Wednesday night marked the 7th race in the 2011 Sunstroke Summer Stampede race series. I had to miss last week’s race as I was traveling on the East Coast, but with 3 more races needed to be elibible for any year ending awards, I decided to take advantage of the slightly lower temperatures and race again just 4 days after the Holland Cornfest 5K on Saturday.
Compliments of a pretty significant thunderstorm that rolled through Northwest Austin at 1:00 a.m. Wednesday morning, temperatures dropped 10-12 degrees from where they had been over the last several weeks. This was our first rainfall of any kind since May 30th, breaking a streak of 17 consecutive days that reached 100 degrees.
Oh yeah, and summer only started on Wednesday.
This was going to be a tough race to predict as I had really been training hard since our race on Saturday.
12 miles at 7:24 pace on Sunday.
15 Miles on the Tri-Bike Monday morning.
1500 Meter Open Water Swim Monday afternoon.
6.25 Miles at 7:17 pace Tuesday morning.
Another 1500 Meters Open Water on Tuesday afternoon.
My legs were definitely feeling it from all the racing and training. I was not exactly showing up with a knife to a gun fight, but I knew that I had very little chance of running my fastest race in the series on Wednesday night. I was just a little bit on the tired side.
But it was cooler out ….. maybe that would help me a bit I thought. That is the funny thing about racing. You never really “know” what is going to happen.
Pre Race: Dawn and Landry were not going to be able to make it to the race on Wednesday night, so my choice was between running my warm-up to the race from the house (2 miles) or driving to the trail head and running my warm-up there. I decided to run over to the race from the house after a little bit of back and forth. I knew my legs were a little heavy, so a good warm-up would certainly help them.
I wanted to gradually ramp up my pace and finish the two miles in 16:00 minutes. Leaving the driveway my legs didn’t have a lot of snap to them. The temperature felt a great deal cooler at only 90 degrees, amazing how nice 90 can feel when compared to the 100 or 101 we raced in the last few Wednesday nights.
By the time I pulled up at the race start, my legs had loosened up a bit and started feeling “runnerish”, still not perfect by any means, but not enough to change our race strategy. My warm-up took 16:06. Pretty darn close. My friends Joe McClellon, Brendan Cahoon, Sean Lilly and Tom Munier all made it to the race. There were some fast runners in attendance on Wednesday night, I wouldn’t have any problem finding some folks to chase.
Mile 1: I was looking to complete mile one with 1/2 mile splits of 2:53 and 3:05 for an opening 5:58. At the start of the race I settled in around the 7th or 8th position and started making my way around the lake. My legs definitely didn’t have their usual get up and go, my pace felt a little bit labored, but I decided to just hang in and see where it took me.
The first 1/2 mile came in at 2:49, definitely a bit too fast given the circumstances. I tried to slow down my next 1/2 mile and get back on target. This is a tough part of the course to manage as it can be fairly technical with a few small looping turns, a hill and then a 90 degree turn up onto the surface of the dam. You are never really “locked in” to a consistent pace – so managing effort is all you can really hope to do.
As my watch beeped my second 1/2 mile split came in at 3:08. Mile one – 5:57. Just :01 ahead of my planned opening mile.
Mile 2: I was pretty encouraged by my first mile and took aim at a runner ahead of me. He had gone out quickly and had been more than :20 or so in front of me through the first mile. I increased my effort just slightly and posted a third 1/2 mile of 3:05. In the next 1/4 mile we would be approaching the turnaround point and the water stop, I thought that if I kept steady I would catch up to him before we made it to the aid station.
I pulled past the runner, grabbed a quick sip of water and headed back towards the hill that would take us up and over the dam to the finish. My fourth 1/2 mile came in at 3:01 for a second mile of 6:06. A pair of really solid opening miles on this course, but I could feel my legs going away from me racing again so close to Saturday’s effort up in Holland.
Mile 3: As we hit the incline of the hill I heard footsteps closing in on me off of my right shoulder. I had a feeling it would be my friend Sean Lilly as he had been hanging back a bit from me at the turnaround. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted his blue race flats and Sean cruised past me on the climb.
As we reached the concrete switchback that takes the trail up and over the dam my fifth 1/2 mile came in at 3:18. :05 seconds slower than our race here two weeks ago when we set our personal best on the Brushy Creek Course. I had given back most of my margin vs. that performance. It was going to be a tough last .60.
I hit the dam without anyone to chase and with nobody on my back. This has been the theme of my races this summer, with only the exception of the race back on May 25th when I was duking it out with Sarah Mark over the closing 1/2 mile, I have been racing virtually all alone in the closing stages of these 5K races. It makes it tough to keep pushing hard to the end of the course, but it is definitely good for building on that mental toughness to keep running hard when your body is sending you very different signals.
At the last turn before the final 1/10 of a mile my watch beeped with a final 1/2 mile split of 3:13. I had fallen off pretty badly over the last mile posting a 6:31.
My closing miles this year in the series on the Brushy Creek Course have been:
Race 1: 6:32
Race 2: 6:28
Race 3: 6:26
Last Night: 6:31
Definitely a outlier as we had been trending down on our closing mile since the series started. My final mile in Holland on Saturday came in at 6:05. Now the elevation over that final mile was -8 feet net, comapred to the +46 feet net on the Brushy Creek Course, but it was still a bit disappointing that I couldn’t hold on just a bit longer.
Finish: The final .10 came and went in :42 seconds for a total time of 19:19 tying to the second my course PR from two weeks prior. All things considered I should be happy with my race just 4 days after racing so well and so hard at Holland, posting a course record there of 18:51. But somehow finishing with the same time as two weeks ago is bittersweet. On rested legs I think we could have held on a bit better over that final mile.
We’ll get another chance on July 6th.
Post Race: My time of 19:19 was good for 8th place overall, 1st place in the 40-44 year old Age group, My friend Brendon took home the Male Masters award with his time of 18:46. Sean ran a great race in 19:04 just a couple of seconds short of his PR at the 5K distance for 7th place, 3rd in his age group of 35-39.
Tom finished at 24:16, good for 5th in his age group of 45-49.
After catching up with my friends for a bit, it was time to run back to the house for a 2-mile cool down. I was looking to once again cover the distance in 16:00 minutes.
The miles ticked by quickly and as I crested the hill and made the left turn onto our street I saw Dawn, Landry and Kayla out for their walk. I ran down to the house, clicked off my watch and joined them for their evening walk around the neighborhood. I even took Landry for a couple quick strides in the B.O.B. stroller. She seemed to like going fast a bit.
My time for the cool-down run? 16:00 flat. Pretty locked in right now, feeling good as the calendar flips to July and our first triathlon is now just over a month away. Still a long way to go with our training, but things are certainly looking like July 31st might be my most “interesting” birthday out of the 44 I’ve had.
How many years do you have the chance to possibly drown, maybe experience a bike crash at over 20 mph and run 3 miles as fast as you can when you are hungry and tired ….. sounds like fun to me