Sunday, September 12, 2010

Hilly 10K Victory

The 10K is my nemesis. Out of all the race distances from the 2-miler to the marathon, the 10K is the one race where my times don't line up with where they should be, fitness-wise. (Although the marathon is quickly becoming the nemesis distance-- but that's another blog.) According to the McMillan Calculator and my 5K from the spring, I should be able to run a 10K in about 46:26. I also have a recent 5-mile tempo run that averaged a pace of 7:42. I went into today's race hoping that I might finally get a 10K time that reflects my training and fitness level.

I lucked out weather-wise. Lower 60's and overcast with a drizzle is about as good as you can hope for in mid-September at 8:00am. I didn't study the course elevation profile before the race, but based on the max/min elevation from the map, I didn't think it would be too hilly. I was wrong.

This was the hilliest 10K I have ever ran, and perhaps the hilliest race of any distance.

My husband decided to sit this race out in favor of a long run yesterday. Since he's training for his first marathon, long runs are more critical to him. I felt like I could miss one this weekend, due to our training cycle being so long and already having completed two 20-milers. My father also came out to watch me.

This race, the South Fairfax Chamber Challenge, was small. There were only 108 people. It was very well organized. Chip timed, t-shirt available in my size, and high-quality running hat were included. I figured that with such a small turnout, I might be able to win an age group award, or even place in the top three overall females. I warmed up for 1.4 miles on the high school track and then lined up at the start.

Mile 1: 7:31
I went out fast and I knew it. My goal was a 7:40 pace, but the race started with a downhill, so I wanted to take advantage of that. There were no women in front of me until halfway through the first mile. Then, a woman passed me and I got the sense that I probably wouldn't be able to catch her.

Mile 2: 7:41
About 1/4 of this mile was a long, steep downhill followed by 1/4 mile of a long, steep uphill. When I got to the bottom of the downhill and looked up, I couldn't believe they were actually making us run that. I even commented to the guy next to me that this was the longest, steepest hill I have ever encountered during a race. And that includes Capitol hill. My heart rate skyrocketed at the top of the hill, and I had to run a bit slower afterwards just to recover. The turnaround point was at mile 2.5

Mile 3: 7:37
This was another hilly mile with plenty of rollers. And by this point I realized that I was going to have to repeat the whole 1/4 mile downhill, 1/4 mile uphill thing. When my Garmin showed 3.1, I looked down and saw 22:48. My second-fastest 5K ever. I was seriously hoping I wasn't going to bonk. But then I reminded myself that the bonking usually happens in hot, sunny races when I go out to fast. The weather was in my favor.

Mile 4: 7:48
Time to go back up the huge hill again, although I was mentally prepared. I was hoping I wouldn't expend all my energy on it, so I tried to run it at a steady pace that was probably somewhere around 8:45. Meanwhile, I had flown down the downhill knowing that I needed all the speed I could get on the easier parts. I would guess that my downhill pace was somewhere around 6:45. So, even though my split for mile 4 was 7:48, I don't think I ever ran that pace.

Mile 5: 7:47
This mile was still hilly, but at least the worst was over. I was just trying to hang on to my pace, I knew I'd be able to PR. I was also still the second female. The woman who passed me was still in sight, about 45 seconds ahead.

Mile 6: 7:53
This mile started off slow but I really dug deep during the second half to get it down to 7:53. I wanted a PR and I wanted it to be significant.

Last 0.2: 7:11
After the 6 mile marker, I looked at my Garmin and thought that it would be impossible to break 48:00, so I maintained my pace and headed toward the finish line (which, of course, was all uphill). But as the clock got into my sight, I realized that if I sprinted, I could get it. I mustered everything I had and sprinted to the finish, breaking 48 with a
47:55. The first part of that 0.2 was probably 7:40 paced, but according to my Garmin, I was sub-6:00 for that last bit.

1st Place in Age Group!
I was second overall female (out of 49) and first place in my age group (30-39). The winner was 27. My 47:55 is a PR by 0:59, with a pace of
7:42. I'm not all that excited about my time, because I know I could do a lot better on a flatter course, but given how hilly it was, I was very pleased. The first place female finished exactly one minute ahead of me.

I was so happy to have my husband and my father there to support me. That meant the world to me.

I went back up to the track and cooled down for another 1.4 miles, to make an even 9 for the day. Then it was time for the awards. I didn't think I was going to get anything fantastic, but was pleasantly surprised at the $100 gift card to a spa. Free massage!!!! I'm guessing that the first place male got something different.

I was really impressed with this race. For being so small, it was extremely well organized, well timed, nice prizes, an awesome goodie bag with a t-shirt and a hat, and really friendly people.