Monday, February 14, 2011

Return to the Great Outdoors - Frosty 5 Mile

I don't know about you all, but I am getting mighty tired of this long, cold, snowy, grey winter. I have run more indoor miles this winter than any human being should ever have to run: over 300 indoor miles between Thanksgiving and now, if you must know. And so when the weather forecast called for temperatures in the low-mid 40's this past weekend, I had to jump on it.

Sure, I could've gone for an easy long run around Peoria Heights. But I craved something a little grander for this first decent running day of 2011. And what could be grander than a road race?

Whenever I feel like running a last-minute race, I can always count on fellow FASTie Kristi to join me. So when I learned about the Frosty 5 Mile race in Channahon, I sent Kristi a message the night before and asked if she might be interested. Not surprisingly, she was immediately on board. This race had a lot going for it: a 1 pm start time (ahhh, the joy of sleeping in on a Sunday!), a Frosty 5 Mile stocking cap for all entrants (an nice departure from the usual t-shirt), and post-race pizza and hot chocolate. Add to that the predicted sunny and nice weather, and it was a no-brainer.

I wanted to get in 10 miles of running on Sunday, so I hit the treadmill in the morning to get 5 miles out of the way. Then Kristi and I left for Channahon (about a 2-hour drive). I could tell while driving that it was pretty windy out. I hoped it wouldn't be too big of a factor in the race. Neither of us were planning to race this event all-out, but rather to make it more of a tempo-effort workout.

We arrived at Pioneer Path School to register about an hour before race start. Fortunately, we were able to mill around in the the school gym and stay warm before the race. Unfortunately, I got zero cell phone reception inside this building (apparently it was made of lead), so I couldn't even do any productive texting or Facebooking to pass the time. But there were a lot of interesting people to observe (Kristi can attest to that). Before we knew it, it was time to head out to the starting line.

My goal for the run was to maintain about a 9:30 pace. And then we walked outside to the race start and felt how windy it was. Fortunately, I wasn't married to this pace. All I wanted was a good workout.

And that's exactly what I got. When the race started (which was ceremoniously marked by Ronald McDonald yelling "START!" - I kid you not), I started off slow. I wanted to get warmed up over the first 1/2 mile or so. The course seemed flat, and the wind was not a factor at this point. I gradually accelerated into a comfortable pace of about 9:40. I only know this in hindsight, as I did not look at my Garmin during the race to see what my pace was. I was only running by feel.

The course was more-or-less and out-and-back course. There were a few extra turns at the beginning and the finish was one block over from the start, but for the most part, it was out-and-back. The first part of the course (and consequently, the last part) was flat. But the middle 3 miles were on a rather hilly stretch of road that really put my flat-lander legs to the test. I'm sure it wasn't actually all that hilly, but seeing as I have not run an actual hill in over 3 months, some of these hills felt rather mountainous. They didn't really slow me down much, but I definitely felt my breathing become more labored on the uphills. There were also a few stretches of road with an intense and nasty headwind. I was thankful that the entire race was not like that.

The sunshine was warmer than I expected, even with the wind, and I actually took my outer layer off before I got to Mile 2. I was happy to see that I was passing a lot of people in the last 3 miles. I've still got it, I thought to myself. I wasn't sure what, exactly, I had, but I knew I still had it.

When I hit the 4-mile mark, I decided to kick it up a notch, just for fun. I passed a lot more people in this mile. I rounded the final turn and made a dash for the finish line, finishing in 47:16. That's an average pace of 9:28, which is exactly where I hoped to be. One of the wonderful finish line volunteers handed me a pretty red carnation (that was a very nice touch!), and Kristi and I made our way to the post-race feast because we were both starving.

When you're really hungry, anything tastes good. And we demonstrated this concept as we gobbled up the post-race Little Caesar's pizza like it was the best thing we'd ever eaten. The hot chocolate was also delicious, and I think that, unlike the pizza, it may have actually been delicious, rather than a figment of our hungry imaginations.

So to sum up, this was a fun little race, well-organized and with good post-race refreshments. Most importantly, it was great to run outside and soak up some Vitamin D for a change. Oh, and since I had never run a 5-mile race before, it was also an instant PR. Double bonus!

Peace. Love. Train.

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