Well, the good news is, I won. The bad news is, conditions weren’t exactly PR material. Temps were good – 10 or 15, but it was snowing and we ran on variable packed snow.
I got up early yesterday to get some food prep rolling, then kissed Jen and Rider on my way out the door. Driving up to Bartlett HS, the driving was a little tricky in the snow, and vis wasn’t great. Pulling in to the parking lot, I saw what I expected: super small race, just 100-odd folks around trying to stay warm. Luckily they opened the school for us, so I was able to duck in and drop some things off before warming up.
The course was three loops around the school, pancake flat. On a summer day, it was PR material. Yesterday…not so much. As I jogged around, I found myself on decently packed or shallow snow one minute, slipping and punching through crust the next. My hopes of ideal conditions were dashed in about the first 100 yds. So, I decided the day needed to be about effort, not time. Not any easy mindset shift for me, but necessary nonetheless. I felt pretty good, but I was still disappointed in the conditions.
I decided on spikes after warming up in my Yaktrax, hoping they would give me some traction when I needed it while staying light on my feet. On the starting line, the cold didn’t even bother me, thanks to the unseasonable weather last week, which was good.
I took the lead from the start, trying to pick paths with the best footing, but some of the turns required me to slow way, way down lest I risk eating it. In my head, I felt like my effort level was honest. I resolved before the start to avoid looking at my Garmin, so I had no idea how fast or slow I was going, but I guessed 5:30. As we neared the end of the first lap, I strained to hear the timer…
“5:56, 57, 58, 59, six minutes,” was the unwelcome cry I heard at the first lap.
Say what? Six minutes? I tempo runs faster than that pace! I tried to just let it roll off my back and focused on the task at hand. It was hard. Luckily, there was one guy on my shoulder to keep me honest. For the next half mile, I did my best to drop the pace, working the stuff with good footing and just kind of making it through the bad stuff. I dropped 2nd somewhere around 1.5-1.75 on a short surge, and never looked back.
I started to lap people, which got tricky. We were all looking for the good traction, but I made the standard pleas for space as I approached slower people. But, some folks just don’t know what “On your left!” means. So that was tricky too. Coming into the last mile, I really dug for another gear, but just as I felt like I was picking things up, my feet would slip and throw me off. It was a little frustrating but I didn’t let it bother me too much. I just kept thinking that I needed to work each section as hard as I could, and that kept me on track.
I finished in 17:48, which is not fast at all, but how do you account for conditions? There were times when I felt like a Loony Tunes character, feet spinning out as I tried to ratchet down the pace. I was able to negative split each lap, but not by much. And even those precious few seconds each mile came with a bill attached.
On Monday, I had to do a PT test I forgot about, which included a 1.5 mile run on an indoor 200m track. Without even a warmup, I ran it in 7:56 (5:17 pace). It was the fastest I’ve run the distance since my college days, and I while wasn’t jogging, it wasn’t 100% either. As a result, coming in to yesterday, I didn’t think that holding 5:25 pace for 5k was a stretch. So, it was definitely disappointing to run 17:48. But, keeping things in perspective, I think I raced as well as can be expected for the conditions. It’s a tough pill to swallow, because I want to be the guy who is fast regardless of how slippery the roads might be.
But, first is first. I even got a Butterball for my efforts so how can I complain? I know where my fitness level is at, and if I have to wait until spring to prove it in a race, so be it.