Summer Racing Season Week 3: Lager Run and Cross Country

This week, we start to put the “race” in “racing season.”

I’ve got two races coming up – the Fitzgerald’s 5k Lager Run (which I care about) and the RRVR Summer Series XC (which I’m not focusing on). My plan is to race the Lager Run, take it easy at the Summer Series XC race, and try to hit my mileage goals for the week.

I’m feeling pretty good, and my workout last week was promising. So I’ve got moderately high hopes for Sunday’s race – although I’m always a little wary about racing in the heat.

Plan for the Week

I’ve got two evening races this week (Sunday and Tuesday), so that’ll throw off the schedule a bit. I want to throw in a short workout at the end of the week, too, but I might play that by ear.

  • Sunday: Morning trail run (4 miles) and evening 5k race (6 miles w/ warm up)
  • Monday: Morning trail run (6 miles) and evening treadmill double (5 miles)
  • Tuesday: Morning trail run (6 miles) and evening XC 5k (6 miles w/ warm up)
  • Wednesday: Morning trail run (6 miles)
  • Thursday: Morning trail run (8 miles)
  • Friday: Light morning R workout (8 miles) and evening treadmill double (5 miles)
  • Saturday: 10 mile easy-ish run

And here’s how things went.

Sunday – The Lager Run 5k

The actual 5k wasn’t until the evening, so I woke up and did a short shakeout run in the morning. I ran an easy four miles on the trails, and I felt pretty good by the end. It rained a little while I was out, and after I got home the humidity was decidedly better.

Late in the afternoon, I left for the actual race. I checked in, and then I met up with my new running team. It’s my first actual race with them – so I put on my new singlet and met a bunch of new people. I went off for an easy mile jog to start warming up, and then we took a group picture.

With about a half hour to go before race time, a few of us went for a final warm up. We did around two miles with some strides at the end and previewed the course a little bit. As I remembered from last year, it’s uphill a bit in the beginning – and then downhill in the home stretch.

It was quite warm – mid to high 70’s. The humidity wasn’t too bad, or it would have been truly miserable. By the end of the warm up, I was thirsty, but I wasn’t dying. I grabbed a cup of water from the finish area and then walked over to the start.

The plan was to go out around 6:15 or so, take it easy through the hills, and bring it home faster in the second half for a low 19’s finish.

It was a fairly large race (~1,000 people), and it was a championship race for our local clubs. So there were more people than usual crammed in the front, and I picked a spot near the sign that said 6:00/mile.

When the gun went off, I found myself boxed in for the first hundred meters or so. But things eventually opened up, and I was able to get on pace.

Between the adrenaline and a bit of a decline, I started off a little hot. About halfway through that first mile I glanced at my watch and saw 6:00/mi. I eased up a bit and probably overcorrected slightly, and I came through the first mile in 6:18. A little slower than planned, but on a hot day it’s probably better to be a little too slow than too fast.

For the second mile, I settled in to the pace. On the flat sections, I sped up a bit. On the hills, I eased up and slowed down. I paid less attention to my watch and more attention to my breathing and to the people around me. My breathing was starting to get a little labored, but it was under control.

At the halfway point, we crested the final hill and I knew it was mostly downhill from here. It took me a minute to get my legs under me, but I slowly picked up the pace. Thanks to a steep decline, I dipped under 6:00/mile for a bit and made up some time. The lap time for the second mile was 6:25 – again, a little slow.

We passed a water stop, and I grabbed a cup of water. Last year, I skipped the water altogether – and I regretted it. My mouth was dry, and I took a big gulp and swished it around. I ended up spitting most of it out – but it was just what I needed to feel ok.

The third mile is mostly a long straightaway with a net downhill, and I settled into a quicker pace. I ignored my watch and just focused on reeling people in – passing them one at a time. I caught up to one of my teammates who I’d warmed up with, and I tried to urge him on. “It’s all downhill from here!”

Most of that final mile, I was running ~6:10/mile. Just before the 3 mile mark, there’s a turn and a slight incline. My legs were starting to feel dead, but I powered through and split the mile in 6:11.

From there, we made a final left turn onto the track for the last 200 meters. I don’t know that I’d call it a sprint finish – but I definitely picked up speed and passed a couple people.

In the final meters, a gray haired woman came up on my right shoulder and finished at the same time. I took a look at the results later – she was 61! Impressive.

I also caught up with one of my teammates as we neared the finish, and we crossed at the same time. I was gasping for breath and gave him a fist bump and a “Good race.” Then it was off to find some water.

In this race, the top 100 men and women get commemorative pint glasses. So I was happy to see they were still handing out glasses when I finished. I grabbed it, sipped on some water to cool down, and then picked up a beer to pour in the glass and a pretzel to snack on.

Official time: 19:33.

Not quite a PR, but given the conditions I’m happy with the performance. I’m sure I could have gone faster on a cool day. I looked back at my results from this race last year – and I ran 20:49.

So in a year, I improved my time by well over a minute. I also went from 99/483 men to 79/508.

I’d say that’s solid progress – and there’s more to come.

Monday – An Easy Recovery Day

The focus Monday was on recovery and getting in some easy miles.

I felt ok come the morning. A little tired, but not overly sore. I took it easy on my six mile trail run, and the first mile was pretty slow (11:13). But I settled into a better pace later on. I ran 9:30’s in the second half.

Overall pace was 9:50/mi – so definitely on the slow side, but not the slowest I’ve done that route.

In the evening, I hopped on the treadmill for an easy double.

45 minutes of easy jogging along with a couple episodes of Star Wars Rebels. I kept the heart rate down and slowly bumped up the speed to my usual setting.

Felt pretty good afterwards.

Tuesday – A Cross Country ‘Race’

The cross country race was in the evening, so today would be another shake out in the morning followed by a race later in the day.

Started out with an easy trail run in the morning. Similar to Monday – slow start, worked my way up to a decent pace. But not fast by any stretch.

I felt ok at the end – but not 100%.

I had a meeting in the afternoon for work, and by the time it was done we didn’t have lunch until around 2pm. In retrospect, I should have maybe eaten a bit lighter – but the gyro platter was yummy.

After work, I laid down for a quick nap. I thought I had more time, but when I looked at the traffic it was not good. There was a bad accident on the highway, so what would typically take around 45 minutes would end up taking well over an hour.

I hit the road, and I made it down to the park a little before 6:30. The race started at 7. I checked in, jogged around the park to warm up, and got ready to start.

As I finished up my warm up, I looked up and saw someone I recognized. One of my old coworkers was here – who I didn’t know was a runner (and therefore did not expect to see). Her husband and their daughter were there, too, so we chit chatted for a few minutes before the race.

Her husband was aiming for under 20 minutes. This time around, I was going to take things easy, so I told him good luck. I didn’t have a firm plan – other than go out at a sustainable pace and slowly pick it up if I felt good.

We lined up wide in cross country style – and then we were off. Pretty quickly, we fell into a single or double file line and strung out. I settled into a pace that felt moderate but sustainable, and I just kind of kept pace with the people around me.

The course is two loops – with two moderate hills in the middle. When I felt my watch buzz, I didn’t bother looking at my split. But I did pick up the pace slightly and start to move up.

The second half of the course is nice and flat. This is my first time running this course, so I was taking mental notes. Good for a quick finish.

We looped past the start, and as we finished up the second mile I was pushing a little harder. I looked down this time when my watch buzzed, and I saw 6:45. Definitely slower than usual, but I was really just happy to be cruising along under 7:00/mi.

Once we crested the second hill and started into the home stretch, I couldn’t help but pick up the pace. I picked off a few people, and then up ahead I saw my friend’s husband. He wasn’t going to make 20 minutes at this rate, but I tried to beckon him to follow me as I passed.

He was gassed, and he kept cruising along at his own pace. I passed another person or two, and made a final turn into the closing straight away. I looked over my shoulder and saw somebody right behind me, so I hit the jets and sprinted to the finish.

The last mile was 6:35, and my overall time was something like 21:30.

After the race, they had pizza, hot dogs and beer. We sat around and chatted a while, and they eventually had a small awards ceremony. It was a nice event, and I’m glad I signed up.

I wasn’t really racing today – but I’ll put in some more effort in the 3rd and 4th races. The winner was in the 19’s, and I think if I’m fresh I’ll have a shot of actually winning the race later in the summer.

Wednesday – Extra Easy

I woke up Wednesday feeling a little stiff and creaky. I felt worse today than I did after Sunday’s 5k.

I went out for an easy six miles on the trails. I started out super easy, and the first two miles were slow. But once I loosened up, I was surprised at how much I picked up the pace.

The last couple miles were close to 9:00/mi – so more of a normal pace than a recovery day. I’ll take that as a good sign.

Thursday – A Longer Easy Day

I woke up Thursday feeling a little better, and I stretched the distance back to my normal 8 miles.

The two races were behind me, and the last thing on my schedule for the week was a light workout on Friday. So today’s goal was to put in some miles, continue to recover, and not push myself too hard.

At the end of this run, I was feeling pretty good. Everything felt loose, and my pace was decent. After the usual warm-up, I dropped down to the low 9:00’s, and my total time for 8 miles was 1:16:31.

But Thursday was a long day. We went to a wedding for one of my wife’s friends, and we walked around Montclair a bit. Between the heat and the walking, I was drained when I got home.

I got to bed early, so I slept well. But in the middle of the night, I woke up with a random charlie horse in my left calf. It didn’t last long, and I went back to sleep.

Friday – Trying for a Light R Workout

When I woke up Friday, my calf muscle still felt a little tight. My knees were also a bit achey, and overall I just didn’t feel great.

I considered bailing on my workout, but instead I decided to go out for my warmup and see how things felt. The first mile was slow, but I felt all of the aches and pains melting away. By the second mile, I felt fine – a sign that I’m ready for a run.

The workout I planned was simply 16 x 40 seconds of R running – essentially 16 x 200m. Between the heat (it was in the low 70’s) and the lingering fatigue, I didn’t have high hopes for my pace. So I didn’t even bother looking. I just ran hard, based on effort.

The first couple of reps felt fine, and I was a little surprised at how well I felt. Later on, things got a little harder but I kept powering through. I never really felt like I was out of gas, but I think I slowed down a little in the later reps.

Sure enough, the entire workout was on the slow side. The first three fourths were around 6:00 to 6:15/mi – with a few dipping under 6:00. And the last few reps were around 6:30/mi.

My real goal for today was just to get loose and get my legs moving, though, and in that respect it was a success. I’ll look to lay down some better times next week.

In the evening, I did another 5 miles on the treadmill. I felt great, especially for having run a workout in the morning.

Saturday: Wrapping Up the Week with 10 Miles

I finished up with a moderate 10 mile run on Saturday.

A couple weeks ago, I did this run and I went out too hard. I finished up feeling really beat down by both the heat and the fatigue. So I was determined to keep things easy this week.

I intentionally kept the pace slow the first five miles, and I was mindful to slow myself down any time I felt like I was picking up the pace. I monitored my breathing, and I tried to stick to a 5-4 or 4-4 pattern. Anything heavier than that is an indication that I’m not keeping it easy.

I saw quite a few runners out in my neighborhood today – more than usual. I guess they’re fair weather runners and they actually like the heat. Because there are never this many people out in the winter or the fall.

When I got to the turnaround point, I was still feeling great. So I eased up on the reins a bit. I wasn’t paying attention to the pace, but in the last two miles I noticed my breathing was getting more labored.

In the final mile, I let myself really push the pace. I closed the final mile in 7:09. Looking at the stats later, I realized I ran the previous two under 8:00 as well.

Overall time: 1:22:12 for 10 miles. A solid effort – and a really good time for having spent the first five miles slowing myself down.

Looking Ahead

This was a good week.

I had a decent run at the Lager Run on Sunday, and even though I didn’t PR I’m happy with my time. I wasn’t sure what to expect at the XC 5k – and really I’m just happy I was able to run it at all.

Although I didn’t have a good workout on Friday, I hit my mileage target (70 miles) and I finished up the week feeling fresh and quick. Next week, I can really focus on my two workouts – without a race getting in the way.

The following week, I’ve got two races – another XC 5k on Tuesday and the Sunset Classic 5 Mile on Thursday.

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