The trouble is, I couldn't find any late spring or early summer races that were close by and didn't cost an arm and a leg. I settled on a fall half.
Fast forward a few weeks to mid-April. Neil and I ran the Tar Heel 10 Miler. He hadn't been running too much, mainly just the Saturday 8 milers and weekdays when he could. School and rugby take priority. We had planned to run together, so I settled on an achievable goal of 8:45 per mile average. I wanted to be closer to 8:30, but didn't want to go too fast, for both of our sakes.
To make a long story short (and I need to write a race report still anyway), I kept us under 8:45. We finished in 1:26, at an average of 8:39 including the 1.5 mile hill towards the end. And I'd felt like I could have gone faster, and further.
I needed a race. Soon. To test myself.
|Coming in for the finish. Photo credit: Kate F.|
The race came early this morning, with carpool from Lara's at 6. I initially wavered, thinking I'd run with the group. Just doing the 13.1 would be a test. The starting gun sounded, and my body made the decision for me. I went for it.
First off, the course is beautiful. The race is mostly inside Umstead State Park, which has a fairly even bridle trail that is small gravel most of the time, larger stones some of the time. The course is shaded by lush green trees, with the forest all around. The rolling hills, and several steeper hills, pose a challenge, but that seems to be par for the course in this part of North Carolina.
My goal had been 8:30 to 8:45 like the last race, but I not-so-secretly wanted to go faster. You know, testing myself and coming home with a PR would be nice. Knowing that would not be happening, I thought anything under 8:30 average would be a nice result.
The early hills were a bit challenging, but aside from a minor side cramp I did better than anticipated. I even maintained a pace that allowed me to pass the 1:50 pace group for a time. Leading up towards the halfway mark, more than a mile of hill slowed me down. The 1:50 group overtook me; though I hung on for a while, they left me behind around mile 8 or so.
One of my main "findings" from my test is that my hips are tight. Really tight. At some points, I felt as though they would just pop out of the sockets if I sat cross-legged on the ground. I need to work on flexibility in a major way if I want to make it "all the way back" to pre-leg-break fitness.
In the final miles, motivated by beautiful scenery and generally feeling good, I pushed through at a decent pace. Not sure what it was because the pretty trees gave my Garmin a hard time, but in the upper 8 minute per mile to low 9 minute per mile range. With some early quick miles banked, that seemed fine.
I turned the last corner, saw 1:54 on the clock, and sprinted in for a not-too-shabby 1:54:27. Good enough for 5th in my age group, of 58. Not a PR by any means, but a decent finish for a hilly race on cautious, low-mileage training with no speedwork.
I think I have my work cut out for me for my fall race schedule!!
In case you're interested, here is my Garmin snapshot: