Hot Chocolate 15k Race Report and a Change of Plans

I raced to a fourth place finish in the Hot Chocolate 15k this weekend with a time of 49:29.  Not great, but not bad; I'll take it given the circumstances.  I wasn't sure what sort of competition there would be, and I also wasn't sure how I would feel.  I was pretty beat up after last week's Lakefront 50 Mile and ended up taking three days off.  I hadn't done a workout since that race, so I went into Hot Chocolate with no specific goals.  I just wanted to run intelligently and be competitive. 

The course was pretty nice—all roads around downtown Chicago, which was new this year.  We also had close to ideal weather, with sunny skies, cool temperatures, and only a slight breeze.  I went through the first mile in about 5:15 feeling pretty good aerobically, but I just couldn't seem to get my legs under me; they were more or less dead from the start.  The lead pack of five or six that developed kept moving at this pace.  My breathing was so easy, it honestly felt like MP effort, but I had a hard time turning over fast enough.  The logical guess is that I was dealing with some residual muscular fatigue from the 50 miles last weekend.  Even still, I hoped the legs would come around and that I could maybe pull out a victory.  Not so. 

After a 5:19 fifth mile, my friend Emisael started to push the pace.  I was trying to hold on, and rolled through the sixth mile in 5:11, already a second or two back from the new lead pack of three.  This mile did me in.  I seemed to have been walking a fine line, which I overstepped trying to hang with the lead group.  I had a long last three miles solo, lost focus a bit with a 5:31 eighth mile, but came back with a relatively solid 5:21 ninth.  Emisael charged ahead for the win in 48:11, with only 8 seconds separating the top three.  I wish I could have been there—those sort of races are the most fun.  I'm always impressed with Emisael, as he almost never has a bad race.  He runs intelligently and seems to perform well every time out.

Now, for the change of plans...  I've decided not to go out to Big Sur in two weeks to chase an OT qualifier.  This is certainly an anticlimactic end (for now) to my chasing of the Trials standard, but I think it's the right decision.  My Hot Chocolate race, even while run under less than ideal circumstances, makes it clear to me that I'm not in 1:05 shape, and I won't be with just another two weeks of sharpening and tapering (and I'm having a hard time justifying spending $600 to go race).  Did I somewhat sacrifice my ability to get sharp for a half marathon by doing three ultras in the last two months?  Yes.  I'm still learning my own limits, and recovering from some of those races took longer than expected.  But they were quite fun and have given rise to some sponsorship opportunities that would not have been available otherwise (on that note, I should announce shortly which company I've decided to join—just want to make sure I have the green light).  My attitude regarding the Trials is that I will be there in 2016 and I will be competitive.  2012 wasn't in the cards, but I'm OK with that. 

Overall, I'm quite happy with how this year has gone.  I took a legitimate shot at the Trials with my marathon at Grandma's.  I fell short, but I went for it, and I can be satisfied with that.  I also ended up with a big PR and am moving in the right direction.  I've PRed over a number of other distances this year and had some decent success in the ultra world.  One more to go on that front: the TNF EC 50 Championships in four weeks.  The TNF 50 and my goals for my next marathon are what reaffirmed my decision not to race Big Sur.  First, I can get in a solid three weeks of training for TNF, as opposed to backing off for another race.  I need some more hill and stair work, and could use the mileage as well.  Also, I have 17 weeks until my next marathon, the Albany Marathon in Georgia.  This is a perfect amount of time for a good buildup, split between a Fundamental Phase and a Specific Phase.  I can work a bit more on my speed and turnover in the coming 8 weeks and then transition to a marathon-specific prep. that will hopefully see me to another PR. 

Finally, I enjoyed a nice first group run and brunch on Sunday with the Chicago Ultrarunners (CHUGs).  Met some cool people, including Geoffrey and Paige Dunmore, who are headed down to Javelina Jundred this weekend—best of luck to them!