Tuesday, September 14, 2010

With a little help from my friends...and the weather

Last Saturday I ran the 18th annual VHTRC Women's Trail Half Marathon in Clifton, VA. Regular readers of my blog know that I went into the race wondering if I still had the leg speed to break 2:00 on a course where my PR (set in 2006) was 1:56:45. I also went into the race prepared to suffer, because that's what you do in the Women's Half.(the cool pic of me above is courtesy of Bobby Gill)

This event was not an ultra, but you would not know it by looking around. The course shared miles 26-39 of the famous Bull Run Run 50, also put on by the VHTRC. It was dry, rooty, and eroded after months of little rain and lots of horse traffic, and it had a few long climbs and descents that always require power-hiking at BRR. But at the WHM, you had to run them...it's only a half marathon, after all! The VHTRC volunteers at the aid stations were basically a "who's who" of the east coast ultrarunning community: Tom Corris, John Hayward, Keith Moore, Ed Demoney, Joe Clapper, Michele Harmon, Vicki Kendall, Jack Kurisky and James Moore, among others too numerous to mention. These folks have run many of the hardest 100 milers---from Hardrock to Massanutten to Badwater-- and their experience was on display every time I came through an aid station. My favorite moment was watching Jack Kurisky sprint toward me at the final aid station asking if he could fill up my bottle, treating me like a total rock star, knowing I was racing the clock...but I had to blow by him with a quick, "no, thanks!" as the clock was ticking! Thanks anyway, Jack!

But, I am getting ahead of myself. Back to the start. I went into the race hoping for cool weather and was not disappointed. It was so chilly at the start that I was wearing a fleece coat just before the gun went off (that's me with Anstr Davidson on the right). The men of the VHTRC actually start the race by singing "Happy Trails" to us, and then we are off! I started out running with former WHM winner Heather Schaffer, as well as Jen "Ironman" Ragone and Ragan Petrie. I knew Heather, who holds the Catoctin 50K CR, would most likely crush the course, and I was right. She cruised to a comfortable two minute win over the next woman, after starting slow with us and picking her way through the pack. Jen, despite her sandbagging and comments about how much she hates suffering on this course, ran for fifth and Ragan paced herself well for ninth. I was happy to tuck in behind Ragan as I know she would start out easy, and I tried to stay in contact with her during the race. When I saw Tom Corris as I was coming out of the Do Loop, he commented that I was looking good and moving well---which is hardly ever the case when one comes out of the Do Loop--and this was my first inkling that I had a potential PR day ahead of me.

However, you would never know by looking at the race photos that I was having a good day. Aaron Schwartzbard took these pics of (in order, l-r) Ragan, Heather and me...which runner looks like she is suffering the most?

Despite the look on my face, I was actually pleased that I was feeling good. But I kept thinking, "hmmm...this is not good. If I feel this good in this race, it must mean that I'm not working hard enough." Sheesh. So I kept at it and focused on high turnover, efficient form, low heart rate and eating and drinking. At the last aid station I knew I was within reach of breaking my PR, and I tried to run up the big hills as much as I could. The women coming towards me were unbelievably supportive, positive, and friendly, and I tried to use their positive vibe to pull me along. As I neared the finish I glanced at my watch and saw that it was not going to happen...but I came damn close. Eleven seconds off for a 1:56:56, 11th overall and first in 45-49!

Needless to say, I am very excited that I can still work it at 47 like I used to at 43, and after reading all the supportive comments from you guys and gals out there (you know who you are!), I am very excited to go for the sub-9:34 Masochist course PR. Yes, cool weather will most definitely play a role...along with the encouragement of my friends. Thanks, everyone. Here's to growing older and going faster!

Women's Half Marathon photos, results and report are here.

A side note...after many years of lusting after the Bull Run run 50 embroidered blankets that are awarded to the winning teams---and never running for a winning team--I finally got my blankey for winning the 45-49 age group at the WHM. Here I am with super Race Director Mel Saraniero at the finish, clutching my blankey. Gotta love the schwag at VHTRC races! Thanks, Mel, and all the awesome volunteers for another unforgettable event!


Rick Gray said...

Yes, weather and friends certainly help with a fast run, but you were the one who ran the race. I don't think the pictures show a look of pain, but a look of concentration. You were focussed mentally on the task you had placed before your. You certainly went way beyond your expectations and came within a hair of beating your PR of four years ago. If you would have had someone close to work with, that little 11 second shortfall would have been one minute on the positive side. Nothing shabby about Saturday as you continue to perform at a very high level. I think you have proven that even though your body has aged a few years, you still have that leg speed of years gone by. I can tell by your words that you are primed and excited about Masochist and I truly believe you are right on the money. The 2010 Masochist is going to be a great year! Congratulations on a great run.

ultrarunnergirl said...

You rocked it Sophie! The extra dry course and treacherous acorn-strewn trails probably accounted for more than a few extra seconds. I can't remember ever seeing so many candidates for the "Best Blood" Award.

AgileToes said...

Nicely done! The trail is rough out there right now with so little rain...though I think I'd still take that over mud =) Can't wait to see how you do at Masochist!

And Miles 2 Go said...

W-O-W!!! Way to work it, chica. Very, very impressive. You are the poster child for "Hard Work Pays Off."

Andy said...

Wow! Nice race Sophie. Keep it up.

meredith said...

WOOHOO!! Nice effort! I can't wait to run with you and hopefully break that PR of yours with you :) Mine is so ridiculous that I have to shoot for more!

chris mcpeake said...

Nicely done. Great race.