For the first time ever I decided to do a Thanksgiving Day race this year - the temptation of a race that starts less than 2 miles from my front door was just too much to pass up. I think that I considered doing this race last year, but it sells out a couple weeks in advance - I signed up about 2 weeks ago and just snuck in the day before it sold out. Hooray for being less indecisive this year! I ran a portion of the course during my run on Thursday, and while I could have sworn I'd read somewhere that the course was "mostly flat and fast" I must have read that wrong - there was PLENTY of uphill, including one nasty, steep climb just after the 3 mile mark. The last mile was downhill, so at least I had that going for me.
Thanksgiving morning I got to discover the joy of doing a legitimately local race: I woke up at 8, had a cup of coffee and some nuun, hemmed and hawed about what to wear (45 degrees? Do I wear shorts? Capris? Singlet? T-shirt?). I eventually opted for the GBTC t-shirt that I wear when I want to represent the club, but am not racing seriously, and capris. I also wore arm warmers which I removed within about 10 seconds of starting my warmup. At 8:30 I left and jogged the 2 miles to the start line, where I met up with a teammate and chatted for a few minutes. And then...the race started! Perfect. I had pretty low expectations going into this one, since I haven't done any speedwork since September and while I wouldn't say I'm out of shape, I'm definitely not "in season". So I basically hoped I could run around 7 minute pace, and in an ideal situation, break my extremely soft 4 mile PR that I set way back in 2007 in the only other 4 mile I've ever run. Technically, I broke that PR at the bridge run a few weeks back, but I can't in good conscience count a PR from a course that I know was short.
My goal for the first mile was to keep things controlled. I felt a little rough coming off the line, probably because we were staring uphill. I just tried to keep my breathing under control and not worry about people passing me. I had no idea how fast I was running, but it didn't feel very fast, so I was pleasantly surprised to see a 6:38 as my first mile split. OK! I thought to myself. I can work with that! Just...keep this pace and stay relaxed and it will be fine. During mile 2 I continued to feel OK, but not great. We hit a pretty gradual but long uphill just before the 2 mile and that's where I just kind of had a moment - per my Garmin, I briefly slowed down to 8:00 pace at one point....YIKES. That mile was 6:52 which actually was not as bad as I expected. Based on how I felt though, I'm not surprised that I was slowing down - all I could think was "I hate short races I hate short races I hate short races, why do I do these things, ugh, slow". I was spitting and snotting and just a gross member of society. After mile 2 we turned, and my mood took a turn for the better as well. I told myself that there were 2 miles left, one more big hill, and I just had to get through it and get to the downhill last mile. I managed to pick it back up for a bit with the promise of "almost done with the hills", but then we hit the hill itself and my pace again took a nosedive. Of course, everyone else's pace was also taking a nosedive, so at this point my placement in the race was pretty much static. Mile 3 was a 7:15 - unfortunate. Also unfortunate was the fact that my brain had for some reason decided to select Christina Aguilera's "Dirrty" as an excellent soundtrack to play on repeat (honestly not sure when the last time I even heard that song was??) But now I knew that the hills were over, and it was time to just bomb down the downhill! Honestly, this last mile made up for every bit of hills in the rest of the race. It's so rare that you get to run almost a mile that's just...straight downhill, and let me tell you, no matter how tired you are, it feels GREAT. I could feel myself accelerating and I passed several people on this stretch. I took a peek at my watch at 3.84 miles, at which point, I was more than ready to be done. And then, just like that, I was! Official time was 27:33, 6:53 pace, and finally a PR to replace a race from 8 years ago! Hooray! And then I was able to grab a cup of water, walk for about 5 minutes, cooldown home to be back before 10, and then proceed to make an excellent frittata while drinking a mimosa. Good, good times.
Overall, I definitely wasn't unhappy with this race although I wasn't overjoyed either. The race itself is great - it's run by Somerville Road Runners, one of the fairly well known clubs around here, and they really put on a great race - I can see why it sells out every year! Although it's a 3000 person race which is pretty large for a 4 mile, I never felt crowded, probably because the WHOLE COURSE was completely closed to traffic. I know, right? That NEVER happens! So major props to SRR - assuming I remember to sign up early enough, I'll be back next year! As for my performance, there are pros and cons. On the positive side, I really shouldn't complain about running sub-7 pace for something longer than a 5K, particularly when I'm in the "off season" and definitely not at peak fitness. But on the flip side, over the last 2-3 years, I've found I've pretty consistently been able to go out and run a 5K-5 mile in somewhere between 6:45 and 6:55 pace - never faster, never slower, that's it. And there's a part of me that's sort of like...buuuut...I want to be able to go out in 6:38 and then hold that pace! Ever since I manage to run 7:02 pace for a half last year, I sort of feel like 6:55 pace for a significantly shorter race just...isn't that great. I definitely believe strongly that I'm stronger at the longer distances, but it doesn't say much for my ability to get faster at longer distances when I can't even hold the pace I would like to eventually hold for a half for 4 miles...ya know? But it's OK. There's a huge difference between being in the middle of a training cycle and not for me - maybe it shouldn't be this way, but outside of hill work and racing I don't do structured speedwork between marathon cycles - and I usually ONLY race shorter distances during the off season. So, really, what do I expect? I guess if I really want to run faster in the shorter distances, I should a) actually TRAIN for a shorter distance race (unlikely, haha) or b) do more shorter races when I am in marathon training. And in the meantime, I think I should be happy with the fact that sub-7 pace, which once seemed IMPOSSIBLY fast, is now a pace that I can run for shorter distances on pretty low mileage. To put it another way, I technically ran a 6K PR during this race (though I realize comparing XC to road is apples and oranges) - and that PR was set after months of structured speedwork and training. Now I can just kind of...run that pace on a random Thursday. That, in the end, is pretty damn cool.
Gobble Gobble Gobble 4M
27:33 (6:53 pace) PR
146/2649 OA, 32/1524 F, 12/357 F20-29