Monday, January 24, 2011

Feeling Good & Frozen

It’s been about a month since I finished getting over my latest cold. So, as a result, I’ve gotten about 4 weeks of solid (un-interrupted) training under my belt since then. My weekly training regimen during that 4-week span has typically included: one long run of 16-18 miles, one hill repeat session, one snowshoe run, one cross train (gym) day, two recovery road runs in between and a race of some sort.

Last weekend, my race day took me to Lyndeborough, NH and the Feel Good Farms 5m snowshoe race. FGF was quite an event. Racers are sent up and over Moose Mountain twice, with a total elevation gain of about 1500+ feet. Then, if that were not enough, they are asked to do the same loop again, just to be mean. Adding insult to injury was the 2 feet of fresh powder they (we) would have to trudge through on each loop.

My primary goals for these snowshoe races have been to get in a real good cardio workout and have a little fun in the process. Since my last Snowshoe Race, I’d been able to get a few extra practice sessions in, so I was feeling good heading into the race. Good, just not fast. As the real racers bolted from the start line for the ¼ mile loop of the parking lot (the only flat spot on the course) I gladly settled into a comfortable rhythm and the “middle of the pack” location that went with it.

The first climb was silly. I fell twice on the shifting powder and on one occasion I managed to find a rock somewhere under there with my bad knee. Ouch! Most of the racers ahead of me powered up the first slope and I was passed by easily a dozen people on the way up while I caught my breath (walked). As we crested the top, we began the harrowing decent down the backside and to my amazement I was flying! I had never run down a hill this steep before with snowshoes on and it was a blast!

I used my extra weight (and mild death wish) to my advantage as I crashed down the pitch and passed at least 10 people on the way down. Trees and racers be damned I was movin’! Of course, what goes down must come up (for some reason) and the runaway locomotive that I was riding on came to a screeching halt as we started to head back up to the top again. Repeat this a few more times (walk, free-fall, walk, free-fall, etc.) and you begin to get the idea of how my race went.

In the end, I finished right about where I figured I would be. 24th place and with a 10 minute per mile pace - behind the fast guys, but in front of the slower ones. The post-race included some awesome Amarello Kale Soup and some good-natured ribbing of Steve Wolfe who (despite being a veteran snowshoer) managed to “out-newbie” this newbie by stepping though one of his snowshoes. Not sure I could do that if I tried.

This weekend, I skipped the obligatory 4-hour round trip up to North Conway for the next installment of the Granite State Snowshoe Series and opted instead for a nice long run on Saturday with my buddy Justin Soucy and a quick trip over to Conway Arena on Sunday for the second (of five) GCS Freeze Your Buns 5k Races. Being that the start is just 3 miles from my house I decided to run there for my warm-up, do the race and then run home for a nice 9-mile run (with speed). I also decided that, despite the single digit temperatures, I would do as the race suggested - and run in shorts!

Of course, I was the only bonehead to come up with this "awesome" idea. So, as I bounced around at the starting line waiting for the Race Director to finish his last-minute instructions I could actually hear my skin beginning to freeze. The only hope I had for survival was to run fast. That being clearly out of the question given my current fitness level, I opted instead for semi-fast – or as much fast as I could muster.

At the start, one runner shot off the front and was quickly 10 yards ahead by the first turn. That 10 yards grew to 20 by the following turn and it looked like I’d be settling for second (or worse) this day. Then a funny thing happened. He slowed down at around the ½ mile mark and I powered by him at the ¾ mile pole. He said that he was cold. But, I was the one in shorts! I hit the first mile in 6:04 and from then on it was “front-runner” city.  I ran fairly strong (and consistent) splits and finished first in 18:55 (6:06 pace). Not bad for the day after an 18 miler!

In summary, I feel pretty good about the progress that I’ve made to kick off the first month of the New Year. I feel even better about the 6 pounds that I’ve lost in that same time period. Now, I’ve got just 10 more to go to get down to my goal weight of 180. I was down that low much earlier in my running career (before my second round of kids) and it suited me well speed-wise. Hopefully, I’ll be able to continue shedding pounds as I work my way through the winter and the GSSS. Next up is Sidehiller on Saturday and the  New Bedford Half Marathon is a mere 8 weeks away!

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