I did the Super Jock N Jill Winter Race Series for the first time last winter and had a blast with the races. last year was the first time I'd run cross country (XC) and track races. I never quite finished the whole series as marathon training for Eugene started to take precedence.
This time, forces conspired to keep me out of the first two races. In fact, I was stuck at home during the last race because of all the snow we had. All week I have been looking forward to doing the XC race. Last year I ran 15:31 and then 14:51 for the two XC races. I was really hoping to PR and beat that 14:51 time this morning. But as I was looking over my training last year at this time versus this year's training, I realized I haven't been running nearly as much. Oooh. A PR probably wouldn't be possible. I have been feeling very strong though from the cross training I have been doing and I've been keeping up core and upper body strength and I really thought I could come close. Either way, it was going to be a good indicator of where I am and I was looking forward to the effort.
I picked up RPD and we chatted about how exciting it was to be going to a race and it wasn't freezing with 20mph winds and driving rain. I was wearing shorts which hasn't happened since Dallas. The mens and womens races were separate this year as there were so many entrants. I combined my warm-up with watching the men's race and cheering for RPD.
Watching an XC race is really fun. I watched the leaders charge through the fins and then up Kite Hill. That was effortless looking power in action. I managed to get around to different points on the course to cheer for RPD. He always had a smile and wave and a determined look. I ran back to the finish to see what his time was going to be as I knew he was going for a PR and I was so excited when I knew he hit it! I found him after the chutes, let him know where his stuff was and went off to finish warming up totally pumped up and excited to run my race. Basically watching his race was a nice distraction and kept me from being nervous.
Helpfully I had been reading about drills and strides the night before. I've just started to do a bit of speedwork and wanted to start incorporating some of these exercises into my training again. I have been doing what I call striders the past few weeks. Towards the end of an easy run, I pick a point a bit away and gracefully try to speed up, hold pace for a bit and then slow down. This isn't all out sprinting but a controlled burst of strength. It helps me remember to keep my shoulders relaxed, my arms moving, my core engaged, my legs lifting and my toe off crisp.
After reading about hill bounding and some of the other drills, I tried some of these when warming up this morning. A lot of times I feel silly doing these sorts of exercises but I think I just need to get over it. Really, a fellow runner is going to know what I'm doing and I do think they are benefical. The hill bounding reminded me of arm drive (oh yeah, I suck at it) and toe off. I did some quick feet to help get my turnover up. I did some running on the grass to warm up those stabilizing muscles in my feet and lower legs. This entire course was on mushy grass or bark and that was helpful too.
Finally it was time to race. The announcer seemed to think it was going to be tough to get a group of women to stop chatting and stand still and made sure to tell us he'd only start the race once everyone was quiet and still. We all settled down quickly and were off. My main lesson from these races last year was not to go out too fast so I kept steady out of the finish. I didn't try to pass anyone and just ran my own race. This worked. I hit the first mile at 8:09 which was a bit slower than I had hoped for but i knew I had a lot in reserve. I probably could've been a little more agressive on the flat section from .5 but it is hard to say if it would've been too much.
Last year I had hard a time doing Kite Hill the second time. This year with the hill bounding warm up I did and the more controlled start, I powered quickly up the hill the second time and was able to keep up the speed over the crest. I was even able to pass a couple of people going up hill which made me really happy. I stayed strong through the last turns and was able to slowly reel in the runner who was a couple of hundred yards ahead of me. As I got close enough to see the finish clock, I could see that I was faster overall than I thought. That got me hauling and I came in at 14:47 by my watch. Woohoo! I'll still wait for final results but that's a comparable time to last year if not just a few seconds faster. I did it!
I got handed a card #34 and was shocked by the low number until I remembered it had been women only. I am quite happy that they split the races as having so many people on this narrow course would've been tough. This way I really was able to run my race without having to worry about the crowds so much.
The doc appointment I had this past week regarding my foot was a bit discouraging. I'm going to have to keep my miles much lower than I would like but it is wonderful to see that I haven't really lost much with all the down time I've had. I'm glad to be running well again but I am also looking forward to getting back on my bike after the weather nightmare we've had.