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Fairfax 4 Miler - Run

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Fairfax, Virginia
United States
32F / 0C
Total Time = 24m 8s
Overall Rank = 19/1353
Age Group = 45-49
Age Group Rank = 2/98
Pre-race routine:

I picked out this race as a fun low-key test to see how my return to running fitness is going, and that could combine with an equally low-key birthday outing with the family. (Nobody wants to party on 1/1, so we have always celebrated after 7pm on New Years Eve, since by then it’s 1/1 back home in the Old Country. And folks are not yet hung over at that point.) I feel like I’ve been wrestling with achilles injuries forever, but I seem to be coming out of that - you wouldn’t believe what a pleasure it is to get up in the morning and be able to walk downstairs normally. Gradually building mileage towards a big marathon target in the spring, and just made it up to 50 miles. In my time off with injury I also managed to put on far more pounds than I’d care to admit, so I’ve also been working on trimming down. … Long story short, it seemed like a good time for a wee test out. Goal was to run around 6:00 average pace. No taper, just wanted to gauge my progress. My first regular road race since the spring.
Event warmup:

The race started at 6pm, so it was all in the dark. Some parts well-lit, others pretty darn dark. And the temps were right around freezing, presenting a bit of a wardrobe dilemma. I tried to run around as much as I could while still wrapped up in a million layers, then stripped off in the bag check as close to the start as possible. I ran a couple of strides to see if the legs remembered how to run fast. Vague recollection of that. When doing the strides I noticed that one of my favorite runners was also in the race — Claire Hallissey, a 2:27 marathoner and 2012 UK Olympian, whose career I’ve been following for some time. She races like a madwoman, showing up in so many of the local races, sometimes even twice on the same day. No tightly regimented appearances for her. Love it! Flutter of a fanboy’s heart. At the start I looked around to see if the family was there watching the race. They were too smart - they stayed put in the warm of the car.
  • 24m 8s
  • 4 miles
  • 06m 02s  min/mile

The pack headed off into the dark. Lots of people went off far too fast, as usual, including some small kids. Rather hard to see in the dark whether I was running into people. I deliberately held back at the start, as this has been serving me well lately. I expected to pick off people later. And I did. I wasn’t really familiar with the course. I knew it was a bit undulating, but underestimated how much. In fact, I didn’t realize that for most of the first mile we were gradually climbing, so I was a bit disappointed to reach the first mile in 6:02. Tried to pick up the effort a bit in mile 2, which turned out to be mostly gradually downhill. And with a favorable breeze. But I was still surprised that the Garmin read 5:44 for that one. Mile 3 was mostly uphill (around 100’ climb), and we now turned into a headwind, so I knew that the pace would slow some. At this point it was starting to get hard, but I still felt fairly controlled. Being able to reel in runners really helped to maintain my spirits. Around 2.5 miles the course followed a short out-and-back detour, presumably to make up extra distance. That allowed me to get a sense of where I was, as the race leader was exiting the out-and-back as I was entering it. To my surprise, I was only a few places behind Claire H. Nice! I pushed on up the next climb, and continued to pick off runners. When I saw the mile 3 split of 6:08 — and that the course markers were consistently beyond where my Garmin measured — I was dismayed that I wasn’t going to reach my target time. What I hadn’t realized up until that point was that the last mile was mostly downhill — it was the reverse of the first mile, which I hadn’t realized was uphill. So I was able to pick up the pace a bit, and actually had more in the tank than I expected. And I was also able to step back a bit from the time obsession — heck, this was fun! I was racing without injury, through the dark on a freezing evening with a thousand other nuts, and I was chasing down one of my running heroes. I’m so happy to be able to do this stuff while entering my late 40s. Just fantastic.

Back in the racing … I pushed on a little towards the end. Finishing time was 24:08. Ack. Just missed the target. My Garmin gave me a 5:54 last mile, and thought the course was a little over-distance, so it thought I made the target with a few seconds to spare. I guess I shouldn’t worry about these minutiae, and should just be pleased with what I got. Looking at the results, it seemed that most people were running a few seconds per mile slower than one would expect for a 4 miler. Not sure if that reflects the course, or the weather, or the fact that it was in the dark. In any case, the people who finished 10-30 seconds ahead of me are people who I’d normally be delighted to finish that close to. The 2:27 marathoner — who can’t be in her best form right now — finished just 17s ahead of me; so I got to talk with her in the finishing chute. Briefly. I quickly scurried off to get my warm gear from the bag drop in the upstairs of the Fairfax town hall. And in that I had an unexpected victory — I was cheered on arrival, as I was the first person back at the bag drop.
What would you do differently?:

I could perhaps have pushed harder earlier. I saved too much for the last mile that turned out to be easier than expected.
Post race
Warm down:

I didn’t hang around for too long. Andrea met me at the finish, told me that the kids were cowering in the car, and that she was about to pick up the Thai dinner that we were going to take home with us, so I shouldn’t wait too long. Good deal. I jogged around a little, to check that the legs were ok and wouldn’t immediately seize up. No problem there, surprisingly. Did I not run hard enough? Or was it the clown shoes (my dear Hokas). Or am I just getting fitter. Found the results. 19th overall made me 4th in the 40-49 AG (no 5-year bands in this race). Good. No reason to hang around for the awards, so I could turn my attention to panang curry and birthday cake. Much more appealing. (Correction: since the first old fart was 2nd overall, it turned out that I was listed as 3rd in the AG. No worries - I like the Pacers races, but their awards are pretty lame.) Headed back across town for dinner and cake (and beer) with friends, before dropping off our daughter for her New Years karaoke party. Back home, getting strange pleasure from walking up and down the stairs with the laundry, realizing that my legs aren’t very sore at all. Looking forward to tomorrow’s 13-miler, and feeling generally good about the spring marathon prospects.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

I still have a few more pounds to lose. That'll come.

Event comments:

Pacers puts on some of the best races in the DC area - at least as far as the racing itself goes. They get large fields, everything is organized well, and everything does off without a hitch. And there's sure to be good competition. They're relatively low-frill events in other respects. Advertised hot drinks and pizza after the race -- well, that turned out to be no hot drinks, and the pizza was rationed to the narrowest sliver of a slice. Not really worth it. But the glow sticks that they were giving out were a nice New Years touch. And the race hoodies are rather nice. Anyway, I'm not in it for the frills, so I'll keep coming back to do their races.

Last updated: 2013-12-31 12:00 AM
00:24:08 | 04 miles | 06m 02s  min/mile
Age Group: 2/98
Overall: 19/1353
Performance: Good
Course: Undulating, mostly around the campus of George Mason University. Run entirely in the dark. Visibility excellent in some places, rather poor in others.
Keeping cool Good Drinking
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5] 4
Physical exertion [1-5] 4
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Below average
Race evaluation [1-5] 3

2013-12-31 10:51 PM

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University Park, MD
Subject: Fairfax 4 Miler
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