Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Racing more miles than degrees

This weekend I ran a “moderately challenging” little race in New Hampshire. Here’s the report.

Sunday I ran the Boston Prep 16 miler in Derry, NH. It's a long, hilly, usually cold, 16 mile grind through the New Hampshire woods. Signing up for this race is akin to declaring yourself somewhat crazy, yet it usually sells out. This was my second year running "Derry."

The day promised to be interesting since near zero temps were forecasted. When I left the house it was barely above zero and I found the door on my car frozen shut. Trying to get in I inadvertently ripped the handle right off the door. Ooops! Fortunately the travel gods were soon on my side as I made every green light out of town and was soon passing Priuses with 26.2 stickers on the way to Derry. A typical early Sunday drive to a New England race.

Despite the 10 degree race start, most runners agreed the conditions were better than expected. A little sunshine goes a long way. Many runners run Derry as a well supported long run while many others race it. I was racing. It was positioned on my schedule to serve as a fitness marker on my way to Boston. If I could run under 1:50 without killing myself I just may be in position to challenge 3 hours or better come April.

Having run the race before I knew success would be built upon good strategy. I had to assess my strengths and weaknesses and apply them in just the right doses across the course and distance. With the hills I would have slow and fast miles and needed to save enough to finish the last 4 miles well under goal pace.

The race started with a mile and a half climb in which I found a comfortable pace so that when the road leveled I was able to comfortably move to a nice tempo and pick my way through the field. With each hill I eased up, focused on leg turnover, and avoided any "burn,” then again moved back to a nice tempo. The goal of the first 9.5 miles was to hit the two big hills with a little time "in the bank." That I did. Unfortunately, with the steep incline of the first hill, I spent all that time and would need to take out a sizable "loan" on the second 1.5 mile long hill. I had to manage my effort and give up no more time than I knew I could get back over the last four miles to meet my goal. Having earned back some time I passed the half marathon split still 34 seconds behind goal pace. I had to run well ahead of goal pace over the last 2.9 miles. It wasn’t easy and required incredible focus. At the line it turned out my strategy was spot on. Not only did get those 34 seconds back I gained another 53 along the way. I had met my time goal of sub 1:50 with a 1:49:06 (6:50 pace) along with my secondary goal of doing it without completely wasting myself in the process. This was a substantial improvement over my 2:03 from last year.

Kudos are well deserved by the Greater Derry Track Club for putting on such a well managed race. My reward for finishing 40th out of over 650 runners of was a nearly empty cafeteria with a great spread waiting. Chili and pizza were never so good.

As soon as I got home William’s first question, as per usual, was “what place did you get?” My 40th place didn’t elicit an immediate response but, after a moment, he gave a smile, two thumbs up, and said it was good. Then, he wanted my race number to put with the rest of his collection on his closet door, which is well on it’s way to being covered.

That was fun but now it’s back to training and keeping focus on the goal this spring.

You can also read the local news story Runners Conquer Low Temps in Boston Prep


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