...I am slowly getting faster. (Is that an oxymoron?)
We had time trials at Roseville yesterday morning. In deference to my upcoming weekend of racing on Jan. 5 and 6, as well as to my cold-cough-sinus-thing, I chose to do the 500 and 1500 rather than anything longer (which means that I have done exactly one 3K this year for my distance events, which does not bode well for the 5K next weekend; but I digress).
It was another beautiful day for outdoor skating--light west wind, light snowfall, and not super cold; about 15 degrees. Even with the relatively good conditions, though, and despite my fun-and-kinda-fast workout on Thursday, I wasn't feeling optimistic about my chances for turning in good times. My cold had crept into my lungs and whenever I wasn't occupied with blowing my nose I was busy trying to hack up a lung.
The 500 lived up to my lackluster expectations; at 52.7, it was one of my slower 500's of the year. I wasn't too concerned, though; I suck at the 500 anyway, and since I was sick I hadn't been expecting stellar performance. I had the last inner (meaning, for those of you who don't skate, that I was skating in the inner lane for the last, and therefore fastest, corner; I have a history of freaking out on the last inner and coasting or crashing) and actually managed to enter it in some sort of reasonable fashion, which was good. So I considered the 500, if not a success, at least a draw.
Still, I was not terribly excited about the upcoming 1500. 1500's are hard at the best of times--too short to be a somewhat-relaxed long distance pace; too long to sustain an all-out sprint. 1500's are in that unhappy no-man's land of "how long can you make it hurt this bad?" 1500's are also notorious for being hard on the lungs; there's a phenomenon known to skaters as "1500 meter cough." Since I already had a "sitting on my butt doing nothing" cough, this was not sounding good.
Before the race, though, Sprinter Boy reminded me of a truth which I often forget: just because it's a race doesn't mean I have to skate my hardest. It's possible to just go out and just skate 90% or so and focus on executing a good race, pacing-wise and technique-wise.
So that's what I decided to do.
A "good race," for the 1500, was to look something like this: open hard for the first 300 meters; relax the first lap, working the corners a bit; work the corners hard on the second lap, but relax the straights a bit; throw whatever you have left (or, in this case, 90% of whatever you have left) at the last lap in hopes of not dying too much. And that's pretty much how it went, with the exception of the "relax" part--after standing around in my skinsuit in 15 degree temps for just a bit too long before the race, my legs were in the "tense and cold" zone and were unable to produce anything close to "relax." And the "90%" thing kind of went out the window, too; my pair was very close to my speed and I did everything I could in the last lap to make sure I crossed the finish line first. Which I did. Barely.
The race had felt OK, but I had also felt slow and clumsy. I had absolutely no idea how fast I had gone and, being a data geek, I was unwilling to decide whether the race had gone "well" or "sucky" without knowing the numbers. So, once I managed to stop coughing long enough to actually speak, I went up to the timing room and inquired about my 1500 time.
2:40.9, or my fastest of this season by a bit more than a second. My previous 1500's this year have been 2:49, 2:45, 2:42. A nice downward progression, and especially nice that my fastest one was on a day when I was definitely not feeling 100%. So second by second, I seem to be getting a bit faster.
Of course, my fastest time this season in the 1500 is still more than 10 seconds slower than my fastest from last year...but progress is progress, and I'll take it.