The Hazard Castle race is billed as a warmup to the Blessing of the Fleet 10-miler, and as such, I planned to really race it, so I could gauge my fitness level and figure out what I can plan on as a reasonable goal for the Blessing.
With that in mind, my goal was to run an 8-minute per mile pace. I figured if I could do that for the half-marathon back in May, I should be able to do it for a 7-mile race, even in the heat of July. In the back of my mind, I had thoughts of running 7:50-ish per mile, but especially since I had just ridden 30 miles on my bike the day before, I didn't want to get my hopes up too much, so I stayed focused on the 56-minute goal.
Race morning was warm and somewhat humid, but not brutal. It was cloudy when I first woke up, but the clouds quickly disappeared, and I was sad to see them go. But I've gotten in several warm-weather runs by this point, so I've pretty much acclimated to the heat, so I wasn't too nervous about it.
I got to the race with about half an hour to spare, which was perfect. Just enough time to grab my stuff, chat with a few friends, and hit the bathroom a few times. I didn't really warm up at all - just jogged a half mile or so to get rid of some nervous energy.
Then I headed back to the start. This is only the second year they've held this race, but it was very well-advertised this year, so I was surprised to only see about 150 people had turned out. The level of organization at the registration table was sketchy, at best, and as we waited for the race to start, it became clear that that would be the theme of this race.
Five minutes went by. Ten minutes went by. Thankfully I knew quite a few people doing this race, so I had plenty of people to pass the time with as we all waited. Fifteen minutes went by, and FINALLY the horn sounded and we were off.
Since I did this race last year, and since it follows part of the Blessing course, I'm very familiar with the route, and it's a nice one. Very scenic, and thankfully, quite a bit of shade, especially in the early miles.
We headed down toward the water, and I knew I was starting out too fast, but I tried really hard to keep it to a pace that I knew wouldn't burn me out completely. I thought I'd end up at around 7:40 for the first mile, but the Garmin beeped at 7:30.
Oops. Little too fast, for sure. But I reeled myself back in, maintaining a much smarter 7:50 for mile 2. Mile 2 was the first water stop, at which there was a table with full, unopened bottles of water. What?!
Never mind that I really didn't feel like dealing with opening a bottle while running, but I also didn't want to take three sips of that bottle and then throw it on the ground, wasting the rest. And I also didn't want to run with a full bottle of water. I opted to skip water at this stop, and figured if I really felt like I needed it, I'd stop at the next one.
I was still feeling pretty good at this point, as we made a right turn to cut through the country club. This is another nicely shaded area, and although there was a slight grade, I was able to hold my pace. 7:51 for mile 3.
Most of the hills were done at this point, and I enjoyed the nice flat stretch of road winding through the oceanside neighborhoods. Somewhere between mile 4 and mile 5 was about the only time during the race that I really struggled. The heat started to get to me a bit, as we began to come out of the shadier parts of the course and were doing a fair amount of running in the sun, which was getting hotter by the minute.
I was also kind of shocked at this point, though, to see that I was still staying well under an 8:00 pace. Mile 4 was 7:45, and mile 5 was 7:48. I wondered if I'd crash and burn at some point, but despite being a little tired, I really didn't feel like I was going to hit a wall of any sort, so I just kept at it.
Once I saw that mile 5 marker on my Garmin (there were no mile markers on the course that I could see), I felt so much better. I knew I could definitely keep a 7:50 pace for the final 2 miles, if not a little faster.
I didn't speed up too much for mile 6 - wanted to save a little for the end - but I did pull off a 7:42. Not too bad.
Even better, though, was mile 7 - 7:10!!!!! It wasn't easy, but I ran that last mile with everything I had. It's fun to run down that final stretch and imagine it lined with spectators, like it will be for the Blessing in a few weeks.
It was much quieter for this much smaller race, but still a decent crowd of spectators cheering as I crossed the finish line in 54:01. I did have a teeny little flash of disappointment that I didn't come in under 54 minutes (two seconds over is so annoying!!), but quickly pushed that thought out of my head when I realized that I had just PR'd by FIVE full minutes, and run the race two minutes faster than I had been hoping to run it!!!!!
Before I could bask in the glow of my accomplishment, though, I needed water! I went over and grabbed a bottle and sucked it down pretty quickly, and found a spot in the shade of a tent, and enjoyed the ocean breeze cooling me off as I talked with some friends from the local running club and kept an eye out for my other friends who would be finishing a few minutes behind me.
Aside from the lack of organization, which I suspect and hope will be improved on in next year's race, it was a great day. A huge PR, and although I didn't win any awards (awards were for first-place in age group only), I was third in my age group : ) I can't count that as my first 'official' age-group win, but I do count it as a huge accomplishment!
The final stats -
7 miles, 54:01
3rd in 40 - 49 age group
27 out of 150 overall
And as if that didn't boost my confidence, I also completed my third track workout yesterday, and it went better than I could have imagined.
We've had a stretch of really hot, humid days, and I was planning on running at the track Tuesday night, and dreading it - it was 85 and humid. Ugh.
But I opted to go Wednesday morning instead, and I'm so glad I did. It was still warm, but early morning is never quite as hot as the end of the day, so it didn't feel quite as unbearable.
I was a little nervous about this workout, as I've been about every other track workout, but I just got myself down there and got to work.
First interval was 1200 @ 5:10. I nailed it!
200m recovery, then 1000 @ 4:18. Goal was 4:16. Doing fine.
Another 200m recovery, then 800 @ 3:16. Goal for that one was 3:23 - yikes! DId I go too fast that time?!
200m recovering, and dreading the 600, but feeling relieved that it was the second-to-last. 600 @ 2:33. Goal was 2:32. Ok. Didn't blow it by doing the 800 too fast.
Final 200 recovery, and 400 @ 1:39. Nailed it again!
It was an exhausting workout, but I did it!
These track workouts are a whole different beast, but I'm starting to really get a feel for them. And I'm starting to get a feel for how you can both dread them and look forward to them. They hurt, but once you're done, it feels so awesome to look back and realize what you just accomplished. And even after just a few workouts, I know it's already making me faster.
Three weeks of training almost done, 13 weeks to go. When I look at the schedule, it seems like a lot, but I know it's going to fly by. I'm loving this training plan, though! Lots of variety, and lots of cross-training, and there is no way I could ever get bored or burned out. And most importantly, I know I'll be ready when race day arrives. Woohoo!!!!