I ran four races in February. Two were relatively flat road races where I could gun for a fast time. The other two were trail races where the difficulty of the terrain made it challenging just to finish. That diversity makes it difficult judge how I did by any objective criteria. In some ways, I feel better about the slow races than I do about the fast ones.
I started the month on a good note. On February 1st, I ran the Surf City Marathon in 3:25:54. That helped restore my confidence after a disappointing time a week earlier in the Rock N Roll New Orleans Marathon.
On the 6th, I traveled to Texas to do the Rocky 50, a 50 mile trail run. This was a chance to go out of my comfort zone, which was one of my goals for 2015. I demonstrated my ineptitude on trails by tripping on roots dozens of times and falling six times. All six times I avoided injury. The important thing is that I always got up and started running again. I finished in 9:44:36. While that’s not particularly fast for 50 miles, this one was all about getting some experience on trails.
On February 15th, I went out of my comfort zone again running the Rogue/Yeti Heartbreaker Marathon. This was another trail race. I went into it not knowing exactly what to expect. Parts were similar to the Rocky 50. Parts were more runnable. Parts were more technical. In this race, I fell five times. I didn’t have any injuries, but one time I got turned around and started running the wrong way. I eventually finished in 4:27. That’s much slower than my road race times, but on this course it was a respectable time. The important things were that I finished, and I got more experience on trails.
My last race of the month was the Shelby Forest Loop Marathon on the 22nd. The setting was another heavily wooded state park, but the terrain was a return to my comfort zone. It was a short, relatively flat road loop that we ran 13 times. My goal was to break 3:30, but I just wasn’t feeling it. After battling mental demons for most of the race, I finished in 3:26:51. I was happy with my time but concerned about how hard I had to work for it.
I’m happy with the two trail races. I wasn’t fast, but I challenged myself to confront one of my weaknesses. In the long run, these races will make me a better runner.
The best way I can describe my feelings about the two road races is to say I’m relieved. They were both fast courses, so expect to break 3:30. I did that, but it’s getting more difficult. Breaking 3:30 is no longer something I can take for granted, even on a fast course.
If I have a regret about my February races, it’s that I lost an opportunity. I love writing race reports, but I wish I had carried a camera during the trail races, so I could take pictures along the route. I don’t generally carry a camera during road races, because I don’t want to lose any time. That wasn’t really a concern in these two races. I wasn’t going to be fast anyway. At the Rocky 50, I had a camera in my drop bag. I didn’t bring it with me on the first loop, because we were starting in the dark. After falling three times on the first loop, I was afraid to carry a camera on the remaining two loops, because I was afraid of breaking it.
At the Rogue/Yeti Heartbreaker Marathon, I accidentally left my camera at the hotel. D’oh! That race was an adventure. The terrain kept changing, and there were a few obstacles I didn’t expect. I wish I had photos, so I could share what the course looked like.
My training showed some improvement in February. Last December, my training runs diminished both in quantity and quality. In January, I started rebuilding my mileage, but most of my runs were much slower than my usual training pace. I rarely trained at my marathon race pace. When I did, it felt way too fast. I also wasn’t up to doing hills.
This month, the quality started returning to my workouts. I was running at race pace at least half of the time, but still not as much as I used to. I also started doing some hill work. I started with gentle grades. By the end of the month, I was doing long steep hills at once a week.
As for mileage, after running only 205 miles in January, I improved to 254 in February. That’s down from last fall, but it’s the most miles I’ve ever run in February. From here, I’d like to build my mileage gradually. My goal is to increase my mileage by about a mile a week, while continuing to improve the quality of my workouts.