Mother’s Day 4-Miler: Worst Race Yet?

I woke up at 6am and looked outside: Downpour. For a minute, I considered skipping the race. My legs felt heavy despite hours of stretching and foam-rolling the day prior. I planned to run solo and wouldn’t let anyone down if I missed it… 

I decided to give it a shot. If anything, the rain would spoil the competition.

I should have stayed in bed. 

Race Goals
1) Run sub-25 Run a hard race X/
2) Finish top 10 X

Pre-Race
I arrived at the course and the rain stopped despite an ominous forecast!

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I grab my bib and begin to warm up. I need it. My legs ache from a week of hard training and not enough stretching. 

I jog the course for 20 minutes at about 9min/mile pace. I feel awful. I try to run a few strides. I get tired. This is going to be a long one. 

I immediately shift my race goals from running another sub-25min four-miler to just running a hard race and getting in a good workout.

I lather my legs up with arnica gel. I down a full packet of fruit Run Gum and the caffeine kick helps me wake up. Then it’s time to roll. 

Race
I start a few rows behind the start line and plan to ease my way through the pack in pursuit of a 6:30 first mile. The race starts on a downhill, but the majority of the first mile is uphill.

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I settle in and hang just behind a pack of runners that slowly begins to string out over the opening hill. I’m alone and breathing heavier than I’d like.

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First mile clicks by: 6:28. Not bad!

I settle in and execute mile two, which I know from my online elevation mapping is largely flat. My effort feels comparable to mile one, but the lack of any downhill in mile two means that my time slows to a 6:36 for the second mile.

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Not great, but mile three should be net downhill. Maybe I can pick it up a bit? I try, but my legs are heavy, stiff, and non-responsive. My stomach doesn’t feel fully settled (I tried a new pre-race meal today which I will not be replicating) and I just feel….. tired. 

Mile three felt faster… but it was only another measly 6:36. Oh well. Not even a monstrous negative split is going to get me anywhere near the 25min barrier. Last time I ran a four-miler, I anchored the race with a 5:31 mile to close. That was not in the cards today. 

I close decently given how cruddy I feel. The loop course ends with a quarter-mile downhill into a final uphill drag (back up the opening downhill to the start/finish line). I pass a runner on a downhill that I’ve been gaining on for the last two miles. Another runner is ahead and I plan to run him down on the hill, although the slippery asphalt makes sprinting a challenge.

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With about 100m to go, the runner turns around and sees me coming and picks up his pace. I manage to stay close. Just when he figures he has put me away, I launch into a true sprint and sneak by him with about 10m to go. Not that it matters for the chip time, but it was nice to beat someone at the tape. 

I finish in a dismal 26:12, good for 12th place overall out of 604 (10th among men) and 2nd in my age group. The time averages about 6:33/mile – about 19 seconds/mile slower than my four-mile race a few months ago. 

Disappointed and tired, I look forward to a day off. 

Post-Race
The race wasn’t as devastating as it might sound. Sure, I was disappointed with my relative fitness, but I knew that I would run a slow race given how tired my legs felt. I can’t remember the last time I felt this physically unprepared to race. More than anything, I was disappointed that I felt so tired heading into the race.

Hopefully, I can rest my legs a bit and gear up to break some barriers in the upcoming 10K and 5K races. 

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