February 11, 2012

Frozen Feet

Training for my upcoming 50K race debut at Fuego y Agua has, well, not gone 100% according to plan. I had knee problems in November and back problems (unrelated to running, but every bit as frustrating) in January. My back finally recovered a bit, I got a couple weeks of solid training in, and I decided I wanted to test myself with a race before Fuego y Agua. I picked the Wildwood Frozen Feet 12 mile "trail" race on January 28. Of course, all but one of those miles were on a paved trail, but I didn't know that until just before the start. This is why it pays to check out the course ahead of time.

12 miles is a weird race distance for me in the same way as a half marathon. It's short enough that I'm capable of running fast the entire way. But it's long enough that it's really going to hurt if I do. I've done very little speed work since October, so I knew I wasn't going to run that fast. And I didn't want to hurt myself either. My plan (here we go again) was to start relatively slow and speed up as the race progressed. I actually stuck with it. For about a mile. Which is about a mile longer than usual.

I let a bunch of people fly past me at the very beginning and I ran quite conservatively for the first mile. I was proud of my self control. Of course, that couldn't last. I felt so good with 11 to go I decided to pick up the pace a little bit. Then a little bit more. And so on. I passed about 20 people, running the next two miles around 6:20-ish pace (much faster than I should have been going at that point). I made it as high as about 6th by the time we hit the actual dirt (mud) trail, which slowed me down a bit. And, as per usual, I never really recovered from there.

Half way in we hit a two mile long hill, which slowed me down. The temperature was 33˚F, and it had rained all night, so the pavement was wet. The shady areas were riddled with invisible icy patches, which further slowed me down. To be fair they slowed everyone down a bit, but I was already struggling. Half the people I surged past earlier flew by me (again). At least at the top of the hill we would turn around and have a nice two mile long downhill section, right? Oh right, the ice. It was worse on the way back down.

At the bottom of the hill we still had two miles left to run. Into a headwind. People were passing me left and right. I finished in a time of 1:22:55, not even close to what I was hoping to run. My 16th place finish was my second lowest finish in a foot race in the last 18 months. I didn't even win an age group award.

Adding insult to injury, running the race left me with a sore back the next morning. It wasn't as bad as the pain that kept me from running for 10 days earlier in the month, but it was impossible to ignore. And it was only the beginning. Two days after the race I had another back spasm (again unrelated to running) that knocked me out for another 10 days. This is absolutely not what I needed three weeks out from the big race. On the bright side it forced me to take a three week taper, which I wouldn't have done if I were healthy. So maybe I'll be super-refreshed at the starting line in Moyogalpa. Maybe.