I have finally won a road race and I ran a best time on a tough course! I changed my pre-race routine a bit and I think it has paid dividends.
Yesterday I slept in and then hit the Seawall for my stretch-out run. Normally I will run a couple miles, do drills and strides, then run home. Yesterday I decided to run around 5 miles in total with a few 'pick-ups' embedded within the session. I found this approach got my legs going without actually simulating a workout. It also protected my legs a bit from the pounding of bounding drills and strides. The only thing was that my legs were still a bit tight at the end of the run, I was not quite at full range of motion. To remedy this situation I went to the Aquatic Center last night to swim a short set of pull and then did some range of motion exercises in the diving tank. I was able to fully dynamically stretch my legs without pounding the shit out of them.
This morning I woke up feeling not that bad. My warm-up felt more on the poor side and I was having a bit of trouble with my breathing. I may have a few allergies or a touch of a cold or something (re: Thursday's running everywhere). I completed my pre-race drills and strides, changed into my singlet and hit the start line. The Shaughnessy 8km is a hilly, 2 lap course with no space to take a break. It is the kind of course I dread yet love at the same time. Nice and turny so it keeps one on their toes. I love an interesting course!
Off the gun I felt sluggish. My perceived level of exertion was through the roof and my breathing was heavy and laboured. This is a hilly course and my poor heart was not ready for the workload. My legs felt much like they have over the past few weeks, heavy and unresponsive. Fortunately Tristen Simpson was in the race and he took the pace out well. He has gotten really fit and was hammering from the start. To be honest, I was not expecting the early pace and he kept pushing hard. Every time I tried to get up on his shoulder it seemed like he would surge a bit to hold me off. For the whole first half of the race I was tired and working hard to hang on to Tristen and try to win the race. We were running 1-2 and would be the first and second runners.
There was a long climb from 3.5 km to 4.5 km and I worked hard to stay close to Tristen. We crested the hill almost side by side and I could detect a bit of effort in his breathing. I was not feeling the best but I was getting tired of following so I decided to pick up the cadence on the downhill and try to make him work a bit. I was able to get ahead and push the pace and stretch the string.
There is a concept in racing of stretching the string/elastic. Often one will hear of an imaginary string between the leader and the person following. When they are close together the string is loose and it is easy for the person following to keep with the leader. When the leader starts to push the pace and the follower starts to fall back slightly the string tightens and starts to stretch. This string is what holds the chaser to the leader and with more pressure the string stretches until an imaginary point when the string breaks and the leader can run away with the race.
As I pushed the pace on the downhill section I could still feel the string but it was starting to become taught with the pressure of my effort. Once into the hard climb up to the 7 km point I felt the string snap and I was on my own for the last kilometer of the race. The finish of this race is a tough climb into a steep downhill. By this point I was totally on my own and feeling the best I had all race. Heading into the last turn before the finish my coach John was yelling at me to go hard. I knew this meant that I had a good time in the works. I hammered the last 400 meters as hard as my little legs would carry me and crossed the finish line in 25:06, a new best time! John contends that this course is around 30 seconds slow and if that is the case then I am more fit then I have realized.
I am very pleased with this run. I have been having some really nasty workouts and some terrible runs lately. Thank goodness I was able to get it together and come out with a good result. I learned a few lessons from this race. I need to be patient when I am racing. I need to remember that I run best from behind (ha ha! go figure...) and the strongest part of my race is the second half. My body likes to even split a race and my mind likes to chase people down. I also have to believe in my ability to pull out a good effort despite feeling less then ideal at the start line. If the first 4 km are a struggle then I know I can still pull out a good effort. I also know that I can win. I got a bit of a pep talk from my clubmate Kevin on Thursday along the lines of 'everyone has a few bad runs but then you will pull out a good one'. Sage advice!
The race itself was really fun and I was happy to have a comp entry. Besides winning and getting some nice prizes the best part was the chocolate milk at the end and the Liberte Yogurt. It was the 7.5% fat stuff and is so good. I wish I could make love to that yogurt! I really like a community race as well and of course winning is pretty good too! Oh and my friend Katherine won the women's so we are continuing our streak of finishing the same result, her in the ladies and me in the men's.
I am also all over everything nautical at the moment and the Sailor's Horn Pipe was my favorite Highland Dance when I was growing up. I know, random! The last clip is just plain fucked. Those split highcuts are unreel!