Tis the Season for Racing!

I'm starting to realize that I'm a seasonal blogger.  I guess that I'm of the belief that for most people - training is pretty boring.  The real meat and potatoes is in the racing!  But, I suppose that's not always true.  So if you'd love to hear more about what I do on a daily basis, lemme know!  Maybe writing it all down will keep me more accountable to myself in this final stretch of training! 

That being said, I knew that this next block of training was going to take some serious willpower.  As always, Tyler and I head home for the Thanksgiving holiday to our respective family homes in Illinois.  It always turns into a monumental road trip (16+ hours anyone??) with several forced rest days as we spend it driving in the car.  Note: if you're one of those people that can get up early (or stay up late) after a massive road trip...I commend you!  You are much stronger than I am! 

Going back to Illinois is always tricky for a few reasons.  The weather NEVER seems to play nice! Ever. It's pretty much the universal rule that when I travel back to my hometown it will inevitably get much much colder.  (Spoiler alert:  It happened again!) 

On top of that, both Tyler and I's families are located far out from any large urban areas --we're talking gravel roads and cows.  There's been years in past trips where we got snow and no one plowed the roads!  DEFINITELY makes the planning a bit difficult. 

This year, we got really lucky!  I would say that it's been a pretty warm year and the winter so far in Illinois has been mild.  In fact, Friday morning I was able to run by the river in shorts!!  Shorts!  God bless 63 degrees at Thanksgiving time in Illinois.  

Big rocks make for excellent photo ops! 

Big rocks make for excellent photo ops! 

But, as with anything that is wonderful, it pretty immediately came to an end. Even during the run on Friday, the wind was coming in hard and the temperature was dropping. By Saturday morning, the temperature was in the teens. (Cue groaning)

Saturday morning, Tyler and I woke up bright and early to head down to the Rockford Jingle Bell Run for their annual 5k.  I was really excited to get the chance to shake off the dust and work on a bit of speed work.  I wasn't planning on racing the 5k all out because I knew that I had some big workouts coming up, including my biggest long run to date and another 10k. 

The weather was also awful. I had planned on wearing a cute race outfit with my favorite Zensah compression sleeves.  However, the weather was just NOT having it.  I did a quick warmup of the course with Tyler and fought gail force winds the entire time. Luckily, most of the course was in a neighborhood, so the houses helped block the wind, but that didn't stop the 25 MPH winds from cruising into your face on the first and last mile. Pants were staying on.  It was too cold. 

The plan was simple:  Practice 10k pace!  First and foremost, I haven't raced a 10k in forever, so I was simply going off of McMillian's running calculator about what my 10k pace should be.  Keep in mind--this is a girl who's 10k PR was in a half marathon!  I really had no clue what I was doing.  I knew that I wanted to PR the 10k pace (which would have been a 7:37 pace) so I made myself a couple goals.  McMillian told me that I should run 7:12 pace (44:45) for the 10k.  Cool. I can do that!

I went into the race with a bit of dismal attitude. I wanted a fair shake at running my 10k pace, but I felt like the wind and the frigid weather was putting me at a serious disadvantage.  And, let's be honest, I just absolutely hate and despise the cold.

After a quick warmup, we jumped up at the start line and were ready to go! It was cold and windy and I was ready to go! The gun goes off and the lead guys (with Tyler in tow!) head down the hill. I'm always keenly aware that everyone in a 5k starts off WAY too fast, so I just kept checking my watch and doing my best to keep the speed under control, even if that meant letting some people go ahead of me. After all, this was a workout, not a race!

As we took off down the long straightaway at the start, I saw Tyler up ahead in the lead pack, making the first turn.  I wasn't too far back at this point, but I knew that they were rolling at a good pace and I was about to lose him soon. I split the first mile a little fast, in 7:08, but I was feeling nice and relaxed.  I spent the next mile focusing on catching some of the people in front of me and running steady and hit it in 7:15.  It was a little bit slower, but I knew that it was still within the range and it was steady. The last mile turned up hill again, but I knew I was almost done.  7:12 on the dot!

Striding out in the final mile!

Striding out in the final mile!

I was happy with my performance, considering that it was a workout!  In fact, it was a 5k PR! I finished in 22:08 and it was good enough for 3rd female overall!  I netted an awesome glass award and a Jingle Bell run scarf! 

Always serious, all the time. 

Always serious, all the time. 

The big workout of the weekend was my long run. I had 22 miles on the schedule and I had never attempted to run this far in training, let alone this far on my own, in the middle of rural Illinois.  I had mapped out a plan for myself online that allowed me to loop back on myself several times for water stops. The route looked like a clover, with each loop being close to 4-6 miles. 

It was one of the hardest, most mentally challenging things that I have ever done! I never thought that I would have so much issue with the miles, but the long stretches of country road (which never feel like they go by quickly!) just seemed to stretch on forever.  It was also soooo cold, with a starting temperature of 27.  I had on every layer that I had brought with me, and I was still cold!  ACK!  Luckily for me though, the wind that I had dealt with on Saturday was gone by Monday and the sun was out!

I struggled through the run the best that I could, with Tyler manning the water stops for me. I tried to hold a steady pace and just focusing on running strong and easy. The route might have been tough, but my legs felt really strong!  I was so proud of myself when I was done!  22 miles AND I nailed it!  I knew that mentally, if I could get through this, I could DEFINITELY get through a marathon!  The mental game was going to be the easy part!  

22 miles done and done! 

22 miles done and done! 

We headed down to Liberty, Illinois (further down the state) on Tuesday afternoon to visit Tyler family.  It was another rest day for me, but one that was needed for me since my legs were pretty sore from the day before.  I love being down in Tyler's hometown because it's so small and quaint and everything that his mom makes is so good!  Seriously, I'm basically a rolling ball of food right now.

The annual Quincy Turkey Trot 10k was on Thanksgiving Day, and this was what I was really looking forward to!  We hit the track the day before for a bit of a pre-race dust-buster, especially from the rest day that I had before.  It went well, and I focused on staying steady, but not running the intervals too fast.  

Going into the race, I had a few goals. As before, I wanted to PR, but I also wanted to win.  I had looked at the results from the years before and felt fairly confident that I could run the paces.  I also knew that after a long 22 on Monday that my legs might be feeling some of the heaviness of the long run by Thursday.  On the warmup, I noticed that my legs felt a bit tired so I knew that it was going to potentially be a "make the most of the day" kinda day.

I started pretty close to the front of the pack when we the gun went off.  As always, I knew that it was important to start slow and not allow myself to get caught up in the wave of runners, especially with this race since the 5k started at the same time.

The first mile of the race was up a steady hill that I was doing my best to pace with.  It made the first bit of the race seem harder and the pace felt stiff.  I knew that once I crested the hill that it would help and I could ease into my pace, but it felt like it never end!

At the turn, we started switching through the neighborhoods, and I really settled into a good groove.  I was a little slow on the first mile (7:18) but with the hill, I knew that that was going to happen.  The second mile was a bit slower and that was when I realized I needed to adjust my goals a bit.

The long run was definitely having an effect on my legs, but moreso than that, I knew at the 5k split that I was the first female. I can definitely say that I was checking one of the items off my list, and it was hard to run a faster race than what was absolutely necessary. I felt really good around the 7:25 pace that my body had settled into, so I decided to go with it.  That was still going to be a PR!

The race itself was pretty boring.  It was a large loop of the city, through some of the really beautiful neighborhoods, but there wasn't too much to focus on.  I had several men in my sights for most of the race, but we stuck together and helped pace off each other.  

The pace felt good and I could tell that I had some left in the tank. I knew this wasn't as hard as I could go, but I was content with the boxes that I was checking off and I was rolling into the homestretch.

The last mile was interesting. The 5k was a combined run/walk, so the final mile of the 10k came up on the back of all of the runners.  Logistically, maybe not the best racing idea, but why not have a little bit of a challenge? I darted through the pack, doing my best attempts at shouting "Runner back!" to part the seas of people.  I was fairly successful, and brought my final mile down to 7:18.  Coming down the last bit of the race, I hit the downhill and gave it what I had left to gain some momentum going into the final hill. I crossed in 45:44, a new 10k PR and first female!

10k overall female! 45:44.

10k overall female! 45:44.

Overall, I was really happy with how this block of training has gone.  I raced well, I nailed my workouts, and put down a seriously heavy long run, all with sustainable legs!  These are the small victories that we should always praise in training.  Now, it's time for a bit of a down week before heading into another long run workout this weekend -- one that I'm really looking forward to!

Things are looking up and I'm getting ready to race!

Until next time, 

Rabbit 

Running isn't all seriousness ... promise. 

Running isn't all seriousness ... promise. 

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