This weekend I raced for dogs and like a dog at two races and it simply felt great to compete again. Here I will share my experience leading up to, during, and after the two races.
It has been over four months since I raced and I just got to the point where I wanted to test my fitness. I took two complete months off working through a concussion and then started from ground zero building my fitness up for the last two months. I never take any of this stuff for granted and I appreciated every workout since including the ones I suffered.
I targeted two races for this weekend hoping my body would be ready to test and knowing I would have a long way to go to get in my A race shape. I set out on two races on back-to-back days to practice racing on the second day with worn legs as that is what will occur at the National and World Championships next year. I have raced at them before on back-to-back days but my A race has been first with my “nice to have” race coming on the second day. This year my A race will be on a bit worn legs so I am set out on figuring out how to prepare my body best to lead up to, race, and recover quickly for the second day as well as see how much impact it has on my paces. All great stuff to figure out…
I was off on Friday preparing for weekend of traveling across the state to race and was able to dog sit the most beautiful and well behaved Coonhound, Boomer, for the day (top left in the photo). We went for a couple walks and he helped me get my gear ready for the races. Having him around is such a great energy for me and I think he appreciates me too.
Early Saturday morning I made the just under two hour car ride to Apopka, FL where ideal run conditions greeted me. It was just over 50 degrees so getting warmed up was key and then racing in that weather was most glorious. Without running a straight 5k since early in the year and just getting into training I was really challenged coming up with a target time for the race, but knowing my body and mind I set out to run under 20 minutes. I haven’t run over that in a 5k-only run while rested in several years so I thought I’d shoot for it and see where my fitness was and it would give me a good baseline to build from.
Mile one went better than my target pace for the first mile by six seconds so that certainly boosted my confidence. I knew mile two would be the make it or break it mile and although I began to suffer in the middle of mile two, I knew my legs were there to drive me through mile three and not be in survival mode. That again lifted my confidence and I finished mile two, three seconds under that mile target pace. Mile three presented a good amount of suffering but I had such great confidence at that point as my legs felt strong and I knew I was going to crack the 20 minute mark.
Mile three pace was 11 seconds faster than the mile two pace and under my target pace for the mile as I passed through the finish line. For being out of game shape for that long and going in a bit blind on pacing I was ecstatic with my effort and result. I finished in 19:43 and second overall. The best part is I have so much more in me to improve on and I’m starting from there. I know what I need to do to shave off more time and I’m motivated to do just that.
After the race, I did a cooldown run with the overall winner while sharing stories from the race, stretched like heck like I normally do after I run, and then met some of the K9s the race was benefiting. I got a great photo with one of the bloodhounds as seen in the photo as well. After that and the awards ceremony, I headed to Fort Pierce, FL. There I met great friend and Duathlon legend, Bob Brown, where we checked out the course, had dinner, and prepared our gear for the morning.
Sunday morning came by quick and through warmups my legs felt better than I expected. They didn’t feel heavy but a little ripped from the 5k. This duathlon consisted of a one mile run, 24 mile bike, and a final 6.6 mile run. The gun went off for the up 1/2 mile and back 1/2 mile run to start. The winds were a sustained 20+ mph out of the north. The first 1/2 mile of the run was running right into it and the ripped part of my quads felt it and my pace was slower than I wanted for the first overall mile but not surprising with the race impact from the day prior. It was still a good pace as I headed out for the bike with a tailwind for the first 12 miles before making a u-turn and coming back into the crazy wind for the final 12 miles.
Going out I was putting out a consistent power output and I was pleased. My run is ahead of my bike capabilities right now so even though the power is off from where it will need to be in April, it wasn’t bad either. I sustained the power as I made the u-turn to come back. As soon as I made the u-turn it was like a punch in the face with the wind. At that point I could see who was behind me and I had a several minute lead but knew there were two cyclists that had the capability to close the gap. I kept my power output through 19 miles and then I began to bleed a bit of power through mile 22. At mile 23 and 24 I did a couple different things to increase my power and come in strong while preparing my back to run.
I hopped off the bike and started the final 6.6 mile run. I didn’t see anyone behind be as I left transition but I thought they could be right behind me and kept pressing. I was really consistent with my pacing on the final run. I had a loose hypothesis of my target pace for the run and kept an open mind of really targeting my effort vs. worrying about a specific pace. That I did and ran with strength. I was pleased how each mile went and knew my legs were going to be there to drive me through the finish like Saturday. The temperatures certainly helped on this day as I felt a bit of fluttering in my hamstrings and on an extremely hot day I would have really needed to address but not on this day. I ran free, with confidence, and a pure joy that I was back racing and racing strong. My last mile pace was under the overall pace and I went through the finish line winning overall, yelling in excitement. The excitement was I was so happy to be back competing and the body responding well. I have a long way to go but it was a great start, great execution on this day, and I left with learnings to get better.
After the race I spent time with great friends and competitors pictured above as well including Ed Vasquez, Bob Brown, and Sergio Myers. We all had great stories to share including an unfortunate occurrence for Bob as at mile 12 of the bike leg, he had his first flat tire in a race in over 140 events. He walked a couple miles, another competitor stopped and gave him a tube and air, and Bob then finished the race! That is a phenomenal. We all felt bad for Bob but all were so impressed that he gutted out to finish the race.
We are racing at Clash Daytona in two weeks so it will be great to see the boys again. I will be competing in a relay there for the third year in a row. It is such a blast and I can’t wait!
For now, back to training like a dog to get faster and stronger.
– Add Health to Your Life