Sunday, October 20, 2013

Race Report: Grape Stomp Half

This morning I got up dark and early and prepared to head out to Livermore for the race I have decided is a consolation prize for those who didn't get in to Nike, since they are on the same day. But boy, does this race have some perks compared to Nike. For starters, there was no traffic anywhere, and I rolled right into the nearby parking lot, minutes from the start and finish line. No tricky logistics to take care of there.

I started having some foot pain during my run on Thursday, presumably part of the never-ending big toe/first metatarsal dysfunction. During Saturday's 10k, the pain was pretty intense after mile 5. My foot felt fine after I loosened my shoe completely up and the rest of the day, but I still worried about  running 13 miles on it. And indeed, when I put my shoe on this morning, my foot already hurt. I tried an older pair of shoes and loosening the laces, but it didn't help. I contemplated not driving to the race but figured I would go pick up my tech tee at least. I drove sans shoe, so my foot felt fine, and I walked over to packet pickup with it partially laced to avoid pressure. I was thrilled to discover there was a sports chiropractor already set up before the race, and he graciously offered to take a look at my foot. He did some quick adjustments and got everything moving much better. I also relaced my shoe to skip part, and then I could run without pain!

I picked up my packet and went back to my car to drop the goodies off and get ready to race. Super easy! On the race logistics, there was a bit wanting. There could have been a few more port a potties, but the line moved quickly. The gate we were supposed to run through was locked, but they got it opened only about 10 minutes after supposed start time. There were also two cars parked on the course right at the start because it was so poorly marked and they had to make announcements for the owners to move them. Eventually we started. I only noticed because the people in front of me started moving - no one bothered to do a count down.

Once the race started, it was beautiful! We started on a bike path out to some vineyards with rolling hills. After a 7 mile loop we were back near the start/finish and heading out on an out and back on another multi use path bordering a stream that was full of water! I had no idea such things existed.  There were fall colors in the vines and the trees. Luckily they changed the course to do the exposed part first and the shady part last as the temperatures were soaring into the 80s today. 

There were hardly any spectators, but there were several friendly ones as well as some people out for walks who were kind enough to cheer for me. One lady I saw several times told me at mile 8 that I was almost there. I said I didn't know about that. I saw her again at mile 9.5 and she said, Now you're really almost there. What can you do?

The race could have been marked better. In a couple locations the path splits with no signage, and there wasn't always someone immediately in front of me. Basically you had to just stay on the main path, and it did work out in the end, but an extra arrow or chalk marking would be well regarded.

I had a great run. I felt good from the beginning, and my foot behaved itself for the most part. There were a few instances in the early miles where I could feel it, and I discovered that it hurt a lot on the sharp corners and uneven surfaces, so I spent the rest of the race trying to land perfect footfalls. That seemed to do the trick - it never became more than a discomfort except for a couple of twinges. I decided that I was feeling so good, I might as well go for the PR, because if my foot is messed up, I have little hope for a good marathon given that I am right in the middle of peak mileage training that may or may not happen. So why not have one good race?

My garmin is not working now, so I am relying on my phone to map distances. Since it lives in my pocket and not on my wrist, I don't look at it as much. I looked it it about once a mile for the first several miles and was presently surprised to see I was running 8:15. I never looked at it after mile 9.5. I felt this was a good strategy for the next couple of miles, but after the 11 mile marker when I wanted to start picking it up and it was getting harder, I really could have used a sneak peek at my pace. When it feels that hard, I have trouble judging if it is hard because I am going so fast or just because I was tired. Turns out it was the latter. My last two miles were 8:19 and 8:26, significantly slower than all the other miles except the first. If I had seen that in real time, I think my rain could have convinced my body to go faster. I don't think it helped that the field had thinned out,I had passed people, and no one was passing me. I didn't really have any good indicators.

Regardless, it turned out to be a PR by nearly 2.5 minutes. At 1:49:41 it is sub-1:50, which I am pretty excited about. After the race, my foot did not feel too pleasant, so I stopped back by the chiro and got another adjustment that enabled me to walk back to my car without pain. I already booked an appt with my chiro tomorrow and hope to get this sorted out soon.

All in all, I enjoyed the race. The scenery was beautiful, the weather was great, and the parking was superb. No Tiffany necklace, but I am over $100 richer for my race choice.