Sunday, December 1, 2013

Dirty Bird 15K 2013: a PR and a Great Race

This morning we kicked off December with a nice trail run in French Creek State Park, this time with my GoPro for live race pics... Exciting!  The Dirty Bird 15K is another race in the Pretzel City Sports series.  The venue for this race is the same for the Double Trouble 15K (or 30K) although different loops.  Still, my only 15K's have been here at this park and I was determined to obliterate my 2:02 PR from 2011.

Always pretty cool shirts form PCS, even the cotton ones.
Mechanically I felt alright going into the morning, a few kinks in the left leg but nothing I thought was any concern at my achilles, knee and shin.  They didn't slow me down and I didn't consider factoring any of these into my race plan.  My goal was very ambitious and I realize after the race I need to re-evaluate my planning strategy as it pertains to larger goals.  I wanted 1:30.  Nice round numbers seems to wind up as my goal time.  While it's a great and valid longer-term target for long races (such as the upcoming 50K's in early 2014), I'm not putting enough miles in each week to expect that kind of drop in my average pace but I am in a position to kill my PR.  Let's go do work!
Approaching the starting line.  Just below freezing temps at the start.
Pre-start excitement, about to wane after this happy selfie.
The field looked pretty solid, I suppose most people that are willing to run PCS' cold-weather races are fairly serious but I knew I was among some good runners.  We positioned ourselves in the back 1/3 of the starting crowd.  I had aspirations to finish in the top 1/3 based on my goal and last year's results.

Bang. Here we go. Off we went on a short stretch of paved road before turning into the trails.  I paced with the herd of runners, hoping to not start off too fast as is my habit.  I felt great on the trails and felt like I was effortlessly gliding up the trails past my fellow racers, at least for a little while.  The first 2 miles is a pretty good climb but I settled into a small pack.
Proof of said climb.
The second mile was pretty slow for everyone and further evidence for myself that I need to find some hills in Conshohocken for training.  After about the 4th mile, I really noticed myself losing momentum and started getting passed.  I try to focus on running my race and kinda ignore other runners but it IS a race and a huge component of competition is working your way up in the field- something I consider in my goals.  Finishing races is goal 1, finishing faster and faster is each successive goal.  I maintained a pretty good pace for the rest of the race except the climb in mile 7.  "Pretty good pace" is something I need to define a little better(or possibly eliminate from my racing vocabulary)  since my overall pace was around 10:50/mile.  I was slower than I'm hoping my average pace for the next 50K will be but it's these races that provide some kind of baseline that allow me to understand where I'm at.

The race is an odd loop so there's a good chance to see the leaders coming back as there are a few overlapping stretches.  I saw the leaders coming at me absolutely flying.  It's impressive to see them and inspirational; it adds a nice extra jump in my step, at least for a while.  I recognized the 3rd place runner, shouted at him to cheer him along and hope it helped.

Once I knew 1:30 was out of reach, I immediately began recalculating my finish time and new goal.  I must have looked during mile 7 when I thought, OK, 1:45 is a great PR on top of a 2:02... go for it.  I quit looking at my garmin, put my head down and focused on moving forward with consistency.  I'm not sure what my official time is yet but timing myself had me cross the finish line at 1:42:25.  Any PR is a victory so I enjoyed it some hot soup, said a quick hello to the PCS directors and waited for Kristen to get her PR which she did.  It was a great morning for a cold race and we had an awesome time.  Next race is a trip down to Baltimore for a road 5-miler (Celtic Solstice) on December 14 with a side of beer mile afterwards!  I'm not sure how that will go but I am definitely looking forward to it.

After Baltimore, there is some chatter among members of a local running club I have yet to meet, Misery Loves Company, that there may be a loosely organized 50K on my 32nd birthday.  I can't think of a more appropriate time to run that distance.  Well, other than when I'm physically prepared to.

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