Friday, July 31, 2015

Bastille Day 4 Miler - Back in the Racing Saddle!

It's been a while since I've blogged - it's been even longer since I've raced. The last race I did was a 10k in October and that was relatively subpar. My pursuit for PRs and podium finishes was put on hold for an uptick in writing. And that was the right decision: I need to be focused on the task at hand (the Ph.D.) and just use running to maintain sanity.
And the running kept happening, with some semblance of a regular routine. The length and frequency was somewhat consistent, but not bound to a particular schedule. And that was helping - I submitted my first dissertation chapter in June and received positive and helpful feedback from my advisor. Happy with the success and momentum of the first, I am well in the middle of my second chapter - something I'm hoping to finish sometime in August.
But, racing is one of my favorite things to do. I find it to be so exhilarating, and also so fun. But, I've become competitive I don't like the idea of showing up not fully prepared. With that in mind, I avoided races. I still had the DC race calendar in my head, knowing full well which events passed me by. I remember in April thinking to myself, "I haven't done a race I've been proud of in a year." And that was hard to swallow, and I went back to my writing.
But I still was checking the race calendar - maybe I could find something low-key to test the wheels.
And then: ta-da!
Bastille Day 4 Miler
Cost: $5
I'm in! There wasn't much to lose - it was a short race on a Tuesday night along the C&O Trail at Fletcher's Cove. I didn't do any speed training to prepare, I just figured I'd hop in and see how things turned out. I hadn't been timing any of my runs, and I figured anything under 8:00 pace (maybe even 7:30 pace) would be a good benchmark.
It wasn't a sunny day, but at 7PM, it was still pretty hot (high 80s). I ran there from home (about 3.7 miles) and was drenched by the time I got there. But talk about a view!
Fletcher's Cove - just a few miles from downtown DC
Between the 8 and 8.5 mark on the Capital Crescent Trail

For DC, it was a pretty low-key, small (160 people) race, and it was just fun milling around chatting with people before the start. Originally, I thought we would be on the paved Capital Crescent Trail, but we were on the gravel Chesapeake and Ohio Trail. Stay tuned for why that matters.
I was a little nervous at the start - this wasn't sandbagging - I had no idea how it would go. How much speed was left in the legs? Sure, I could run a steady 10 mile run at an easy pace, but would I blow up trying to go fast in a shorter race? But we were off.
They call it muscle memory for a reason. While it was clearly evident that I couldn't go out and lead the race, I wasn't falling apart either. I didn't wear a watch, as I just wanted to go out by feel. The old instincts were coming back, and I was clicking along. I definitely wanted to run a negative split, and figured the turn-around point would be a good marking point to pick things up. As we headed into the turnaround, someone yelled out that I was third woman. Sounds good to me! At the turnaround, I could see that there was a pretty decent gap between me and second, and me and fourth, so the goal was to just try to pick up the pace and pass some guys. It was so hot out, and I was grateful for the large water cups distributed and the spray station (two kids gleefully spraying us). I kept duking it out with a few guys, which really, the back and forth was good for all of us - no one was slowing down. It was so peaceful and quiet out there - hard to believe we were in this little oasis in the middle of our nation's capital. But bliss aside, the competitive juices were ramping up in the home stretch, and I was taking no prisoners. Stoked to cross the finish line as the time flashed:
27:28 (6:52 pace)
3/67 women
30/166 overall
Talk about muscle memory. Yes, in my best fitness, I could run 10 miles 20 seconds per mile faster, but this was great! Not all was lost, and it was a reminder that I love racing and even if I can't devote as much time to training, this should still be a regular part of my life.
Also, this was a race on a gravel trail, and the Georgetown track coach calculated that gravelly trails tend to add 10-15 seconds to your time, so I'm thinking it was closer to 6:45 pace.
Overall, I had a blast - it was just so much fun racing again. I broke even - it was $5 to enter, and I won a $5 Starbucks card. And they gave out these shirts too. Too hot to wear it running for a while, but love a DC-centric shirt.
I'll be testing my racing flats out again tomorrow at the Friends of the W&OD Trail 10k in Vienna - my old stomping ground! It was great to race again, and run (around) this town with a bib on!

post race selfie