Monday, November 26, 2018

5k's and Cross Country. Who would have guessed?

 Well, it has been an unusual year but more on that at the end of year review. For now lets talk XC. It seems I've now have raced a 5k XC course 3 times in the past 5 weeks and at mid year I had not planned on any of them.

 On Oct.23rd I ran the Sir Walter Miler Pop Up XC Championship race for fun and representing the NCRC team. It was just 3 days after a warm humid half marathon and I wasn't expecting to do very well. The course is  3 laps on energy sucking thick grass and I was not feeling it during my warm up and a nice night for running. I ran hard and was a bit surprised at the pace on the first lap but it felt hard but then as lap 2 began I suddenly felt very good. Each of the next two laps were slightly faster and my final time of 24:12 was very satisfying. I was really expecting to be hard pressed to go under 26!!

   Two weeks later in what was definitely a last minute decision I ran the Global Run 4 Water at Wake Med Soccer Park. Bella wanted to race a non school event and Laura asked me to help find a race and this one popped up. I have been a spectator at meets there and run the course a couple of times but never raced so I decided this would be a good day for it. It was on Nov. 10th, just 6 days after the City Of Oaks half on a chilly , windy morning.
  I wasn't expecting any competition but when I approached the start I saw a friendly rival, Tim Beck whom I have raced many times over the years at these shorter distances. More times than not he is ahead of me but on a good day like the last time we met at the Run For the Roses I can get a win.
  At the start he moved well ahead pretty quickly so I figured it was going to be his day. Its a fast downhill start on this course and at the half mile I was well ahead of expected pace. By the 1 mile I was closer to what I hoped was my overall pace in 7:20. Mile 2 is the tough one on this course with a grind up the hill by the field and then a couple of steeper but shorter hills on the backside. At 1.5 I noticed I was closing the gap on Tim a bit so I was pushing as hard as I could.
 Mile 2 was a slow 8:00 but I had cut Tim's lead in half. From the top of the hill at 2 it's a nice gradual flat and downhill for the next 3/4 mile and I just put the hammer down and half mile later I had to decide whether to stay behind him or make the move now and hope I could hang on.  I figured I couldn't rely on a kick today so I made the pass with authority.
  But 1/4 mile later as we began the 2nd trip up the hill and into a now 20mph headwind I could hear him coming back and when he went by I tried to hang on but it was not going to be. He ran strong to the finish while I felt like I was crawling up the hill. Mile 3 was a decent 7:37 and final time was 23:39, just 9 seconds l slower than I had planned so not a bad day on a tough course.

  And then this past weekend, Nov. 24th it was a return trip to the Foot Locker South Regional at McAlpine Creek Park in Charlotte. I ran there two years ago and was happy with a 22:39. I knew going in that I wasn't quite in that kind of shape but was hoping for at least a sub 23.
 The weather had other ideas. I awoke to 34F and heavy rain with wind gust in the teens. I arrived at the park and was dreading getting out of my car and I did wait until the last minute to get out and get my 1 mile warm up before lining  up at the start. Brrrr, that was some cold rain. The course was puddles and standing water for a good portion and soft everywhere else.

 I took off at a good pace but had to run in the grass and mud for the 1st qtr mile to get around some slower folks. They run the open and masters, male and female in the same race but do the results separate for each class according to chip times so a wide variety of competitors. I got my first bit of feedback at the 1 kilometer post and it wasn't good. I needed at least 4:35 but it was 4:42. I tried to push it but it was just slow going as I hit mile 1 in 7:42. about 20 seconds slower than in my workout on Tuesday ! It was very deflating and jogging the rest of the way crossed my mind for a nano second. I was cold and miserable and running as hard as I could  knowing there was no reward or fast time awaiting me. But as always I chose to put the hammer down harder and make the most of it. I was steadily passing people and that help keep me focused.

 The one big hill comes at almost the halfway point. I felt ok going up and it's only about 200yds long. Because of the slickness the steep downhill was a bit trickier than usual but once I made it safely it was hammer time again. I used the momentum up the 2nd shorter hill and then rolled down to the lake for the first time.    I hit  mile 2 in 8:05 and headed out for the back loop which was really in dicey condition but its pretty flat other than a slight rise about halfway around. I just kept pushing and still passing a few folks. It was kind of weird because other than being cold and wet I actually felt pretty good and was running a strong race but the course was sucking about 20 seconds per mile out of my effort. That's just the nature of these things.

 And like most 5k's they are over pretty soon and there I was at mile 3 in 7:42. And then in the last tenth a guy passed me, the only one since the 1st k. I tried to hang but couldn't muster  any more speed. Done in a disappointing time of 24:07, but considering the conditions I was quite happy with the effort I put into it. I know I gave it my best. I placed 35th out of 49 in the masters as I was racing everyone from 40 up. They didn't even list peoples ages but I didn't notice but one or two guys that looked near 60 .  After changing into dry clothes and warming up I got out to watch the Frey girls compete which is always fun and thankfully the rain had stopped.

 Most likely I will race once more this year. Its a 5k but not cross country. I really hope I can at least get the sub 23 so stay tuned. It won;t be long before it's time for the year in review and looking a head to a big year in 2019.

Friday, November 09, 2018

City Of Oaks Half Marathon. It's coming along

  After winning the 10k for Seniors at this event last year I decided that I would try making the podium in the half my goal for this year.  Of course , I was expecting I would be in better shape but as you know I'm not quite where I wanted to be going into this.  This is a tough course with hills after hills and making my fantasy goal of sub 150 was looking like a fantasy for sure. A year ago I would have been thinking 1:44 but that was not even a fantasy at this point. Two weeks ago I came close to the 1:50 on a warm humid morning until slowing considerably the last 5k.

  One thing I had going for me on race morning was near perfect weather conditions. Mid 40's warming to mid 50's is about ideal for this distance. I didn't do much of a warm up and then arrived later to the start than I should and found myself stuck in a tight pack with at least 1,000 runners in front of me. Chip timing but it was going to take a while to work my way to clear running.

  As we began moving forward I just stay patient , picking my spots to pass as an opening presented itself. the 1st mile was very tight and slow but I never saw the marker and as usual I was not wearing my garmin. By the time I made the turn onto the wide Western Blvd stretch I fond more room and began to make up a little time. But then I caught up to the  large 2:00 pace group and realized they were not going to go any faster. I finally made a move to go over to the far outside lane and made my way around and after that It was clear sailing.

 I hit mile 2 in 17:00 which was the overall pace I ran two weeks ago. not bad considering I had to work my way through the crowd. I was feeling good and relaxed and handling the hills ok so far,
 Shortly after mile 3  in 8:19 as we approached the Capital, the 10k runners split off and a noticeable thinning of the crowd. Mile 4 is probably the fastest on the course but I missed that mark. Mile 5 showed 16:16 for those last two miles which put me right on the 8:23 pace I would need for the sub 1:50. I was still feeling good and my confidence was growing that just maybe I could do it.

 It was right about here that I noticed a grey hair just ahead that I was positive was in my age group so I had something to focus on. The next few miles were just relentlessly hilly so I couldn't push too hard but still feeling good. Mile 6 was 8:14 and 7 was 8:09 so I was staying below goal pace and building a small cushion. Around mile 8 it looked like I was closing the gap on my competitor and maybe he was slowing down a bit?   That was a tough one and it took 8:23. No problem but I didn't want to slow down just yet.

  Over the next few miles, the grey hair was looking stronger on the hills and I was making back a bit on the flats but overall he was gradually pulling away. Mile 9 and 10 were 8:18, and 8:20 giving me just a little more cushion. best of all I was pretty sure there was not going to be a meltdown in the last 5k this time. The only downside was I was not going to catch my competition as the gap had grown too wide by mile 11 in 8:27.

 The final two miles were back on Hillsborough street and I just dug in trying to maintain pace, knowing I had that sub 1:50 in the bag. The questions were by how much and how many other seniors were up ahead. Mile 13 was 8:23 and then the last .1 to a strong finish of 1:49:16 Woohoooo ! I was thrilled with that. Now  to see the standings. I spotted the guy I chased and we talked for a few minutes. I was happy to find he was only 57 ! We had a good laugh about that and then I headed over to the timing tent. Yay ! I got third !

 Now, I just have to keep building on this success and by Spring I should be right where I want to be.
 Hmm, wonder if I should go for a podium in the full next year?
 Stay Tuned sports fans.