Scroll all the way down to the end of the post for the tl;dr version.
After last Saturday’s long run to close out a 50 mile week, I started tapering for the 2018 San Diego 50 Miler! My schedule called for a rest day on Sunday but I wanted to end the year at the Fairfax Four Miler. It was going to be cold, though. The forecast for the region was low-20s with wind chills in the single digits!
- 4 Mile PR & Course PR: 27:48 (6:57 pace) at the 2010 Fairfax Four Miler.
- Most Recent 4 Miler: 29:29 (7:23 pace) at the 2016 Fairfax Four Miler.
Likely: Sub-32:00 (8:00 pace). This wasn’t a goal race, so I wasn’t going to run it hard. I’ve been able to do “steady” runs a little slower than 8:00 pace.
Strategy: Don’t freeze to death!
The course is a loop through the George Mason University campus. The terrain is gentle uphills and downhills throughout. There’s one water stop after the 2 mile mark. Crowd support is non-existent.
I didn’t listen to music during the race. Well, not from my own personal device…
The forecast for this race was going to be cold and I wasn’t sure I wanted to torture myself when my goal race in two weeks would probably be 70 degrees. But, I pre-registered for the race and at least wanted to pick up the hoodie since they’ve served as my throw aways at the New York City Marathon in recent years.
I took a nap on Sunday afternoon and woke up at 4:30pm for a 6pm race about a half hour drive away! I dressed quickly, rushed to my car, and sped off a few minutes after 5pm. During the ride, I noticed, I forgot a hat! “Well, I’m definitely not running”. Then, I thought, “You could buy a hat at Pacers.” A few miles down the road, I realized I forgot my iPod. “You can run without music,” I thought. Run without music?! Once that thought came into my mind, I knew I was running this race. (Oddly, I remembered a headlamp.)
I parked at the race site at about 5:45pm. I picked up my bib and valued hoodie at the Old Town Hall, and then jogged to the old Pacer’s Running Store location to buy a hat only to realize it was a warming station. I didn’t allow myself to be lulled by the heat, though. I went to the actual store location, bought a hat, went back to my car, dropped off my hoodie, and was at the start by 5:55pm! I even had time for an anxious selfie:
I captured the conditions from National Airport, which showed the air temperature was 20 degrees! But, I should have grabbed Dulles Airport. I’m guessing it was a few degrees colder. With the wind chill, it felt like about 6 degrees!
Early Miles – Miles 1 to 2
The race starts with a slight uphill on University Drive/George Mason Boulevard. I felt a little out of sorts – like my legs weren’t moving as fast as I was directing them. I decided not to push the pace, though. The cold air burned my lungs at first but I adapted to the feeling after a few minutes. During the first mile, I noticed a woman running and playing music from her phone. It was a bit annoying, no jealous because I wished I had remembered my iPod! Music would have helped me take my mind off of how miserable I was. She stopped to do something with her phone and I forged ahead. The course veered left for a short stretch through a neighborhood. I was still pretty miserable from the cold. When I saw my first split, I was disappointed it wasn’t much faster than my interval pace.
The course took a short out-and-back on Patriot Circle. Usually, I can cheer for my fast friends but I was too far back to see any of them. Back on the main part of the course, I ran a little faster as the course headed downhill. Closing in on the second mile, I heard some jingling and sensed there was a dog next to me – just like last year! Meanwhile, Music Woman was back on my radar. She would stop, I’d pass her, and then she’d start running again. I wondered, “Is she running this race as an interval workout?” My competitor mind countered, “If she is, she’s still beating you.”
Splits (by course): 7:44, 7:11.
Later Miles, Miles 2 to 4
I felt relief after Mile 2. “You’re halfway done!” I ran an even effort but the course climbed a little so my pace slowed. Plus, I really didn’t want to be running anymore, so there’s that. The course curved to the right and took an out-and-back on Mason Pond Drive. Usually, there’s a water stop here but it was removed due to the cold. The water would have froze in the cups!
After the turnaround, I sped up a little to put some distance between me and a woman running with her dog. The course turned left back onto Patriot Circle. It was very dark in sections. My headlamp was slipping off my head, so I took it off my head and just held it. At Mile Marker 3, I told myself, “Just one more mile.” Runners were passing me but I didn’t feel the need to push harder. I just wanted the cold torture to be over. I took advantage of the downhill on George Mason Boulevard to the finish and passed Music Woman for the last time, though.
Splits (by course): 7:46, 7:35.
I crossed the finish line and went inside to grab a slice of cheese pizza. I took one bite and then threw the rest way. I wasn’t hungry at all. On the drive home in my warm car, my appetite grew. And, what did I want… pizza! I ate a microwave version before going out to celebrate New Year’s Eve.
My time was 30:33 (7:39 pace) [Log Details]. I was the 170th out of 1204 finishers. I can’t believe so many people ran this race! I was 40th woman and 7th in my age group.
The race crew did a great job adjusting to the cold weather. The warming stations were a great idea! I felt fine with how I ran but a couple of days later, I felt a cold coming on and had some regrets about running the race.
I started tapering for the 2018 San Diego 50 Miler on Sunday and was supposed to take a rest day but I like closing out the year with a race. I had doubts about running when I saw it was going to be 20 degrees with a wind chill of 6 degrees, but, I did it anyway. My lungs burned but I finished in 30:33 (7:39 pace) and was 7th in my age group. Naturally, I came down with a cold two days later.