Friday, November 23, 2007

The PR that almost got away

First of all, I wasn't sure I was even well enough to start this race. I went to Acute Care yesterday but they were closed! I didn't think two weeks of a sore throat (and a severe one for a couple of days) was bad enough to go to the emergency room for (and I didn't want to sit around there for four hours on Thanksgiving just to get a prescription) so I went home and continued with my own signature home remedies. I guess they worked because I finally woke up this morning able to swallow without pain! Hurrah! So it was Go Time for the 10k.

Old PRs:
Track mile, unofficial, 2006: 9:23
5K PR from November 2005: 30:26 (have only done a couple 5Ks since then and not for time)
10K PR going into today's race: 1:00:41 from 28 April 2007 in Oxford, Maryland
10K record on this course from 2006: 1:03:24

This race, the YMCA Run for Hospice, is a fairly casual small-town race that goes out of my own Y, so I try to do it every year. I was really hoping to finally break the one hour barrier on a 10K, and solicited some advice from my favorite triathlon email list, TRI-DRS.

Coach Joe Bator gave me some great advice: "Come Friday run 2 miles as a warm-up by running the first mile of the course and back again. You said there were alot of turns. When you are warming up look at the turns. Figure out the line that is straightest. Plan ahead move to the inside before the turn in anticipation of taking the shortest line. Just because there are turns it is no reason for you to run slower. Heck if done right a course with turns can be faster as long as they are not turnarounds that force you to stop. Finish your warm-up with a couple of short 10 step sprints. The goal of all the speed is to let your body know that your starting pace is not all out. It should feel slow after the quick sprints. Now - line up closer to the start than you are comfortable. Not all the way at the front, maybe the middle but closer than you are used to. Leave the watch, the water bottle, the extra jacket in case you get cold, the ipod, the gu or anything else that is not ABSOLUTELY needed, in the car."

I tried to follow most of this, but ended up with perhaps a 1.5-mile warmup because I was a little nervous about missing the start - they're kind of casual about starting times at this event.

We gathered, I moved up to the middle behind some skinny girls that were in the row right behind all the fast guys. The horn sounded and we all headed off around a series of turns in a residential neighborhood. I felt good at the start, sufficiently warmed up to run comfortably in the mid-pack and hugging the insides on all the curves. That worked!

Joe advised: "Run the first mile hard but not as fast as the earlier sprints. After the first mile settle in with those around you, if you see someone who seems to be breathing hard then you pass them. If someone seems to be not working hard and having a good time, pass them clearly you want it more than they do."

PR 1 mile split from Garmin: 8:59 - 24 seconds faster than my previous track mile PR!

I caught a glance of this and knew it was an unusually fast start for me, but I just tried to hold the pace steady and stay right there. Down the highway shoulder - I passed one younger girl and about half a mile later she passed me back, but for most of the rest of the race I was running mostly by myself with the other runners a couple hundred yards up the road ahead - which seemed too far to try to catch. Using other people to push myself forward wasn't going to work at this small race. I was running alone.

Off the highway and into a semi-rural residential area that I've run in often. The roads are rutted and uneven and that slowed me down slightly. Mile 2 in 9:30, Mile 3 in 9:39. I was running at a high effort level, heart rate well in the mid-170s.

Quick time check at the halfway mark:

Time at 3.1 miles on Garmin: 29:10 on my watch (or 29:05, below). The good news is that was a huge 5k PR and I'd finally broken 30 minutes for a 5K decisively! The bad news is that it was an unofficial time, and the even worse news was that I would have to keep running just as hard as I had up to that point to have a chance of breaking an hour for the 10k.

In the second half it started to get difficult to hold the pace. I worked hard to keep my head in the game and retain my focus. I kept reminding myself to use my arms, pull myself along, keep my cadence high by keeping my arm movements high.

I was promising myself all kinds of crazy stuff too. I reminded myself this was probably my last event of the year - finish this one well for the year and I had a long break with no events. I told myself that if made a PR I wouldn't have to run at all until NEXT YEAR. Heh. I lied.

Joe said: "If you mouth is pasty take a sip of water to wet it otherwise skip the water stops. You don't need it for 6 miles and it will just slow you down. Once you get to mile 4 pick up the pace. This is the mile we tend to slow down on, it is to far from the finish to get the pull and easy to lose focus. So FOCUS."

Mile 4 marker arrived with the one and only water stop. My mouth was indeed pasty, my throat was dry, and my breath was getting a bit ragged. I allowed myself the luxury of slowing down to get one Dixie cup, took one sip and swished my mouth out with the rest and kept running. Maybe five or ten seconds lost. Back to running hard. Glance down to check my pace - a little too slow. Pick up the effort level now. Keep the turnover high. Dig deep for the final miles.

Back out on the highway towards the finish line. Mile 5 seems to take forever. I pass one guy who has stopped to fix his shoe but he trots easily past me when he starts again. I feel resentful of the people jogging along easily at this pace when I'm averaging 177 bpm heart rate just to maintain it. But I keep the effort going nevertheless. I did my best to remember what Joe said for the final stretch: "Once you hit mile 5 you only have 1.2 to go and the .2 doesn't count, anyone can run that. Use your arms and pull."

Hmm, in the last 3/4 mile we had to re-cross the highway we had been directed to cross earlier which now put us on the wrong side. I'm puzzled. I'm still running hard and preparing to kick it into a sprint for the final half mile. But then we enter the stream of walkers and strollers in the 5K event, which forces me out into the roadway against oncoming traffic to get around them.

Then I get to the final intersection. The policeman is slow in stopping the traffic and I proceed a few steps into the intersection to wait for the cars to fully stop rolling. Then the cop YELLS at me to get back behind the line and WAIT for him to tell me when I can cross the road. W. T. F.!?!? I've NEVER been yelled at by a hired cop for attempting to cross the road when I'm in a race! I'm standing by the roadside with the time ticking away and swearing under my breath.

Finally he lets us go, but I've lost my momentum and just do my best to run hard to the finish line over the last half mile, around the walkers filling the sidewalk. I get to the finish line and there is one guy standing there tearing off the strips on our bib numbers, but there was no finish clock and they never compile the race results anyway, so I'm not sure why he was doing that. I was spitting nails and swearing my head off to my training buddy who was waiting for me there - but then I caught myself and thanked the finish line guy nicely. The last mile (including the traffic stop) was my slowest by 24 seconds - and the last 0.2 miles was fully 27 seconds slower than last year.

PR watch time at finish line (6.19 miles on Garmin): 1:00:23 (or 1:00:31 at 6:20 miles, which may have included some walking after the finish line, below). 10 seconds faster than my best 10K since my 20s, and almost 3 minutes faster than my best time on this course.

I'm pleased with my effort level during this race and reviewing my heart rates tells me that I succeeded in keeping my focus high - after the first 3/4 mile my heart rate remained steadily between 175 and 178 except for a dip to 173 at the water stop and an increase on the final home stretch.

Now I think I need to find another 10K before the end of the year to lay that sub-1:00 goal to rest, finally. Of course, losing some more weight to make that running pace easier would always help, too!

I learned later that the Evil Cop had stopped just about everyone in the race at that intersection, including one of my triathlete buddies Jim Crowley who won the race. *shaking head*


Jenny Davidson said...

Congratulations on a great run and an extremely suspenseful race report - my condolences about the cop/traffic situation, how very frustrating!

Spokane Al said...

Congratulations on a solid race. It sounds like you planned your race and raced your plan.

Wendy said...

Good work out there Nancy.

21stCenturyMom said...

Congratulations on a great effort. I concur that you need a REAL race where they let you run the whole thing and have a clock and all that fancy stuff in order to get your PR. Now that you've done this one it shouldn't be a problem, especially if you do a track workout or 2 in the meantime.

TriBoomer said...

Excellent report, Nancy, and even better results. Keep pushing and as always...

Sty tuned...

S. Baboo said...

Great race! That's messed up that the cop was stoping everyone.

Rainmaker said...

Nicely done! There's a 10K race in the district on Dec 9th - there's a few of us that are doing it, so it's just a short hop for ya!

I put the link on my blog a few days back.

WADDLER26.2 said...

Great race!

triathlonmom said...

wonderful job! What is it with the cops? I had one yell at me for crossing a closed road once at a race. Damn, power trip!

How about a 15K? Really cool shirts!
01/27/2008 Frostbite 15K Richmond, VA (Cary Street Parking Deck). 9 AM RRRC Grand Prix Race. ONLINE REGISTRATION ONLY. Member $20, Non-Members $25. Race is limited to 550 runners.
Contact: Bob Davis

Brent Buckner said...

Well done!

Fe-lady said...

You are sure hard-headed and determined- you would have broken that barrier had it not been for the intersection. Damn! Great job!

jeanne said...

congrats nancy! When did you get so speedy!???? GREAT JOB!

TriFeist said...

That cop has some serious issues. Great job on the 10K. It's so hard to keep that effort up over 6 miles. You will break an hour in the near future.