Sunday morning turned out to be much nicer than expected, with no rain or wind and almost perfect racing temps. It was a little humid but nothing to complain about except post-race ponytail dreadlocks. We got out of the house a little late and because we decided to bring Watson, everything took extra time. Regardless, we arrived at the race around 8 am and all grabbed our bibs. After our bibs were pinned on, Amy, Kath and I headed out for a warm up. We did about 2 miles and all found that we were plenty warm after that. It was a shorts day after all! I will admit that I didn’t feel great on the warmup but in hindsight think the “tight-sore-almost cramping” feeling was just nerves.
With ten minutes to go, I did my final warmup of a couple minutes of running with cruise intervals. I like to arrive at the start line with my heartrate at about the level I will race the first couple miles at so that I’m calibrated to effort and don’t get dragged along with fast starters. I took my watch off after this and raced watchless. Because of the terrain of this course and because I’m not in race shape, the watch seemed like a source of unnecessary stress and I’m really glad I made that call.
Once the airhorn sounded, I relaxed and my legs felt normal. I settled into a comfortably hard pace and was thrilled to find Katherine tucked in with me. We crossed the first mile in about 6:40 pace, arguably on the flattest mile of the course. The effort felt AMAZING. My aim was to cruise the flats and downhills and ease up on uphills so I didn’t waste energy. The Classic course has a big section on trails that are very similar to cross country, so hammering up the hills would be counterproductive. 5K passed in 21:30 (6:55 pace) and Katherine and I split up here as I pushed up and she decided to ease back a bit. From 5K to the turn, I focused on clicking up a notch and settled in with Kelly, another local lady who I knew of but didn’t know well. She had been running with Kath and I and pushed up when I did. We chatted through the middle miles which was a great way to kill some time. She had WAY more than I did and pushed ahead at the 10K.
From 10K in, I focused on pushing the pace a little, chasing down a guy in red and keeping good form. It turned out that I was totally ready to run that pace all day but had zero “getupandgo” when I wanted it in the last mile. Finished in 1:03:48, which made the pace for the last 10K 6:47, exciting news over an extremely hilly course with a harder second half.
Overall, I’m happy with the run. I would have loved the win but ultimately this race determines nothing. I managed a negative split, my ankle held together and I got a great 9 mile effort that will help me significantly at the VCM relay in three weeks. It also sparked my motivation to get going for the rest of the race season. I am fit but have zero specificity, so it forces me to get my butt to the track.
The best part of the weekend? Great race photos taken by Will!
Do you ever race watchless? What’s your pre-race routine look like?