I emailed Maureen Terwilliger, who was having the same thoughts as me. The long run is definitely always the best option, but if you never get in any real speed work, you have to race, both to keep up your confidence and to well, build your speed. It's one of those balancing act things.
For me, I'd just come off three days of training in Florida, running about 40 minutes a day in the heat, with two runs the middle day, so I was feeling pretty good, because I've come into a January race off three days of training in Florida, well, never. Add in Eric's strength training regimen every day and the fact I'm a good seven pounds under my normal winter weight and well, I wanted to race.
So Maureen and I agreed to race rather than do a long run It is a USATF championship race after all...
Racing on a Sunday is such a mixed bag. The race was going to start a good hour after my long run is usually in the can, and with a bib-timed race, who knew when I'd get to leave. It was also the opposite of the carefully planned Disney Half-Marathon. I'd done about 2:15 on the bike the day before and was just going to jump into a race at the last second.
Fortunately I got Eric's strength training and was able to get that done before I jumped in the car and drove out to Milford. My plan was to run in shorts and singlet, with arm warmers, but it was still a shock how cold it was.
After warming up by myself and running a little with Maureen I was ready to go. The wind and the cold was interfering with my plan to be warmed up and ready to run, especially because unlike all the hardcore runners, I had no gloves on. But a few strides fixed that and eventually we were off. I had no real plan, except to switch my iPod back on as soon as we'd gone a few hundred meters, which I did. One guy jumped way out in front.
Then one guy jumped out into second. That guy was me.
So there I was, running frak all, just going hard but not crazy hard or anything. Knowing that there were still maybe ten guys behind me that had the wheels to leave me eating their dust. I threw my hands out as if to say where is everyone but I didn't back off. We were running into the wind and I just didn't care. I was waiting for the swarm, and it came, and it included a woman training for the Irish Olympic Marathon team and I just kind of weathered it.
I went from second to about 15th, but I ran a 5:38 first mile, so I was happy with that. If I can be happy. Which I can't.
Anyway. Some people went by me, but I felt like I was running steady. The goal was now to run the next 4 miles in under 20 minutes.
The course seems to have a lot of downhill in the first 1.5 miles or so and then you hit a hill up and that was when I really got a look at the people in front of me and an idea what to tuck away for later. The @Evanescence was pounding away in the headphones and I felt like I was suffering a little bit.
I went through two miles at around 11:30 or so. I was already reeling in some of the people who passed me, and although I was running alone, there were people in front and behind me that were in contact. I felt like I was really racing, not just out there running. I felt the same way at Disney, but overall it's been a long time since I felt like I was in the thick of it, really not until I came back from Florida in November after the Ironman and really started racing more seriously.
I went through three miles at 17:18 and that's easy math. I had to take one headphone out of my ear at each marker to hear the the call out, but I knew I just needed to hold to around 6 minute miles just as the fun began. I mean, I wasn't planning to drop off to 6s or let anyone by me but with the hills there was no question of a drop off.
I didn't change my cadence. But when we got to the hills I didn't attack all out. Maureen and I talked about this during our warm-down and I think we both have the same strategy. Station-keep going up the hill, a nice steady 90%, and then hit people cresting and going downhill. I mean, you spike your heart rate up the hill, max out at the top, and you will get beat coming down.
I hit four miles at around 23:24. I'd fallen back to 15th but then I surged and as we crested the hill and hit the turn towards the finish I really tried to pick it up. I felt like the last mile was short, because I was running hard, not because it was actually short. I knew this guy from BRanford who is in his 30s was hot on my heels, so I really tried to focus. I pulled the headphones out of my ears as we hit the Platt Tech parking lot and managed to hold the guy off by 4 seconds.
13th overall, but a disappointing 4th in my AG.
Maureen finished soon after and we did a nice easy warm down while finding her husband Gary, then a bunch of us shared training advice for our upcoming Ironmans.
Fun times. Glad I went.