Saturday, November 21, 2009

Planning to race

At the start of each new training cycle, I give my coach a list of races that I want to do and she works them into my schedule. Because the list is typically pretty long, I know that there is no way that I will actually be 'racing' them all. So, it's always fun to see which I'll be racing and which I'll be doing as a workout. As my Clarksburg post documents, I am sometimes challenged when it comes to controlling myself doing a workout within a race. Most of the time, however, I'm able to recognize that there's a bigger goal than the race I'm doing, and I keep my pace where it's supposed to be.

This Thursday will be one of those challenges for me. I will be running the local Run to Feed the Hungry which is a true Sacramento running tradition. It's a huge fun run with about 28,000 participants. There's also a small competitive contingent that competes for the little bit of prize money that's up for grabs.

My first challenge associated with this race was trying to figure out which distance to do: 5k or 10k. My goal for that day is to run the 'race' at lactate threshold (tempo) effort. This was highlighted in my training plan in bright yellow, so I think it's pretty important to follow the plan. I decided that the 10k would be the better option because the longer distance would help me keep my pace under control. It would be hard to hold back my pace in a 5k right now to 6:00-6:10. I would just be too tempted to race it instead of running it as a workout. Best to just remove the temptation. This will also be a heart rate max test for me where I'll run the first 5.5-6 miles at LT effort and then kick it in for a full on sprint to get my heart rate as high as possible. If I look like I'm going to die at the finish, that's what I'm going for. So, don't worry. I'm not quite sure what pace LT effort will have me running, but it will be fun to test it out and set a benchmark complete with heart rate data to look back on later in my training.

Here are the other races on my list for the next 5 months:
  • Dec 13: Christmas Relays with the Impalas (run at LT effort)
  • Feb 13: Valentine's Run 4 miler (race!)
  • Mar 6: Norcal John Frank Memorial 10 miler (race!)
  • Mar 14: Shamrock'n half marathon (goal marathon pace workout)
  • Mar 28: Nutrition Fuels Fitness 10k (race! but with 10 miles tacked on to the end)
Just when I had my head wrapped around this racing schedule, serendipity dropped in for a visit and changed everything. Last Wednesday, I received a message from my boss asking if I could sit in on a review panel in his stead that would require my participation over the next couple of months. The panel meets in person in Seattle 11-12 February. Within hours of receiving that message, I got a message from my Air Force Team about Cross Country Nationals in Spokane on what day? February 13th--perfect! I need to apply for the team, but I have a feeling I have a good chance of earning a spot after my Marine Corps Marathon performance. I know I can be in sub-18:00 5k shape by then too. So, after my meetings in Seattle, I can just hop on over to Spokane and run what will no doubt be a bitterly cold and possibly snowy race.

It may seem hard to believe, but I have never run a cross country race before. I guess it can't be that hard. I probably have to get some new shoes and figure out a new race strategy. I think I'll do fine and will have fun if nothing else. The kicker here is that the top 5 military female finishers get to compete for the U.S. in the world military cross country championships in March in----wait for it------Belgium! I am now very excited about trying my hand at cross country and winning a trip to Europe to compete for the US. How fun would that be? This would displace the Shamrock'n race, but I promised my coach I'd be able to get in the long miles if I got to do these two races.

So, my fingers are crossed that this cross country opportunity materializes for me and that I compete well enough for the Air Force to spend some time in Europe kickin' it with the top military cross country competitors in the world. Fun fun!


  1. Running the roads and running cross. Yeah, it's pretty much the same. Like a turbo-prop and F-16 are pretty much the same. Ah, the ignorance of youth.

    That said, good luck making the team, and you surely will have fun if you do.

  2. Really? How much different can running your ass off in a 5k or 8k on the roads feel versus doing the same on a grassy field with some hills and mud and snow? And you get to wear spikes? Pashaw!

    I'm more of a GE TF-34 girl anyway. Big fan of the Warthog.

  3. i have only run one or two x-country races, but they are definetely different. the thing about x-country is you never really get into a groove or a consistent tempo, whereas on the roads you can definetely get into a rhythm. this is why track runners typically don't do well in x-country. the terrain is always changing, you're always going up or down... it can be little slippery on dirt/mud covered roads. sometimes you're running on very narrow dirt trails and you can't get around packs of gals easily at all. people go out crazy fast in cross country and then die as they go along, so you have to maneuver around all the carcasses! it definetely is fun, but it can be grueling if it's really hilly. someone like you might do well in x-country because of your self described swedish frame and strong legs. leonard always thought i'd be good at x-country, too (despite my sausage legs) but i've never had a chance to find out.

  4. Interesting posts so far on X-Country. Speaking as a XC veteran of High School and College, you will need to be ready for hills and uneven surfaces. And yes, everyone goes out screaming, then you can't judge your pace until you pass your coach who yells at you to pick it up. The hills are great places to slay tired runners, but watch out for the tight turns, and narrow trails. You'll have to go out fast, though, to not get stuck behind slowpokes when it inevitably narrows. And it's cold! I ran nationals in Wisconsin in Dec '87 and I can't remember ever being so cold. That said, I absolutely loved XC and to this day get excited when I smell the fall air, feel the chill bite my ears, and hear the crunch of autumn leaves under my shoes. Recommend you train on golf courses, ATV trails, hiking trails, etc. Of course if you go to Belgium, I don't think there's a hill in the entire country! Sounds like a fun adventure though. Good Luck!

  5. You'd think it wouldn't be that much different, with the spikes and all, but it is. When you finish, though, there's particular satisfaction and a real sense of camaraderie with everyone else who's done it. It puts a premium on strength, and a solid base from marathons should serve you quite well.

  6. Wow! You guys are getting me pretty excited about this new running adventure.

    T-Meat, thanks for the tips. The constant change of pace and terrain is what I really like about trail running when I do it. So, that sounds great to me. I like the idea of just running to race other people rather than worrying about pace and time. I definitely need more practice doing that.

    Kris, I love the nostalgia in your description. Makes me wish I had run cross country in school. Reading your comment makes me anxious to experience it for myself. I doubt that leaves and crisp air will be on tap in Spokane in February, but one can hope:)

    Joe, I like the idea of feeling satisfied with a hard effort and celebrating with the team afterward even if it is commiseration about how tough the conditions were.

    Bring it!

  7. It totally depends on the course... when we ran in San Diego a couple years ago, we were basically on golf course grass the whole way. We had lots of snow several years back in Indianapolis too - I'll have to send you some of the pics. One thing you might want to practice is running 2K loops... because they typically make the course loop 2K, and you run it 4 times. It'll be fun!

  8. Oh Jaymee, it would've been great to see you running the PA Cross Country Championships today in San Francisco! I bet you would've done very well. Some top notch runners out there, including several Olympic Trials athletes. The overall female winner today was Linda Somers Smith (another masters runner, age 48, and former Olympic marathoner).

    Did you catch the XC issue of Running Times a couple months back? GREAT stuff on cross country racing (even for Masters runners). I can't wait to see how it goes for you. All the 'experts' say XC racing makes you a really strong road racer, which you already are!

    And by the way, your body transformation is amazing. Time for me to start tracking my food and weight everyday. Thanks for the reminder!

  9. Okay, I'm feeling the need to pop in on the cross country discussion.

    First off, you said you're running the same course we ran at Club Nationals last year, right? I advise CC spikes. It's grass the whole way! If it's icy (as it was for us), the spikes will help to keep you from sliding too much. Same if it's muddy.

    The hills there are more rolling than anything. It's just a matter of popping up and over them.

    And luckily, unlike some of the courses in the PA, I don't think the Spokane course narrowed too quickly. But yeah, maybe that's the real reason I'm the Bat: In CC, going off the line like a bat out of hell is a necessity!