Monday, January 6, 2014

Watchung Run 1/4/14: Hercules defeats the half marathon

A while ago Kristen and I put the Watchung Run on our calendar but ultimately decided we'd just run it if we felt like it and register on the spot.  Like fools, we registered at a table in 4 degree weather, my fingers barely able to write out legible words.  So if Arrwm Sluwerhh gets credit for my race time, good for him.

Thursday night into Friday the cold and snow came.  We knew it was coming, we knew we'd prepare with layers to combat our first really cold race (I think the coldest prior race was the Dirty Bird from last fall which started in the mid-20's).  We were running anyway.  Because we're badasses.

I haven't had the pleasure of running this trail yet so I had no idea how technical it was, what its conditions were really like or how the conditions might change during the race.  I had on 2 long-sleeve tech shirts, a hoodie, Exoficio underwear, Nike tights, some cheap running pants from Old Navy, wool ski socks and my yellow New Balance shoes, a buff, ski mask, knit cap, Mizuno running gloves as liners and some heavier gloves over those.  At the starting line, my fingers were already frozen and I worried it might only get worse.  Wearing about 1/4 of all my running gear (and my Nathan fuel belt), I lined up with Kristen seconds before the start in a hasty scramble and we fell in line.
All my damn gear, minus the shoes.
Upon the start, I immediately started playing mental games.  I had expected to complete a half marathon race.  The course is a 10K loop so the options were 10K, half and full marathons (with a 1K loop to get to the appropriate distance) and 50K.  With an "out" at my disposal, I tried to forget about that option and just run my race.  My training runs leading up felt great and I thought I could handle the half well and hold an 11 min pace.

The field fell into line which started in a park for about 1/4 mile before turning onto the trail which was a very narrow single track, getting bored and staying cold, I reached a point where I just had to break some trail.  At a few opportune moments, I hopped out of the queue into the left lane and through some powder under which I had no idea what lied.  Either I was really lucky or the trail was pretty well groomed because it was one of the better decisions I'd made that day.

The course was pretty nice in the snow.  After all, being in the woods is a treat in and of itself.  Being out in the snow is a bonus.  Unfortunately, I'd left my GoPro plugged in at our friends' house but what the heck, here's a picture from the previous day in a different park in a different state.  Pretty much the same thing: snow in the woods.
In case you needed to see some snow in the woods.  Actually from a duck hunt the day before, non-Nintendo version is way better.
As I was making my way around packs of runners, finding open space to run and catch more, I was feeling great and the blood was flowing and I was nice and toasty.  The course was a little slippery but very runnable.  It didn't take long, though, for that 10K out to come back to the front of my mind.  And I'll continue to kick myself for this but here's the thing that bothered me: We anticipated the snow.  We purchased Yaktrax.  I left them.  In the car.  At the race.  (They were actually the walking model, all that we could find, so I also assumed that as they weren't the running model, they had the potential to become more of a problem than an aid.)

I assessed the other runners' shoes and it looked like 1/3 opted for YakTrax.  I assume they all beat me in the 10K or ran a farther distance.  I made a game time decision to just go in my trail shoes and that the trail should be worn enough to provide enough traction.  Because of the cold conditions, the snow never changed form; it stayed a fluffy powder reducing traction.  I'd venture a guess that the lost traction drastically robbed me of any running efficiency to the tune of 20-30%.  That's a shot in the dark, but by mile 4, I'd made up my mind.  I'll take the out and just end my race and get Kristen and myself out and into a warm diner. 
The Garmin data
I was actually pretty happy with my showing.  Not quite what my 10K goal would have been but despite the conditions, it was a lot of fun and extremely close to some of Kristen's family so a place to visit again when we're in the area.  We packed up, found a diner and made our way to a small family reunion with Kristen's cousins.  Great snowstorm weekend!

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