This morning I decided to push myself and ended up exceeding my own expectations. It was the last scheduled running race of the Pasadena Tri Club February Trifecta.

Starting with the Pasadena Half Marathon, continuing with the Huntington Beach Half and ending with the Firecracker 10k, it was an off-season challenge to stay in shape during the holiday season. As a result, it has been a busy month of running.

Improving the run was my goal over the late Fall / Winter break that started in early November. After accomplishing my 2018 goal of completing Olympic distance Triathlon without suffering too much, I decided that I would focus on becoming a better runner while keeping my bike in maintenance mode and well simply stopped swimming because it was cold.

I woke up fairly normal this working with my alarm going off at roughly 6:10am, and finally managed to get out of bed at roughly 6:25am. Some of our neighbors were loud at roughly 4:30am this morning – drunk folks can’t tell their noise level.

I had my normal breakfast of toast, eggs, lean bacon and couple cups of coffee. I’ve found that feeding your body a quality meal first thing in the morning is one of the best ways to set your internal alarm clock. Your body will wake itself up and say “Feed me!” I’m gradually hoping to get it to 5:30 am in time for warmer spring weather. Gotta get those long runs, swims and bike trainer sessions in the morning.

Back to the central theme of this entry, the 10k. When I left the house this morning, I was thinking about my race strategy. While this wasn’t a priority race for me, I felt like after doing two half-marathons at roughly a 10:50 / 11:15 pace that I could likely push it quite a bit. With that in mind, I thought that a 9:45 / 10:00 min per mile pace was definitely doable and I could likely keep that minimal pace up for an hour. I have a tendency for conservatively pacing myself with the goal of minimizing potential suffering and not blowing up.

With that being said, I parked in a little residential area about quarter mile from the start line. I had about 45 minutes until race time to pick up my bib and get situated. The race t-shirt was nicely designed with a pig as the main character. Unfortunately, it is a pink cotton t-shirt that is not athletic. While the pink doesn’t bother me much, it being a non-athletic shirt makes it high proba_ that I’ll be donating it to a local homeless shelter.

The race started a roughly 8:45am and started with a big mass of folks. The first third mile was relatively flat, but then until about mile 3 was a continual climb with a few small descents. I started out the first portion at a 9:30 m/m pace until the climbing starting. During the climb, I kept my step cadence roughly the same at ~175 steps per minute as I had recently learned in a Running Body Economy class. It seemed to be a helpful way to keep my step pace while my speed dipped and soared according to the course grade.

At about mile 3, we had climbed to the top of Elysian park and had fantastic views of both Downtown LA, and the northern eagle rock and San Gabriel valley. As I was pushing for a personal record, I didn’t stop to take any of the breathtaking photos. It truly was one of those rare views that is only seen after there is a significant rain storm in the area that clears the infamous smog and pollution from the sky and into the storm drains towards the ocean. I did make a mental note that these roads would make excellent road cycling hills.

The descent and last half of the 10k was overwhelmingly downhill with a few small hills to navigate. As I have mostly trained on flat courses while building up my run base, I was a bit uncomfortable at first as I felt the downward pressure on my body. Eventually though, I found a nice rhyme with quick arms, a quick footstep and slightly extended stride. I grew rather comfortable with it and found it relatively easy to maintain during the last few miles of the course. Even on the flatter terrain, I found that I had enough gas in the tank to keep up about a sub 9 minute mile pace.

As I saw the finish line looming in the distance and according to my Garmin watch, which was roughly a quarter mile away, I picked up the pace dipping into 7:30 min mile pace which I haven’t approached since before high school. I set a personal record with a sub one hour finish time.

All in all, my winter off-season training plan for getting better at running was undoubtedly a success and I feel that I have built up a deeper level of fitness that for shorter efforts I can dig into for speed.