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Race Recap: Riverbank Run

Yay! My first race of the year is now under the belt.  I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome, and extremely excited for what will be in store for the rest of my summer races. I ended up with a PR time of 1:44.21 for the 25k (15.5 miles) and it felt so good to be running fast again.   I was also encouraged to see how I stacked up against the competition in my age bracket, because this race doubles as the national championship for road 25k, meaning that many of the ladies I was competing against in my age bracket were professional runners.  It was amazing to have that kind of competition in a local road race, and one of the reasons why I keep coming back to the Riverbank run.

Another reason why this weekend was so great is because this race and I go waaaay back.  The Old Kent Riverbank run, as it was named back then, was my very first 5k I ever entered at the wee age of 10.  I had joined the Little Cats Running Club at my elementary school and the culmination of all of our after school practices was to trek up to the big city of Grand Rapids and complete the 5k at the end of the year.  It amuses me to look back and remember how long 3 miles felt to those little legs. Now I can say that I have competed in the Riverbank run every year since (with the exception of last year when I was in Africa), bumping up to the 25k the last four years. This race tradition has become so engrained into my running life that I can’t really imagine kicking off the summer running schedule without it.

This year it was particularly special to compete in the Riverbank run because this year I had the support of UR SPORTSWEAR.  They supplied me with a uniform and offered encouragement throughout my training. I was proud to be running for a team again and also for the chance to help this great company reach more athletes.  The shorts were amazing to run in, and would recommend them to anyone looking for some quality spandex that stay in place, look fantastic, and even have a pocket for all your racing necessities. Can’t wait to represent them again at my next race!

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Race Reflection

It’s about a week away from my 25k, and the upcoming race has me looking back of the weeks of training that has brough me here. The last time I raced I was in Knysna, South Africa competing in my first off road marathon. After all of the massive mountain miles I had put on my legs, my tendendons were beginning to feel the strain (but how could I say no to such beautiful runs?!). It was a bit of a struggle to keep it together for the race, but the beauty that surrounded me in the Knysna forest and the wonderful friends with me made it much more bearable. It was one of my last weeks in Africa and I was so excited for the opportunity to see yet another part of the country and spend some more quality time with my running family there. After returning back to the States, and taking a much longer break than I’m used to, I started the long process back to peak fitness while working and living in Florida. In between crazy work hours collecting data on beaches (picture waking up at 4am and possibly staying on the clock for 12+ hrs) I began to build my fitness back using everything in my arsenal; soft trails, pool, weights, and my sister as a willing workout partner. It was a time to figure out goals for the year, and to plot out the work that needed to be done to get there.  After finding my way back up North, I was even forutnate enough to have a “mild” Michigan winter (I realize that freezing temps and over a foot of snow to slog through might not be everyone’s definition of mild) to kick off my more intense progression of training. 25 weeks later its crazy to see what I have been able to accomplish. I have put in more miles and with a greater purpose than ever before, learning to overcome daunting workouts and not let doubts in my head determine what I was capable of. Now I’m excited to see what the result of this work will be.  Although it’s easy to slip into “doubt mode” when you are faced with a pre-races taper, I’m focusing on the excitement to see what the result of all this training will be. I know that it might not fall into place with this race, but my sights are on a year full of great races and opportunities to better myself.  This is just the first of many challenges for me, so bring it on 🙂

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In the Midst of Winter

Welcome to the cold arctic tundra. How I survived training in Michigan winters before is beyond my comprehension.  Don’t get me wrong, I am as giddy as a school kid with the first flurry in December. However, when the winter months drag on and the sun only pops out a few times a month your mind wonders why exactly you chose to train for a spring race. This is definitely a change from my life this same time last year…

In February of 2011 I had settled myself into the little community of Hout Bay in Cape Town, South Africa.  I had also stumbled upon a wonderful running community and was in the process of training for my first ultra marathon I was talked into 3 weeks before race day (yes, I realize how crazy that sounds).  Instead of battling single digit wind chills and tiptoeing black ice I was worrying about the frequent sandstorms that popped up around the bay, hoping baboons or puff adders wouldn’t pop out during training runs, and trying not to get sun burnt even after it seemed like the sun had gone down.

Right now I am dutifully pounding the pavement/ice with intent of being in race form for the Riverbank Run 25k in May. As I ponder the hilarity that “Waka Waka” keeps popping up on my play list as I’m trudging through snowbanks, I am also reminded of all the other years I endured the bitter cold and how sweet the reward was. Every mile put in now is money in the bank, tough miles for the reserve at the end of the race when I am hurting and needing just a bit more strength.  Plus, winter gives you lots of chances to put ingenuity to work. You learn, for instance how hot chocolate can replace Gatorade as post workout beverage of choice and you discover how incredibly ski goggles work as eye and face protection from the windchill (even if this causes some raise eyebrows from the snowmobilers that you share the trails with).  And in the midst of your struggle, you are rewarded with a spectacularly beautiful midwinter day. As the sun sets the snow glittering, you can’t help but feel the extra spring in your step as your body gratefully absorbs the warmth.

Looking back, I wouldn’t mind some more of that African sun now, or perhaps a run minus the threat of an icy slide disaster. But as Michigan runners know, if you can make it through winter, the rest of your training will be cake. Besides, once you get past all the obstacles keeping you from the great outdoors, the reaction you get as you sprint by commuters bundled with puffy coats in your spandex and compression gear is incredibly entertaining.