The weather could not have been more perfect for my first race(s) of 2011. The Romeo 4 Miler is a two loop course around the UCSB Lagoon, and I would easily put it in the category of cross-country running. It is the first of the three race UCSB series. Following the 4 miler, with a bit of time for recovery, was the 2 x 2 mile couples relay. John and I did both races.
The UCSB race series is so awesome. They have some components which are really fun such as the "yellow jersey" which gets awarded to the top male and female finishers. The yellow jersey will be worn by the recipient for subsequent races until they are dethrowned. Additionally, each of the races feature a sprint finish in the final 400 meters. There is a whole separate competition related to those sprint finishes. Also, each race finish represents a certain amount of points depending on finishing place. Points are accumulated throughout all three events and culminate with a series winner.
The course featured rough asphalt (with a lot of potholes and ankle twisting possibilities) and trail, with two short steep climbs (that's two per loop for a total of 4), additional ups and downs, a bit of loose sand and water hazards along the lagoon (you had to run around or jump the puddles). It was not a fast course, but was a lot of fun ... a lot of fun.
Putting the quest for personal records aside, a tough, varied course has to be my favorite type. It makes it a true race against other runners rather than a race against the clock. I went into this first race of the year knowing I wouldn't be running my fastest 4 miler, and knowing I would have to somehow conserve something in the tank for the couple relay to follow. Mentally then, I kept telling myself, "Don't leave it all out on the course." I actually never even referenced my Garmin for pace. I just glanced at the mile times to monitor whether I was keeping it steady (I wasn't), which was my goal.
The plan was to run the first loop more layed back, and then try to push it a bit on the second loop. Then I would leave the "all out" effort for the final loop during the relay. Good plan, but poorly executed. The race unfolded thusly: First mile felt relaxed and I held back reasonably well. Never the less, with the rough surfaces and hills, it still hurt to some extent. It was a happy 6:01. The second and third miles dropped way off pace as I attempted to slow up and conserve. They were something like 6:14 and 6:17, clearly a substantial slow down. The fourth mile was in 6:04 for a final time of 24:42. A strong enough effort to earn the yellow jersey, and still have something in the tank.
The course was strenuous for sure, but also allowed for periods of recovery. With 4 miles completed, all that was left was my leg of the couple's relay. I used to love running track, and having multiple events per day, but I was not loving the idea of multiple cross-country loops. Ugh! I tried to stay loose during the 30 minutes prior to the relay, but when I jogged a bit to loosen up I realized I did NOT want to run another hard loop. Such a weenie, I know. I have grown accustomed to doing my little race and then relaxing for the remainder.
But both John and I rallied. He had run a solid 4 miler too, but was up for the challenge of running the first leg. The prize for the winning couple was a romantic dinner for two, so we were both motivated and focused. We strategized that he should go first and get us into position, and that I would have the job of trying to pick people off in the final leg. I do like to have a target rather than run from the front.
Our strategy paid off and our legs held out. We got that awesome dinner for two and will save it for Valentine's Day. So much fun.
We finished off the active morning with a burrito from Freebird's and a Starbucks and are looking forward to the Super Bowl 4 Miler next week. After a rough, hilly course, a fast flat race will be nice.