After having only 2 weeks in between the first two races of the York Winter Series waiting 3 three weeks to race the 3rd one felt rather long. I’d like to say I used the extra week to get in some solid training. Unfortunately between the holidays coming, winter weather and being busier than usual week last week I didn’t.
My running friend, Todd, and I preran the course on Dec. 3rd. We wanted to run longer than 6.2 miles so we started at my house and ran to the start of the course at the high school. I had estimated the distance from my house to the high school to be a little over a mile. It was actually 1.7 miles which meant our run that day changed from around 8 miles to 9.5. That Wed. my usual running group logged 6 miles and that was the last I ran before the race.
I have actually been lifting typically on Tues. and Thurs. afternoons. The track team started their off season training 3 days a week and we open the weight room for them on Tues. and Thurs. I felt it was a good opportunity for me to start incorporating some upper body and core workouts into my week. I’ve also been more regular with my DailyBurn workouts on days I’m not running or lifting.
I had intended to run the Sat. prior to the race but 3 inches of snow changed that idea. Jason convinced me to stay in on Sun. and do a leg workout with him to build strength. Despite my legs being in overall great shape my glutes hurt from his workout for the next 2 days. Wed. was the coldest day of the week with wind chills making it feel in the teens. I intended to still go to the group run but after hearing my dad had a dentist appointment and another runner wasn’t braving the cold temps, I chose to “chicken out” as well and workout inside. I thought I could get a run in on Thurs. in the school’s weight room only to find there were no treadmills in there (we workout in the jr high weight room and the treadmills are in the high school weight room), so I sufficed with 3 miles on the elliptical which I must say definitely didn’t feel as hard as running.
So with over a week of not actually running I wasn’t sure what to expect Sat. morning for the race. I knew my overall fitness base was fine and I had “home course” advantage so I wasn’t too concerned. Still, I didn’t set any goals other than to run it in under an hour and to just have a solid, strong race. It was in the mid to upper 20s when I arrived and I chose to layer an Under Armour hoodie over my usual long sleeved tech shirt and road race tshirt. I am grateful Jason bought me cold weather running socks for my birthday as they are probably my favorite piece of running gear now that I know to pull them tight against my feet as to not rub a blister.
The first mile was a long downhill grade that I was cautious on given there was still some slush on the road from the previous day’s light snow accumulation. I definitely had a bit of a fear of hitting any icy spots and falling, but everyone else seemed to be running fine so I finally settled into a comfortable pace as well. The second mile continued the downhill grade. My splits were an 8:08 and 8:12 for those two miles.
The middle part of the race was on some back country roads which are typically my favorite. Since they aren’t highly traveled though, they aren’t typically kept up with in bad weather. I found running on the slush/snow mix to be rather tedious, not as bad as running in sand, but it still felt like it was slowing me down.
Early in the race I had picked out a women ahead of who I dubbed “blue tights” that I made it a goal to try to beat by the end. I wasn’t certain if she was even in my age group, but sometimes I like to target people to beat to keep it interesting. She had pulled away from me during the middle of the race, but I could still see her ahead of me.
There was a water stop along the course that I chose to utilize. Even though it was a cold day I find I don’t usually get enough water in my system for morning races so the hydration was a welcome boost. “Blue tights” also went through the water station which closed my gap on her.
Mile 4 contained the S Park St hill which I was grateful to have ran twice prior to the race. Once was unintentional when I had to redirect my original running route (read about that here – My “Doggone” Running Route ). The second was during Todd and my prerun. It isn’t an overly long hill, but it is steep and will burn your leg muscles something awful. It is the type of hill that can mentally break a runner as well.
I think this was the case on Sat. as I worked my way up it, passing nearly everyone as they chose to walk instead of run. “Blue tights” was one of the walkers and I was slightly disappointed that I passed her because she walked and not because I ran faster than her. Sometimes seeing people walk during a race discourages me and makes me want to throw in the towel as well. On Sat. though my ego was boosted by my ability to run the hill when others couldn’t or wouldn’t. I told myself that I was strong and I could beat that hill.
I was so grateful when I reached the left turn off S Park St onto a downhill/flat portion of the course. I opened my stride and started to cruise. I knew it would be the last chance to gain any ground before the final climb up Blymire to the finish at the high school. It must have worked as my Garmin beeped at the 5 mile mark with an 8:58. I never expected to run that mile so fast with the hill in it, but it made me more confident going into the last mile.
Blymire is one long hill, but it is broken into two sections due to it intersecting another road. The first part winds a bit and is steeper. I handled that part as well as can be expected for a long hill. I attribute it to the numerous times I have ran that hill during training runs. The second part, a more shallow incline, was not so much harder on the legs as it was my lungs. Most of the race had limited wind, but that part was so open and airy that I had to put my gloves and winter headband back on because it chilled me so much. I felt like I was almost gasping for air at times as my breathing was so labored from the cold air. When I hit mile 6 I tried to pick up the pace though .2 miles definitely felt a lot longer than the .1 mile I’ve ran in 5ks.
I crossed the finish line in 55:45. I was content with my time and happier with how I felt in terms of racing smart and staying strong. I was a bit disappointed to see on the results screen that I had finished 6th in my age group. I had expected to finish a little higher given my familiarity with the course and how well I ran the hills. The 5th place woman was almost 2 full minutes ahead of me. I know it’s possible those women are more heavily training though where as I’m using the series as a way to keep in shape over the winter and any running I’m doing is an accomplishment at this point.
I have plans to run twice this week, on Wed. for my usual group run and then on Thurs. my running friend, Scott, hosts a “Christmas light run”. Last year was the first I did it and it was fun. A large group of local runners meets and we run through a neighborhood looking at the Christmas lights. I also hope to get a run in over the Christmas weekend as my next race will be Dec. 30th – the John Rudy 5 miler.