A week ago I felt like I finally regained the snap in my legs and the drive and determination needed to really “race” the 3.1 mile course. I followed up last week’s 3rd place overall, 1st place Male Masters finish with a couple of really strong workouts on Friday and Saturday. As I was going over my pre-race plan in my head on the drive downtown I kept arriving at the same thought.
Race hard for the entire 3.1 miles.
Don’t look at your watch, just race hard.
Last week’s new series PR of 19:23 was a pretty fast time for a trail course given my age and abilities. If I could shave a few seconds off of that time on a 98 degree night that would be wonderful. But I really wanted to just run by effort as no matter how fast I run in this series, the real goal is to prepare for the Holland, TX race on June 18th.
Peaking for that race will take the right mixture of hard days, easy days, rest days and up-tempo work. Not getting burned out or injured is the key right now. Just keep taking steps forward and racing to the best of your abilities I thought. We’re already faster than we were at any point last summer in this series, and last year turned out pretty well when the calendar flipped from September to October.
Pre-Race: I got myself parked, went down to the start and paid for the race, strapped on my timing chip and relaxed a bit on a bench along the trail. We were about 60 minutes away from the gun, so it was a little too early to warm-up. I just sipped on my Gatorade and tried to stay out of the sun. It was 98 degrees, but there was a nice little breeze blowing in off of the Colorado River (Town Lake).
At 6:35 I met a runner Joe McClellan from here in Austin. He was going to be chasing the course record of 16:08 set just a couple of weeks earlier. An accomplished local runner who ran a 2:40 Marathon this year in Austin on a tough, tough day, Joe is way out of my league. He’s thankfully 14 years younger than me – so race on I say!
Joe and I chatted a bit and ran a nice leisurely paced 1.5 miles in a little over 12 minutes. It felt good to loosen up a bit and get the blood flowing in the legs. I ran into my friend Sean Lilly who wanted to warm up a bit, so I trotted up and back to the bathroom on the trail to add another ½ mile or so to my warm-up.
Ready to go.
Mile 1: At 7:00 p.m. on the nose we lined up after getting course instructions from the starter. There were about 120 runners in the race, so we would be leaving in waves of about 20 or so in order to keep the racers distributed evenly and not cause too much congestion for the locals.
I was hoping to lock in around 5:55 pace over the opening mile.
At the gun I settled in a few strides behind my friend Brendon who typically runs somewhere around 1 minute faster than me over a 5K. It was warm, but my breathing was nice and even. I had set my watch to record half-mile splits again, as I liked receiving more frequent feedback on my pace.
Usually I just record splits every mile, but for the shorter races finding out that you are running too fast or too slow at the end of a full mile is too late.
After crossing over the two boat ramps and winding along the trail I covered the first ½ mile in 2:52. 5:44 pace – just a bit too quick.
I dropped a bit further off of Brendon’s pace and locked into a comfortably hard pace. Before I knew the second ½ mile came and went in 3:02. An opening 5:54 mile, too fast especially in the heat, but not a bad opening to the race. I was going to have a hard time over the final mile for sure, but it was a little too early to start worrying about that.
Mile 2: This is the very “technical” mile on the Town Lake Course. A lot of turns, navigation of two baseball fields with young children and spectators on the trail and then crossing over a parking lot twice and onto a city street for about a half of a block. Tough to hold pace through this section of the course as your natural reaction is to let off of the gas just a bit going through this gauntlet of activities and human bodies.
My two half mile splits were 3:08, 3:13 for a second mile of 6:21. About :06 slower than ideal, but not too bad considering this is the mile where you need to come to a virtual stop to navigate the turnaround cone and grab a sip of water at the aid station.
Mile 3: At the start of mile 3 I could feel my legs starting to get heavy. Unlike the previous week where I had Sarah Mark to race with over the final mile, I was basically running alone again. I tried to stay focused on not letting my mind or my pace wander and keep pushing. I was hoping to run another mile in the 6:20 range, which should be good enough for another series PR.
I hit the 2.5 mile mark with a ½ mile split of 3:10. Man was it hot.
The next ½ mile came in at 3:12 as I navigated around a truck that was parked across the trail head access, another :02 slipped away.
Finish: I pushed as hard as my legs would turn over the final 1/10 of a mile covering the distance in just :36 – right at 5:55 pace. Amazing how much easier holding that pace felt just 19 minutes earlier.
Final time of 19:14, good for 9th place overall, 1st place in Age Group.
I managed to take :09 off of my series PR from a week earlier, and :23 off of our first race on the Town Lake course two weeks ago.
Our race times so far over the first four weeks of the series are:
19:42. 19:37, 19:23, 19:14
We’ve made some pretty solid progress over the course of the last month. With the race up in Holland now two weeks away, we have a great shot of breaking back below the 19:00 minute barrier as that race while featuring a hilly course is run on asphalt instead of the softer and slower crushed gravel trail.
We will need to run just 4 of the next 8 Summer Stampede Races to qualify for any year end awards we would be eligible to receive, as the race directors average the runners 8 best times over the course of the series.
I will be out of town traveling for two of the races in June, so the best we can hope to do is race in 10 events. Those weeks we’ll be on our own, doing our speed work by ourselves in NYC and Tampa respectively.