5k, 10k, 15k, two weeks apart in the dead of winter out in the salt flats – somehow the track club finds a way to make this series a local favorite. All three races are on the USATF-Utah Road Racing Circuit and also part of the RRCA Championship events. The course are straight and flat out-and-backs, each just farther down the road than the last.
My third go at this series of races, I had few performance expectations starting with the 5k. I had raced a marathon six days prior that I physically felt recovered from, but mentally I wasn’t quite back. I didn’t know if I should go out really fast and just see at what point I faded and use the data for training purposes, actually try to evenly pace the race, or should I try to race for the podium? I made a last minute decision to race with a friend. The first mile we MIGHT have went out a little fast (I’ll let him decide) at 5:58. At the time, I didn’t know and wasn’t looking at my watch for the duration of the race. I was focused on pushing him. At the turn around we were both running well, and we happened to be pacing the leading females, but we let them go so they could duke it out – that put me in third. Around the 2-mile mark, I saw first and second at split up and second was fading hard. I told my friend we could catch her and we tagged onto another runner to catch up. My friend started to fade a little, but since we were almost home, I left him to overtake second place. Then in the fog I saw the bright yellow jersey of first, who had faded as well and I went for it – caught up with her right at three miles and then sprinted to the finish to make as big of a gap as I could to try and kill a response. I crossed at 18:42 (chip) for the very unexpected win.
Two weeks later for the 10k, I would say I was definitely more mentally prepared to race with a goal time in mind. I expected the competition to be tougher, but my main focus was not on winning. A lot of times I use shorter races in a marathon training cycle for recovery data and to get practice running on fatigued legs. The day before this race I ran a 2 1/2 hour long run on a hillier course than usual. I was not happy with how I felt when race morning came compared to how I usually feel, but I realized that was partially the point – I now had to go back and think about what negatively affected my recovery from the long run. Still, I geared up to race the best I could in the moment and went out at goal pace. This time, I was using half-mile splits on my watch to try and stay focused. Right off the bat, I was the leading lady. It scared me a little, but I reminded myself the podium was not the goal right now. A few miles in we had a bit of headwind, but on an out and back course I figured it would be helpful after the turn around, right? WRONG! The wind picked up and changed directions on us. On the way back we were running into 20 mph gusts and I couldn’t keep up with my goal pace. I kept expecting the second place female to catch me, but I kept pushing to hold on as long as I could. Afterall, she had the same winds to deal with. Mile 5 came and I was still ahead so I pushed a bit harder. I picked another runner in front of me and lasso-ed him to help pull me along. I felt no one behind me for the final push, but I was scared to look – I was going all in anyway. I took the win in 39:09 (chip).
The third and final race of the series, the 15k, was a PR attempt. The distance is long enough and placed “appropriately” in the marathon training cycle that I felt I could give it a shot. In other words, no long run the day before. Of course, that also meant I was a contender for the win as well, especially since I ended up winning the first two. The day before I started to get a little sick, but figured I could shake it before it came of anything. I woke up early race morning and felt worse, but still thought I could PR, even if it wasn’t by as much as I wanted it to be. My legs felt great during the warm up – fresh and energized. My lungs weren’t, but it was what I had to work with. The first few miles of the race went smoothly, but then I started to doubt myself and whether or not I could keep up. My legs still felt great, but my breathing was pretty labored and I felt fatigued. I was leading at the turn around, but not by very much – I tried to keep pushing but relax at the same time. It wasn’t working. A few miles went by and I wondered if I could still take first. Mile 7, just a few miles left. At 7.5, I heard second female behind me. I assessed, and didn’t believe I could keep up the lead. She came up on my shoulder and I made the quick decision to swing behind her. With almost two miles left, I didn’t want to leap frog. I watched her go on ahead and I continued to fade. I tried to push to get my pace back down, but struggled. I accepted defeat. The finish was in sight and it was almost over. The time on the clock confirmed I had missed my goal time range entirely, finishing second in 59:09 (chip).