Thursday, June 9, 2011

Back in the Saddle

The disappointment from Boston finally faded.

I eased back on the mileage, and ran some races.

Two distinctly different strategies, and two distinctly different results.

Strategy 1.  Set low expectations.  Go out slow.  Have fun.  Play up for the crowd, and see what you've got towards the end as you pick up the pace.

Strategy 2.  Go in wanting a PR.  Go out fast.  Try to hang on.

I've employed Strategy 1 in three races, Strategy 2 in one race.  Results.  Strategy 1 - 3 PRs.  Strategy 2.  Big blow up and miserable death march to the finish....

Admittedly 2 of the 3 PRs were relatively soft, from distances I'd only run a few times before, but the enjoyment factor of starting a race under control, and finishing with your fastest miles, feeling fresh, can't be overstated.

The first race was the Cherry Creek Sneak.  A 5 miler on May 1st around Cherry Creek - an affluent area just south of downtown Denver.  It's a fairly large race - 6000+ for the 5 mile and 5K races.  It was 2 weeks after Boston, so I went in more for fun.  I started off slowly with no expectations, but once I got going I started to pick things up.  The last mile was the fastest and I finished feeling like I had a lot left in the tank.  Sure - I could probably have run 30 seconds faster, but it wouldn't have been nearly as enjoyable.  Official time - 31.39, good enough for 63rd out of 3,714 finishers.

The following weekend I decided to race again.  This time a local 5K.  I'd decided it was my last chance to get the Bolder Boulder 'A' Wave qualifying time, which was 18.20.  I'd run 18.36 the previous summer and figured I'd had a shot.   So for this race - I went in with a time in mind.  I realized I'd have to run about a 5.55 min/mile average, and I also knew the second half of the course was a little tougher, so I went out fast.  First mile around 5.45, and then I struggled home.  Not at all fun.  I did get 2nd place and a $50 prize - my first ever monetary award (I guess I'm a professional now ?), but I was well off my goal.  18.50 I think was the final time.

Two weeks later, I laced them up again.  This time for the Colfax Half Marathon.  I'd signed up for the full marathon as a backup for Boston, but had no interest in running another full so soon.  Hell, I had no interest in running a half marathon so soon either, especially with the gun time at 6am.  I reluctantly went through the motions and was there at the start.  I really didn't care how I ran, particularly as it wasn't renowned as a fast course, and had decided to make it a 'marathon pace' run.  Once again I went out slowly.  Ran the first 4 or 5 miles at around 6:45 pace, and then decided I may as well pick things up and see what happened.  I ran faster and faster, wasn't overtaken by anyone (from the first mile on), and ran my fastest mile at the end.  Shockingly I beat my PR by 15 seconds or so.  1:26:07.  I'm not expecting that PR to last long as I have 2 more halves this summer, but it was a pleasant surprise and once again I finished feeling very strong.

A pattern was emerging.  So on memorial day I headed to Boulder for the Bolder Boulder.  Once again I went out slow - perhaps a little too slow in retrospect - but then again picked up the pace and finished strong.  Yet another PR, albeit aided again be a weak previous best.  39.24, so my first official 10K under 40 minutes.  It's a tough course - 5 of the 6 miles are net uphill.  On a better course, and with a slightly faster start, I'm confident I can get that PR down into the lower 38s.

I'm now back into training mode.  Rather than use an 18 week plan for St George on October 1st, I've decided to do 4 weeks of mileage base building, and then an edited Pfitz 14/70 plan (edited because he doesn't have one like that - I took the 18 week plan and shunted it down to take out some of the VO2 max runs and keep all the MP and LT runs).  Last week I ran 72 miles.  This week I'm looking for something similar.

I've got 3 goal races I'll do ahead of St George.  Two half marathons with big net downhills to help strengthen my quads.  The 'Slacker' and 'Georgetown to Idaho Springs'.  Both with 1000+ feet of net downhill.  Although to be fair - both are at altitude.  The Slacker starting at around 10,000 feet.  While gravity helps, so does Oxygen...  My recent half at Colfax beat my previous PR at Georgetown last year, which tells me that the net downhill helps, but not as much as I'd probably thought back then.  Still - I'm expecting to PR in one, if not both races.

Then I'll squeeze in a 5K or 10K at the Evergreen town race.  Supposedly the fastest course in Colorado.  It'll be nice to get that Bolder Boulder 'A wave' qualifier.  At least that's the plan....

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