Monday, December 31, 2012

Ringing In Hope 10K: Strong, Not Clumsy

I ran the Ringing In Hope 10K this afternoon at 1:00pm. Definitely a weird time for a race, but it worked out great.

Ringing In Hope offers a New Year's Eve race and also a summer race. Greg and I have run every New Year's Eve race and summer race since they began in December 2010. We like this race because it's relatively close to our house (20 minutes), the parking is easy, and the course is decent. It's not flat as advertised-- however the hills are manageable because they aren't steep. They are quite long, though.

It was time to put my sports psychology stuff to work. My past few races have all been mono comeback races, so there was no PR on the line. No pressure to perform. Going into today's race, I knew I was in excellent shape but I wanted to keep the same relaxed mindset I had at the Turkey Trot and the Richmond Half Marathon. I wanted to focus on my race strategy as opposed to a time goal. Here are the things I was super focused on in the days leading up to the race:

  • Run the first half relaxed, and then really hammer it home in the second half. Note: the course is two loops, so the first 3 miles are the same as the second 3 miles.
  • Do not look at the Garmin until after crossing the finish line.
  • Instead of looking at the Garmin, focus on running strong, pushing your hardest and trusting that you will run the best race you have in you that day.
So, this race was really all about trusting myself and my ability to pace myself while also pushing hard. Lately, I have been running all of my interval workouts without looking at the Garmin until after I am done with each interval. I've been hitting (and even beating) all of my target paces, so I had every confidence that if I run by feel, I would be able to pace it appropriately. By doing my intervals on the track without looking at the Garmin, I know that it's a more "freeing" way to run. I am focused on getting around the track, looking ahead of me, and focusing on my form. I cannot focus on all of that stuff when I am looking at the Garmin and thinking about that number. 

Usually I consider the Garmin an important part of restraining myself in the beginning of a race and not going out too fast. But today I was going to trust myself. I had no idea what I was capable of, and I didn't want to restrain too much. I also didn't want to have negative thoughts going through my head if my paces weren't as fast as I had hoped for.

I've been told many times over the past few years to try racing without the Garmin. I've actually run some 5Ks that way, and they turned out pretty well. Last May, I ran a 5K on a very hilly course without looking at the Garmin. I knew I was running at my absolute maximum effort. My time wasn't even close to my PR, but I  won my age group and walked away feeling confident that I gave it everything I had. If I had been looking at the Garmin, I think I might have gotten discouraged and let negativity creep in, which is never good during a race. 

This non-Garmin thing was somewhat of a risk. But my sports psychologist is always telling me that I need to "try stuff" and if it doesn't work out, then I need to see it as valuable learning. I was willing to risk going out too fast or poor pacing in order to see if this approach would work. 

So there were many reasons for not using the Garmin. This is not to say that a successful race would cause me never to look at my Garmin again during a race-- I'm not trying to make rules for myself. But it would be nice to have it as a potentially helpful option.

Alright, enough about the Garmin or lack thereof. I had to come up with a fueling strategy for a 1:00pm race. Typically I eat a bagel with peanut butter for breakfast two hours before a race and that works well. But now, I would need to be eating more than once beforehand. I decided I would stick with my bagel and peanut butter at 10:30, so that I would have just over 2 hours to digest it. And then I would also have a bagel (sans PB) for breakfast, as well as a banana, at around 8:00. I also drank plenty of water.

Before the Race
Greg and I arrived at the race and began our warmup with one of our teammates, Cristina. The warmup ended up being 2.5 miles, which was good because it was cold out. 37 and overcast. But after the warmup, I felt hot. I went to my car and changed from my long-sleeved shirt into my singlet. I knew I might be cold, but cold was better than hot. 

During that process, I accidentally left my gloves in the car. There was still about 15 minutes until the race and Greg went to the bathroom, I chatted with my coach, we did some jogging around to stay warm. All of a sudden, I realized I didn't have my gloves. Instead of panicking, I just booked it back to the car. There was only 5 minutes until race start but I knew I could not run this race without gloves. I have reynaud's syndrome and my hands get numb and start to feel frostbitten very easily. I sprinted back to the car, which was almost a quarter mile away. I didn't want to panic about being late to the start, but I did need those gloves. I worried that running so fast just 3 minutes before the start was wasting precious energy, but the gloves were worth it. I did a jog back to the starting line, and arrived just as they were finishing the national anthem. 

Mile 1
Mile 1, Photo Courtesy of G. Buckheit
Greg and I started a little further back in the crowd than I would have liked, especially with lots of kids in front of us. It was a weaving game for most of the first mile, and I tried not to expend too much energy doing so. The first 2/3 of the first mile is uphill. It's a very long hill, but not that steep. I focused on my effort level and not my speed. It's tough to know what pace to start a 10K. Everything of course feels great at the beginning, but you never know how you will feel a few miles into it. 

Miles 2-3
It wasn't until the second mile that I had passed most of the kids and felt like I had my own area to run in. I noticed a teenage kid who was running very sloppily and clumsily. I wondered how I looked. I told myself, "run strong, not clumsy" and that became the mantra that I repeated over and over again for the rest of the race. These mantras just come to me in the middle of races and they are always different! Somewhere in the third mile there was a photographer with a "smile" sign. It was the professional race photographer. I smiled and tried to get a nice photo.

Mile 4
During this mile, I had two women in my sights-- both looked younger than me. One was about 4-5 seconds ahead of me, and the other was about 10 seconds ahead of me. I caught the first one and we were neck-and-neck for awhile. I encouraged her by saying "we got this" but at the end of the forth mile she had fallen behind. The other woman was running really steady and I used her as a bit of a pacer. 

Something that I noticed that was very annoying was the cone placement. I have run this course many times in the past and there never have been cones. They essentially had us running the widest part of the course, so that it was impossible to run the tangents without feeling like we were cheating. In the past, there were never any cones, so I could run the tangents of the neighborhood streets, and the distance ended up being pretty close to 6.2 miles. I kept hearing my Garmin beep well before I passed the mile markers, so based on that, and the fact that the cones prevented us from running the tangents made me suspect that the course would be long. 

Mile 5-6
Running by feel sometimes means closing your eyes!
This was when things really started to hurt and I really had to hang in there. I just kept pushing and pushing at the same effort level and refused to back off.  That last mile seemed to last forever and I kept wondering when that final hill would come because I knew that would mean the end was close.

I passed the photographer with the "smile" sign again. This time I did not smile- I was pushing too hard!

I saw some of my teammates who had finished the 5K during the last mile. They cheered loudly for me and that helped perk me up. The final hill came, it seemed to go on forever, but I powered up it focusing on my form-- strong not clumsy!!! And then there was a nice downhill finish and I really picked up the pace for a very strong final kick. As I approached the finish line, I saw the clock was reading 45:xx. As I crossed it had just turned into 46:00, but since I started a little far back, I was pretty hopeful that I broke 46:00.

After the Race
I saw my teammates and Greg and everyone was all giddy. Most of them had run the 5K, but a few of them had done the 10K. Greg set a new PR of 43:22, which is about a minute faster than his previous PR from the summer. He's getting super fast!

My teammates and I after the race. Can you tell who ran the 10K?

I looked at my Garmin and realized I had averaged a 7:18 pace for the run. This is the exact same pace as my PR from last November when I ran a 45:19.  However, this course was 6.3 miles according to my Garmin (and 6.33 according to Greg's Garmin) so instead of tying my PR, I ended up with a 45:57. I don't want to get hung up on the fact that I could have potentially PRed this race had the course been a true 10K, but it is a little bit frustrating to not "get credit" for the pace you actually ran. It seems that the course was measured properly for the tangents but the new addition of the cones made everyone run really wide.

I was super excited to see my splits and find out how my pacing was after the race. Here's what the Garmin said:
Mile 1: 7:23
Mile 2: 7:17
Mile 3: 7:19
Mile 4: 7:24
Mile 5: 7:07
Mile 6: 7:26
Final 0.3:  6:38 pace

Since this course was 2 laps around the same loop, I find it interesting that I ran the 5th mile 10 seconds faster than the 2nd mile. 

I think I paced this race very well without the Garmin and I'm glad I didn't use it. I was super excited that I ran pretty much the same pace as my PR, only for a little longer and on a hillier course. As suspected, my training over the past two months has put me in excellent shape, and I'm excited to continue the streak of strong, relatively high mileage. I was very process-focused for this race, I didn't have a specific outcome goal in mind although I wanted to break 46. I slept very well in the days leading up to the race and I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon.

Greg and I stuck around to see if perhaps I won an age group award. It was a decently competitive field with 10-year age groups, so I thought my chances weren't particularly great. However, you never know! I took them a long time to get the results together and it was very cold. I had changed back into my long sleeves and jacket, but I was still freezing in the 36-degree weather. The announcer was rushing through the awards as fast as she could and I caught a glimpse of her paper to see that my name was listed! I won third place for the 30-39 age group with a time of 45:57. I was so excited about this. It was kind of anti-climatic claiming the award since they were rushing through them and so few people were left, but I was happy I stayed to get my $15 gift certificate.

Edit: I just looked at the results and it seems they gave me the award in error. I was actually 4th place. I hope they give whoever they left out their proper award!

End of Year Totals
No December 31 blog would be complete with my end-of-year running stats. Considering I had mono this year, which took me out for about three months, I think I fared pretty well mileage-wise. November and December were definitely my strongest months and I hope to carry the trend into 2013.

Total Miles Run: 1,584
Average Training Pace: 9:00/mi
Total Miles for December: 217.3
PRs: Just 1 PR this year. 10-mile PR in April at 1:15:52

Could have had a 10K PR today without those darn cones, but we won't go there. . . 

Happy New Year to all my blog readers. Wishing you healthy and happy running in 2013!

Racing hurts.
Photo courtesy of Cheryl Young


  1. Congratulations, Elizabeth! Great job on the pacing and your focus! Looks like 2013 will be a strong year for you. Keep up the good work!

  2. Wow!!! Way to go! Great looking splits! 2013 will definitely be your year!

  3. Great race, nice work on the pacing too! Best of luck in 2013, whatever it may bring!!

  4. So PROUD of you, girl!!!! Seriously, if there is a comeback award, you get it! I can't wait to see what 2013 brings you! :) Congrats on a super race!

  5. I also have Raynauds. It's no fun! Great race!

  6. Very nice job - you should be thrilled. Execution and fun :) The pacing looks stellar :)

  7. Congrats on a strong, steady race! Glad you didn't look at your Garmin, but girrrrrl I really hope you go without it at least once this year! :)

  8. Love the final photo of you—you look focused and strong, just as you describe in your race report. I love the focus on trusting yourself, too—that should set you up for some great successes in 2013!