Temps: 74 and cloudy. Felt humid, but overall cooler than it has been in recent days.
Competition: Pre-season cross country race for middle school, high school, college runners as well as an open race
I like XC races. It's different running on all-grass. There's something raw and deeply natural about it. You roll across varied terrain. You encounter more changes in elevation, and you need to be a little more agile and careful about footing. It's slower, but it's easier on the body to go on soft surfaces and to be able to use the neglected stabilizer muscles.
The night before the night before, sleep was so-so... probably 5.5 or 6. I had had a tiring week at work, but my immune system made it through. I usually don't eat anything special the day before races. I did have guests over, though, so I can show you pictures of dinner...
(Trader Joe's Whole Wheat Pizza Dough, baked with 75% light Vermont Cheddar, Garlic+Italian Seasoning, and Parsley... first time I've tried making it, after hearing about it at Hungryrunnergirl.com... it was a hit! And it's only $1.09 per pizza-worth of dough.)
(Chicken in Cream of Mushroom Casserole with Carrots and Peas, topped with 75% light Vermont Cheddar, chives, parsley, and garlic+Italian seasoning. I know the two dishes look like they're the same color, but underneath the topping, it's colorful w/ the carrots and peas. And zooming in on the pic will make it look a little more appealing. It was tasty, trust me.)
We also had Organic mixed greens with fat free Feta and Balsamic Vinaigrette.
Anyway, I slept 5 hours. While we were playing Guesstures (as I was watching a teammate, not acting), I banged my right knee on my couch armrest, and it hurt some to walk. So I iced before bed. Good choice, I think, b/c it was 90% better in the morning. Phew.
Had my warm-up shower to get loose (the warm running water is magic), and had 2 cups of room-temp water + instant decaf + coca. Wouldn't recommend the recipe, but it gives me a little lift, and there are probably lots of antioxidants in it. Plus, it helps with using the bathroom = more speed. To avoid during-race bathroom needs or the need to wait in long bathroom lines 30->0 minutes before race start, I think it's best to wake up 2-3 hours before the race and refill yourself with water, so that you're back at the normal hydration state by race time.
Race started at 8:30, so I got there at 7. I had eaten bread pretty late at night, so I wasn't that hungry, but I had some Whole Grain Goldfish and 2 Clif Roks (protein balls). Went to the porta potty 2x. In line with the muscle tension tuning theory from Steve Magness (http://runningtimes.com/Article.aspx?ArticleID=21918), I did my 0.5ish mile warmup on the road, rather than on the grass, to keep my legs snappy. I started at about 8:10. Then, I switched into spikes (another reason I like XC races - an excuse to use spikes) and did dynamic stretching, range of motion leg swings, and striders.
There wasn't a huge number of runners. The line was decently long horizontally, since this is a specialty XC course, and the start was maybe 2-3 deep, so everyone got to go out at about the same time. There were lots of HS age kids. Some looked like middle schoolers, and a few college or slightly post-college and older people around.
The race start was delayed for like 5 minutes for some reason, but eventually, we started. Everyone went out fast, and I felt like 80% of the field was ahead of me in the first 200m. And even I had gone out too fast. Bulleted out but took the speed down a bit after maybe 200m. Shouldn't have gone out so fast at the very start. There was no reason to, since the crowds were thin anyway. Oh well.
The first half of the course was mostly normal grass, which made the spikes advantageous. I hit the the 1-mi mark at 6:51, which would be fine for a 50 degree run on the road, but was probably a little too fast for this 74 degree XC run. Hit the 2-mi mark at 7:09 (exactly 14 min, or 7:00/mi ave). I might've done the passing 65% of the time, and got passed 35% of the time. At times, I realized that I had been going too fast and had expended muscle integrity, so I'd get things under control a bit and just focus on recovering a little while rolling and putting distance down without straining myself.
(at about the 1.5 mi mark)
The course got a little less spike-friendly for about 0.5 mi at around the 2-mi mark, with hard dirt with pebbles unevenly scattered around. It was fairly short, though, and didn't cause problems... just a little less comfortable.
The last mile is always tough. Just hang in there. This part snakes around a bit... just hang in there. I drafted off a boy for a while. "I'm getting a ride on the boy bus," I told myself. He pulled away after maybe half a mile of this. Then came the short but steep hill right before the finishing line. Then, giving whatever you have left for the final stretch. Got close to the boy again but didn't pass him.
(stopping my watch)
Good effort. As always, having a little difficulty standing from being so out of breath at the end. Left it all out on the course. After the race, I had delightful & much-needed orange Gatorade and 2 bananas.
I finished 10th for the women, in 22:23. They gave overall prizes 10-deep, so I just made it, haha. Originally, 2 boys' names had somehow gotten on the list, so while they were reworking the results, it was a little more suspenseful for me to find out if I'd be top-10. The times ranged from maybe 19:30ish, and at the rate they were going, with a couple of 19+ performances and a good number of 20+ performances, I didn't think I had a chance, but it worked out. In any case, they gave 1st in age group awards too, so I would've gotten that had I not gotten this.
The race was only $10, but since it's a pre-season race focused on young runners, Brooks sponsored swag and prizes, which was really nice. They had shorts, hats, shirts, socks, and a couple of long sleeve tees, plus a waterbottle. I picked the long sleeve - it's somewhat too big, but that's alright. The DeFeet socks and Drawstring bag was swag.
3.1 in 22:23, 7:13/mi ave. D'oh... 0:35/mi too slow... big diff... I guess it's the heat + terrain, though. We'll see what happens this fall & winter.
Splits> 6:51, 7:09, 7:38, 0:45 for 0.1... d'oh... 7:38... haha.
After the race and before the awards, I did a 0.2 mi cool-down, but even that was hard to manage. After the awards, though, to take advantage of the great course and mostly cloudy weather, I re-ran the course at an easy pace, just to get in some more training for today. It was hotter, of course, but still bearable at 10:30am.
Had another cup of Gatorade (the race hosts were still around and gave me some) and carrots after that. Got home and had chicken and bread from yesterday, plus milk.
3.1 in 25:55, 8:22 ave. Even here, I started slowly but then naturally got looser and sped up. It was a nice cool-down, and I would've went through with doing another lap, but my left leg started acting up a bit, so I played it safe.