Sunday, November 13, 2011

Birthday 10K PR

I love my birthday-- 11/11. Naturally, I was very excited on Friday when it was 11/11/11. I turned 33 (11+11+11=33). I felt so special!

11/11/11 was such a stripey day!
I took the afternoon off from work to have lunch with my mother, pickup my race packet and buy myself some new running gear. I bought my first pair of running capri pants ever-- CWX compression ones. I also bought two pairs of smart wool socks for when the temperature starts getting down into the teen's.

My husband surprised me that evening with tickets to the Foo Fighters concert. I was so excited. I used to have a tradition of going to a rock concert during my marathon taper. It would get my mind off the race and then I would listen to those songs in my iPod and they'd be "fresh" again. I haven't done that in awhile, so it was nice to have a concert during my pseudo 10K taper. He even hired us a car service so that we wouldn't have to drive, and there were a dozen red roses waiting in the back seat for me after the concert.

I didn't get much sleep on Friday night because no matter what, I wake up at 5:00am. It doesn't matter when I fall asleep-- 8:00pm or 1:00am. I always wake up around 5:00am. To compensate for this lack of sleep I took about an hour long nap on Saturday.

I've said this many times in my blog before, but I think that the 10K is my most challenging distance. The 5K and the 8K are short enough that you don't have to endure the pain for long. The half marathon and marathon are comfortable for at least the first half. But the 10K-- that is a long distance to be running that hard. You have to push hard the entire time and it just always feel like such a long time to be pushing that hard. For years, the 10K was my "slowest" distance according to all the calculators. All of my other race times, including the marathon, were equivalents of each other. But my 10Ks were always notably slower.

Race Morning and Goals
My friend Kathy came over to my house at 6:15 and my husband drove us to the race in Washington DC. My husband decided not to run this one because he's been training very lightly since the marathon. He instead played the role of bag check/photographer/chauffeur/cheering squad.

Kathy and I met up with Dorothy for a 15-minute warmup. Kathy and I decided that we were going to start together at a 7:20 pace and then see what happened. I was fairly confident that I could run the race at a 7:20 pace and was hoping to be able to speed up during the last two miles. But if I couldn't then I would still be happy with 7:20.

My "A" goal for this race was to break 46:00 and my "B" goal was to PR by beating 46:34. To accomplish this, I was going to use the mental toughness strategies I employed at the Run Geek Run 8K. The Veteran's Day 10K course is almost identical to that 8K course (they just add an extra 1.2 miles) so I was trying to mimic my 8K as much as possible. I knew I'd probably end up with a different mantra, but I just needed to be very confident that I could stay on pace and not give up the effort level.

Also, I was going to try to minimize the number of times I looked at my Garmin. I wanted to pay attention to my pace so that I didn't fall off, but I wanted the focus to be on running by feel and being strong.

The weather was ideal. Sunny and upper 40's with a slight breeze. The course was about as flat as they come.

Miles 1-2: 7:23, 7:22
Kathy and I didn't stay together for more than the first few steps. I ended up going a bit slower than the predicted 7:20 and she went slightly faster. About 3/4 of a mile into it, I saw my coach and he told me to relax for the first half and really pick it up in the second half. There was a very slight headwind that wasn't affecting my pace but it was making my 7:20's feel tougher than I would have liked.

Mile 3: 7:20
During the third mile, I started to seriously doubt my ability to go sub-46:00. I was just going to hope to PR. I was at a 7:20 pace and it was tough and there was no way I could speed up. I hit the 5K mark in 23:05 which meant I'd have to speed up to meet my goal.

Mile 4: 7:16
But I was right about that headwind. I turned around and things got much easier. Also, getting over that mental hump of being over halfway there helped. My 7:16 for mile 4 felt easier than my 7:20 for mile 3. My confidence was coming back.

Mile 5: 7:09
Not looking at the Garmin paid off here because I think I would have been freaked out to see how fast I was going. This mile went by pretty quickly. I didn't use a mantra, but I was singing an Incubus song to myself and repeating the same lyrics over and over. It was a good distraction. I also found myself getting closer to Kathy. This was a good motivator for me because she always runs strong and finishing anywhere in her league would be awesome for me.

Mile 6: 7:12
I tried to rally my final kick from the 8K as it was the exact same last mile. I had started out that last mile relatively slow, gone over a bridge, and then really just turned it on through the finish. I didn't look at my Garmin at all during this mile. I was 100% focused on running hard and staying strong.

The last 0.2: 6:30 pace
As I got closer to the finish line, I very quickly glanced down at my Garmin to see the time. I was only able to catch the seconds. It said :37. Dammit! The finish line was way too far away for me to cross in just 23 seconds. I wanted that sub-46:00 so badly! Maybe if I pushed really, really hard I could get it. Although I knew it would be useless because the finish line was still too far.  But as I crossed, I noticed that the clock was in the low 45's. OMG! My watch hadn't said 45:37. . . it had said 44:37. Holy smokes!  I looked at my Garmin data later and it shows a dramatic acceleration during the last 0.2 from a pace of 6:45 to a pace of 5:26. I only held that for a few seconds, but I was in the very low 6's for that final bit. The Garmin can be very motivating! Had I not looked at my Garmin when I did, I would have run the race about 4-5 seconds slower.

First half: 23:05
Second half: 22:14
Final time: 45:19

This was quite the negative split. Part of it was my race strategy, but I think the wind did play a small role. The awesome thing is that the second half of the race is a new 5K PR for me by 4 seconds!!!

Overall, this was a PR by 1:15, which is fairly significant.

I finished 12 of 242 in my age group
I finished 61 out of 1139 women

I ran this race in 2009, while coming back from an injury. I beat that time by over three minutes!

Final Thoughts
This PR was a wonderful birthday present. And now I am super excited about my 5K Turkey trot, given that I just ran my fastest 5K ever--- during a 10K. I am once again reminded of how much of this is mental. I honestly felt like it wasn't my day during the first half of the race, but as soon as I turned it on, I had all this extra energy and I ran the perfect race.

Kathy and Me After the Race


  1. Congratulations!! You ran an amazing race!! I'm sorry I missed it, too much going on, but all these performances are so motivating!!

  2. Wow! Awesome PR Elizabeth! Actually, awesome 2 new PRs!! Great job with the race, you've really gotten speedy this year!!
    P.S. I didn't comment but I really liked your birthday Zebra (11/11/11)! Very creative. :)

  3. I'm so stoked you got your 45 in the 10k!! Congrats!

  4. How exciting! First off, your hubby is such a that! Second off, wow, a 5k PR in a 10k? Race a 5k soon!! Third and finally off, talk about coming back from injury, this is very inspiring. You're really coming into your own. Oh, and five off, I have those shorts in red and also a couple pair in black...I love them. (not used to seeing you in shorts!) :)

  5. Very, very nice! I'm so glad to read this!

    (of course, you could always ditch the watch...I've decided I love racing without mine. Just takes a leap of faith)

  6. Nice job! Glad it was a good birthday run - and happy birthday!

  7. Nice running! Sounds like a great race! Congratulations!

  8. Your birthday #'s are TOO COOL!! Happy birthday!
    Horrah for CW-X tights! I have some, love them to death.
    Congratulations on the sub 46! That's really, really incredible.
    You're right, the Garmin can be really motivating during a race. I know there were times in races where I look at my Garmin & decide to pick it up.
    Glad you had a good 10k! Good luck in the 5k!

  9. 1. You have the sweetest husband ever. Too cute.

    2. CONGRATS!!! That is a fantastic race, huge PR and a perfect birthday gift to yourself :)

  10. SOOO happy and proud of you, Elizabeth! Congratulations on such a great race. I also love your 33rd birthday. That is too cool!

  11. oh wow! what a nice birthday treat! Congrats! the perfect race is the BEST feeling.

    Good Luck with the 5k. I hope to run for a 5k pr this Sat. Hope were both FAST, and mentally tough.

  12. Way to kill it! I can't imagine a better birthday present to yourself :) And I'm with Cristina, you could totally ditch the watch. Try it...

  13. Congratulations, Elizabeth! I'm so happy to read triumphant race recaps from you!

  14. Congratulations on the new PR! Sounds like the perfect end to your birthday weekend. :)

  15. Ok, you're right, that birthday trumps a drive to Richmond. Congratulations!!