I think I mentioned that I did this race in 2010 which goes to show how my memory works these days because it was hillier than I remembered. For some reason I remembered very light rolling hills like maybe 10 feet up and down. I have since decided that particular memory of the lightly rolling hills was another race at another park. It isn't crazy hilly but there are some longer grades on the course to be sure.
Back to today. One of the things I love about this race is that it is small. As in park 10 feet from the start line small. This comes in handy when the temperature at start time is 30 degrees, a temperature I had not experienced since last year. #Brrrrr. I knew it was going to be cold at the start so I had purchased a $9 pink hoodie at Walmart for the purpose of tossing at the start. When the start cannon was fired (an actual cannon!), most runners opted to keep their coats. I decided to toss mine anyhow and threw it next to a tree where someone else had tossed a red jacket. The first part of the race is a half mile loop around this park so about 5 minutes after you start you come back through the start area again and out on the course. When I came back through again, I saw the red jacket but my pink hoodie was gone. I scanned the immediate area to see if anyone was wearing it. It made me wonder if someone had been eyeing my sweet $9 hoodie and was hoping I would toss it. LOL. It probably was still warm from my body heat when they picked it up. Not to mention they got a bonus pack of hand warmers! Obviously I was giving it away so if someone got it and can use it - great - but the way it was picked up so quickly just made me laugh.
Back to the race. Again. So I am working with a coach this time around. After taking close to a year off, I needed some accountability and really just prefer not to piece together my own training plan. Leave it to the experts and all... The plan for the race was to run by HR zone. X miles in zone 1, x in zone 2 and then finish it out in zone 3. My normal way to "pace" previously would have been run as hard as you can maintain for about 4 hours and then stop when you get to the finish stopping to walk as needed to keep from dying. Very professional strategy. I am sure there must be a book on it somewhere. In the past, I would blast out at the start and try to break free of the crowd then settle in to a pace. I was a little bit worried about being stuck in a crowd from the start running in zone one but what I have noticed (in smaller races anyhow) is that the crowd kind of breaks up on its own anyhow so I don't need to bob and weave to get around people in the beginning anymore. Score one for zone 1!
I won't bore you with a mile by mile account of how it all went but will say in my mind I knew I wanted my finish time to be somewhere below 4:30. (I had nothing to base that on other than my last race was around 4:10 and 4:30 sounded like a good number). Now that I am running by HR, I have almost no clue of my pace because I don't look at it. I really had no idea how I was doing time wise until halfway through the race and did the math in my head. About halfway, the 4:30 pacers and I started trading off back and forth. In my mind it was a little like the balloon ladies at Disney (the ones that scoop up the runners who aren't making the time cut off the course). I knew I wanted to be ahead of them so seeing them wasn't great. They were running by themselves and not actually pacing anyone so I decided that they *must be* ahead of pace and I wasn't going to worry about them. I was with them until mile 19.5 when I somehow managed to shake free of them.
When I got to the zone three segment of my race, it was amazing. I had my doubts that I would feel like kicking it up a notch at that point in the race but decided I was going to run it as prescribed despite my doubts. Once I picked up my HR a little, I really felt pretty good. The miles ticked by, I felt strong and before I knew it, I was making the final circle to the finish line. There might be something to this HR thing. :)