Thursday, December 20, 2012

Racing on tired legs: Jingle All the Way 2012

A bit behind in my blogging.  The end of the semester meant writing went on the back burner, and grading papers and exams instead.  And after last Friday, I just needed some time for prayer and reflection - not the time for quasi-narcisistic blogging.
But I did race in December, and as part of my foray into mega mileage, I did want to occupy a bit of digital space recapping the Jingle All the Way 8k.  This is my raceiversary.  It was my first race in 2008, and I had no idea what I was doing.  I was jockeying for positions, wearing a Mickey Mouse watch, and when the race was a 10k distance, pleased to finish in 55:04.  2009 - 46:01, then in 2010 - 44:45. A lot has changed!  The race has been shortened to an 8k (4.97 miles) and moved from West Potomac Park to downtown DC.  In 2011, I ran 33:31 for the 8k.
This year, I was just racing for fun.  That week, I had already run 58 miles in what would be my highest-mileage week ever.  I did not plan to PR, as most of my runs felt slow (as expected) - I just wanted to go out and have fun.  I even went to a Christmas party the night before and got into the Christmas spirit(s) too...
It was pouring race morning - not exactly ideal weather.  But I didn't care - I was nearing the end of my big week, and I wanted to culminate it with this race.  I got to meet British Olympian Claire Hallisey - who lives and trains in Arlington.  I've seen her at this race before, and last year I even stood near her at the start, but I told myself that if she was back to defend her title, I would say hello.  I did, and said I was a big fan, and she was very gracious.  It is very cool that in the DC area, the competition is deep enough to include not just Olympic Trial Qualifiers, but Olympians!
A very well-dressed and speedy runner
Get this - I forgot my watch.  Which, for a race that ultimately didn't matter, it truly didn't matter.  I decided to just run by feel, and not sweat it out.  When we started, I could really feel the weeks of high mileage in my legs.  Not sore - just heavy.  Now, get a look this guy, who ran alongside me for most of the race.  At first, I just thought the dude was intercepting the race and crossing the street, but no, he was running 8k dressed like this.  I later found out that he was promoting his new line of minimalist dresswear for men.  Who knew?   A lot of people swarmed to the front, and I just let them go - might as well just wait until later to pick them off.
But really, I just wanted to lock in on a reasonably comfortable pace, which ended up being alongside fancy pants man.  I had no idea what the pace was, but I was having fun watching everyone (there were almost 5,000 runners, and a lot of costumes).  When I got past mile 3, I started to work at picking off some girls.  Honestly, this is probably one of my favorite parts of racing.  Often referred to as being the hunter, when you come from behind and pick off people.  Ir is much better to be the hunter than the hunted, running scared (which I've also done).  It makes me not think about the pace or distance left - my sole charge becomes working to pass each one.  It's a great distraction.
A really fast elf
This course has a few hairpin turns that are a bit challenging.  I thought I had completed all of them, and I could see the finish line. But nope, we got diverted to the left (very misleading) for one last mini out and back.  And look who was in front of me now!
Yes, a big costumed runner who I just could not pass.  I was doing everything I could to kick, but the legs weren't having it.
I finished in 33:13 - techinically a 20-second 8k PR.  6:41 pace.
A couple of points to keep in mind - I've run both 10ks and a 10 miler at a faster pace.  But not on such mileage.
And I was reflecting about this too, because in my first week of mega-mileage, I ran a 40:24 10k.  That's 6:31 pace - how come I was running 10 seconds per mile slower for a shorter race?  Well, 3 weeks in, and that cumulative mileage began to set in.  Instead of just a few days of high mileage, these legs had covered 182 miles in under 3 weeks - no wonder I was running slower.
Running happy and light in my 10k PR
That afternoon, I ran 7 miles, to bring the day's total to 14 miles and ending my highest mileage week ever - 70 miles.  Wow!  Sarah was right, it wasn't too hard to get up to that high volume.  Sure, I was tired and sore, but it was in fact doable.  It did make me pleased about my 8k effort.  I've often read about elite athletes doing races "on tired legs" and for the first time, I got it.  I've also commented before in some of my PR races that I felt light and easy.  This was not the case, and I offer the following photo comparison from my 10k PR (left) and the Jingle All the Way (right).
Tired legs
This was not a light and easy feeling.  However, I was rewarded the following week with a "light" week of 42 miles for the week.  Running almost 30 miles less gave me back some spring in my step.  It even meant that on a 10 mile weekday run, I covered 12k on 12-12-12 in 59:55 (8:02 pace) - good enough for 12th place in a virtual run 12k challenge.  I generally don't do my easier runs that fat, but with a bit of rest, amazing what the legs can do.
This week, we are back to a 68 mile week as I begin cycle 2 of mega mileage.  Happy to have arrived home today - where I'll certainly get good home cooking to fuel those runs!

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