Uphill and into the wind: winter race series finale
Out and back courses are a mixed blessing: on one hand, you know exactly where you’re at. On the other hand, you know exactly where you’re at.
That said, the challenge with this course is that its entirely rolling and your best downs become your worst ups in the opposite direction.
On a good day, you look at the start and see this: clear road. This is your first uphill which is also your last downhill:
Today was not a good day.
There are no pictures today…presumably because nobody wanted to bring a camera out in this shit.
After receiving about 11 inches of snow from Thursday afternoon to Friday evening (not a HORRIBLE amount but still…apparently more than this city can handle), I discovered we’d received a few more overnight. Great.
I drove down my street which does not have alternate parking rules. Or any parking rules. There were cars still snowed in from the previous day. Great.
Fortunately, I have AWD and was able to get to the highway without incident and drive the half hour or so to the race. The roads were certainly in better shape outside the city, but my 2.5 mile warm up was spent running through a few inches of slush and jumping into snowbanks to avoid people who refused to move away from the shoulder. I was squinting to see because of the steady snow and wind in my face. I also swallowed at least a mouthful of road salt thanks to those irksome drivers. Needless to say, I ran my warm up and damn near 10 minute pace and didn’t really know what to expect.
This was my fifth year running this particular 10k – the finale to the winter race series. The goal was to win my age group for the series, and to do so…there was one girl I HAD to beat to clinch it. The question is…what happens on a day like this? More than anything, I wanted a quality workout. I knew I probably wouldn’t hit my time from the previous year where it was cold as hell…but relatively calm. I made the decision: I’d wear my trail shoes and go solely on effort, not even looking at splits. I briefly debated taking of my Garmin and HRM, but decided to check out the data later on and do my best to pretend it wasn’t there during the race.
Before the race I discovered my friend who had clinched the series win was using this as a workout – she’d already run 8 miles and was going to use the race to finish her long run. I saw who I had to beat and made a mental note to not go out too fast.
Mile 1: Course starts with a downhill, and people seem to forget the giant uphill. (Um, see the picture above.) Yeah. I try not to get out too fast…though noting the number of people in front of me that I know are going out WAY too fast makes me anxious. They’ve done a great job plowing so the road is pretty clear, though there is slush everywhere. I notice I get out in a little under 7. Fine.
Mile 2: My friend who is doing this as a workout is way too excited and cheering AT everyone. I think about how that’s gonna get old. I notice the girl I have to beat is in front of me. I notice she’s running with someone else I’d like to beat. I notice someone around my age right next to me. I don’t know her, but its the fastest mile of the course (mostly downhill, making mile 6 a bitch on the way back) and we pick up a bit. I stay ahead of her, but she never really falls behind.
Mile 3: Pass friend who is still talkative, but not quite as much. A left turn and more uphill. She mentions that we’ve got the worst hills ahead of us…I tell her to wait till mile 4. The snow continues to fall, but I’m hot. I start keying in on the people in front of me, and ignore the splits. I ignore everyone and just move. Move forward. As we approach the turnaround, my friend starts screaming at people. I think that its getting really old. I’m all for having fun and whatnot, but her unbridled enthusiasm is almost insulting to me at that moment: SOME OF US HAVE TO WORK HARD TO RUN HER EASY PACE ;p I tell her this. She laughs and screams back at me. The women about my age is between us and must wonder what the hell is going on. I resist the urge to look at my split when we turn.
Mile 4: I’ve been reeling in the two I’m keying on: beating one will give me my age group. I’m hoping my friend stops screaming and joins me…but no. She just screams. And then screams at me. I tell her to shut up. I realize that my irritation shows I should be moving harder. She and the other woman get a bit closer to me, just as I get closer to the two in front of me. We all move…and eventually get to the next pack. I’m still ignoring the pace I’m hitting, but feel like I have something in the tank. I know the worst hills are about to come…but…what the hell am I here for? I’m here to, well, run hard. And run those hills. I look around and decide to move.
Mike 5: I pass the two I’ve been keying on. One says good job. My friend is now silent. But before I know it, I’ve picked up the tempo while going up the biggest hill. I pass a guy. The woman who I don’t know keeps contact, but I start to open some room. I try to stop thinking about that and just try and open some real estate. I keep reminding myself “YOU ARE A HILL RUNNER.” Surprisingly, it works.
Mile 6+: This mile starts right as you get into the meat of the tough hill. I’ve probably lost a bit of the spring…and I can hear that a woman is still near me. But no matter. I’ve got enough space on her and a guy I pass. And oddly, I’m in some kind of zone. I’m going up a huge hill. There is wind in my face. But…I’m pulling away. I’m a hill runner, dammit. And I’ll make it show. Its kind of surreal. I’m no longer paying attention to the footing. I’m going through slush having no idea what kind of pace I’m running…I just know that I’m in 2nd. And I don’t care about time. Its about effort, and I’m going to avoid making an ass of myself…and I’m NOT going to lose it. I can no longer hear footsteps, but I don’t back off. Of course, they’ve rerouted the finish a bit. Its no longer quite as uphill, but somehow the stretch feels longer…and that last 100 meters or so – when I finally see the clock – crosses some ankle deep snow. But I stay fairly steady and don’t lose any ground on the people behind me.
The final result? An unremarkable 43:49. But…time wasn’t the concern. Its a slow course to begin with, and with slush and constant snow…even slower. (I noticed the winning man ran a 32 something…and the next was 2 minutes behind him, and that guy can run in the 31s ;p)
Oddly enough though? Its actually the second best I’ve ended up running on this course. I never went over 88% of MHR, and averaged in the low 80s.
And my fast friend told me she couldn’t keep up with me the last couple miles. I’ll probably never hear her say that again (unless she runs 8 miles before another race we both do), so I’ll take that too.
Up next? Time to find some clean roads for 20 tomorrow. I may end up doing laps around a local college.
Then two St. Patrick’s day 5 milers which I hope to put down times comparable to last year..assuming we don’t get more snow.
But first, I need to finish my vodka coke.