Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Frigid Five Miler

Winter running can sometimes feel like a drag since most of us have our eyes set on spring and summer goals and races.  As a result, when a race in these cool months presents itself, it can add a splash of flavor to the monotony of snowy and chilly miles.  I think this idea was the motivation for the development of the Frigid Five Miler hosted by Elite Runners Racing Management.  Knowing that runners are always looking for new challenges and ways to work out differently in the winter season, this annual run feeds that craving for adventure and the thrill of racing.  

I first decided to sign up for this race when I was planning out my 12 in 12 racing calendar (check out my 2016 goals post for more info).  I will admit, I didn't necessarily read the fine print about the specifics of the race; all I knew was that I had found an event to do in January when races tend to be few.  Therefore, I missed the whole "a very challenging course has been chosen for the race" line in the description of the event.  And to think, I am always telling my students to read the details!

As you may already know from my last few posts, I have been having an on-again off-again battle with shin splints.  These little buggers have thrown a wrench into some pretty awesome plans I had for preparing for some winter running and taking advantage of my Christmas break to run some extra miles.  Instead, I stopped running completely between Christmas and New Years to order to focus on recovery by constantly icing and strength training my shin muscles.  Definitely not as fun as running!

After taking the week off, I eased back into things since most of the information I found kept emphasizing caution when returning to the exercise.  I was attentive to keeping on soft surfaces as well as slowing the pace way down.  The one other approach that I tried for the first time was spreading my mileage over several days instead of alternating between running and rest days.  Interestingly enough, this consistency of doing a few easy miles each day seemed to work!  Now it was time for the race....

To be honest, I was pretty unprepared leading up to the Frigid Five Miler, since the last time I had run that distance had been roughly two months ago.  In addition, I had only logged roughly 11 miles the week prior moving at an extremely slow pace.  My thoughts leading up this race were legitimately, "Oh well, guess we'll see what happens!"  I figured that if nothing else, I could bear the pain for the 5 miles and then spend the next couple weeks recovering if something when wrong (I know, bad approach!).

As the race loomed, I got the usual email with information about the event.  In it, they gave details about parking, arrival time, and the course map.  I then took note to the fact that the run wouldn't be like most of the 5Ks I had done recently - the last 2/3 mile of the race were uphill! I just laughed to myself and accepted my fate.  I planned to rely on a good warm-up and the fact that my shins weren't feeling horribly terrible in the days leading up.

So, as I had alluded to earlier, part of the challenge of this race is that it takes places in the chilly month of January.  However, the weather had been slightly confused and on race morning, the temps were in the upper 40's and the rain that had poured throughout the night stopped.  Ironically enough, the weather was ideal for a great run.  I got dressed for these temperate conditions and made my way to North Park, which I have run various parts before due to having some really nice trails.

When I arrived at the race, I parked a little ways away since we had been told ahead of time that spaces would be very limited near the starting line.  Thus, my warm-up began with roughly a mile walk...up the hill that the race finished on.  In some ways, the hill never seemed to end thus taking away a little bit of hope for someone to PR.  When I finally reached the top, I continued preparing by jogging a mile and performing some dynamic stretches.  As I had learned months before, letting my muscles cool was the worse that I could do prior to the race starting.  I then moved into the starting corral lining myself up with the 9:30 pacer, since I didn't have the slightest clue what my speed would actually be.  A few minutes later the "Go!" was given and we were off.

As I started the race, with each step I took, I reminded myself to keep good form and run on any grass that lined the course if possible.  I didn't look at my watch, but I was always pretty sure as to my pace, since the one pacer was doing his best to loudly motivate anyone who was planning on following him.  Since the course was one big loop, the only way for it to end in an uphill was for the start of the race to be all downhill...and it was.  As I found myself attempting to not pound the pavement, especially when some of the grades of the hill got pretty steep, I actually thought to myself, "When will this downhill end?!"  As one of the few runners in history, I didn't want to keep going downhill, even though I knew time-wise it would be great.  I thus found relief when we reached the flat segment between the downhill and the uphill.

I knew with each step I took that I would eventually encounter that miniature mountain I had walked earlier.  And yet, I wasn't necessarily dreading it.  When I reached the base of the climb, I recalled what good form I needed and just kept putting one foot in front of the other.  I refused to give into walking, even when a cramp in my side was making it hard to breath.  I knew that if my legs would keep going, I could overcome any mental barriers and reach the top.  Thus, I pushed onward until I crested the hill and crossed the finish line a few hundred feet after that.  I survived and, in taking a mental check of my aches and pain, found that I was feeling okay.

And okay I seem to have done at the race as well.  When I went to check the live results, I found that I had actually placed in my age group - first time ever!  This positive news persuaded me to stay until the awards ceremony as well as take part in the pancakes and hot chocolate that were bring served.  

In looking back at the race, I am really glad I did it.  I ran smart and my body thanked me for it by keeping any pain at bay.  I was definitely sore for the past two days, but it was a good soreness.  When I went running today, I found myself enjoying it pain-free, which feels just awesome.  Now, I just need to figure out what race to run next month....

Happy running!

P.S. You can find the full review of the race at

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