Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's Eve 4-Miler

I ran the inaugural Fairfax Four Miler last night (New Year's Eve) in the midst of a high wind advisory.

When I got the flyer in my mailbox for this race, I was extremely excited. I didn't have plans for New Year's Eve yet, and I was scheduled for a speed workout of 4 x 1600m that day. (That's four 1-mile repeats for those of you who are not runners). Doing a 4-mile race in place of this workout would be a welcome change.

Because I am now tapering for my marathon on January 18, I didn't want to push it too hard. I decided that I wouldn't "race" it at full effort, but rather use it as a fast tempo run, aiming for a pace of 7:50/mile.

Race day arrived and there was a wind advisory. Winds were blowing at 20-25 MPH with gusts up to 50 MPH. In fact, there was so much wind, that a powerline went down on the certified race course, so they had to scramble at the last minute to design a new course. The new course was 4 laps there were just shy of one mile each. They mentioned that it was no longer certified, and I heard some people saying that it was only 3.9 miles instead of 4. However, being that this is a 4-loop course, I had to be on the ouside of the loop for the last two laps, because I was passing walkers and slower runners.

Perhaps the worst thing about this new course was that it was much hiller than the original. Each lap had about three hills, and at no point during the race was there a flat surface:

One lap of the 4-mile course.

Note the 6% grade! And we had to run up that thing 4 times. The toughest hill, in actuality was the last hill of the lap. It just seemed to go on and on. And during the last two laps, the course was crowded with walkers and slower runners, so I had to weave through them.

To add insult to injury, this was obviously an evening race (7:00), and we all know that I am very much of a morning person, and I am often in bed by 7:30!

I arrived at the race, got out of my car, and immediately started to warm up. I wanted to do a one-mile warmup, but it was so hilly around the race and I didn't want to wear myself out, so I only did a half mile warmup. The wind was making things extremely difficult and the windchill factor was in the teens. The coldest race I have ever run.

I decided to stick to my plan of 7:50's. This was going by feel, of course, as I don't have a Garmin. I ended up averaging 7:34/mile. I think because of all the hills, I knew I had to exert more effort to get up to 7:50. I have been doing A LOT of hill training over the past two months, so the hills didn't take as much out of me as expected.

My time was 30:16, average 7:34 pace. If the course was actually 3.9 miles, my pace would be 7:45. Given that I ran on the outer edge of the loop, I'd say my true pace probably feel somewhere between 7:34-7:45. I guess I will have to live with the ambiguity!

I placed 10th out of 163 in my age group, putting me in the top 6%, and beating out 94%.
I placed 142 of 1007 total runners, putting me in the top 14%, and beating out 86%.

Considering I did not race this at full effort, I am thrilled!!!! I feel very well prepared for my marathon in less than three weeks. I will continue to do shorter, faster runs to keep my legs fresh without the burden of high mileage.

After the race, all the finishers got Nike hooded sweatshirts. And they were gender-specific so mine fits quite nicely. I met up with my friend Brianna very briefly. And then I met up with Katharine and Mike. When we picked up our bib numbers, we got coupons for free food at the surronding restaurants. So the three of us made the rounds to get free hot chocolate and pizza. I had already redeemed my ice cream coupon before I met up with them. Yeah, I ate ice cream even though the temperature was in the teens!


  1. Sounds like you had a good race and the wind did not blow you away either :)

  2. Congrats on a great race. What a nice surprised to go faster than your goal and feel good about it, especially in that kind of wind!
    My email is and I would love to keep in touch with you. I can't wait to hear how your marathon goes.

  3. Great job Elizabeth! I think your mental toughness got tested and you passed with flying colors.

    I think you are ready for your BQ in Arizona. Enjoy your taper as much as possible.

    Happy New Year,