Monday, January 21, 2013

Group Track Session, 40th Birthday...and Goodbye!

In the prior post, I said I don't believe birthdays are a reason to be "princess for a day."

But I have to say, I had one great long birthday weekend. Apologies for this long account! I'm letting myself indulge since this is The Last Post on BQ by 40.

It started bright and early on Saturday morning when I went to Boulder to join up with the Boulder Striders, a running group led by Colleen De Reuck. Darren put their track workout on my schedule, reversing his prior stance of not allowing me onto the track. Since my last attempt at a group run didn't work out (which is to say, I wimped out because it was cold), I was glad to get one in before closing the blog.

Needless to say, I was one nervous introvert, and the fact that this was the workout added to my nerves:

Warm Up 15-20 min/Stretch/4 x 100m strides
Start 2,400m @ Half Marathon Effort 3 min active rest
Then 1,600m @ 10 km Effort with 2 min active rest
Then 3 x 800m with 2 min active rest as follows:
--1st One @ 10 km Effort//2nd One @ 3-5 sec faster than #1//3rd One @ 3-5 sec faster than #2
End 1,600m @ 10 km Effort
Cool Down 5-10 minutes

I know many of you do speedwork that's tougher than that, but that's a big one for me.

There wasn't a lot of talking when I arrived. Everyone looked fit, but not scarily so, and Colleen has a way of putting people at ease. We set off on a warm-up jog, then did some stretching and drills together and then the strides. Cynthia, who had told me she was coming out to watch, take photos and then have brunch with me, arrived about this time (very nice of her to watch in the chill!). She asked me if I was nervous. I nodded yes.

But then there was nothing for it but to start. The slowest group went first. I asked them how fast they expected to do their 2,400 meters in, and they said at an 8:15 pace. So I went with them. My sea-level half-marathon in October was at 8:09, so I figured I'd give back a few seconds for the altitude.

Before I could think about it any more, off we went. I stayed behind a group of four women. The day was beautiful, chilly but on its way to warming up to the 50s, and I was comfortable in a thin race T-shirt, arm warmers and tights. The 2,400 was over before I knew it, and we were at about an 8:00 pace. We jogged a little, drank a little Gatorade...and then it was time for the first 1,600. Bam! Over even more quickly. And well under 8 minutes. I had looked down at my watch in disbelief at one point. Was I really going that fast? Was it really true that running with others is all it takes to make paces that are laborious

Big thanks to Cynthia for taking photos. Not a bad view for a high school track! That's me in the white shirt.
And that's the way it went the rest of the time. The rest periods were so short I had no time to dread the next interval. And the intervals felt much easier than they should have for the paces my Garmin recorded. By the time we finished the final 1,600 I was hooked.

That's Colleen in the blue jacket cheering us on as we wrapped up one of the intervals.
I hope Darren puts more of these track workouts on my schedule. Next weekend I'm going to try to hook up with the other group that I bailed on last weekend. This time it will be for a long slow one, and I think I'm going to like that, too.

Cynthia and I left quickly and went to watch a nearby 4-mile cross-country race. Colleen had left the track workout early to do this one, so we go to see her as well as numerous other fast Boulder-area runners in the women's race. The winner (at a blistering 5:29 pace, finishing in 22:29) was Brianne Nelson, whom Kathy and I had met in the airport when we were headed out to the Olympic Marathon Trials and the Houston Marathon a year ago. Colleen took 9th. The top ten were all under a 6-minute pace on a hilly grass course. Amazing!

After a giant piece of quiche at brunch with Cynthia, I spent the rest of Saturday hanging out with my family, including my mother-in-law, sister-in-law and nephew who are visiting from the East Coast. Dan made homemade pizza on Saturday night, and all weekend I broke with my standard practice and let myself eat dessert whenever I want. I'll be back on the wagon starting tomorrow, after all.

Sunday was work, but it didn't feel like it since I found a sheaf of birthday cards and treats waiting for me.

Today I woke up early and started the day as I usually do: with a run by myself. It was 45 easy minutes with five strides at the end. I took in the clear view of the mountains to the west, the fresh air, the thwack-thwack of my feet, and I enjoyed every one of those strides. And then it was time to get ready for the party!

Here's a photo of the cake:

Chicking the Grim Reaper since 1973!
Everyone arrived at 10 a.m. and we took off on our 4K run at about 10:20. Most of the guests brought their kids, so the lead pack (which included Cynthia, Caolan (who I met in person for the first time today!), and my old friends Erin and Amy) also had to function as de facto sitters-on-the-run for a bunch of eager under-8 cyclists (thanks for that, you guys!). I ran in front for a bit, then slipped back to chat with some slower runners and the walkers...and of course Dan, his sister (my awesome sister-in-law Kate) and my little nephew Sam (who was a bit baffled by the whole proceeding...he preferred the playground at the park). I also got to run for a bit with my friend Josie's eager black lab, Summer. Summer's ordinary pace is my 800-meter track pace, though, so I didn't run very far with her today (have a hill workout tomorrow!).

Waiting to run!

Caolan, Cynthia and Amy, ready to lead!
The pack hits the park.
It was about as perfect a day as Colorado offers in January: temperatures in the 50s, brilliant sunshine, no wind. We all finished back at my house with bright eyes and rosy cheeks. With the help of a friend, I lit a literal 40 candles on the cake and then we feasted.

With Cynthia and the remains of the cake.
I said it last year, and I'll say it again: birthdays are not a reason to feel sad or stressed about the passage of time--and that's just as true of the ones with 5s and 0s on your new age. All of my friends tell me the 40s will be the best decade yet, and I do not doubt them. Be glad to be alive! It's a gift and a blessing.

And with that, I'm signing off. I didn't BQ by 40, but I'm planning to BQ as soon as I can. I hope I still know many of you in 10 years, when I plan to celebrate my 50th birthday by running 50 miles.

We have lots of time to train. Care to join me?