September 30, 2017
Sub-33, not quite
Top 5 on the team, yes
PR, oh yeah
Training has been amazing since summer started. I've been consistently hitting 300+ miles per month, with most weeks being 70-75 miles. Been crushing almost all my workouts, times have been dropping, I've been loving life. A couple key workouts really quick that I used to guess my fitness and establish that sub-33 goal:
16x440 yard repeats, ~55 seconds rest (11 days out) - first quarter mile/400m workout in forever. Felt crappy going into it, managed to steadily work my way down from 1:13/lap to 1:09/lap.
4x1 mile repeats, 2:30 rest (4 days out) - this was at the peak of my recent overtraining phase after an 80 mile week, resting heart rate was ~10 bpm above normal and legs felt trashed. Wound up running on my own after the first one, still hit 5:26/5:18/5:09/5:02 despite all that.
Talked to coach prior to that mile repeat workout, we agreed to take Wednesday easy and just do elliptical. First day off running since July 8, but it helped my legs immensely. Had a couple easy runs Thursday and Friday, then the standard 30 minutes here/30 minutes plus strides at the course on Saturday.
Woke up at 6:30, which gave me an hour before the bus left but was still an hour more sleep than usual (yay morning practice). Ate... something... I honestly can't remember what. Probably a bagel. I do remember I stayed away from sugar; my go-to breakfast before short races (anything under half marathon) has been Pop Tarts for ages, but I've had issues with stitches lately so I'm experimenting. Loaded up on the bus, we were rolling out of the Econolodge by 7:30.
Men ran first, which was different, but welcome since we'd get cooler weather than the women for a change. I bought a t-shirt and a hoodie, as is my Chile Pepper tradition. Race started at 9:30, so we got rolling on the warmup around 8:40. Nice and easy 2 miles at 7:40-8:00 pace, with a couple stops to cheer on the open 5K that one of our teammates was running unattached in (no XC eligibility left, still has a season of indoor/outdoor track). He wound up winning pretty handily. Got back, stretched, popped some Run Gum, made a porta potty stop, put spikes on and headed to the line at around 9:15. Four strides to get the legs moving, then a quick pep talk from coach and we lined up. Boxes were tiny, really only wide enough for one person but we squeezed in two across. Starter walked out, fired the gun, and we were off.
Miles one and two
I had promised myself I'd go out conservative instead of hammering the first mile and hanging on for dear life, so I took the first 150m fast so I didn't get buried when the course narrowed down and then eased off and moved with the crowd. Found a couple teammates that are right around my pace, and we grouped up for a while. Came through the mile in a 5:18 (official split 5:22), which is almost exactly what I was hoping for. People started slowing down, and our little pack started moving up and picking people off. A little before the two mile we were getting a little faster than I was comfortable with (a product of the long straights and the slight downhill, most likely) so I slowed down a bit and let the other two guys go ahead. Hit the second mile in a slightly-too-fast 5:10. Better the second mile than the first, though.
Through four miles
We came through the first 4k loop and I knew I was gonna start hurting pretty soon, so I stopped checking my watch as much for fear of getting discouraged. We hit the little hill at the 800m mark a second time, meaning the 5k wasn't too far ahead. Split 5:22 for the 3 mile and spotted the guy that should be our third runner up ahead. Hoping to work off of each other, I caught up with him right as we hit 5k (16:24), but he was in no shape to move with me. Came to find out his Achilles was giving him issues, which is no good since he's finally getting over some lingering plantar fasciitis stuff. Anyway, offered a couple words of encouragement and kept rolling. Noticed a familiar blue jersey from the running store where I work up ahead, and I recognized the guy wearing it. Having never tested myself against my coworkers I thought it'd be a good idea to try to hang with him for as long as I could. Ran by my coach, who snagged the only halfway decent photo that would come from this race (the guy I was chasing is on the far right):
Only managed to hang on for half a mile or so, he came up on a group and surged on a hill but I didn't have the legs for it. Caught back up with one of the guys from my initial little pack though, his hamstrings were tightening up and he was paranoid about aggravating an injury from the last track season. That put me at 4th on the team, an exciting prospect. Split another 5:22 for mile 4 as we came into the back stretch of the second big lap.
Mile five was pretty uneventful. Just standard middle miles, holding onto the pace and not letting anything slide mentally. Finished the second big loop and ran alongside the finish chute, hitting 8k in 26:25 (a PR) as I passed the finish line and mile five in 5:26 a few seconds later. This is where things really started to hurt. The start of the final 2k loop is marked with a short, steep uphill that cuts right through the middle of the festival. When jogging it the day before, it didn't seem like anything to worry about, but things tend to change when you're in the final stages of a race. My legs filled with sand and despite trying to hold pace up the hill, I wound up slowing to 6:30 for a few seconds before cresting and trying to get back into the groove. No reprieve, however; we rejoined the big loop and were basically running the first mile backwards, which meant shooting up the steepest (but shortest) hill on the course right at the one mile mark. It leveled out for about 100m, then started a gradual climb to one of the highest points on the course. Pace suffered pretty badly here, and I was almost hitting 6:00/mile for about a quarter mile on the shallow uphill. Once I reached the 9k mark though I knew I was home free, so I just put my head down and kept cranking as best I could.
The last kilometer is the best part of the new course. Since you hit the 9k at one of the highest points, it's all downhill to the finish line, which you can see after making the final turn about 700m out. I came around that turn, set my sights on the finish, and started doing everything I could to pick up the pace and snag a couple points. I came into the finish chute as the clock hit 32:40, and I knew sub-33 was out of the question but there were a few guys in front of me that I thought I could catch, so I gave it my all. Which brings us to the other pictures that were taken that day:
Crossed the line in 33:08.2, good for 69th place (nice). I did wind up catching three of the guys I tried to run down, which was a victory in my book.
Stayed on my feet, barely, and downed a couple waters they had around the finish area. Cheered on a couple teammates as they came in, found the fast guys and asked how they did. Our British dude dropped a 29:55 for second place, which was better than any of us (coach included) were expecting. Team finished 13th overall, 6th in non-DI schools, 1st NAIA. We did a nice and easy 2 mile cool down together, then grabbed awards (our fastest woman blew everyone out of the water in her race, as she usually does) and some free tacos before loading up the bus and heading back to OKC.
I'm really happy with how things went. I think my pacing was a little jacked, and a more controlled second mile would have paid off in the later stages, but I honestly thought the sub-33 goal would be much more of a stretch than it was. While two of our guys did have bad races, most of us performed really well, and we're gonna be a force to be reckoned with come Nationals. We haven't even run our Kenyan recruit yet (just got cleared by the eligibility center last weekend), our Scottish guy still is getting back into racing shape, one of our top five got cleared to run this week after surgery last month, and we were already ranked 7th with only two of our guys having solid performances. We could have two guys in the top 3 at nationals, maybe all five in the top 20. Next race is Mid-States in Winfield, KS, in two weeks, can't wait to see what we can do there with our full (hopefully healthy) squad.