Monday, March 5, 2012

Point Bock 5 Mile Race Report

On Saturday, I ran the best five-mile race of my life, got a PR (43:23), and had a great time doing it.

The Point Bock 5 Mile Run in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, is sponsored by the Stevens Point Brewery. It was started by runners in 1982 as a 5K and 10K event, and timing of the event was used as a means to showcase new Point beers.  After the brewery changed hands in the early 90s, the race was discontinued for some years before reemerging in its current 5 Mile form. The race registration comes relatively cheaply at only $20.  With that you get the run, a long-sleeved black t-shirt (which was really nice this year), and three drink tickets in the beer tent after the race.  So, here's my recap:

Friday night, the night before the race, I was a little worried about what race day would bring.  Despite a mild winter so far, Mother Nature saw fit to dump 5 to 7 inches of snow on us Friday afternoon into the wee hours of Saturday morning.  Waking up to a winter wonderland would have been wonderful if the race weren't looming on the horizon.  Unlike me, who mentally whimpered like a little baby, my hubby took it like a man and headed out bright and early to snow blow the driveway.  Once ready, we hopped into the car and hit the stores for some errands.  We needed to be at the bus by 9 a.m. but were first charged with picking up bagels and water for everyone.  Luckily, the roads were for the most part plowed, so getting to the stores and on the road was not quite as tricky as I would have thought.

Full bus of crazy fun running friends!
We made it to our running club's bus by 8:30 a.m.  Plenty of time to spare.  In fact, while the bus was already there, we were only the second set of passengers to have arrived.  This was our running club's third foray into an organized bus trip for an event, and the second time doing it for Point Bock.  Each trip has been wildly successful with each trip being slightly more wildly successful than the last.  For this year's Point Bock, we nearly filled a 50-some passenger bus.

The ride up to Stevens Point was somewhat subdued as everyone woke up and mentally prepared themselves for the race.  With the weather looking the way it was, I don't think too many people were expecting great racing conditions.  For myself, I just sipped on the coffee I had brought along, chatted with friends, and focused on timing my pre-race sandwich and banana correctly.  (With a noon start, I didn't want to get too hungry.)  The bus ride was great for the fact that we didn't have to do the driving, worry about parking, or any of that.

We arrived with plenty of time to spare - about an hour and a half before race start.  The bus had a nice cozy niche next to a loading dock to park, and after doing some artful maneuvering around a handful of parked cars that had me closing my eyes and cringing, the bus driver had us neatly tucked into our spot.  The bus would remain open for the duration of the event, heat running, bathroom available.  No doubt highly unenvironmental, but oh so decadent given the run on most race porta-potties.

A short walk to packet pickup had us race ready with about an hour and fifteen minutes left to go before the start.  Back on the bus, most people used that time to change clothes.  Since I had already gotten dressed, all I needed to do was slip off my winter boots and put on my Nike Pegasus.  With the weather being a balmy 28 degrees, I had thought I would wear two long-sleeve technical shirts and my lightweight shell jacket.  However, friends convinced me to strip down to bare bones, that I would be too warm in the jacket.  After some thought, I decided to take the plunge and pinned my number to shirt #2.  I had NEVER raced without a jacket in such conditions so this was going to be a new experience for me.  I felt a bit like I was going out on a limb, but - realistically - I have always been too hot for my races anyway, even in winter, so what did I really have to lose?

With an hour left until the start, the faster folks in our group started heading out for their warm-ups.  The reports back indicated that the roads were actually in good condition, and you could tell that they were starting to revise their goals.  I think most of them decided they would go for it.  At this point, I was still sitting on the bus.  I had never done a pre-race warm-up before in my life, and I didn't think I was going to start now.  But, then I thought, why not?  I am going to race without a jacket, why not try something else new?  So, out of the bus I went, by myself, sheepishly, to be honest, and started jogging down the street.  I had no idea of what a warm-up should consist of, so I headed down one block, turned around, came back, headed down another block, turned around, came back, and called it good.  When I told the more experienced runners what I had done, they just chuckled.  I believe I did something wrong, but I am still not sure what.  Ah well.  Mostly, I was just hoping I hadn't just destroyed my last half mile of the race.

As race time approached, I finally put down the coffee I had been sipping on and switched to water.  I ate a GU, and then with about eight minutes to spare it was time to head out.

Heading to the start.  Could I look more worried?
Strangely, even at 28 degrees, it wasn't that uncomfortable standing around at the start.  Maybe the excitement of the race kept me warm, but I didn't feel that miserable.  Once the gun sounded, I started my music, and took off.  I hadn't really come into the race with a plan, more to just run the way I felt, and that's what I did.  I had had an easy exercise week and taken the day before off, so there was no real reason I couldn't push myself a bit during the race.

So, I did run by feeling - so that it felt uncomfortably hard.  I have to say it's been a while since I ran a race where already in the first mile I was doubting I could pull this off.  I knew I was running too fast.  I thought to myself maybe I should slow down and do a speed I knew I could maintain, but then I thought who cares?  So what if I bonked?  It's not like I'd win an award either way, might as well just go for it.

So, the results:

Mile 1 - 8:24
Mile 2 - 8:36
Mile 3 - 8:48
Mile 4 - 8:52
Mile 5 - 8:43

Mile 1 went well.  It was typical of any first mile of any race I have ever done.  I went out way too fast (for me), and wasn't surprised when the mile split was called off at 8:35.  I forgot to factor in that I actually crossed the start line a bit after the clock was started.  After that I refused to look at my watch.  I didn't want to stress myself out like that.  I was going to do this thing by feel after all.

Mile 2 was arguably the hardest mile from a conditions standpoint.  For most of that mile we were running into the wind, and that made it hard.  I just put my head down and told myself it was the headwind that made that mile feel harder.

By the time we were approaching the halfway point turnaround, the faster folks were streaming past us coming the other way.  I saw Distance Dude and some other fast folks in the club, but then I just put my head down.  I was feeling the effort and was really getting thirsty.  From the year before I remembered that there was a water station at the turn, and I was really looking forward to grabbing a drink and walking through the station.

Given how thirsty I was, imagine my dismay when I reached the turn and there was NO WATER.  Mentally, I thought I was about to break down.  I was beyond thirsty at that point.  The GU I had had and all the coffee were taking their toll.  I couldn't believe they wouldn't have water.  I tried to think of reasons why.  Was it too cold?  Did something go wrong?  Was I simply remembering the race wrong from the year before?  I had thoughts of eating snow.  I had thoughts of simply giving up and walking some.  Seriously, I didn't think I could make it without water.  This was one of the first races in a long time I didn't take a water bottle to carry, and mentally I was devastated by the betrayal of no fluids.  My mental breakdown only lasted a quarter of a mile, happily.  I then decided I would just keep running, the faster to be done.

By the time I reached Mile 3, I was overjoyed to finally catch sight of the water station.  (I obviously had passed it without seeing it.) Although water was handed out in dixie cups only half full, it was still water and I took three of them.  I walked through the station (plus a little), gulping those little gems down like desert camels must when they find an oasis.  By the time I finished my drinks I had passed the last garbage can and - rather than to litter - I crumpled the cups up and carried them with me to the finish.  (By the way, as it turns out, if I had read the pre-race emails OR listened to the pre-race announcements, I would have known that the water station had been moved.   Oops.)

Somewhere before the water station.
During the fourth mile, I felt a bit recharged from the water and the feeling that I hadn't been betrayed after all.  Somehow I felt all was good.  Plus, I had the wind at my back.  I was still feeling worn out, but I also still felt strong somehow.  I was even passing some people.  Running along at this point, I got another club member in my sights - a gentleman who by rights shouldn't be that much faster than me.  I used him shamelessly for motivation to pull me forward.  I did eventually pass him and felt pretty smug chugging along.  Unfortunately, he later told me he had the same thought processes about me, because it wasn't too long after that - in the last mile - that he passed me.

So, the last mile.  That was HARD.  In fact, while I had thought the entire race was hard, effort-wise, that last mile was devastatingly hard.  I can't believe all the thoughts of quitting that flutter through one's mind.  My legs felt heavy, drained, my breathing was beyond ragged (in fact, I am happy I had music on so I didn't have to listen to it), and I just wanted to be done.  However, for whatever reason, I just kept going.  I really never did look at my watch during the event, but listening to the splits called off, I knew enough to realize I had a shot to get in under 45 minutes.

Coming over the finish line with 43:23 on the watch felt amazing.  A PR!  But more than that.  It was proof that I can go faster if I want.  Proof that if I train, I might have a shot at getting even better.  That's something I had all but given up on.  Oh, and as a final comment - one thing that was amazing about this race for me?  No aches or pains during the run, at least not so as I would notice.  (The shin of course is sore after, but I expected that.)

So, the race itself is a really fun event.  It's capped, so while it is a large event, it doesn't seem overcrowded.  The course is all along paved roads and follows an out-and-back route.  The middle mile is pretty going along the river, but most is non-descript roadway.

As far as I can tell, there are two big draws to this race.  1) It is fast and flat, so people out for speed have a good shot at achieving their goals. 2) The beer.  That's a no brainer, I guess.  Three full-sized beers are a big draw for - ahem - some people.  I found I liked the 2012 Black Ale well enough and enjoyed a couple of those.

All in all, I would definitely recommend this race for anyone who happens to be in the area.  A 5-Mile event in early March is a great way to break up the winter, and the beer afterwards is a fine reward for a job well done.

Full tent after the race.
Cheers to the beers - and the PR!
Happy running!

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