The downside of the Kansas City trails being in freeze-thaw mode all winter long is that most of my winter running got pushed inside to the dreaded treadmill, but the benefit of that – I’ve believed – is that it made me faster.
Last weekend’s snow, followed by this weekend’s 60- and 70-degree temperatures, meant that all of the area trails were again closed with the hope that runners and riders would respect the trails’ need to dry out without getting trashed.
I signed up Friday night before crawling into bed, and then had a lazy pre-race Saturday with little more than an easy three-miler around the neighborhood to keep the legs loose.
Given that I signed up 36 hours before race time, there wasn’t any training plan for this. In fact, I haven’t had a real training plan for any race since over-booking my race schedule in 2013. The approach of building a strong mileage base and then just winging races has worked out OK. I had my biggest January/February mileage ever this year and ran a 20-mile long run a couple weekends ago, so my base is good.
My race approach was simple: trust my base, and don’t burn out early.
I woke up at 6:30 this morning, had a quick shower and downed a cup of coffee and bowl of oatmeal. I made the easy drive to Kemper Arena and arrived 45 minutes early in order to avoid unnecessary stress and have time to warm up. After a little stretching and an easy mile to get the legs warm, it was time to start.
We headed out of the Kemper parking lot and ventured north through the West Bottoms for about three quarters of a mile before working our way back south and behind Kemper. The first mile and a half was completely flat until heading up the American Royal Drive ramp to Cesar Chavez Ave., where we crossed over the railroad tracks before cruising a nice downhill on Allen Ave., which led onto Southwest Blvd. and into the Crossroads Arts District. A quick loop by the Freight House restaurants and then up past Town Topic took us back onto Southwest Blvd. and all the way back to Kemper.
I maintained a fairly consistent pace through all of that, with my miles ranging between 7:27 and 7:54. I focused on picking up my knees rather than doing the ultra-shuffle that I’ve become accustomed to. That made a big difference. I also carried my hand-held Amphipod bottle, which I believe made me the only runner in the field to carry a water bottle rather than utilizing the aid stations (my trail-running influence at work).
The gradual climb up Allen Ave. to Caesar Chavez was the final hill on the course, and it led to a refreshingly fast trip back down the American Royal Drive ramp that allowed me to build some momentum that I was able to ride for another quarter-mile.
My calves felt wobbly for the final three quarters of a mile but the flat terrain made it manageable, and I tapped into my ultra-running experience to remind myself that the pace was fine and my legs could handle it for a little bit longer and push to the finish line.
All in all, the race was a resounding success to kick off the 2015 race season. It marked my first race for the Honey Stinger Hive, I nailed a strong personal-best time for the distance, and I got to take a two-legged tour of part of our beautiful city on an unexpectedly warm late-winter day. I hope this is a sign of things to come this year!
Honey Stinger Cherry Cola Chews
Age Group: 18/38
Time: 47:43 – A new personal best
Old PR: 49:57 at Pilgrim Pacer 10K on Nov. 13, 2010
Elevation Gain: 171 ft.
Elevation Loss: 144 ft.
Weather: mid-40s at the start; low 50s at the finish.
Mile 1: 7:27.7
Mile 2: 7:54.9
Mile 3: 7:38.9
Mile 4: 7:56.1
Mile 5: 7:40.8
Mile 6: 7:35.5
Final .2: 1:32.2