It’s not often that you get to run a race on one of your standard training routes, and it was with some excitement that I realized a few weeks ago that I would get to have that very opportunity. A new race in my hometown of Concord, the Run 4 Rusty 4-Miler, took place this morning, and the starting line was literally only a half-mile from my front door. The route covered ground that I run on nearly every day during the summer, and included a trail along the Merrimack River that I frequently run on with my dog Jack (see route map below courtesy of my Garmin Forerunner 205 and Sportracks).
I was doubly excited about this race because it was my first of the year in my home state of New Hampshire. Unlike last year, when I ran a race nearly every weekend in the Spring, I limited my racing in the early season this year in order to focus on training for the Vermont City Marathon, which I completed 3 weekends ago (see VCM race report here). I’ve been dying to run some shorter races, and this turned out to be the perfect opportunity. Not only was it on my home course, but it also fell on the first official day of my summer vacation (I teach at a small college, and summer school ended on Saturday).
The first sign that this might be a good day occurred when I woke up in the morning and realized that it was 8:00. As a father of two small children, sleeping in till 8:00 is unheard of, and the extra rest served me well. On the downside, however, it was absolutely pouring outside, continuing the pattern of lousy weather up here of late. Having just run a marathon in the rain, I figured 4 miles couldn’t be that bad, and thankfully the rain slowed a bit as race time approached. To be honest, I’ve come to enjoy running in the rain, and aside from soggy/heavy shoes, I think it actually helps in some ways during a race (quick side note, I wore my new Nike Luna Racers for this race, and they’re incredible – light as a feather, even with the rain!)
After arriving at the school around the corner where the race was being held, I realized that I had forgotten my Garmin, and it was nice to be able to simply jog home as my warm-up to pick it up. I caught up with some friends before the race, and was feeling pretty good at the starting line. Since my only real race since early March this year was a marathon, and my training has been more of the long, slow variety, I didn’t know what I could sustain in the way of pace for a 4-miler. I told myself at the outset that a finish time between 26-28 minutes would be fine (my 4 mile race PR, set last July, is 26:04), and planned to set out at around a 6:30 min/mile pace and see what happens. Once the race started, I went out fast (sub-6:00) as I always tend to do, but reeled myself in and settled into a average 6:15 pace for the first two miles (see graph below).
I helps a lot to know every inch of a course, and I paced with the plan to expect a slowdown in the second half since I’d be hitting a soggy trail for mile 3, and a big hill in the final mile. I’ve run the trail and hill so many times that I knew exactly what kind of energy I’d need to make it through, and I also knew that my Garmin would flake out under the trees on the trail and give inaccurate/underestimated pacing data (see miles 2.25-3 in the above graph – this trail seems to be the only place I run where it does it), so I planned for that as well. When I hit the trail, I latched on to the runner in front of me and allowed my pace to slow – there were lots of puddles and we kind of zigzagged from side to side on the trail to avoid them. At the end of the trail, a volunteer was calling 3-mile times and I was right around 19:30, for a pace of almost exactly 6:30/mile.
Once back on the road, I picked the pace back up a bit, knowing that I would slow on the final hill and desperately wanting to maintain an overall 6:30/mile pace. I didn’t recall my 4 mile PR exactly while running (looked it up after), but knew I’d be close. I passed a few people going up the hill, and had a decent amount of energy for a final burst to the finish. When I saw the clock at the finish line counting up toward 26:00, I thought I might be able to come in just under that, but wound up crossing the line at 26:04 – matching to the second my 4-mile PR from last July 4th in Maine. I was thrilled with the result, and was surprised that I was able to hold the 6:30 pace since I have done very little speedwork aside from tempo runs so far this year. The official results indicated that I finished in 15th place overall (out of 140), and I won the 30-39 age group (although the overall race winner shared my age group, they exclude the top 3 overall finishers from age awards – I’ll take what I can get)!
It’s amazing what a good race can do for your confidence, and I now have that racing bug working it’s way back under my skin. Time to get on Cool Running to look for the next one!