Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Surprise Finish

On Saturday January 7th, I ran the Frosty 50K at Salem Lake. After running it last year through the wind and cold, and pretty much hating life through the last 16 miles, I was certain I’d never run it again. “My momma raised ugly kids, not stupid ones”, I told myself. However, 3 or 4 weeks prior to this year’s race, I got stupid and registered again.
This year, however, I would use Frosty as a long training run without caring about the overall finish time. My goal was to run the entire 31 miles without walking, and to have negative splits. Specifically I wanted to run the last quarter of the race faster than any of the previous 3 quarters. (The course is out and back twice so it’s naturally broken into quarters). In order to accomplish these goals, I knew I needed to start slow and stay slow for the first half to three quarters of the race. The Jack Daniels pace chart indicates my easy runs should be done around 7:54 p/mile. I decided I’d try to average that pace for the first 3 quarters; then try to run the 4th quarter (return home) a little faster.
I didn’t warm up prior to the race so my first couple miles were pretty slow. Lots and lots of people took off faster than me but I stayed patient and kept a close eye on my pace. I eventually finished the first half of the race with a 7:55 p/mile average – pretty much right on target. Although there was a large clock at the midway point (which was also the start and the finish), I didn’t notice my overall time. If I saw it, I didn’t take note. The overall time wasn’t among my goals. I grabbed a drink of water and headed out for round 2.
I picked up the pace slightly for the 3rd quarter but as planned, I kept it under control. At the three quarter turn around, I took note of my overall time for the first time throughout the entire run – it was 3 hrs and 30-some seconds. It was only then I realized that if I stuck to my plan I could finish under 4 hours. I was totally surprised. I hadn’t run any of it fast; just steady. I pushed through the final quarter with all I had left and finished in the unexpected time of 3:58:24. More important than the overall time, I had met my goals of running the entire 50K and running negative splits.
In fairness, Frosty is probably the easiest 50K in the area. It’s mostly flat and only measures 30.6 miles according to my watch. But comparing apples to apples, my time of 3:58:24 is the 3rd fastest ever in the Frosty Grandmasters division (50+) and just 1 minute and 3 seconds short of the division course record. Admittedly, it’s just a geezer record, but I’m still in a bit of disbelief that I planned and ran a near course record race without ever knowing I was doing it. That was not my goal.