Saturday, September 17, 2011

This is a Test. No Problem. (Run Geek Run 8K Report)

This morning I ran the Run! Geek! Run! 8K in Washington DC. With my marathon just two weeks away, I wanted to do a tune-up race in cooler weather to see where my fitness level was and "practice" the race mentality.

I had three levels of goals for this race.

  • My "A" goal was a 36:15. 
  • My "B" goal was a PR (faster than 36:45). 
  • I also had a "stretch" goal, which was sub-36:00. I wasn't sure if I could make that happen, but I thought it might be possible.

Race Week
My mileage this week was very low. Prior to the race I had run a grand total of 14.2 miles. This wasn't because of my taper but because my right quad was sore from last Saturday's 20 miler. It was a chain reaction of not enough recovery post-half marathon and then doing 20 miles on dead legs. As a result, this week suffered because I didn't want to pull or strain anything so close to the marathon. I was even worried about aggravating it through pool running. I did go pool running twice, though, and swam a total of 2200 yards.

Naturally, I was worried about my right quad being recovered enough. I rigorously foam rolled, stretched and massaged it, which I think aggravated the situation even more. When I woke up this morning my quad was a bit tender to the touch, but it felt okay walking on. I told myself I would pull off the course and walk to the finish if I felt any quad pain at all during the race.

On race morning, I continued in my new tradition of half a bagel with peanut butter about 2 hours before the race. I drank plenty of water and Pedialyte, and I had hydrated with Coconut water the day before.

Greg was not running the race because he didn't want to sacrifice his last opportunity for a long run. He's been struggling with Plantar Fasciitis throughout this training cycle, and speed work aggravates it more than anything. Therefore, I had my own cheering section.

I really wish that the race website had indicated that the parking was metered. I've run races in West Potomac park in the past, but it's always been on a Sunday when meter fees aren't required. There was a two hour time limit (and we got there at 7:00am for an 8:00am start) and we had no way of getting change. Thankfully, they have this system where you can pay by phone using your credit card and they put your license plate on file as having paid. Greg was nice enough to figure that out while I ran about 3/4 mile to the race site to get my bib.

I got my bib and warmed up a bit more pre-race. I even did drills! It wasn't long before they were calling runners to the start line.

I always think it's important to have a race strategy. Mine was to go out at a pace of 7:15 and try to maintain it. If I felt like I could pick up the pace later in the race, then I would. I'll admit this was aggressive of me, given that my pace for my 5K PR is a 7:10. But based on my track workouts I thought it was definitely within my grasp. I had been training all summer in hot weather and this was my first actual run where it would be cool, so I had no idea how much faster I would be. It was about 56 degrees and overcast.

I also think having a mantra to repeat when times get tough is important. Earlier this week, I remembered two mantras that lead to some hefty PRs: "It's just temporary" (for a marathon) and "It does matter" (for a 10K). But coming up with the mantra in advance doesn't work. It has to be something that just comes to you during the race and that you stick with. This has always been the case with my mantras.

Mile 1: 7:13
I naturally shot out too fast (like a 6:45 pace) and had to find a good balance to yield my desired 7:15 split for mile 1. I eventually found my perfect pace and realized that it felt decent. It was a good effort, but it felt like something I could maintain for five miles. I told myself this race was a test of my mental strength. I knew I could maintain this pace for the entire race, I just had to stick with it and not allow myself to succumb to negativity. I told myself this pace was "no problem" for me.

Mile 2: 7:15
I tried to not look at my Garmin very much in this mile. I told myself to run with my core muscles (thank you planks!) stay relaxed and just maintain. I kept repeating to myself: "This is a test." And then immediately answering back "No problem", almost like military style.

Mile 3: 7:12
I didn't intend to speed up here, but I did-- ever so slightly. I felt strong. Once I reached the halfway point I told myself that all I had to do was to repeat what I just did. I could do that again. No problem!

Mile 4: 7:11
I was really starting to feel like I was in a race now. Miles 1-3 were tough, but not "race tough". Now it was race tough but I just focused on running with my core, looking straight ahead and picking off runners. I passed about 5-6 people this mile, most of them guys! "This is a test. No problem." I just repeated it over and over and over like a soundtrack and it soooo worked.

Mile 5: 7:01 (7:06 pace)
This guy wouldn't give me my personal space. :-(
I looked down at my Garmin about 1/4 mile in, and it said 7:22. I was not happy with this, but I knew I'd have a final kick to compensate for it. By the time the Garmin said 4.6, the pace was down to 7:17, and it just wasn't good enough for me. I told myself to start my final kick now. It was less than an 800 on a track, I do really well at those, it would be over soon, just go for it. So with 0.36 miles left to go, finish line in sight, I gunned it. As my coach said, acceleration should be gradual, so I gradually sped up until I was at my final sprint. I averaged a 7:06 pace for that last mile (or rather 0.96 of a mile). This means that I must have been running in the 6's for that last bit, and my Garmin data confirmed that. Looking at the "player" the paces read 6:56, 6:46, 6:40, 6:25, 6:11 for that last stretch.

As I approached the finish line, I noticed that the clock was reading 35:xx and that motivated me to give it all I had to cross before the clock struck 36.

My official time was a 35:53 at an average pace of 7:13. I placed 2nd in my Age Group (30-39).

This is a PR by 52 seconds, and I met my stretch goal!

Age Group Award
Afterwards, there wasn't too much time to hang around because of the parking meter situation. I started my cooldown and then ran my friend in who finished her fastest race ever! We needed to get back to the car, but I thought I might have won an age group award. I looked at the results sheet and I was second in my age group. Greg went back to the car while I stayed to get my award. It was this really cool bobble head thing!

My cute bobble head award!  Oh, and I guess more importantly that it's really important to have confidence,  stick with a strategy, and be mentally tough.

This is my "fastest" race ever when compared to my other PRs. If you were to translate all of my PRs to their equivalent 10K time, this race would yield the fastest result. It bodes well for my fitness level and it was a nice confidence-boost pre-marathon.


  1. Woo-hoo!! You killed it Elizabeth! You're so well trained, it's good to see everything "clicked" at the race. It's nice you have this blog. I saw your fbook post earlier and was like "oh I have to remember to go check her blog later to see the splits." haha. BTW, your splits are awesome. Great job again.

  2. Great execution of your race plan, Elizabeth! I really hope that you FINALLY have confidence about this upcoming marathon. You have done the work and are READY for that BQ! You deserve it. Now rest up, then go get it!

  3. I am so happy for you, Elizabeth! What a great race!! That finishing kick was really something, too. Hold onto this feeling and bring it with you to your marathon!!

  4. Ally- thanks for seeking out the blog!

    L.A.- We'll see about that BQ. A sub-3:40 is definitely in order, but that's not good enough anymore!

    Runner NYC- Thanks. I plan to channel my strength from this race and do the same thing in Milwaukee.

  5. Awesome!!! What a great race. I know you are going to do great in Miwaukee.

  6. Yes! Congratulations! You're so ready for this marathon, and I'm so excited for you.

  7. AWESOME. I love that you did this 2 weeks out from 26.2! I hope it was a HUGE confidence builder for you! can't wait to track you on race day!

  8. Most adorable trophy ever! Congrats on the PR - and I hope this gives you the well-deserved confidence you need to kill your marathon!

  9. Congratulations on such a great race! That marathon had better watch out. :)

  10. CONGRATS! Ever since I did that 10K 2 weeks before Eugene, I am sticking with throwing in a short race before a marathon. It's such a huge confidence boost! You totally rocked it. Now you have nothing left to do but taper!

  11. Well, I just plugged in your race time using the RW FORMULA T2=T1 X (D2/D1)^1.06 and I don't think I'm going out on a limb by saying you are going to kick some serious butt in your marathon!! Great race, love the bobblehead and can't WAIT to virtually stalk you on your new marathon PR!

  12. Thanks everyone. Dash, LOL on your formula! In all honesty those calculators predict a time way faster than what I am actually going for, but at least I know I am not being unrealistic in my goals. I think they have live tracking via Facebook but that has not been confirmed.

    There are so many unknowns with the marathon like the weather and possible stomach issues that even if it goes badly, I still have a solid 8K to show for my traning.

  13. I like your strategy of 3 separate goals, I do that too.
    I agree with the mantra thing just coming to you during the race too. I've not thought of a race strategy, but now that you mention it, maybe I should get on that myself.
    Anyway, GREAT race, wow, you are incredible and full of determination. 2nd in your age group is just pure awesome! Congratulations!

  14. Great race!!! and I love the award!!