the tail of another runner's race vest to wipe the lens of the camera, my outfit being entirely soaked and useless for such (he was surprised but obliging, "well spotted" quoth he in typical Brit fashion) and got my shot of Cathy getting another PB. Two minutes worth of PB, no less.

Nigel, Natalie (wearing the now-retrieved headband) and PB Queen Cathy

I owed my PB to Nigel, no question, and he and Cathy were my heroes of the day (especially later in the day when Cathy proved herself undauntedly good natured after I got the car stuck in the sand and in an unrelated incident Nigel and his lovely wife Lisa sent me a lovely large chunk of homemade fudge cake). My other heroes were these two who crossed the finish line a good 30 minutes after I came in:

the second-to-last finishers of the 10K, huge smiles and Pocari.

Big cheer of approval from the crowd.

You gotta love that.

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