I ran the Race for a Cause 8K on Sunday. This is my favorite fall race. It's medium-sized (500 in the 8K, another 500 or so in the fun run mile race) and run in Arlington, Virginia. It is easy to park near the start/finish. It starts at 8 am, so I can wake at 6:15, have a relaxing morning, and get there in plenty of time; after running I am home by around 9. The weather is predictably cool, even if (as yesterday) sometimes a little damp. A group from the southern Maryland North African immigrant community usually shows up and beats the hell out of the course.
The Cause 8K always comes in the dead spot in my training. I work hard over the summer for something or another and then try to pick it back up for a late fall race of some sort -- the last few years it's been a marathon in November or December. In mid-October I'm either just finished recovering (this year) or very early in trying to get stronger again. I clearly do not train specifically for the Cause 8K and I do not really worry about taking it easier the day before. I think it's a fairly reliable metric to engage in a longitudinal comparison of my times from year to year.
In 2011 I ran 31:35. In 2012 I ran 31:39. Yesterday I ran 31:42.
This could be explained by other factors. I probably should not have done the long run on Saturday with a race on Sunday. And c. But those factors, or others like them, have been present in prior years as well. At bottom, it's pretty clear that my "I'm not really trained for this race" pace is slower at age 40 than it was at 38.
There are upsides, however. At age 40 everybody else's "I'm not really trained for this race" pace is also slower. So I won my age group, not counting the 41-year-old who beat me but took the top masters prize instead.