I tried something a little different for myself today. I have been doing some quick warm up jogs recently; before the last race I did a mile around the Worcester State campus. Today, I went out early and ran the entire 3.1-Mile course counterclockwise. I didn’t burn myself up doing it, but I did have a nice little 8:20 pace going which is actually faster than some of my race times so I wasn’t sure how I would perform today.
As it turns out, I gained 8 seconds on my previous personal best in this direction on this course – and 6 second on my previous best on this course in either direction. This one didn’t feel as fast as the previous two races, but it turns out I conserved a little more energy instead of blowing the doors off the first mile. I thought I just felt a little sluggish, but the second and third miles were faster.
Over the last few weeks, my resting heart rate has come down quite steadily as well; by mile 1 my heart rate had spiked far above what might be considered 100% at my age, but came down to a more manageable rate when I slowed down just a little bit. While I knew my conditioning was getting better and I knew it should play out in my race time, I didn’t know how it would play out. I’m encouraged. Slower first mile made for a couple of faster miles thereafter.
I’m hoping to get a long training run in tomorrow, so no racing, but the weather may have something to say about that (in which case, it’ll be the treadmill). I’m scared and excited about the Stu’s 30k Race next weekend, which will be my longest street race ever.
This is the first time this year I’ve raced the course counter-clockwise. I’m usually much faster going clockwise: the first mile or so is downhill, and then the elevation gain is slow and gradual. Not to put too fine a point on it, it’s a relatively flat course anyway, but there is some elevation change. Running clockwise gives me that pronounced elevation loss to get my pace up and just burn through the first half of it. Running counter-clockwise has always posed me some issues. It starts out pretty flat, the elevation loss is gradual (the reciprocal of the clockwise course, obvi) and then a half mile of the last .8 of the course it just up. Again, not “UP”…but up. Suffice to say, the better runners in the group seem to like the counter-clockwise better; the less well heeled runners, the clockwise direction. As you’ll see below, my track record going in this direction is spotty and erratic. At least one of the times – February 11, 2017 – was affected by a snowpacked course: I wore obstacle course specific shoes to maintain some traction on the street, but even without that outlier my paces are uneven.
It was pretty chilly to start – about 28 degrees: when you’re standing around a sweatshirt leaves you still a little cold, but warm enough that choosing gear is a bit of a challenge. Should I take off the Under Armour? Will a cold weather shirt suffice? Gloves? No gloves today, sweatshirt and cold weather shirt. Athletic pants. All of which seemed to be the right choice for me as I was neither overheated or cold. One caveat: while running the Upton State Forest Half Marathon last year, I wiped out and skinned my knee and (I think) broke my left pointer finger. It hasn’t felt right since, and it has been the first finger to get noticeably cold since.
On the “go” command, I was off at a decent clip. I had my watch under my sleeve as I was using the sleeve to cover my hands in lieu of gloves so I really couldn’t see the pace or time. I was just running. I kept up with the fast kids for a short moment, but they were gone pretty quickly. At the first mile the watch vibrated, so I pulled up my sleeve to see and it was about a 7:20 pace. That astonished me. The second mile was about a 7:40 pace, quite astonishing to me. Ah, but June Street. That point when running clockwise is a nice shot down, is much less friendly to me when it’s a harrowing shot up. I just couldn’t maintain my pace, and slowed way down. I finished that mile with an 8:20 or so pace, so not horrible in terms of my usual pace, but certainly enough to kill my shot at a sub-24 minute race.
The upshot is that I ran a pretty strong race overall, faltered a bit toward the end, but still wound up with a personal record for the Counter-Clockwise direction and truly for the course in either direction overall. It was a good race day. Overall, I finished in the middle of the pack, 10th of about 21 or 22. 9th was within my grasp, but I was outflanked by a far better runner – finishing as close behind him is a personal victory to begin with, never mind having had the chance to finish ahead of him. So, I’ll add that to my awards case too.
Today stood for the proposition that sleep, good nutrition and perhaps a bit of rest during the week are helpful to running a race, but also that a healthy, positive internal dialog is probably THE most important aspect of good performance. Hardly news, indeed, but sometimes reminders are helpful.
I got a really good night sleep after an emotionally draining day of work – such a good night that I woke up a little too late to work my planned run to Worcester State to volunteer for the weekly race, and run back. I took my time, ate breakfast, took the dogs out, and then headed over. I even stopped at Starbucks on the way.
Since Clearwater last week, I hadn’t run at all, to my shame. My plans have been to do 28-miles a week, and to this point I’d been either on point or close and had missed only two days of running this year. I basically missed all this week and I was feeling guilty about it. Arriving early today, I took the opportunity to do a quick warm up run of a mile or so and was surprised by the pace I clocked myself doing: a 7:49 pace. Unusual in that I don’t usually push myself that hard warming up or really outside of a race – and oftentimes not even then.
Then there was the crowd today: a lot of fast looking people showed up. It’s an informal gathering, so people show up on a whim, and the people who felt the whim today “LOOKED” like the kind of people who run fast. I know, a total stereotype or so it would appear. More on that in a minute.
A few announcements and what seemed like a quick “GO” we were off. I ran the first mile at a ridiculous pace – a personal best for a mile. I knew I had gone off too fast, but I’m working on my internal dialog to keep myself on task, to keep my thoughts positive (“if we can keep this pace…”) instead of the negative (“You’re going to bonk out if you keep this up…”), so I kept reminding myself of the distance I’d come, and that a personal best awaits so just keep going. I was feeling reasonably strong, but the second mile was considerably slower. First Mile: 7:09. Second Mile: 7:57.
As soon as the second mile clicked off as completed on my Garmin, I had to slow down. I was zapped. Picked it back up and ran…and slowed to a walk again. I did that a few times, but ultimately sucked it up. I had lost focus on my inner dialog: it’s not that I was saying “I Can’t,” it’s that I wasn’t having one. As soon as I realized that absence, I was able to control my pace again. I picked up my pace and hit mile 3, finishing with a rather surprising 8:20 pace for the mile. When I was running I was running strong.
I finished the course in 24:24 or a 7:49 overall pace. The last 0.1 mile was 7:29 – I’m guessing the last 0.6 mile of the race was actually about that pace. It was tough carrying my carcass over the line, but it felt good when I did. My friend Mike had finished perhaps 90-seconds ahead of me and he was waiting at the finish to cheer me in…a fact to which I was apparently oblivious as I came across the line. It was a bit of a struggle bus ride, but I finished with a personal best for the course and my second fastest 5k.
Now, not to take the shine off my pace today, there may have been something in the air; the top finisher came seconds away from a course record with a time just under 15-minutes, and second came in about 45-seconds later at 15:36. Perhaps a good rest, decent nutrition and positive internal talk all influence race performance, but sometimes the day just carries itself.
Clockwise (last 5):
January 27, 2018: 24:24. 34 degrees, sunny. Just beautiful.
January 13, 2018: 25:14 53 degrees, cloudy, 22 mph wind, rainy
November 25, 2017: 24:55 Sunny and 28 degrees.
October 28, 2017: 24:53 Sunny and 56 degrees.
September 16, 2017: 25:56 Cloudy, humid, 60’s.