It’s been some time since my last post, I have still been running, biking and swimming… and doing a little racing. Races have been hit or miss due to COVID, so when the Saint Louis Track Club was putting on their annual Frostbite Series (with some safe racing modifications) I signed up as soon as registration opened! I signed up for the long series again this year, I figured with having a big base from the 50 mile race, I should probably try to keep up with the longer runs on the weekends. Also I need motivation to get out in the cold, otherwise, NOPE. Last year I was coming back from a strained hip flexor injury so I started the series out conservative and as my hip flexor felt better, I was able to push the pace. However this year I was healthy (hooray) so I was excited to see what paces I had in me.
The way they had this series this year was that the short series started at 7a, the long series started at 9a, and runners would start in waves in an assigned small group, going off every 5 minutes. I wasn’t sure how I felt about starting that late, but in the end I loved starting later in the morning since the temps were a little warmer and I got to wake up at a less crazy early time than I would for the usual 7a start.
The first race was a 12k, since it was so short I didn’t have to worry about nutrition, I just needed to run, and run fast! It was in the low 40’s so I decided to wear the compression shorts I had worn during ultra training that were super comfy. I lined up with my little group, the person at the start said ‘go’ and off we went. The first mile I got a little caught up in the adrenaline and went out too fast with a 7:12 mile. I reigned it back in for the next mile while realizing I hadn’t run fast in these shorts, just long slow miles and they had scrunched up far enough looking like serious bootie shorts. Ugh. So the next 5ish miles I tried to keep a strong pace (mostly in the 7:20’s) and finish so I could pull them down and stop showing way more skin than anyone wanted to see. When I crossed the finish I was thrilled to see 55:59 with an avg pace of 7:25!
The next race was 10 miles, this time it was chillier out so I wore tights and also brought along a gel to take halfway. It was also the day after Christmas and I had eaten my body weight in carbs (especially my mother in-laws delicious homemade mac and cheese) and was feeling pretty sluggish and was sure my body wasn’t going to cooperate, but I figured I better just show up and see how it goes. I started out this time at a more conservative pace, 7:42, which was much slower than my planned pace, but figured it was better than too fast. After that mile I picked up the pace and was able to stay in the 7:30’s for the most part, even on some big hills, which I was proud of. I crossed the finish line in 1:16:10, an avg pace of 7:31, 10 seconds faster per mile than last year, yeah!
The third race was a 20k, I decided it was tights from here on out, so I wore those and grabbed a gel to take halfway, which in hindsight I probably should have taken two. I started out at a decent pace in the 7:30’s and was hoping to hold it for the rest of the race to see if it was a realistic Half Marathon pace goal being so close to that distance. Legs felt good until about mile 7, then they started feeling heavy so I knew I was going to have to really push to try to hit the goal HM pace. The back half of the course had some big long hills that I struggled to stay on pace, but made up for it on the downhills and crossed the finish in 1:35:37, a 7:40 pace, so I was happy! I just needed to hold that pace for .6ish more miles the next race, not much more, right? Totally doable.
The fourth race, the Half Marathon, I was feeling a little self-imposed pressure since this time it felt like a ‘real race’ since it was a ‘real distance’, which is silly, but other than a 5k, 10k, Half Marathon and Marathon, I don’t run any of the other distances much so it’s hard to really compare my time to see what kind of shape I’m in. So this was a good indicator of fitness (in my mind at least). Tights again and this time grabbed two gels, to take one at mile 5ish and one at mile 10ish. I debated bringing my handheld water bottle but was worried my hands would be too cold holding it as I like to make fists when I run to keep them warm. I also wasn’t sure where to put my second gel as I wasn’t going to put anything in my back pocket, no chance in hell I’d be able to unzip it and get anything out with my cold fingers (even with gloves, my hands lose their dexterity when running in the cold), so I decided to stuff in it my waistband and hope it wouldn’t fall down inside my pants, lol.
The first mile I went out at a 7:45 pace, slower than I had wanted, but knew I could pick it up. Settled in the low 7:40’s, high 7:30’s for the next few miles, and then after I took my gel around mile 6, it felt HARD. My legs felt heavy (more than the last week) and I just thought crap, I have SEVEN MORE MILES?! I was feeling defeated and my paces showed it as they slowly crept up to the high 7:40’s, then 7:50’s and mile 10 was an 8:15. Ouch. I was trying to push but my body wasn’t having it today. I finally decided to quit looking at my watch and just try to finish strong, whatever that pace might be. I crossed the finish in 1:42:54, almost 2 minutes slower than my goal pace, with an avg of 7:52 pace. Man that bummed me out. Had the previous three weeks been a fluke and just really ‘on’ days for my legs? I had probably put too much focus on this one race and so in the end, since outcome wasn’t what I hoped, I was really bummed out. However after a day of quietly moping, I snapped out of it and just got back to training.
The final race, a 15k, I decided I was going to bring hell to the race course and finish as strong as I could. It was the last race of the series and I was also done racing in the cold. It was 19 degrees feels like 12 when I checked my weather app before I left my house. Yuck. The first mile was 7:28, I felt good with that pace, but just kept making sure I was putting in a hard effort but not too hard so I could last the entire race. As the miles went by in the 7:20’s I felt good and legs felt much better then they did the last race. I saw a few miles in 7:30’s on hills, but nothing indicating I was going to blow up like the last race as I still was feeling good, just the usual ‘going up a hill’ kind of pace. When I saw the mile 7 marker I just thought ‘just keep pushing and don’t screw this up, you can handle these last two miles, just hang on’. And I did! Mile 8 was 7:24, 9 was 7:20 and the last bit was 7 min pace. I finished strong in 1:08:53 with an avg pace of 7:26. I felt satisfied with that pace and relieved that the earlier races were in fact NOT a fluke.
An added bonus to having faster times in the series this year, I also placed 1st in my age group! I think I might retire from this race series on that note! 🙂
Outside of the race series, I’ve been swimming and riding (indoors) slowly building up for IM CDA in June. I have definitely lost some fitness on the bike since I mostly focused on running this fall, but it’s slowly coming back. On the swimming front my coach has me doing a challenge to swim EVERY DAY in February (at least 2100y), so swimming paces are also getting back some speed. I did miss three days due to a snowstorm we had last week, closing the gym for the whole day Monday, and then they also had a late start that Tuesday due to snow and had to work late that night. Then that Thursday I had some broken kitchen sink pipes drama Thursday and had no energy left for the pool after that. Four more days left and I will have swam 25 of 28 days in February! My skin is going to be so happy when this is done, it’s been soooo dry and itchy regardless of how much lotion I use. However hoping this will give my swim a boost it needs.
No Frostbite race photos to post, so I will leave with with a photo of the dogs being bored stuck in my office with me, waiting for the plumber to finish fixing the pipes so they could go back to their couch and look out the window.