ilanarama: me in Escalante (yatta!)
[personal profile] ilanarama
It has been, frankly, a rather sucky year for my running. In February I ran a 5K hoping to break 22 minutes, but instead ran 22:24, ten seconds slower than my PR set the year before on the same course; in March, I missed a hoped-for half marathon PR by over 3 minutes, although quite a bit of that can be blamed on a ferocious headwind that ruined pretty much everybody's day. And then injury was added to insult, so to speak, as a metatarsal stress fracture not only forced me to bail on my planned spring marathon (at which I was anticipating a huge PR) but all my planned spring and summer races.

In October was happy just to be able to run a half, with no hopes of anything close to a PR. But as I ramped up my running through November I was feeling pretty good. I'd been running every day, 2-3 times a week on hilly trails and the rest on the paved rec path or roads, almost all easy, comfortable miles. As I posted last Sunday, I had some solid runs, giving me hope that maybe, just maybe, I might be able to get a PR out of 2011 after all.

The Winter Sun 10K in Moab is definitely a PR course. It's mostly downhill with one moderate and a few minor uphills, and it's about 2500 feet lower than where I live and train. This latter fact makes it critical for me to run by feel rather than by pace: because I can't train at anything close to my race pace, I really have no idea how fast I can run it until I actually do. Last year, every time I glanced at my Garmin I boggled, thinking, "OMG, I can't run this fast! How am I running this fast?" (Here is last year's race report.) This year, I hardly looked at it at all.

I left at 3pm Friday afternoon into light snow, which worried me a bit, but it only lasted for the first 30 miles of the drive which meant I made it into into Moab before 6. I picked up Karah's packet and my own, and bought some Official Race Underwear. I kid you not; the race organization was selling various branded items, including tech shirts, sweatshirts, jackets, and...women's undies, with The Other Half 13.1 Kokopelli logo on them. When I told Karah I'd bought a pair, she cracked "A Half Marathong!" and I think that's what I'm going to have to call them, even though they're actually "boyshorts" style. (Hah, I found a photo!)

I had dinner with Karah and Kevin and Nora (Kevin usually runs this race but is out with a stress fracture; he came anyway to cheer us on, and he took some photos and video) and drank two Polygamy Porters ("Why Have Just One?") and soaked in the hot tub with Karah, our patented "get ready for a race by relaxing" strategy. In the morning we had buckwheat pancakes at the Moab Diner across the street, then drove to the finish to catch the shuttle to the start.

pre Winter Sun

We'd been nervous about the weather. It turned out to be just above freezing, mostly cloudy, and, alas, windy, although not nearly as bad as it had been in Canyonlands. Maybe 10mph from the north, which meant a headwind most of the way. I wore compression shorts, compression socks (knee-high), a short-sleeved medium-weight tech shirt, arm warmers, gloves, and a fleece headband, and I was comfortable the entire time.

I lined up just a couple of rows back at the start as this is strictly a gun-timed race. It was nice to have the windbreak of the fast guys at first, but as we made the first turn and people began stringing out I could really feel the wind. I tried to be conscious of both drafting and running tangents. I was definitely conscious of my breathing, which sounded loud in my ears (I think because I had the headband covering them) but I felt good, light and fast, and kept pace with the people around me. At the first mile mark (which had blown over!) I looked at my Garmin and got two surprises: first, it claimed I was still .02 miles short of 1 mile, and second, it said I had run that first mile in 6:52 - 6 seconds faster than last year, and faster than I had run anything longer than a quarter mile in the past eight months. My HR was right where I wanted it, and I felt good.

The second mile is mostly downhill and much of it was protected a bit from the wind, and I pushed a little harder to pass some people here, especially on the short, steep downhills where I think people tend to get into a groove and slack off. I checked my Garmin at the second marker (which also had blown over) - I was not yet "caught up" but I noted the time was 13:40, which gave me a 6:50 average pace. Wow.

Just after the second mile marker I passed Karah (who would finish not far behind me and win her 30-39 age group), just before the course turned left and uphill for the most significant rise, about 75 feet in a third of a mile. I remembered this as being a tough hill, and it certainly slowed me down, but it seemed easier this year. I felt comfortable and smooth, keeping pace with everyone around me, and when it flattened out at the top I shot forward and passed four or five people (including the woman who would finish just behind me and win the 50-59 age group). I think that all the hilly trail running I've done, plus my altitude advantage, gave me a bit of an edge so that I had plenty of energy - my HR rose but it didn't rocket, so I recovered quickly. I did heat up a little, so I took off my headband here and carried it with me the rest of the way.

The next several miles of the race is my favorite. It's a long and very gradual downhill along a gently curving road, so you can see a ways ahead of you but not so far that it's dispiriting. Because of the headwind, I decided to try to draft the runner ahead of me, but of course at this speed we are all so skinny there is not much of an advantage! But it made a great strategy for speed: I would surge ahead to catch up with the guy in front of me, hang out behind him for five or ten seconds and gather my energy, then surge out in front of him and make for the next windbreak - I mean, runner. I passed a lot of people this way, including the woman who would win the 20-29 AG. Only a couple of guys passed me, and I passed one of them back nearly immediately. I checked my Garmin at the mile markers (and somewhere it got back on track) and occasionally looked to see how close I was to the next mile mark, and to check on my HR, but didn't really look at my pace or adjust anything I was doing based on what the numbers were.

Just after mile 5 the course dives to the left through a neighborhood and turns right onto a bike path. Right around here I took off my gloves and shoved them into my sportsbra. I passed one or two more guys on the path just before the Taiko drummers (a feature of the Moab races that always makes me smile!) and then crossed a bridge which gave me the opportunity to look over my shoulder - I saw the women I'd passed had stayed fairly close behind me in a cluster, although not close enough to me to make me nervous. When the course exited the path, the volunteer directing the runners told me I was the third woman - this was the first I knew I was anywhere near the front. (And I never saw the two women ahead of me, even though #2 finished 45 seconds ahead of me. #1 was way way out in front and in fact will be competing in the Olympic Trials in Houston, the day before my marathon!)

Just as I headed down the road toward the school track where the race finishes, my right calf gave a little cramp. "Stop that!" I thought fiercely in its direction. "You can cramp all you want two steps past the finish line!" And it stopped. I headed toward the chute into the track, right at the 6 mile mark, and heard Kevin and Nora cheering for me. Down the chute and around the track, and I heard another friend yell, "Come on, pick it up, bring it home!" as he ran alongside me, urging me on. I went around the corner and saw 42:4x on the finish clock and hoped that maybe I could get in under 43, tried to run even faster, but the clock ticked inexorably forward and I crossed the finish line at 43:06. Not that I'm disappointed with a 34-second PR and a pretty medal! (I also got a nice gift bag of loot including a fleece hat and a Dove Chocolate bar.)

winter sun medal

Kevin took video of the first finishers, including me - he starts cheering me on around the 2-min mark here, and I cross the line around 2:45 (just after some 18-year-old guy runs by me, grr):

dist    time           avg HR (WHR)    max HR (WHR)                           
1.00	7:00.98		156 (78%)	164 (85%)
2.00	6:47.95		165 (86%)	171 (90%)
3.00	7:13.89		168 (88%)	172 (91%) [big hill]
4.00	6:46.50		166 (86%)	170 (90%)
5.00	6:50.61		167 (87%)	171 (90%)
6.00	6:58.27		166 (86%)	170 (89%)
6.22	1:29.17		170 (89%)	171 (90%) [6:35 pace]

Total time 43:06, a 34-sec PR, average pace 6:57(!), 3rd woman OA out of 342, 34th human being OA out of 577, 1st in 40-49 AG (well, actually second, because 2nd OA was 47 and given the Master's win). The age-grade calculator at Runner's World gives this a 77.85%, my best AG performance and solidly in the upper end of "regional class".

Unsurprisingly, the three fastest miles correspond to the ones with the most elevation loss. I'm very pleased with the effort level as measured by HR, as my HR climbed right to the 10K level (as calculated by Greg Maclin's HR spreadsheet) and stayed there. It was a solid race, I felt good (working hard, but good) throughout, and the results are encouraging for Houston.

It still astonishes me that I can run at these paces despite having logged exactly half a mile faster than 7:00 pace (and very few miles faster than 8:40 pace) in the past four months. Some of this, of course, is due to the altitude advantage, but I think it's mostly just testimony to the value of simply running a lot of miles.

ETA: Have some photos! (via the Flickr "guest pass")
at the first turn
finish line

Or all the race photos that I'm enabling through this system:

Of course my real goal race is Houston, six weeks (yikes!) from now. I've played a little with various race-equivalency calculators, including some that adjust for elevation and terrain, and come up with 3:25 to 3:30 as a reasonable marathon goal (which, of course, is exactly what I want). This is supported by my friend Jim (, who last month ran a 10K two seconds faster than I managed today, and a 3:30 marathon yesterday (congratulations again, Jim!) so I am fairly confident I can get my goal if I can stay healthy and keep running good volume.
Identity URL: 
Account name:
If you don't have an account you can create one now.
HTML doesn't work in the subject.


If you are unable to use this captcha for any reason, please contact us by email at

Notice: This account is set to log the IP addresses of everyone who comments.
Links will be displayed as unclickable URLs to help prevent spam.


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 @


Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags