smells like race season

SOMEWHERE OVER NEW FOUNDLAND // SEAT 35G — There’s nothing like an eight-hour flight to make you want to go for a run. I guess I’ll settle for writing about it. 

Race season is upon us. Sure, I do a race of some sort almost every month, but now it’s getting to the point where the weather is only half miserable, the sun is up during at least some of my workouts, and I’m out there in only two layers of clothing. There’s that spring smell, too — the one that’s heavy from winter melt but also crisp with newness. It’s fresh and familiar. It smells like playing catch, taking a long bike ride, or going on a walk, just because you feel like it. 

It’s the time of year I’m most excited to move, so when I have the opportunity, I go for it. 
On that note — I raced four times in the last month, so I have some things to share. 

Get Lucky Half Marathon // Chicago // March 12

High point: It was my best-feeling 13.1 to date, and I set a personal best pace. 

Low point: The race was about a third of a mile short.

I mean, really? I can understand being off a maybe a tenth of a mile, but why go through the trouble of making a half marathon course if you’re not actually going to check if the distance is accurate?

This is the first time I raced with a pace group, and that really made the race for me. It was chilly and windy, so having encouraging company made the time go by quickly. 

When we got to the turn around point, everyone realized the mile marker couldn’t be right. We had just passed mile 6 — there was no way we traveled a half mile before turning around. Mile 7 came up and everyone compared watch data. We were at about 6.6 miles. That discrepancy remained until the end, and everyone in our group was pissed. 

I had a disappointing experience at another race run by the same company. Others in my group said a race they put on in January was also short, and this race in 2015 was short. Of all things, when people pay to run a half marathon, they should at least get to run the accurate distance. Perhaps this is more difficult to do than I realize, but I’be never run a race that seemed so far off from the distance it was supposed to be. 

Perhaps the worst thing about that was how it affected me mentally. I knew I was on pace to run a PR, but knowing it wouldn’t be a an entire 13.1 miles totally killed my momentum. That energy you get from knowing you’re doing well is a really fragile thing. I had the excitement of a deflated balloon for the last few miles. 

Had the course been the correct distance, I easily would have finished in a personal best time. That’s still really satisfying. I was also blown away by how I felt. My coaches have had me do a lot of strength training in the off season, and holy crap, I felt the difference. I felt so confident in my stride. My usual misery in miles 8, 9 and 10 never came. I actually cruised up hills (granted, these are Chicago hills, aka small lumps in the ground) rather than my tendency to shuffle to the top. I’m really excited to see that progress. 

    
  

Shamrock Shuffle // Chicago // April 3

High point: New 8K PR

Low point: Much cold. At least it wasn’t snowing, like it was the day before. 

Big races are fun. Sure, there are drawbacks: weaving through people going all different speeds, bottlenecks on narrow course sections, people who stutter step around corners instead of running through them. Still, I really loved being around so many people who seemed to be having a fun morning. 

A strong headwind in mile 3 sapped a lot of my energy, but I still managed to finish nearly 2 minutes faster than my last 8K (in December). That’s pretty rewarding. I had myself a little dance party afterward. It also helped me stay warm while I waited for MW to cross the finish line. 

  

Foodie 5K // Wheaton, Ill. // April 9

High point: Mother-daughter-sister bonding time

Low point: Wind. Hills. 

I think the last time I went to Cantigny Park was on an 8th grade field trip, so it was cool to go back and enjoy a scenic race. Of course, I had forgotten that the grounds include a golf course. Golf courses have hills. I am from Illinois — hills and I are not friends. 

You know how you want to get a little faster each mile of the race? I did not do that. The second mile of the race was not only all over those rolling golf course hills, it was also into a headwind. I didn’t have a whole lot of energy by the third mile, but even though it wasn’t my best time, I placed well: 7th female, 3rd in my age group.

LIFETIME Indoor Triathlon // Schaumburg, Ill. // April 10

High point: “Holy crap!” —the woman who recorded my bike distance

Low point: My flip turns (swimming) are a terrible joke 

As it often is in Midwestern April, it was pretty gross outside, so I didn’t mind an hour of indoor racing. Here’s how it goes: 10 minutes of swimming, 10 minute transition, 30 minutes on a spinning bike, 5 minute transition, 20 minutes on a treadmill. Go as fast and as far as you can. The more distance you cover, the more points you get. 

Cool thing: I got a lot of points. I knew I had beaten last year’s distances in each discipline (Erin & I did a LIFETIME indoor tri in January 2015), but I was psyched when they posted results a day later and I saw that I had the most points of any female. I took 4th overall. 

I WON. Whoa. I didn’t win anything, but who cares. Again, I happy danced. 

What’s even cooler is I got that result even though I raced on slightly fatigued legs after Saturday’s 5K. I definitely had the ability to run farther than I did, too, but running fast on a treadmill freaks me out. And that new Apple ad with Taylor Swift has not helped with that fear. 

So I’d say I’m really excited about where I’m at. Next up is the Grand Canyon Half Marathon, which is more for fun than anything else, but first, I’m going to go eat a lot of chocolate in Europe. 

Spring is good. 

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