Sunday, November 28, 2010

Gettin SLIZZARD by the blizzard

Nationals was a learning experience. You would think that, at the mature age of 25, having run in 3 National and 4 CIS Championship XC races and having the responsibility of coach put on your shoulders for the day, that Nationals would no longer be a learning experience. However, I definitely proved that theory wrong. It started in the morning, when I couldn’t find my arm warmers. I was suddenly overcome with what I perceived to be a BRILLIANT idea – to cut the toes off my old compression socks and wear them on my arms. They were in fact the perfect length, though they were surprisingly tight around my bulging biceps. I couldn’t quite figure out how they were able to hug my calves comfortably yet cut off the circulation from my arms, but I attributed it to the large number of push-ups I’ve been doing recently. Nevertheless, I stuck with my plan and began to coordinate the rest of my attire. Now, the weather forecast called for snow and -2 degrees, with the 40km/h winds bringing it down to a chilly -10, with gusts up to 60km/h. Naturally I stuck to my plan of shorts, a singlet, gloves and my makeshift arm warmers. I had never been cold wearing this outfit and had run in plenty of winter-time cross-country races, so I didn’t give it much of a second thought. I would say that’s a piece of extremely brilliant reasoning.

On our drive to Guelph the skies went from blue and sunny, to cloudy, to dreary and dark, to a violent, wild blizzard. Seeing as it was my job to get the girls psyched up and ready to run hard, I began to complain like a five-year-old about the weather. I then pulled out several flasks from my bag and started a rap about getting slizzard after the blizzard. I have no doubt my words were inspirational and provided the girls with profound insight on why they should run hard that day. If that wasn’t damage enough, I proceeded to hand out the post-race goodie bags I had made for all the racers before they even began to run. What was the point of running hard now?

When we got to the course, we had trouble finding our tent (important piece of advice here: carry head coach’s cellphone number with you when you go to a National Championship. Just a thought.) We ended up starting our warm-up ten minutes later than planned; fortunately, however, the sun came out and it started to warm up considerably. At this point my arms were throbbing from my piercingly tight arm warmers, which I suffered through through the warm-up since they were practically glued to my skin and impossible to tear off. We ran the course forwards and backwards (the secret of CHAMPIONS) and headed to the start line. I was able to peel the compression armor from my poor biceps, which had turned blue and nearly started bruising at this point. Of course it began to cloud over once again and the winds came out to cheer us on, leaving me in shorts and a singlet sans arm coverage trying not to get blown off the startline. I was frozen. Unfortunately, once the gun went off the situation did not improve. I was frigid for the entire event (that’s-what-she-said) and all I could think about was how cold I was. I didn’t get the good start I had hoped for and again spent the whole race playing a game of catch-me-if-you-can. I did pick people off the whole time but wished I could have made up more ground than I did. I felt frantic and could never relax or get warm, all culminating in a sub-par performance. I finished in 32nd place in a time of 26:30. On the bright side, I ran 20s faster than last year in worse conditions, so that’s something to be mildly happy about.

Freezing in the background



Sadly I seem to have an influence on the other girls, as they also sported summer outfits for the race and were equally frozen throughout. Nice work G.I. Jane! To make matters worse, I forced Meghan to borrow spikes for the race, resulting in her limping off the finish line with an injured achilles. So just to summarize my impressive coaching accomplishments, I pretty much enforced a) a lack of focus, b) unhealthy eating and drinking habits, c) a negative attitude, d) improper attire and e) injuries on the girls on the day of their first National Championship. I would say this is quite a great list of feats, accomplished in a mere few hours.

After the race was another test of endurance that I had been preparing for just as intensely, perhaps moreso. I would have much rather blogged about the occurrences of the post-race party, but alas it is likely slightly inappropriate. Though I will say that Rob Kitz had a gold medal performance that day, even after pouring (not spilling. Pouring.) his drink all over me and nearly puking on me as well. I’m not sure what I did to him in the past that made me his target that night. Nevertheless, him and many others provided for great entertainment and so I must thank them. This includes a couple JCs who somehow managed to get kicked out of a RESTAURANT (not the bar. Restaurant. Though obviously they also got kicked out of the bar. Actually I stand corrected, since only one of them actually made it in – the other pulled a formidable COOLIS 2008.) Well, I think I have succeeded in being a sufficiently horrible role model for the weekend so I will stop here, but will leave you with my creative rap.

WEZ BE RUNNIN THROUGH THE BLIZZARD, GET-GETTIN SLIZZARD

Poppin spikes on the ice, in the blizzard
When we run we run it right getting slizzard
Feelin’ sizzurp in my stride, sub-26
Now I’m runnin so fly like a G6
Like a G6, Like a G6
Now I’m runnin so fly like a G6

Gimme that fl-flask
Gimme that Gre-Grey Goose
Crowds love my style, runnin hard gettin wild
Get them shots poppin, we get that kick and then drop
Lose the competition, take 2 more, i won’t stop

(3:20) Hell Yeaaaa
Sprint it up, sprint-sprint it up
When sober crowds around me, they be actin like they drunk
They be actin like they drunk, actin-actin like they drunk
When sober crowds around me actin-actin like they drunk

Poppin spikes on the ice, in the blizzard
When we run we run it right getting slizzard
Feelin’ sizzurp in my stride, sub-26
Now I’m runnin so fly like a G6
Like a G6, Like a G6
Now I’m runnin so fly like a G6

Runnin on, sippin on sizz, Ima ma-make ya fizz
Peeps i keep it gangsta, poppin’ shots up the hill
This is how we run, every single day
Take that flask to the face, and let me see you fly

(3:20) Hell Yeaa
Run it up, run-run it up
When sober crowds around me, they be actin like they drunk
They be actin like they drunk, actin-actin like they drunk
When sober crowds around me actin-actin like they drunk

Poppin spikes on the ice, in the blizzard
When we run we run it right getting slizzard
Feelin’ sizzurp in my stride, sub-26
Now I’m runnin so fly like a G6
Like a G6, Like a G6
Now I’m runnin so fly like a G6

It’s that finish line bump, make you put yo kick up
Make you put yo kick up, put yo, put yo kick up
(You can’t catch me)
It’s that finish line bump, make you put yo kick up
Make you put yo kick up, put yo, put yo kick up
(You can’t catch me)
Hell Yeaaaa, Make you put yo kick up, put yo put yo kick up
Hell Yeaaaa, Make you put yo kick up, put yo put yo kick up

Poppin spikes on the ice, in the blizzard
When we run we run it right getting slizzard
Feelin’ sizzurp in my stride, sub-26
Now I’m runnin so fly like a G6
Like a G6, Like a G6
Now I’m runnin so fly like a G6

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Oh Lord, AO: Overdeity of the Forgotten Realms



Loviatar: Goddess of pain, hurt, agony, torment, suffering and torture.

Every year I go back to the grit, grass, mud and evilness that is cross-country. After five years of forced cross-country racing, I swore I would never return to this brutal, painful place; yet every year I go back. In snow or sunshine, rain or wind, fit or unfit, I go back. Every year, the gun goes off and I am quickly swallowed in a sea of bodies. No matter how hard I feel I’m pushing I am not getting to where I want to go fast enough. My legs get beaten down, inch by inch, by unrelenting hills and the sinking ground, until I’ve lost all motivation to try and go any faster. Instead, I try to cling on to what strength I still possess, but feel it being usurped from my being with each step (from the Greater Powers no doubt), until I am no longer hunting but am being preyed upon by the wild, hungry, lathanders behind me. It ends in more pain that I can remember, emulated in a disillusioned, wobbly sprint to the finish, at which point all I want is to collapse to the ground, unnoticed. Instead, I walk down the chute lined with spectators, struggling to regain my composure, yet weaving from side to side. Once I have a moment to think a clear thought I immediately exclaim: Why did I want to do that? WHY?! WHY??????

Lies


My friends, the answer is the same reason women will have more than one child: PAIN IS FORGOTTEN. Somehow, the intense pain of cross-country gets buried in your brain, likely stored with all the other bits of critical information that if you could only just remember clearly, would really help you make some better decisions in life (like the effects of drinking eight shots of vodka in 12 minutes, or eating an entire carton of ice cream in one sitting - not that I have ever done EITHER of those two things). Instead, we remember the endorphin rush (or sugar rush, or dopamine rush), the fun afterwards (or during), the team camaraderie and support (or the illusion of popularity under the influence), and the satisfaction that comes from suffering through a truly gruelling race (or test of other sorts). Fair enough. But now that I’ve started this blog, I promise to come back and read this post before I run a cross-country race next year, to remind myself of the torture that awaits.

Truth


Cyric: God of murder, lies, intrigue, strife, deception, illusion

So this weekend, back I went, blissfully ignorant, stupidly happy about running AOs. Little did I know I was entering the Forgotten Realm of HURT. That being said, the course was significantly better than the course last year, in which I actually caught myself laughing out loud partway through because of how ridiculous the hills were. (It had to be a joke. Who could possibly run up 80 degree inclines and sprint down the other side, over, over and over? I think they confused cross-country with mountain running? I was terrified for my life running down those hills!). It seems someone must have vehemently complained about this, because the course this year wavered on the opposite extreme and was as flat as a pancake. Perhaps this is a slight exaggeration, since there were several of what I would call legitimate ‘slopes’ or rather ‘slanting terrain.’ Still, it rivaled the Notre Dame Invitational in its pancake perfection, an American ‘cross-country’ race that should actually be placed in category of Outdoor-Cross-Track. But as per usual, I digress.

Blissfully ignorant with coach



The race was 6k in 1k, 2k and 3k loops. My strategy was to not go out too hard, but to stay within striking distance of the lead pack. Then at 3k, try to pick people off as much as I could. When the gun went off, I found myself smack in the middle of the pack; however, I felt like I was going at full tilt. This is not an unusual feeling for me in a cross-country race, or short race at that, and I figured I would be able to maintain my pace for longer than those around me so I just tried to stay even. It wasn’t until the middle of the second loop, however, that girls started to fall back and I could really start to pick more off. Van Buskirk, Marchant and Sexton had already gapped the field by a considerable amount, but the second pack was within reach so I tried to focus on catching them. I did start to pass those who were falling off the pack, but was unable to get any closer to 4th-8th place by the end of the second loop (3k). This is when I began to tire and my goal to catch them was starting to seem less and less attainable. When I did catch two girls, another girl passed me, and this went on a few times until before I knew it I was in the last 1000m and in 11th place. I knew Sarah Nagy was in front of me and that I was gaining on her, but when it came down to the final sprint I just couldn’t snagy her (I’m sorry I couldn’t resist). I wasn’t terribly happy with how the race played out and how I placed, but I know that I raced my hardest on the day and that’s all I can really ask from myself.

Post-race! [Endorphins have set in]


On the bright side, our team placed 2nd to Speed River, which is an incredible accomplishment seeing as most of us haven’t raced cross-country all year, in the last 15 years or at all (congrats to Mama K and Meghan on their first cross-country races!). I find that so impressive! Next up we will be making the trip back to Guelph for Nationals in two-weeks for another test from the Circle of Greater Powers. This time, I hope I feel more like the fluid Akadi - goddess of movement, speed, and air - or Ilmater - god of perseverance, endurance and martyrdom - rather than Loviatar.

A video of the race: http://www.runnerspace.com/eprofile.php?do=videos&event_id=4871&video_id=34049&folder_id=-2

God Ilmater Jane - the new G.I. Jane [next time - just practicing]

Saturday, November 6, 2010

On the Road2Hope (quest for 17:30)

The thought of reducing mileage and focusing on speedwork for the next month was somewhat unattractive to me a few weeks ago. I was absorbed in 80+ mile weeks and addicted to the euphoria of double days, long runs and the strength I was deriving from them. The mileage only became easier and easier to sustain, so the thought of scaling back made no sense to me. But alas, with three races (one of which is a National Championship) in one month and with coach pushing shorter, more intense workouts on us, the logical part of my brain (which seems to oscillate in and out of range) kicked in and I realized that I would be better off taking advantage of the speedwork, reducing the mileage a little and sharpening up for the end of the fall season.

With this in mind, back I went to try and nail a sub-18:00 for 5k ‘officially’ – on the roads at that. I figured going down to the Hammer would be an appropriate place to drive this nail in the board, so to speak. I was joined by fellow angels Kathryn and AZ.

Now AZ is normally quite a high-energy individual. On the ride down to Hamilton, however, she seemed particularly rambunctious. I think ‘OH MY GOD I’M SO NERVOUS!’ were the first words she uttered upon entering the car. ‘5k! It’s so INTENSE! What am I supposed to eat? How long do we warm up? How fast should I go? Oh my god I feel sick. Ooooh my stomach. Oh god I have to go to the washroom.’ I looked back to make sure she was breathing in between her unremitting words, and was relieved to see that she had not fallen into sweaty convulsions. ‘AZ, relax!’ I said, ‘It’s only 5k! You’ve run an ironman! What could be more nerve-wracking than 10 hours of racing?!’ ‘Ummm...a 5k...or maybe a 3k? My stomach hurts...’ She continued on with her nervous chatter. I couldn’t figure out why she was so nervous, since there was virtually no pressure on her – hell, Nic wasn’t even in the car to instill REAL LIFE fear in her! When I asked her what her 5k PB was, her voice became shrill again ‘PB? PB?! I have no PB! I’ve never run a 5k!’ Aaaaaaah it finally all started to make sense to me! The long distance runner’s fear of running anything shorter than a marathon. I can understand that. Luckily, the calm Kathryn was there to appease AZ’s nerves by telling her they’d run together, and that Kathryn was going for a sub-19:10, or 3:50/km. ‘Ok so I’ll just follow you then? We can do 3:50? Ooohhh that sounds intense!.....’ AZ continued..

When we arrived in Hamilton winter was upon us. It was freezing cold, windy and we shivered in the registration tent wearing full-on skiing gear. Of course when AZ asked me SPECIFICALLY what I intended on wearing (the logical part of my brain again slipping away) I stood by my weather-network outdated decision of a singlet and half-tights. ‘YOU ARE CRAZY G.I. JANE!’ She yelled. ‘What is wrong with you? You are a freak!’ I thanked her for the compliment and defended myself by saying I would sport some trendy arm-warmers and gloves as well (but really they were just to make me look more hardcore). By the time we warmed up, however, it had gotten a few degrees warmer and I was legitimately HOT. I rolled up my half-tights.

My goal for this race was to go out anywhere from 3:25-3:30 and hang on, really focusing on staying strong in the last 2k. My ‘A’ goal was to run 17:30; ‘B’ was to run 17:45 and ‘C’ was to PB (sub-18:00). I felt pretty relaxed through 1k, which I went through in 3:26 or so. I was pleased to see at 2k I had apparently picked it up to 3:25. I began to think I’d have no problem going 17:30. I started to increase the intensity in the next km, only to pass through in 3:41. WTF?! How is that possible? I realized that the km markers were likely off and that I should shift my focus to my cadence and effort and not on splits. I tried to push harder from 3-4k but only managed a 3:38, which I ended up maintaining to the finish, where I crossed through in 17:48. I was initially a little disappointed, seeing as I was on such a road2hope to a 17:30 early on, but eventually began to appreciate that I still ran a 37s 5k road PB and was 11s faster than my 5000m on the track earlier this summer. Can’t really complain. I am still dissatisfied with my ability to push harder in the last km of my races, however, since the guy I was with until 4k managed to squeak under 17:30 in 17:28 or so. Argh!

Kathryn was close to cracking 19:00 with her 19:04, which we have justifiably blamed on the horrible hairpin turn at 3.8k, where not only did she (and everyone else) lose momentum, but also ran around the marshall standing 2 feet away from the cone instead of directly around it. Next time will be a sub-19:00 fo sheeze. As is the bliss of one’s first try at a distance, AZ set an awesome PB of 19:34. Way to eliminate the 20:00 barrier by blowing by it on your first try! Of course, the whole way back AZ exclaimed how much she LOVED 5k’s and promptly began planning her attack on a sub-19:00, which I have no doubt she will attain by next Spring. I suppose pre-race nerves are a good thing in some cases!

After the race I felt strangely perky and energetic. My legs felt great on the cooldown and my energy was high all day, leading me to suspect I could have dug a little deeper. I wish I had another chance to run a 5k this season, but it doesn't look like this will be a possibility with two cross-country races on the horizon. That is, unless I raced every weekend and squeezed in another 5k in the third week of November, but I'm not sure that's a good idea. Nevertheless, I am chipping away at my 5k time season by season without ever really focusing on it, so I am hoping that it will continue to get incrementally faster with each try!

I will also have ample opportunity to be forced out of my comfort zone in the coming weeks, as I prepare for the AO Championships and AGSI Nationals Cross-Country, both being held in Guelph. Looking forward to it!