December 1st marked the beginning of my training for 2013, but truth be told I hadn't yet finished racing in 2012! A few weeks ago I ran my running club's local 5k, and this past weekend I swam in the Masters Short Course Meters Swim Championship at Boston Universtiy. Both were fun. (and painful. also very painful...)
First up: the GNRC Ho Ho Ho 5k. I hadn't run this race since 2008. I am never in decent shape in December, and running a 5k when you are not in decent shape is never ever pretty. This year, though, I decided to go for it anyway. Sure, I'm in lousy shape right now. Who cares! YOLO, Man! (Okay, I'm trying.)
Anyway. I'm coaching myself right now, and one thing I wanted to know before embarking on such a journey is to find out where I am REALLY at in 5k land--right now. I'd like to take my 5k PR and organize my workouts and pacing around that time--but that would be sorta dumb, now wouldn't it? I needed a benchmark--no matter how ugly that benchmark might be. You have to know where you are in order to design a way to get to where you want to arrive.
The day was cold and snowy. The roads were a tad slick. This did not bode well for my already shaky confidence going into the race. I found my friend Maria and lined up next to her for the start. I figured Maria, who is usually around my pace, would be faster than me today, but I decided that I would try to stay with her. That was pretty much my only strategy for the race. Try to stay with Maria.
The starter said Go! (rather un-ceremoniously) and off I went. Too fast.
A quarter mile into the race I realized I was leading for women. This wasn't a good moment, actually. I knew I didn't have any business leading this race given the shape I was in. Still, I held on. I knew Maria would arrive by my side soon enough! Mile 1: 6:40. Okay. Not so terrible. Not so great, either, but given the rate and force of my breathing I decided it was best not to try to up the pace at all. And then, there she was! Maria, just behind me. Maria, just at my side. Maria, stepping just ahead of me. I used her energy to boost my own and forced myself to stay with her. Mile 2, 6:35. I was definitely having trouble holding pace. I pushed ahead of Maria a bit. Could I psych her out? Convince her I could take her? She moved up with me and we ran stride for stride.
With about a 1/2 mile to go she pulled ahead. I couldn't stay with her, but did my best not to let her get too far ahead. I know she doesn't like to blast the downhill because of her knees, and there is a little downhill section within the last quarter mile of the race. I would catch her then. We hit the downhill and I kicked hard. I gained on her... I was at her heels! But then she pulled away just slightly again and WHAM! We crossed the line. She beat me by 2 seconds.
What fun! We ran 21:03, 21:05 respectively. Not bad for being in sub par shape! And what a race! I LOVE racing when it's really a race! (even if I didn't win.) I must admit I was damn psyched to stay with Maria as long as I did. Thanks for the motivation, Maria!
Last weekend I swam at Boston University in the Short Course Meters Masters Championships. I love this meet. It's a big one, so my Maine teammates come down to race. Also, because we race meters there is less *meaning* attached to whatever times I get. For example, I swam the 400 meter free, and got a 5:45. I'm not really sure how that translates to yards (there are calculators--but every calculator gives you a different number so you begin to lose faith that there is a correct way to calculate meters to yards...) and so I can just say, Well, it's faster than I swam it last month at that other little meet I did, so I must have done great! :) No comparing it to my high school times or anything like that.. because we didn't swim the 400 meter free then!
I swam seven events: the 400 meter free, the 200 meter back, the 100m back, the 50m back, the 50m fly, and then I swam on two medley relays for Maine--100 back in one and 50 back in the other.
One thing I have to say about swimming in meets: you forget how BAD swimming really hard hurts! Swimming hard in a meet is not like swimming hard in practice. Sure, when you swim hard in practice you get out of breath, you want to stop, you feel spent when you finish. But when you swim in a meet? Holy SHxx it is exhausting. Before you get in the water you think, how bad can (say) four lengths be? The first length always feel good. The second length not as good, but you are still on fire. But when you make the turn onto the third length you suddenly realize that you can't get enough oxygen when you breathe; you feel your muscles start to burn, and you honestly think--I'm dying! Yes, it can get ugly. Even if you are just swimming 100 measly meters.
The big question for me is whether my times in backstroke indicate that I can swim the yard equivalent of each event in qualifying times for Nationals. My times were fast in the backstroke (for me)--. Certainly faster than they have been in past years--even the year we all wore super fast, now-illegal suits. But whether they are *fast enough* really depends on the online calculator you use to measure meter to yard speed. According to Swimming World, I still need to chop off 4 seconds from my 200 back, 1 second from my 100 back, and .75 of a second from my 50. If you use other calculators, I am within 2 seconds on the 200, and with .4 of a second on the 50 and the 100. And if you use one special calculator (my favorite, OF COURSE) (The Great Bay Masters calculator) I have already qualified in all three events.
I'm choosing the Great Bay calculator. Thanks.
One thing I love about these big meets is watching the super fast, accomplished swimmers who come to compete. My friend Tracy is one of those swimmers (as well as Alina, of course!). Tracy broke a bunch of New England records (many set by her in previous years!) including swimming a time of 1:00 in the 100 meter free. That's like... a :52 or so in yards! Crazy fast. Actually... all her swims were of that caliber. That swim just stands out in my mind, though. She amazes me.
On Saturday night after the meet (it was a two day meet--Saturday and Sunday) Alina and I celebrated our swims by going out to dinner at this awesome little Mexican place we like. Included in said dinner were a few margaritas, and they were YUMMY. I rarely drink margaritas (except with Alina!) and so this was a super special treat. Probably didn't help our swimming much on Sunday, but hey--as I said, I'm all about YOLO right now. (Right, Bean?)
Btw, I STILL WANT TO BE your faithful advice columnist. If you think of a good question--shoot me an email! (email@example.com) OR you can make up a question! I'm all about answering faux questions. I *may* even make up a few of my own. Now THAT could be fun.