Ski to Sea Training
A few months ago, I agreed to race the run leg of the Ski to Sea. I’m always in training mode, usually with a few 50k-100 mile races on the docket, so with my normal training load being fairly high, I haven’t been too worried about this race until recently. After all, It’s 8 miles and all downhill, and downhill is my absolute favorite. But it’s on road, and I’m a trail runner. Today I finally went out on my first race-specific training run.
Doing my due diligence, I started researching the race a few weeks ago. I only know one of my teammates, so for all I know I could have landed myself on a super competitive team who’s counting on me to race a fast time. Not to mention I tend to get fairly competitive, so it’s important to know how fast I’ll need to go to do well. As it turns out, the Ski to Sea is a really big deal, and there’s really good athletes who come from all over to race. The website says that the run times range from 37:30 to 1:36:30, with the average time being :57:30. That’s when it hit me. 37 minutes?!?! That is approximately a 4:40 min/mile average, which I’ve never even come close to, for one single mile, in my life. Okay, so maybe I won’t be competitive. The next best option is being faster than average. Given that I’m typically a front-of-the-middle-pack runner, this is probably about where I’d end up anyways. 52 minutes sounds good.
The North Cascades highway is opening for the season tomorrow, so I decided to take advantage of some beautiful mountain views and lack of traffic by running up and down the highway for my first pavement training session. I was nervous about running on pavement, given that I can probably count on one hand how many pavement runs I’ve been on in the last 10 years since high school; but, there’s only one way to find out how it’ll go.
The 5 uphill miles went great. No issues, not another person in sight, great views, and only the sound of my feet tapping the ground and the birds circling above me. I stopped to take a few pictures, and got to my turn around point just below the hairpin corner in an hour. A few photos of Liberty Bell, a smile on my face, and the downhill began.
The good news is, this run was a major confidence booster. Being a “slow and steady wins the race” type of gal, I’ve never been too great at sprinting. I incorporate speed specific workouts into my training but they’re pretty much always running uphill, and always on trail, and I honestly can’t remember the last time I just flat out sprinted downhill. As I looked down at my watch periodically throughout the first mile, I was happily surprised- sub 6 minute pace! The pace didn’t even feel that difficult; it was more about just letting my legs fly and taking deep breaths. The first mile flew by in 5:45, so I continued into the next. Mile 2 in 5:54. My original plan was to run the downhill miles at near-race pace with two minutes recovery between each, so I used my recovery time to strip off my shell and shake my legs out. Two minutes later and my legs were starting to feel like they were made out of lead… Yikes. The last 3 miles were mostly downhill but had a few undulations so I didn’t even attempt to keep up the sub-6 minute miles. A sub-7 and two sub-8’s and I was back at the car.
All in all, it felt like an extremely successful training run, and I walked away feeling more confident than before, really sore, and excited for my next training session. Here are my takeaways:
Pavement running is much different than trail running, and I’m glad I figured that out before race day.
Speed isn’t my strong suite right now, so I now know that I need to incorporate some extra speed runs for the next few weeks.
I am more sore after 5 miles of fast downhill road running than I am after a 20 mile trail run. Again, I’m glad I’m figuring this out now and not on race day.
My trail shoes that are a half size too big and perfect for long trail runs aren’t exactly the most ideal for downhill road running. Because of the extra space in my shoes, I started getting a few hot spots on the tips of my toes after the first mile. But, I’m not going to buy a new pair of shoes for one race. Plan B: tape the toes.
I was honestly doubting my ability to even be able to run a 6-minute mile, so it feels REALLY good to know I can run sub-6, and multiple of them in a row.
With a few more race-specific training runs, I might be able to do better than I originally thought.
With two weeks until race day, I don’t have time to do a ton of race-specific training, but I’m incredibly happy that I went out today and got a feel for what I can work on in the short time that I have. I plan to incorporate a few more downhill speed sessions where I’ll hopefully run three and maybe even four sub-6 minute miles, and I plan on going out for several more “time on my feet” pavement runs in addition to the speed work. 12 hours later, my body feels pretty good and might not be so sore tomorrow. That being said, I really only ran 3 of my 10 miles today at race pace, so I still have some work to do. A solid training run, indeed!