ilanarama: me, The Other Half, Moab UT 2009 (marathon)
[personal profile] ilanarama
On Saturday I ran the Winter Sun 10K in Moab, UT. This race is put on by the same crew that runs the two half marathons there, The Other Half in October and Canyonlands in March. Three hours is a little far to drive for a mere 10K, but if you run all three races in one calendar year you get the "Triple Crown Award" which includes a guaranteed entry to the next Canyonlands (which is otherwise a lottery). I actually got my guaranteed entry by winning my age group at TOH, but I had already registered so I figured I might as well run. Besides, I'd already promised my race roomie Karah that I'd come out and split a hotel room with her.

The Winter Sun is known to be a fast race. Except for a slight uphill at the start, a long uphill in the third mile, and a flat finish around the high school track, it's downhill all the way. "Just go bombs away," said Karah. "You're going to surprise yourself." I was pretty sure I'd PR, since my most recent 10K was shortly after restarting running after injury time-off, 47:22 on a hilly course. Based on my last half time, the altitude difference, the downhill, and what my training had been feeling like, I figured I could run a 45:30 - 7:20 pace - with my seekrit stretch goal being under 45 minutes. With about 600 total runners, I figured my chances were reasonable for top 3 AG, even though age groups were 10 years and at 47 I'd be competing with a lot of younger chickies.

I should point out that I have not really done much speedwork this season. Hill sprints once a week, a couple of sets of hill repeats, one set of half-mile repeats and one "ladder" last week with fast segments of between 1-3 minutes. The fastest I ran was 1 minute at 6:52. The longest I ran 7:20 or faster pace was half a mile. So in thinking I could run at 7:20 or faster for 6.2 miles I was being somewhat optimistic, but trusting that race-day adrenaline, which almost always comes through for me, would do the trick. (Not to mention my Magic Tiara!)

Race morning was about 35°F and partly cloudy. I had opted for a running skirt and thin short-sleeved top, arm warmers, and cheap mismatched gloves I wouldn't mind ditching on the course. On top of this I had a fleece headband and sweater, and sweatpants, all of which I stripped off reluctantly 20 minutes before the start, put into my gear bag, and tossed into the "sweats truck" to be taken to the finish. My teeth were chattering with the cold as I headed out on the road for a warm-up, but by the time I'd jogged out and back a total of about 1.5 miles I was chilly but comfortable.

It felt weird lining up only a couple of rows behind the start line, but this race isn't chip-timed and I didn't want some other woman to beat me based merely on position. My tiara was not out of place as there were three pink tutus (two on men) and two guys in reindeer antlers. The race started, and we took off down the road, which started at a slight incline but then leveled out. I got a little nervous when I glanced at my Garmin and saw something under 7 minute pace, but I wasn't too worried as the first, downhill split of my August 10K was 7:10, and I expected to be a little faster than that. My HR reading was crazy high but again, I knew that the reading is always off for the first couple of miles. The people I knew who were really fast were steadily pulling away, which was oddly comforting. I didn't feel like I was working too hard. So when we hit the first mile marker and I pushed the lap button and I saw my pace, I squelched the momentary "OMG I can't run that fast!" panic, took a deep breath, and kept on going.

1: 6:56, HR meaningless

The course turned to take a loop through a subdivision and then started heading downhill. I'd passed the one guy in a tutu who had been ahead of me as well as a few other people who had slowed after a fast start, and was keeping pace with a boy maybe 6 feet in front of me who looked to be about 15. (Hah, I just looked him up in the results, and indeed he is 15.) A tall woman with a ponytail was another 30 or so feet in front of him, along with a couple of guys. I was trading spots with a man about my age - first I'd pass him, and then he'd pass me. About halfway through the mile I started feeling warm and took off my gloves, holding them in my hands as I ran, then dropped them next to the second mile mark so that the crew who took down the course would find them. (I didn't want to litter!) I was still a little boggled at my pace, but this mile was definitely downhill and my HR was starting to settle into the reasonable range.

2: 6:55, avg HR 170 (90%), max 176 (94%) still a little artificially high

Just after the mile marker, the course took a sharp turn left and uphill. By which I mean UPHILL. According to the topo data we climbed 75 feet in a third of a mile. I slowed down considerably; fortunately, so did everybody else, and I maintained position behind the 15-year-old and the older guy. I tried very hard to stay light and not blow up, so I would be able to take advantage of the downhill that would come after, but my HR did spike up to about the max reliable value I've ever seen as my pace dropped to about 8:10. At the top of the climb we made a sharp right onto a long, gently descending straightaway, and I suppose I could have seen lots of people ahead of me if I'd looked, but I was focused only on my immediate surroundings as I tried to make up time and get my pace back in the 7 minute range. I pulled off my arm warmers and tucked them into my bra, and managed to pass the older guy for good in here.

The one aid station was right at the mile 3 marker. I had a straw in my Garmin wristband so I could drink water without spilling it all over me, but in trying to coordinate with drinking and punching the lap button I ended up getting two sips in me and the rest on me. I also totally messed up the lap, hitting the button too late; it read 8:03, but I later figured out the correction.

3: 7:26, avg HR 166 (87%), max 180 (98%) right where things should be at this point

The long, gentle descent continued. The mountains in the distance were pretty. There was no traffic. I felt good. When I hit the lap at the mile marker I was relieved to see that it was absurdly short (6:20!) because that meant the previous lap was long. My average pace was right where it was before the hill, though, and my HR was exactly in the "10K pace" groove. I had 28:15 on the clock, which meant that if I could run the next two miles at a 7:15 pace (I always think conservatively, because what if I fade?) and then the .2 in about the same that would be 14:30 plus about 1:30, or 16-ish minutes which would give me a 44:xx. That got me psyched. The next mile was more of the same. I think I passed a few people in these two miles, but I was still keeping my position relative to 15-year-old boy and very slowly gaining on ponytail woman and the men just ahead of her. When I hit the lap button for mile 5 and saw yet again a number under 7 minutes I was elated. If I could do that one more time I would come in under 44!

4: 6:57, avg HR 167 (87%), max 173 (91%)
5: 6:59, avg HR 169 (89%), max 172 (91%)

Just after the mile marker the course veered left off the main road and downhill into a subdivision side street. I remembered that Karah had said to be sure to run the tangents in the neighborhood, so I did, and somehow I also put on some speed. I could see I was gaining on a whole bunch of people and I knew we were getting near the end. I passed 15-year-old boy and ponytail woman and the two other guys; then at the end of the street the course took a sharp right through a maze barrier (which slowed me abruptly) and onto a bike path, where I reeled in several more people. It was weird - everyone else seemed to have slowed down, and I was passing people left and right.

The path went under a bridge and then up to the sidewalk, then onto the entry road to the high school. The last part of the race was a lap around the track, and the 6th mile marker was right at the chute leading down to the track. I hit the lap button and I don't think I even looked at the Garmin, and I didn't look at it at all after that. But when I saw it later I was really amazed - it had been my fastest mile!

6: 6:51, avg HR 173 (92%), max 177 (97%)

I headed straight for the inside of the track and just kept motoring. I was definitely feeling overcooked at this point but I kept telling myself to keep it up, almost done, there's probably someone right behind you who wants to pass you up. And in fact on the track ponytail woman (who it turned out, fortunately, was in another age group) and two or three guys passed me - I had absolutely no kick, couldn't go any faster. When I saw the 43 on the clock I was elated, and I watched the seconds go by as my legs just moved at the speed they wanted to move, over the line, through the chute, and then I decided to lie down on the grass for a little while because I was DONE in all senses of the word.

6.2: 1:37 = about an 8 minute pace, avg HR 176 (94%), max 178 (96%)

Finish time 43:40, a PR by 3:42, 7th OA woman out of 333, 3rd AG which became 2nd when the Master's female winner was taken out.

My friends Kevin and Karah each won their age groups. Karah was 3rd woman OA and Kevin 7th man.

winter sun


For your amusement, here is the "race report" I posted on one of the running forums where I hang out:

Mile 1: OMG I can't run this fast.
Mile 2: OMG did I really run that fast?
Mile 3: OMG I HATE THIS HILL. Not quite so fast.
Mile 4: Yikes, I can't believe I ran that fast.
Mile 5: There is no way I am running this fast!
Mile 6: Why am I passing people? I can't run this fast!
Mile 6.2 OMG have to go around this stupid track there's the finish line no way does that clock say what I think it does ow ow ow yay collapse.

I'm still a little boggled that I managed to run 6.2 miles at an average pace of 7:02, with most miles just under 7 minute pace. That's faster than I've run all but 1 minute in the past several months - the first mile of my August 5K was at 6:54, and that's pretty much it other than that single minute at 6:52 last week. In training, I find it really hard to run more than a mile at a time any faster than 7:30 pace!

Part of it is the lower elevation and the downhill nature of the course. I joked with my friends afterward that the Winter Sun is the St. George of 10Ks! The Runworks calculator has elevation and profile conversions built in, so for fun I converted as best I could to the course I ran a 47:22 on in August, and came up with a 45:50. So even without the easier course, I am still running better now than I was four months ago. Of course, it's a lot colder in December than in August, and I run better in the cold.

I think a lot of it is that despite dealing with lingering problems from my old peroneal tendon injury, and TWO bad colds, I got a lot of running (and racing!) in. Not as much as I would have wanted, but except for the (too many) weeks I was sick or recovering from a race, I ran 40-50 miles a week, a little low for marathon training but a good strong base for 10K. I ran a couple of marathons, a long trail race, and a half, and I think this all helped, too. Finally, I think I am just a better racer than I am a training-run runner. I felt pretty good going into the race and when I did my mental "am I running too fast?" check I never felt I was in dangerous territory (although at a few points I worried that I was going to have the best 5K of my life followed by the worst 5K of my life!). In fact, I felt a lot like I did during the Canyonlands half - like I was running exactly the same effort that I was accustomed to for that distance, but somehow magically it was so much faster than usual.

Anyway, this really gets me excited about my winter/spring plans. Last winter I managed to run more than I have before or since, and that's when I set huge 5K and half PRs - and then I got injured. It's taken me until now to re-attain that level, but I think I just did, because this race represents my new best performance, better even than the Canyonlands half. So if I can train hard this winter (which I find easier than training hard in the summer, since I have fewer distractions in the form of backpack trips, river trips, etc) and not get hurt, I'm hopeful that I can make another big jump in my ability. I'm going to aim for sub-1:35 at Canyonlands in March, and then 3:25 at the Colorado Marathon on May 1st.

As far as 10K and 5K goals, I have to think about them. Right now the second half of this race is a faster 3.1 than my 5K PR! On the other hand, I'm not likely to run a 5K other than here at 6600 ft. So I'm not sure what an appropriate goal is. I guess I will see what happens over the course of the year!
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ilanarama: me, The Other Half, Moab UT 2009 (Default)

August 2017

131415 16171819
20212223 242526

My running PRs:

5K: 21:03 (downhill) 21:43 (loop)
10K: 43:06 (downhill)
10M: 1:12:59
13.1M: 1:35:55
26.2M: 3:23:31

You can reach me by email at heyheyilana @


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