Sunday, February 13, 2011

The dress rehearsal

Yesterday was the dress rehearsal for Hyannis.  My plan was to do a 12 mile run and put everything – my breakfast, energy gel, gear, you name it – to the test and see how it all holds up over the long haul.  With Hyannis two weeks away, I need to make sure I have all those little details ironed out.  For example: love my new socks, love my new pants, but don’t love the gap between where the pants end and the socks begin.  I don’t want any surprises or wardrobe malfunctions heading into the half marathon.  The original plan had been to run 12 miles: 6 with Kerri, then 6 with Chris.  At the last minute Chris couldn’t make it, and I had a decision to make: take the easy route and just do the first 6, go home in good shape, then eat a bag of chips in regret of my missing 6 miles; or, forge ahead alone for the remaining miles.  When I met up with Kerri she said she’d run with me as far as she could until she had to leave, so I wouldn’t have to do quite so much alone.  The plan worked.
                With the roads being in such tough shape and huge snow banks taking up the shoulder and blocking vision, it’s been a real challenge finding a safe place to run outside.  We found a road that seemed safe enough.  It had all the right characteristics: long, flat (yay!), wide enough to not fear getting sideswiped, and straight enough that drivers would be able to see us from a safe distance.  For even greater safety, I wore my road-crew fluorescent yellow colored windbreaker that I’m pretty sure can be seen from space. 
                We agreed to run the length of the road, which we believed to be about 3 miles.  It ended up being just under 3.5, which meant one less mile I’d have to run alone.  The run was good and I felt totally fine after 7 miles, although I have to admit I was tempted to just jump in the car and leave after that point.  Just before the end of the 7 miles we passed our friend Ali’s house, at which point Ali stuck her head out the window and offered up a beer if we wanted stop in.  Tempting as it was, I knew a beer would lead to several, and then not only would I end up blowing off my last 5 miles, I’d end up being late for a party.  I said I’d stop by after my run though, just to be social. 
                It was nice running outside.  The temperature was a mild mid-30’s, which was a real treat compared to the last week’s bitter cold.  I imagined that Hyannis would have a similar temperature so I was glad to be able to test out the gear.  Although it was nice running outside, it was also incredibly dreary.  Everything was a depressing shade of gray.  The snow was gray from all the sand.  The roads were gray from all the salt.  All of the cars were gray from the salt and sand (and nearly all of them were actually painted a dreary shade of white, silver, gray, or black).  All of the rooftops were dismally covered in snow.  Indeed, we New Englanders are a cold bunch.  It was like watching a television show in black and white, and my seen-from-space windbreaker was the one thing that didn’t belong.
                After 7 miles Kerri left and I took a quick break to grab my phone and iPod and down an energy gel.  I’ve never actually consumed an energy gel before or during a run, so this test was twofold: performance, and gastrointestinal.  All refreshed and geared up, I ran the last 5 miles alone.  I wondered how many people saw me again and wondered what I was doing.  I didn’t exactly blend in with the environment.  On my final approach to the car, I stopped at Ali’s house to say hi.  After 12 miles of running I was salty and getting stiff.  Ali welcomed me in and offered me everything from wine to Jack Daniels.  Instead, I just sipped my water and stretched.  Her family observed this odd, primal, animal-like behavior with a combination of curiosity and skepticism.  After just a few minutes I said I had to trot off, to get ready for my party.  Ali’s son commented that the astronauts will be watching me from space on my final quarter mile back to the car. 
                Overall the run was a success, and after completing this I feel confident that I can make the half marathon.  I still probably won’t be able to beat my PR (2:00:37), but at least I will make it to the finish line in one piece.  Here are a few specific results of the “testing”:

·         Do not have popcorn, cheese, and beer for dinner the night before a long race
·         Cottage cheese and almonds were a good breakfast choice
·         Next time pack a snack for the road.  I was starving by the 10th mile
·         Forgot my coffee, darnit! Wanted to see if my stomach could tolerate pre-race caffeine
·         Love my Saucony running pants.  If the temperature is anywhere from 20-50 I’ll be wearing them
·         Love my super fancy running socks
·         Love my super comfortable magic shoes by Asics
·         Will probably wear the as-seen-from-space windbreaker.  It has a nifty pouch in the back and is light enough to prevent overheating.
·         On the fence about a hat or head band.  Maybe wear one that I can donate to someone’s lawn after a few miles
·         The Clif bar mocha flavored energy gel was tasty, thicker than I expected, and hard to open.  I don’t know if it really gave me energy but it didn’t cause me to duck into the bushes so I think it’s a keeper.  I just have to figure out how to open and consume it more efficiently
·         Sports bra was a disaster.  This one has never given me problems before, but 8 is the longest I had ever run in it.  Might have to consider Vaseline.  Major bleed, major stinging, major ouch.
·         On the fence about the fuel belt.  It’s handy to store stuff, but I do have the pouch in the windbreaker.  Nice to have a source of water with me, but the aid stations are generously sprinkled throughout the course.  Leaning towards no. 
·         Save the iPod for the final miles of the race when the run starts getting hard.  (Note to self: update playlist with fresh, motivating music!)
I get one last chance to test out any changes in next weekend’s 10 mile race in Foxboro (which I am treating as a training run.  I’ll probably bring shame and embarrassment to my running club).  After that, it’s show time!
PS – For any of you that think this planning, testing, and prepping is just a wee bit over the top for a mediocre runner such as myself… After reading my last post regarding spreadsheets, did you really expect anything less? J

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