Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Poca River Run 15K

On May 14, 2011, Vance, Jay, Tom Samples and I signed up for the Poca River Road Run 15k.  Billed as the oldest road race in WV, the course is an undulating 9.3 mile loop of asphalt running.  We scouted what we thought was the route the night before so that we knew where to go in the morning.  A friend of mine told me the "back way" from Teays Valley, so we wanted to be sure we knew we could get there.

The plan was for my parents to come to our house in the morning so that we could leave for the race while the kiddos slept in.  We laid out all our gear the night before: freshly charged Garmins, ipods, Road IDs, Gatorade, Gu, socks, shoes, clothes, and visors.  I love the process of excitedly preparing my run "kit" the night before.  I'm such a running nerd.

On race morning we got up, ate our routine race day breakfasts: Kashi GoLean with milk, coffee, and a banana for me, and a Clif Bar, coffee, and banana for Jay.  We got dressed and headed out, with Gatorade and Red Bull to sip along the way.  Vance had met us at our house so he rode with us to the race start.  Vance was suffering a sinus infection, but not being one to back out, came to gut out the race anyway.

It was a muggy and warm for the start.  We lined up along with many familiar faces that we saw during the Winter Race Series.  And off we went, a jostling mass of runners, over the Poca River bridge and onto the country road along the river.  Tom was out front, and finished first amongst us.  We three ran mid-pack, with Vance leading and Jay and I staying together for about the first five miles.  I can hang with Jay for about 4-6 miles, but that's when he continues to accelerate, and I maintain my chugging pace.  My miles are usually identical in pace.  Jay consistently runs negative splits.  Jealous.  I saw him ahead catch up with Vance and run alongside him for awhile.  Then the course took a few uphill and downhill turns and I lost sight of them.

The course was beautiful.  We saw dogs, horses, country folk, and some interesting roadkill along the way.  The downhills outnumbered the uphills, but there were plenty of both to be challenging.  As the route turned toward the river, we ran across a bridge into the tiny hamlet of Lanham.  Photographer Dan had found a great spot to photograph the runners as they came across the bridge.  There was a city-wide yardsale going on as we ran past.  The crowds perusing the wares looked up at the runners briefly, probably thought we were insane, and then quietly went back to rummaging.  I thought it was hilarious.

The last relief station at mile 6 was just past the yard sale.  A fellow runner caught up with me while I slowed to drink the water.  She had been behind me almost the whole way and was running the same pace.  We agreed to pace together the rest of the way.  She was probably a whole foot shorter than me, and her leg turnover was much faster.  I spent the next few miles analyzing running form and how leg length and height had an influence on cadence and speed.  She had the advantage on the uphills because her legs were faster, I had the advantage on the downhills because my strides were longer.  On the flats we were about the same.  It was an interesting phenomenon and it helped the last few miles go by as I observed this.  Not long after the relief station we passed Vance who was fighting a fever, cramps, and exhaustion.  He ran alongside us for awhile but had to slow down to keep his legs from cramping.  He toughed it out, though, and finished not long after I did!  Vance definitely wins the tenacity award.

A couple of tough hills challenged us in the last mile.  It definitely felt good to finish that race!  Jay and Tom had already turned in their sticks and were calmly sipping Gatorade.  Vance finished just a few minutes later.  The heat and humidity took a toll on all of us.  We spent the rest of the weekend rehydrating.

Overall the Poca River Road Race was a very fun, picturesque race, and a great way to challenge yourself at a 15K distance, which is somewhat rare in these parts.  The race is well-run, has three aid stations and a port-a-pottie (very important), as well as post-race bananas and gatorades.  The registration fee included a long-sleeve race tee and a water bottle.  Highly recommend!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Susan G. Komen 5K and a big first!

The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure is the largest 5k in the state.  This year, 6500+ attended the run/walk festivities that took place in Charleston, WV.  The capitol setting is a beautiful locale, and the race route is a flat, straight out and back along Kanawha Boulevard overlooking the Kanawha River.

The sheer size of the event invites total chaos.  Many vendors and participating teams set up EZup tents at the race start, making the registration tent virtually impossible to distinguish.  The crowd milling around the capitol front steps is dense and moving in a million different directions, so quick maneuvering on site is difficult, especially amongst the small city of tents.

Jay and I had preregistered as timed runners, and registered our two kids, Alex and Caitlin as regular participants.  Since we registered a day or so too late to receive our packets in the mail, we were forced to fight the crowd to pick up our race chips and numbers.  Note to self:  Register early next year.

We had decided to participate as a family, with Caitlin in the jog stroller and Alex riding his bike.  However, I was uneasy about running alongside Alex on the bike, mainly because of the hazard and frustration he may cause to fellow runners.  In the car, on the way to the race, Jay and I discussed what we would do if he didn't ride his bike.  Alex was quietly listening, and piped up, "I want to run."  "Really?" Jay and I said in unison.  "Yep!" he said.

Since about January, we have been running short distances with Alex, who is six years old, but we had never run 5K distance with him.  He has attended most of our triathlons and running races over the past year, and knew that running was a big part of my husband's and my extracurricular activities.  Until the day of the Susan G. Komen race, he had not been interested in running a race.  We were so excited at his interest, that we gladly forewent our personal pace goals and decided to run as a family.

After navigating the crowd and getting registered, we jammed ourselves into the packed Boulevard to await the runners' start.  Alex was ready.  His game face was on!  The gun went off, and there we went, running jauntily down the street together.  Alex ran hard, at about a 9:30 pace for the first mile, even though I tried to slow him down a bit to conserve his energy for the rest of the race.  Soon after the first mile marker, Alex said he needed to walk, which I could tell he was disappointed in admitting.  I had told him before we started that we would run as far as we could together, and then whenever he was ready to walk, just say so, no big deal.  But, of course, like we all do, he got swept up in the crowd, and wanted to keep up with the pack of runners around him.  Luckily, an aid station was in the perfect location for a stop.  We grabbed Gatorades and a banana for Caitlin, and walked the next couple hundred yards, sipping "energy juice."

Roberts family racers
And, he was off again!  Alex continued his run/walk strategy, walking and drinking Gatorade in between energetic and fast spurts of running.  All the while, we ran alongside him and Caitlin cheered him on from her stroller.  A train zoomed by across the river, and he got a second wind, inspired by the train.  We spent the rest of the race designating goals in the distance of things to run to, such as light poles, stoplights, people to pass, etc..  This kept Alex moving and motivated, and he was absolutely determined to finish this race.  I was amazed at his resolve and strength.

As we neared the finish, I coached him on how to finish strong and fast, and told him that once we started our final sprint, he couldn't stop, he had to run it out.  Apparently a fellow runner, a woman who looked to be in her fifties, overheard my little pep talk, and when it was time to sprint to the finish, she called out, voice wavering with emotion, "You run your little heart out buddy!"  And we were off again.  Jay and me with huge smiles, and Alex with his serious game face on, ran to the finish line while the crowd let up a loud cheer to see such a little guy finishing strong.  He finished in just under 40 minutes.

Proud Alex post race
I was so proud of him!  I picked him up in a big bear hug, and Jay squeezed him hard.  He was proud of himself, too.  I was happy for all of us.  Our family had completed the race, and Alex got bit by the running and racing bug.  Yippeee!