The drive north was mostly uneventful. I spent most of the trip at about 50mph in the right hand lane, and there was only one place where an accident really caused a traffic slow-down. Still with those speeds, I didn't arrive at the race until about 9:50, so what is normally a one hour drive wound up being a lot closer to two hours. The parking at the site was absolutely nuts (I thought a few more folks would be scared off by the weather), so I wound up parking a little further away and jogging down to the start.
When I arrived to pick up my packet, they were informing racers that the long course (10 miles) had been shortened to 5 due to the weather. At first, I was kind of disappointed by this, but that quickly went away when I realized just how cold it was with the wind blowing. I also would have felt terrible for all of the volunteers who would otherwise get stuck out in the elements for 2+ hours. I've always been impressed with the job that the PPRR group does with their races. They select great courses, are well organized, and I'm glad that they had the sense to recognize the potential danger for volunteers, and racers in maintaining a longer race on such a day.
|Start Location of the Winter Series III race|
|The weather looked a little bit like this on Saturday Morning|
This morning as I ran south, I noticed that the wind was blowing from that direction, creating a strong head wind mixed with snow. My face began to ache in the freezing wind, and I realized that since the course was an out and back route going north to south, the first part of the run, would be easier than the second. After a little over a half mile on the trail, I turned and ran back towards the starting line, arriving back about three or four minutes before the start.
The race got under way with little fanfare and we began trekking north with the wind at our backs. Running up the trail required a fair amount of concentration, for although it's a good 8-10 feet wide, it was covered with hard-packed snow that had been pockmarked by the runners from the first group. Unlike many races, where there is a lot of happy chatter at the beginning of the race, most runners fell silent right away. Through the first mile, we slowly sorted ourselves out by our pace. The trail on the right was fairly well packed down at this point, which made for much easier running, but if you wanted to pass someone, you had to move towards the center, and negotiate the uneven snow. After about 10 minutes, the faster runners from the short course group, started coming down the trail, which added a new challenge in making sure not to collide with passing runners in the middle of the trail. We also started to catch up with the slower runners from the short group, and so the congestion on the trail grew. Nevertheless, I managed to pick up my pace, and reached the turn around point at about 21 minutes.
Just as soon as we turned around, the wind was there in our faces again. Still, I managed to pick up my pace, and I began to wonder if I could finish the race in under 40 minutes. I hadn't really planned on running faster, but the cold was a strong incentive to get done sooner, rather than later. This was also aided by the fact that after a half mile or so, there were no more runners heading north, and so everyone was able to spread out across the entire pathway, which made for easier running.
There was a group of about 5-6 of us, led by a younger girl, that seemed to be running a bit faster than the other folks around us, and that made it easier to keep a strong pace. That's a huge advantage during a race, especially when the conditions were so challenging. The trick is to make sure that the group continues to run fast, but there's almost always someone who is having a great race, and pushes things a little bit. I managed to run with this group most of the way back, and even got ahead of some of them, and was able to finish the race in a time of 40:06 (according to the official results). This equates to an 8:01/ mile pace. I was very pleased with this effort, as I hadn't run that fast since early December when I completed the Rock Canyon Half Marathon (1:42:58/ 7:52/mi). And since I didn't get to do a full ten, I wound up jogging back down the trail again for another 15-20 minutes and adding about a mile and a half more. I would estimate my total run at about 7.5 miles for the day.
Next up for me is the final race of the series. It takes place in two weeks in the Black Forest area north of Colorado Springs. Weather permitting, it will be a 20K race. I plan on slowing down for that one, as it leads into my Spring Marathon training. I'll post about my Marathon plans a little later.