Sunday, January 6, 2013

A New Year and a new PR!

The New Balance Winter Grand Prix is always entertaining.  There are 6 races total with a mix of 2 mile road races, 1 2 mile track race and 2 3k (1.9 mile) Cross Country races.  I've done the entire series just once in 2007/2008 Winter but have jumped into the races periodically ever since.  The weather can most often be horrible but everyone has a good time.  The races are geared to kids to keep them training in the off season between Cross Country and Track.

For me, they are a great way to practice pushing myself and working on some speed. These races were also the first time I'd ever raced a cross country race or a track race as I'd not run when I was in school.  Today was race #3 in the series and the second and last cross country race.  The first XC race was the week before Dallas Marathon.  I'd wanted to run that one at a faster pace but not race pace. I ended up faster than I thought but at a tempo effort I thought.  Today? I had no idea what to expect for race pace.

I figured I could come under 8 minutes flat but thought I'd be closer to 7:50 pace.  I'd meant to look at what time I'd done this course when i was in very good shape to get a feel for what to aim for pace-wise. I forgot though and that ended up being a good thing! This course is a loop we do twice.  it is mostly on grass with one short steep hill to go up and down. There are sections where we jump small ditches.  it's been rainy and as usual, the grass got really churned up and muddy and slick in a lot of places. This is typical and adds to the fun.

Finally I got my act together and got over to the park early enough to get in a good long warm-up.  It really does take me about 3 miles now to feel warmed up. I think that is a combination of the cold weather (40 degrees) and age unfortunately.  I ran 4 miles and in the last mile finally felt able to pick it up a bit to do some strides (short bursts of faster running).  I'd had a really nice core/strength workout thursday evening and was still sore and a bit stiff from that.

I trotted back to my car and changed into my lightweight shoes and met up with a friend who is also doing the series. We chatted and soon it was Ready, Set, AIRHORN! Race on!

The friend who i was starting next to is slower over overall than I am right now.  However I realized I was pretty slow to start. I really had a hard time getting going on the slightly uphill and very mucky grassy section and could barely stay with her through the start.  Finally I got my legs moving and started passing people.  I stayed strong on the uphill and downhill and worked on passing more people on the flat straightaway.  This was new and I kept telling myself that the goal for these races was to push myself and take some chances.

I love seeing the mix of people running in this race.  There are a bunch of little kids all the way to grandparents.  I was pretty amused to see a little girl probably 10 or 11 do a fine job of clearing phlegm by spitting a loogie.  She's much better at it than i am! Ha!  

I hit the hill the second time and stayed even with the women around me.  That is new! I used to always get dropped on uphills.  I did get passed by two guys on the uphill but once up on the crest and on the downhill, I passed the women and the men.  Aha!  Trail running really has some benefits. I am a really good downhill runner.  Once off the hill, i made it my mission to catch up to a group of women that were running a fair bit ahead of me. 

Half a mile to go and I got within a yard of the last woman!  Marathon training and that endurance training thing certainly does have it's benefits.  Had the race been a a bit longer, i'd have caught them! I was really surprised to see the time was 14:30 and my pace was faster than I expected (7:45). I was really happy with this and had felt great. I'd raced. I'd taken some chances and pushed myself.

I got home and looked up previous times on this course and realized my last best time I'd run this race was 14:50 in January 2008.  Wow!  A 5 year PR goes down without much fuss.  Had I looked up that time beforehand I might have aimed for a slower pace.

And 20 seconds is a huge difference!  So what is different?  The course is the same. The weather was probably better than usual. It was cool and a bit rainy but without huge winds that can sometimes plague this course (it is right on a lake front). As this course is on grass, it can get super muddy and slick but that is typical. I remember being very surprised by that the first time I did this race but now I expect it.

What has changed is that I finally have correctly functioning glutes! Snort. I was very aware of this change when i was powering up the hill keeping up with those around me.  That never used to happen.  I've also been able to run up (albeit slowly) all the various hills when out trail running.  It has been some years since I've been able to do that (if ever).  Progress!  

No comments: