Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Curse of the 10K

I don't know what it is about the 10K. I have never run one that I was satisfied with. Except for maybe my first 10K, and I was happy just to be in the top 25% of the women.

Today I ran the Christmas Caper 10K as a tune-up race for the Marathon. It will be followed by a 17-miler tomorrow to prepare my legs to run when fatigued. This race was tiny. The official results aren't posted yet, but I would guess that maybe only 150 people ran the 10K, and probably 200 people ran the accompanying 5K. It was a true 'no-frills' race with no t-shirt, and it only cost $5.00. So, even though the field was small, there were a lot of really good runners out there.

The race was not chip timed, and there were no mile markers. It was 40 degrees and overcast, but it felt more like the upper 20's with the wind. Headphones were not permitted, so I had to go without. The race was a two-loop course know as Hains Point in Washington DC. I had run this course as part of the Marine Corps Marathon.

Going into this race, I told myself that my main goals were to stay relaxed, not go out too fast, and not put too much pressure on myself to perform. I figured I would go out at a 8:00 pace for the first mile, and then try and run 7:40s for the rest of the race, in the hopes of breaking 48 minutes. All of my recent races and training runs indicate that this is possible. I ran a 7-mile tempo run at a pace of 8:00, and felt like I had plenty of 'gas in the tank' afterward, so running a 10K with race adrenaline should have been at a noticeably faster pace.

There was no taper for this race. I ran 10 miles with hills on Thursday and then an easy 5 miles on Friday. Additionally, I went to my company's Holiday party last night and was up past midnight. I woke up at 4:00am, which means less than 4 hours of sleep. I'm not trying to make excuses, just trying to factor in all the variables.

I warmed up for about half a mile and then waited for the race to start. I was shivering in my skirt (no tights). The race started and I tried to hold back a bit. There was a 10 mph headwind since we were right next to the water, and so I figured I wouldn't push hard at the start. I didn't know if there would be mile markers, but I wasn't really expecting them given the size of the race. There was a marker at mile 1, but then nothing after that. I ran the first mile in 8:01, which I was pleased with, considering the headwind.

I picked up the pace a bit, but I wasn't sure by how much. There was a woman about 10 feet in front of me wearing a Chicago Marathon jacket from 2007. The year it was really hot. She seemed to be holding a nice steady pace, so I decided to let her pace me. There were no more mile markers, and I didn't have my music to focus on, so I just kept my eyes on that woman and focused on running at her pace. After the first loop, I was neck-and-neck with her. I don't know if she slowed down or if I sped up. We ran together for about a mile and then she got ahead of me again. At about mile 5, she passed this one girl who seemed to be slowing down. And then I passed her as well. Since I couldn't focus on my pacing strategy, I was really focused on what these other women were doing. Shortly after the Chicago woman and I passed that girl, she gunned ahead at a fast speed and flew by both of us. Neither of us could catch her.

I just assumed that a PR would be 'in the bag' because I am in such better shape now than I was last year when I set my PR. So, I kept looking at my watch and assuming I would get to the finish line at 47 or 48 something. But I started to get discouraged when the finish line was not coming, and I crossed in a disappointing 49:36. 13 seconds slower from the PR I set last December. Although this race was a lot more controlled than that one. (I had gone out t 7:30 back then and blew up during the last mile). I really think that if there had been mile markers and I had realized that I wasn't going at my target pace, I could have sped up. But I was so fearful of bonking, that I guess I held back a little too much.

Both of the women beat me by seconds, but the Chicago woman was 40, and the other woman was in her 20's. Which means we weren't competing against each other for an age group award.

The woman in the Chicago jacket said she thought it was a tough course with the wind, which reassured me. Additionally, she had just run a marathon in 3:45 a few weeks ago. That was comforting to hear!

I was definitely not pleased with my time, considering that all of my other races predict something faster, and I am in much better shape than I was last December when I PRed. But I am not discouraged about the marathon because I have had some amazing training runs over the past month.

I did win third place in my age group (30-39), but that's not saying much, given the size of the race. I took home some Balsam & Cedar Oil Diffusers as my award.

If I can get through the 17 miles tomorrow after having done this 10K, I will be pleased.


  1. Hey, don't knock yourself. There are times when we do everything right with training and for whatever reason, we're just not feeling it when we get out there to race.

    This was also a good shakeout run prior to your taper and truly important race-I'm a believer in the whole "bad dress rehearsal" (not that this was a BAD race but you get my drift)=good performance/good show, so I think it bodes VERY well for the marathon. You got in a race, didn't race to the point of causing undue stress to your body, and are going to be in fine form in AZ. :)

  2. Hi Greenlee! It doesn't look like RW has brought back the PM function yet. I hope that do.

    If you want to e-mail me, you can do so

    I enjoyed keeping in touch with via PM and I don't think I would want all of our posts to be public.

    I hope your knee is continuing to feel better.