This past weekend, the Lakeland Runner’s Club put on their annual Aching Quad race series.
The Aching Quad is a 4 race series, with all 4 races taking place within a 24 hour period. The first race, a 5k, took place Friday evening. Then on Saturday morning, we ran a quick 1 miler at 7am, followed by a 2 miler an hour and a half later. We took the hot part of the day off, and then reconvened for the final 5k on Saturday evening.
For some of you, that may not sound all that daunting. If you run these races hard, especially the two races on Saturday morning, you’d be surprised how difficult this series actually is. I don’t think I underestimated the cumulative effect of 4 races in 24 hours, but the Aching Quad series is no joke. Believe me.
- Race #1–5k Friday at 7:30 pm
Like just about every 5k that happens in Lakeland, the first race of the Aching Quad took place down at Lake Hollingsworth. Since I had also run in the Watermelon Series this summer, I was well versed in the layout of the Lake Hollingsworth 5k course.
After picking up my race number and getting in a quick warm up, it was time to race.
My strategy for the race was a little different than it was for the Watermelon races this summer. During the summer, the plan was to try and push it every race and see how fast I could go. For this race, top end speed wasn’t the sole focus. Sure I wanted to go fast, but I had two workouts on Thursday, totaling 9.5 miles, so it wasn’t like I was coming in with really fresh legs. I was just focusing on going out smooth, trying to run steady, and finishing strong at the end.
As I came up the small hill near the finish line, I was pushing but not worrying about going all out, and crossed the line at 20:39. It wasn’t a PR (20:21), but it was under my target time of 21 flat.
I grabbed some water, found my wife, and we headed for the car.
All in all, I was happy with the first race.
- Race #2–1 Mile Saturday at 7:00 am
How do you run a 1 miler?
Are you supposed to go balls to the walls and lay it all on the line? Sit and kick?
And how do you run it when you know you’re going to have to run another race 90 minutes later?
These were the questions I was thinking as I was driving to town to get ready for the 1 mile race around Lake Morton. I wasn’t really sure how I was going to attack this race when I parked the car over by Lake Hunter at 6:40, but I knew I had 20 minutes to figure it out while I warmed up.
I jogged the half mile from Lake Hunter over to Lake Morton, and did some strides before the runners were called to the line. Surprisingly, my legs were feeling pretty good during the warm up, so I thought I might be able to push my pace a little bit in this race.
My plan for the mile was pretty similar to my plan from the night before, start smooth and strong, stay steady through the 3/4 mark, and push for the finish line.
As the race started, predictably, a bunch of people took off like they were shot out of a gun. I was one of the first people off the line, and by the 1/4 mile mark, I was probably 20th at best. I kept telling myself to keep running my race and not worry about the guys in front of me, and I started picking people off for the next half mile or so.
I was a bit shocked to see that I was holding a pretty stead 6 min pace, and I was very happy to cross the finish line at 5:56. I’m not positive, but I think it might have been the fastest mile I’ve ever run.
And if not, it was damn close.
After the mile was finished, the real mental battle began. My body was warmed up, my legs felt really good, and I had 84 minutes left for things to go to hell before my next race.
So I did what was probably the last thing I should have done, I took off for a run. I knew my Pack buddies were running a 12 mile loop Saturday morning, and they were parked at the library near the finish line of my race. So I headed to the library, saw their cars were still there, and started running out to meet them. I ran into them about 1.5 miles later, and ran back to the library with them.
We talked for a bit after getting back to the library, and I did a little stretching to try to stay loose, and at about 8 I decided to head over to Lake Hunter. The first few steps didn’t feel too bad, so at least I had done a decent job keeping my muscles warm and loose, even if I added 3 more miles and one good hill climb on my legs before the next race.
- Race #3–2 Miles Saturday at 8:30 am
At this point, I think strategy went out the window. I had just run one of my fastest miles ever, and then I went and ran another 3.5 miles in an attempt to stay loose for the last race of the morning.
To this point, my race plan seemed to be working so I didn’t see any reason to try anything different. Go out, try to stay steady, and push at the end. If my legs decided enough was enough, so be it.
When the race started, I was feeling pretty good and early in the race I got passed by a few other guys. I felt like I was running pretty easy, but after checking my Garmin I was actually clipping along at about a 6:15 pace.
Wait, 6:15 and it’s feeling easy? That’s never happened before.
Anyway, my plan was to try and hold my pace, so that’s what I was trying to do. I kept going, and gradually passed those few guys that passed my just after the start. And let me just say, there is nothing more satisfying to me than going out in a race under control, and passing a bunch of the clowns that went out to fast and couldn’t maintain their pace for the duration of the race. I know I’m not that fast in the grand scheme of things, but I like knowing I can run under control at the start of the race so I’ll be able to run steady through the middle of the race and finish it strong.
I ended up coming off of my 6:15 pace a little bit, but still managed to finish the race in a respectable 13:22. I was hoping to be under 13, but I’m not going to complain with how this race finished up.
- The Break–Saturday from 9:00 AM-7:00 PM
Three races down, one to go.
What the hell was I supposed to do now? When I had the gap between the two Saturday morning races, some easy running was a fairly logical choice to stay warm and loose between races. But with 10 hours between races? Lets just say that running to kill time wasn’t going to happen.
When I got home a little after 9, the only thought on my mind was ICE BATH! So, I turned on the water, grabbed some ice from the freezer (20 lb bag plus whatever was in the ice maker), and jumped in the tub.
For those of you that have never experience a good, cold, ice bath I’d have to say you’re missing out. It’s not pleasant, but it’s effective.
After 20 minutes or so in the tub, I was ready to settle in on the couch for most of the day to watch some futbol and some football. I enjoyed a couple of British Premier League matches, some NCAA football games, and just relaxing on the couch for most of the day. I tried hydrating as much as possible, but mostly just ate watermelon and drank coffee. Good enough.
Pretty soon it was 6 o’clock, and it was time to head back to Lake Hollingsworth and start warming up again.
- Race #4–5k Saturday at 7:00 PM
It didn’t take long to realize the obvious–it was going to be a long 5k. My legs were shot.
I checked the series standings, and I was solidly in 2nd place for my age group. I was 50-something seconds behind first, and almost 2 minutes in front of 3rd. So, unless something crazy happened, I couldn’t catch the guy in front of me and I wasn’t going to get caught by the guy behind me. I just needed to run a solid race and I’d keep my place.
So guess who wasn’t going to push the pace?
When the race started, I set off trying to keep my pace below 7 min, but that was my only plan. I was moving along just below my target pace until the 2 mile mark when a little side stitch started to creep up on me. I slowed a little, was digging into my side to try and calm it down, and got some great looks from people walking/jogging in the other direction.
I basically looked ridiculous, but whatever. I just wanted this race to be over with.
The stitch subsided with about a half mile to go, so I got back to my target speed and tried to finish as strongly as possible. The combination of tired legs, side stitch, and no chance at improving my standing cost me a little bit of time, but I guess that was to be expected.
I crossed the line with a time of 21:27, and I was just glad to be finished.
- Series Summary
This is an awesome race series!
It was really hard, and I think the challenge was just as much mental as it was physical. And really, that is exactly what I need right now as I continue to train for my next marathon.
And unlike with the Watermelon Series, these races weren’t overly crowded which was super nice.
I definitely think I’ll be running the Aching Quad series again next year and, if you’re in the area, I would strongly encourage you to run it as well.
My total time for the 4 races was 1:01:24, and next year I’ll be looking to get that time under an hour. And for the weekend, including warm ups and races, I logged a total of 17.25 miles.
Not a bad substitute for the long run, eh?
Do You Think I’m Crazy for Scrapping a Long Run to Run in This Series?
Would You Ever Consider Running 4 Races in 24 Hours?