Now as we enter the Lenten season, it’s time to finish my base and bring in some good honest race testing. A time for some specific suffering, some disciplined fasting, and some deep inner soul checking. Challenging, but it’s worth the test to secure the lessons over the course of the season. Granted my first test of the season was in January at Charleston, and with great results, but that is because I started my base a month earlier and wanted a test after 8 weeks of Base 1. I have been putting in some serious weeks of volume, close to 18hrs+ a week, but most of it was form focused, brief interval training, hill work, and a steady diet of strength training. Now with March in view, the weather has shown signs of getting milder (if you could upper 30-40 as mild) and it’s time to spend some weekends out and about getting in some more race-type speed training. First up was the Camusett State Park 25K in Cold Spring Harbor. A quick 45 minute drive for us and thankful, since gas prices have shot through the roof. Side note – I always value the price of a fillup when we can get more than 7 gallons on a twenty dollar bill. Last week we were at 6.5, and our recent trip got us a horrid 5.4! Good thing we don’t use the X during the week.

The last two weeks were big training weeks and made me work on my recovery routines with a few extra intense sessions leading up to the weekend. I am using my next two events to test these aspects of recovery plans as nightly compression, daily ice, along with some solid sleep enabled me to awake on race morning more confident in putting out a good effort regardless of the training week. The thing that sucked was that even though the temperature would be around 50 in the morning, a potential rain storm was looming, leaving wonder on if this race would be a soaker. The event was coupled with a 50K event, and served as Long Island’s USATF 50K/25K Championships. So some good runners were sure to show and everything took place on a 5K rolling hill course of which my race would require completing 5 loops. Yes, that meant the 50K runners did 10 and seriously, power to those folks cause as you’ll read it got nasty and I wouldn’t want to have to go through ANOTHER 5 loops.

We awoke to no rain and kept our fingers crossed. Having been through a few soakers before, G and I prepped for everything. We got the Gore-Tex, hand warmers, waterproof Schwalla gear, towels, and extra dry clothing. Gina even had the poncho. Don’t mess with the Ironsherpa. The race area setup was well done. They had a huge heated tent and parking was a snap about 1/4 mile away. Camusett Park is tucked away from town, one of those one road in/out deals, and there were about 100 in the 50K along with another 150 or so in the 25K. The first race went off at 8:30, giving them an hour “head start”. We watched them go, then spent a half hour in the  X just chillin in the back seat (wait, I mean relaxing),  but then it started to pour. As we looked outside the window, we started to prepare and make sure we had our plan in check. I lubed up the face and feet in Aquaphor, put on the Polar race gear, arm warmers, even the shades, since I felt it would hold up well in this type of rain under my cap, and G secured her layers topped in waterproof gear. No sooner did we get out, did it clear up. A short relief it was. We made our way to the tent, stayed loose, then 10 minutes before the start, I stripped down and was ready to run. So was the rain as it started to come down a bit harded, but thankfully never a full blown beat-downpour.  A great crowd on hand and a jovial one which helped lighten the mood. Certainly a diverse cast of characters in this event. I jogged in place to stay warm and with 3 deep breaths I was ready.

One thing to be happy about the course was how it rolled along in a direction which shielded us from the wind most of the time. There were 2 challenging hills which I was happy about, and with the 50K runners already on the course, there were plenty of targets. I used the first lap to gauge the course and plan tactics. There was a pack of 5 ahead and going at a good pace, so with a small out and back section near the finish, you can see who is behind you / ahead of you and how far. I saw another pack of 5 about 20 seconds behind me and knew I was going to have to pick the pace up each lap to make room. As I headed for lap 2, Gina, poncho and all, was one of only a handful of spectators out there cheering and taking camera shots. I was able to update her each time which was really a nice touch. To be honest, one mental focus that helped was that I was one lap closer to being able to scoot home and have a hot brunch with her. So the rain started to pelt that second lap and even though it was warm, you were soaked. The sneakers were sloshy, you could feel the dirt secure to the back of your legs with each stride, and you didn’t feel bad at all since everyone else was in the same “boat”. The course was nice, plenty wide, and by then, I just locked in my heart zone, pushed the hills, and kept pace. Mind was firing and focused. I gained on one guy from that lead pack by the end of lap 3, and had an idea that had the pack broke up, people were coming back to me. I picked it up and sure enough was able to catch another by the end of lap 4. One more to go!!! I cared less how much it was raining as I kept the pace at or under 6 minute miles. I felt fine – keeping A-Ha, Def Leppard, and some BFMV on the mental ipod for that last lap.  My heartrate never got above 160 so as long as I was clicking, I kept steady my pace, not cramping or getting hurt in the process. I made sure to try and hammer the last mile and splish-sploshed my way to the finish in 1:32. I placed 4th overall and won my age group!!! Lap splits for each 5K – 18:45, 18:39, 18:23, 18:30, and 18:31. Test 2 has been easily passed.  Check out pix in Photos section.

Into the wet soaked arms of Gina I ran and felt great with the effort and results. We joked about it, laughed, and were happy it was over. I jogged a bit to cool down before we went to the tent to warm up and change. It was fun times all around now as each runner slowly entered the tent relieved, soaked, and happy. Mud all outside the tent! After an hour, we headed back out to the car in a quieter rain and quickly headed home. We got lucky that it stopped most of the ride back and by 1pm, we were cooking, stretching, and brewing our Sunday up. We celebrated over blueberry pancakes and some strong java as the rain encompassed the rest of the day. After some laundry, we opened the window for that cold, but now refreshing, breeze we dealt with all morning and both laid on the couch, taking our positions as Gina went into a long nap while I got to watch bball with my feet up. Even Holmes lounged – but he got a fluffy blanky on the bed. With a great end to the morning, a great brunch to refuel, and now a relaxing rain pattering on the window sill, we all took the chance to recover and rest. We finished the evening with a great dinner and washed it down with a bottle of sangria –  for during this first weekend in March back in 2004, we celebrated our first “date”.

Now it is time to take race notes, apply them and move forward the next 8 weeks. Ash Wednesday begins Lent, and with it the shift in the plan structure to finalizing my running program while introducing some more specific triathlon workouts. I aim towards Easter, where triathlon then takes center stage in the race schedule. In two weeks, we have the Kings Park 15K, then a possible return to Charlotte on April 16th for the Racefest Half-Marathon, finishing up with the Long Island Half Marathon on May 1st. See you on the roads.

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