Sunday, April 1, 2012

10-Mile Redemption Race

It was a combination of two things that led me to run today's 10-mile race:

1. My friend Cristina suggested that my recovery from the Shamrock DNF was taking so long because I was in a "funk". She said that when she is upset over a bad race, it helps her to do a hard workout. Even if her paces end up being slower than what she otherwise could do, just getting herself going again was key. I was in such a bad spot mentally after Shamrock and my legs didn't work properly for about 9-10 days post-race. (For those of you who haven't been following the saga, I dropped out of the Shamrock marathon at mile 13 feeling like death, having run those miles at a fairly easy pace of 8:38).

2. On Thursday, I was presented with the opportunity to run a 10-mile race this weekend, so on a whim, I thought "why not"? I figured it would just be a fun-run to get myself back out there. I wouldn't tell anyone I was doing it and I wouldn't even wear a chip. Zero pressure. Main goal-- just have fun.

Today's weather was perfect. Completely overcast, high 40's and no wind. This was another reason I thought it would be good to do the race. Ideal racing weather is hard to come by and with the warmer temperatures we've had so far, I won't be surprised if we don't see this weather again until the fall. I'm registered for the GW Parkway Classic in three weeks, but that could very well be an 80-degree day. Gotta take good weather when you can!

I wasn't planning on "redeeming" myself from Shamrock. I was just trying to get my running spirit back. I wanted to love running again and feel good while doing it. I wanted my legs to work and I wanted to feel energized. That was really all I was after.

Greg also got a late entry into this race, so together, we ate our pre-race breakfast and headed out at 5:30am.

The Start Line
I was assigned to corral 1 and Greg was assigned to corral 2. Having run this race in the past, I know that it can get extremely crowded during the first few miles, so our strategy was to line up at the very front of corral 2. And that we did. We were literally right up against the corral divider.

In this spot, we were privy to the conversations that went on when people tried to get into corral 1. Basically, anyone who wanted to be in corral 1 could be there. No one was checking bibs. At one point, a guy with a bib from a different corral went in and the race official said "do you want to go underneath this into corral 2?" And he replied "No, I'm okay". And the woman was fine with that. She said to us on-lookers "it's not an exact science. You have so many runners that you can't get everyone where they should be." Because of the lack of corral assignment enforcement, it's important to be in the front of the corral so you don't get stuck behind a ton of people slower than you.

I wasn't at all nervous about this race. I was cold and shivering in just shorts and a tank, but I was just waiting patiently for the race to start.

Miles 1-3
Even though my coach warned the team not to go out too fast, the first mile was mainly downhill, so I went with it. I decided I wasn't going to look at my Garmin very much, and I would just put forth a consistent effort. That meant slower on the inclines and faster on the declines. This race was very flat-- don't get me wrong-- but if I look at my Garmin too much, I do notice I slow down on the inclines. So I minimized the amount of time looking at Garmin, and maximized the enjoyment of the race atmosphere.

My coach was near mile marker 1, and some of my teammates were about half a mile in, and seeing them really pumped me up!

Mile 1: 7:33
Mile 2: 7:40
Mile 3: 7:33

Mile 4-7
Miles 5-6 were actually the toughest part of the race for me. I remembered in 2009 I just fell apart at mile 5 and remembered the exact spot where it happened. Today, I was carrying a bottle of G2 and I desperately wanted to be free of it, but I also didn't want to ditch the bottle to early and get dehydrated. I kept making deals with myself on how long I would hold the bottle. I ended up ditching it just before mile 6. I figured I could run 4 miles in this weather without taking in any more fluids or calories. I also ditched my gloves, and that felt great.

I did take a peak at my Garmin at the 5-mile mark and saw 38:00. If I could just pull that off again, I'd be at 1:16:00, which would be a solid PR for me.

Somewhere around mile 6 we went over a bridge and none of the spectators were really cheering. The runners were actually telling the spectators to cheer for us. It was funny. The runners kept yelling "Come on! Make some noise! We need it!" I saved my breath.

Mile 4: 7:26
Mile 5: 7:30
Mile 6: 7:40
Mile 7: 7:29

Miles 8-10
At this point, I knew I was going to get a PR. I still felt great, only my legs were beginning to tire. From a cardio perspective, I think I could have maintained that pace for another 3 miles (half marathon distance), but my legs started to get tired, so I tried to just maintain my effort level. That way my strategy anyway-- not looking at the Garmin and keeping an even effort throughout.

At mile marker 9, I "found my strong" as my friend Dorothy would say. It was my friend Kathy who I pool run with regularly and who is one of my teammates. I thought I had just caught up to her, but in retrospect, that doesn't make sense because she started behind me so she must have just passed me. For that last mile, my only goal was to stay with her. Our coach encourages us to run in groups so that we can feed of off each other's energy. I loved having Kathy there. During the last 1/4 mile, there was a hill (probably the biggest hill of the race) and Kathy was able to increase her speed, while I simply maintained. I couldn't catch her in that last quarter mile, but I flew down that hill, so excited to reach the finish line.

Mile 8: 7:36
Mile 9: 7:34
Mile 10: 7:28
Last 0.05 (5:55 pace)

The Finish
Because I wasn't wearing a chip, I made sure to hit my Garmin's stop button at the exact moment I crossed. 1:15:52. This is a PR by 2:02 from my Army Ten Miler time in October 2010. I was thrilled! I knew that I had the fitness level to run a 1:15:xx, but I just wasn't sure how my legs would hold up, or if I had lost that fitness during my marathon taper and subsequent recovery. I hadn't done speedwork in three weeks. Greg also set a PR at 1:13:51.

I was also happy that my Garmin logged 10.05 miles. I paid close attention to running the tangents, and I think I hit most all of them. At mile 9, this guy next to me was complaining that his Garmin beeped well before the marker, so the course must be off. I wanted to tell him that this race has been going on for 40 years, and it definitely not "off". In order to log a perfect 10.00, you need to run every tangent perfectly, and he must not have been paying attention to that.

Final Thoughts
I loved this race. I decided to do it on a whim so there was only 2 days of buildup and no anxiety. Hardly anyone knew I was running it and I didn't wear a timing device, which helped relieve the pressure.

When I got back home I ran a cooldown of 1.2 miles. Legs felt pretty good-- no soreness or pain anywhere. Of course this makes me think I could have run the race faster, but I couldn't be happier with how today went. My spirits are renewed, I am no longer depressed and I am looking forward to the rest of the Spring racing season. It's just beginning!!!
Garmin Data as my "proof" since there was no chip.


  1. Just to be clear :) - not necessarily a HARD workout. But just to get out there and do SOMETHING upbeat, even if you really don't want to (unless something specific hurts). In horseback riding, we ALWAYS had to get back on a horse as soon as possible after a fall. Especially if you were scared (in which case, you had to duplicate the exact situation that scared you).

    I give myself permission on those days to run just whatever feels right -- even if it's tempo pace for a 800m repeat.

    But somehow, within a repeat or two, I kick the blues, and by the end of the workout, I'm laughing and psyched about the future.

    But yeah, just wanna be sure that no one accuses me of goading all my friends into overtraining.

  2. So THAT'S where the term "back on the horse" comes from. In my case, I am back on the zebra. And I know that you didn't mean "go race a 10-miler if you're feeling sh*tty" but it just felt right!

  3. Those are pretty even splits! Great job in such a PR and way to stage a comeback! You looked very cute and happy in that picture.

  4. Wow great race and that's a cute picture!

  5. CONGRATS on a great race & PR!! You totally rocked it! Great race :)

  6. I wonder if this means you need a longer, more restful taper. Sounds like you ran this one just about perfectly! I'm glad you got out there and "got back up on the horse." Congratulations on your new 10-mile PR!!

  7. Congratulations!! You looked great when we saw you at Five and focused when we saw you at the finish!

  8. Congrats on the new PR! I'm sure that this is just the start to a great spring race season.

  9. That was a perfectly executed race! Ever since I stopped racing, I started having fun... and running even better. Just have fun, Elizabeth!

  10. so glad to see your smiling face! congratulations!

  11. Yay! Glad you had a great 10 mile race! You look like you're having a great time in the photos!

  12. Great job on the 10 mile race and PR! Totally a great redemption race! Well done!

  13. VERY proud of you! It's hard to get rid of a negative race. It seems as though you've recovered physically and mentally.

    And... you look adorable in your pics- very relaxed and happy!

  14. This was JUST the race you needed. Congrats on the PR and strong race!!