Monday, May 9, 2011

Crazylegs 2011

It's a two-fer! Michelle & Robby were able to run the Crazylegs Classic 8K in downtown Madison on April 30, 2011. Here are their race reports. First, Michelle:

I feel like a runner! Finally!

It's taken about 6 years, but I'm starting to get it and it's awesome!

The Crazylegs Classic was held 4/30/11 in Madison, WI. Little did I know, but this has been rated as one of the top 100 races by Runners World mag. The race is 8K and starts at the state capital building and ends at Camp Randall Stadium. This year was a record crowd with something like 12,500 runners. Wow! The proceeds benefit the University of Wisconsin Badger athletics. And it was my initiation into what I hope to repeat many times over.

I had a fabulous time at this race. Why? I think there were a lot of reasons. First of all the sheer number of runners is inspiring. I mean, really, 12,500 runners? That's a little less than 3 times the population of my hometown. When you're used to running alone, having that much company is really motivating. There are wave starts at this race. When I registered, I put down an estimated time of 37 minutes. This put me in wave F. I really hoped to run faster than that, but one thing that is not good for my psyche is getting myself in over my head. Plus, without a previous Crazylegs time, the fastest wave a person could seed themselves in was 35 minutes. Waves help to keep people in line. Less falling all over each other. Granted I was doing my share of dodging to get around people. But to me, that's fun. Another big reason this race is what it is is that it's held in Madison. College town extraordinaire. The vibe in Madison is spectacular. Energy. Progressiveness. Excitement. This is probably why I love IMWI so much. Lastly, I was running with my friend, Rob. How can a person not like stepping up to the start line with a friend? It's just the best way to kick off a race.

We had prerode the course, so when the gun goes off I'm telling myself to hold back a bit. Not too much. But, don't blow up in the first mile. There is one hill on the first mile and then a nice gradual downhill stretch run through a section of college housing. I love college kids; so cute, young, and living in the moment. I was one once and sometimes still think I am! I played this right because the second mile has a huge uphill through campus that bites ass. By not killing myself on the first mile, I was strong and steady on the second mile and uphill. A huge confidence booster. The rest of the course was fairly flat with some gradual incline. The 20 mph wind was a factor over about the last 1-2 miles. But, thankfully, the end is near and I can pretty much talk myself into anything at that point. I knew my goal pace and would check my Garmin occasionally to make sure I was on track. Before every race I try to think of something that will be motivational for me to play back in my mind when things hurt. Well, the name of the race made this one easy. I tend to be a third person talker. "You've got 'crazy legs', Michelle. They're fast and they're strong. You love this." And I did. I cannot remember every feeling so in love with running as I did on this day. It hurt like a mother, but I felt like I was flying. Oh, how I wish I could bottle that feeling and sell it! Crack, cocaine, heroine, all that crap would be obsolete.I was hoping to crack 35 minutes. That was the GOAL. A quick check of my watch on the final corner into the stadium told me it was going to be close. I sprinted it in over the last 50 yds. The weekend before I missed breaking the 21 minute mark in a 5K and I didn't want a repeat experience. Yah, I squeaked it in at 34:54. I wanted to crack the top 5 in my age group and previous years' results told me that breaking 35 would make that a definite possibility. Not this year. I was 6th out of 568 women. 5th place beat me by 12 seconds. I don't think on that day I had 12 seconds anywhere to spare. I ended up 51st out of 6034 women total. I'm good with that.

You know, I've read all the stuff that talks about performance decline as we age. One source I read said 0.5-1% per year between the ages of 35-50 and the rate increases in the years after that. Well, sometimes hearing that really bothers me. By the sound of it, I should be damn near walking in the next few years! Granted, this info seems to pertain to those who have been runners, etc. for years and have prior times from those peak years to compare to. I'm 41. I don't want to slow down! I could accept it if it was something I CHOSE. But, I think that's the point. I'm not CHOOSING to slow down. I'm so thrilled that I keep making gains. Granted, the gains are smaller now than when I first started but they are nonetheless still gains. Yes, yes, physiology does not lie. I realize that and do not argue that. But, I think sometimes psychology does. And it's the head that often wins. We all know it's our mindset that really matters. If my head tells me I can, then I will. That's what keeps ME going.

[And now, Robby's report, from a decidedly different point of view.]

On the Monday before race, I had just gotten back from a long weekend in Florida with family when I realized that I was most likely going to get my booty kicked this weekend. Not only by Michelle, but the course as well.

I've actually lost track of how many times I've done this race. I've done it in high spirits in great shape. And I've done it after consuming many spirits in hurtin' shape. That year, I was lucky there was the Farmer's market going on at the same time to provide some pre-race energy (nutrition?) in the form of an elephant ear. But every year, the course never forgives you for not being prepared. And this year, I was not prepared.

Michelle came into town the night before and we reviewed the course. Most of it is shared with the Ironman Wisconsin course, just that you go UP the curvy section Observatory Drive instead of down. She didn't seem phased at all as my car dropped a gear to get up the incline. I gulped.

The next morning, we're warming up and sharing strategies while completing four strides and twenty minutes overall. Michelle's just chatting away and I'm gassed. She wants to run to the clothes drop, then run to the bathroom and then back to the start line. I'm thinking that I don't want to waste any more running - I'm going to need it for the race. Amongst all that, I eat a gel and chuckle at the thought of the elephant year. Times have changed.

We find our wave, and before I now it, we're off. At the first mile, we're pretty far ahead of pace and I don't feel so bad. Then we hit Observatory Drive. We get to the top and I can start to feel my lazy training this spring in the pain coming from my legs. Down a little to Charter Street then back up in front of the overlook of Lake Mendota. That's when I realize that Michelle is in front of me by twenty feet. I yell, "It's all you Michelle!" and she flashes a thumbs up. I think flames are now shooting out of her shoes, or maybe they're wings. I couldn't tell. I was cross-eyed.

Back down the hill and on to the flat out to Picnic Point. My pace has slowed because I was distracted thinking that Michelle and I didn't pick a place to meet after the race. Did I use that as motivation to run faster, catch up to her and finish together? Of course not. I get caught up thinking that it's going to be tough to find her in the crowd of 20,000 runners and walkers in Camp Randall Stadium. I waste several minutes thinking of how best to find her when I realize I'm at Picnic Point and ready to turn around.

And then, smack! Thirty mile per hour gusts in your face. Talk about soul sapping. My fragile mind couldn't handle it and I actually walked through the water station for a five-mile race. Ouch. But, I get my mind back into it and finish it out, attaching a "rubber band" to people in front of me and not letting it break. I make my way back to Camp Randall into the wind and finish strongly for a 37:21. Not a PR, but not too bad, either.

And Michelle was standing right there, plain as day.