Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Windy 10K: A "Process" Race

This afternoon I ran the Ringing In Hope 10K.  I ran this race last year and it was my second-fastest 10K ever (aka a hilly 10K PR). This year, I knew I wasn't going into it as well trained. Last year, I had been
Ringing In Hope 2012
logging 50-mile weeks throughout December, and this year I have averaged in the upper 30's. I would love to be in the same shape now that I was back then, but recovery from back-to-back marathons took awhile so I didn't have time to ramp up like I did last year.

I call this race a "process" race because it wasn't going to be about speed or time. It was going to be about pushing myself, running based on feel (not looking at the Garmin) and finishing strong. I also focused on hydration in the days leading up to the race and nutrition the day of-- which was a challenge for a 1:00pm race. Most importantly, I was running this race for the sake of fun and tradition. Greg and I have been doing this race since it started back in 2010. 

I didn't really know where I was fitness-wise but I was hopeful that I could break 47:00 and fall within a minute of my time from last year.

Before the Race
I kept going back and forth about what to wear. Shorts or capris? The forecast was for 43 degrees and 16 MPH winds, with a "real feel" of 35. If it hadn't been for the wind, I would have gone with shorts. But I didn't want my legs to be too cold and stiff, so I opted for the CW-X capri pants with a short-sleeved Capital Area Runners shirt. 

I looked back at last year's blog to see what I ate and when. This is where keeping a blog really comes in handy! Since I had raced so well last year, I figured I would eat the same thing at the same time. A bagel when I woke up, and then another bagel with peanut butter about 2 hours before the race. Lots of carbs-- maybe too much. But it worked.

Greg and I arrived at the race, picked up our bibs and warmed up. We noticed that the race seemed smaller than in previous years, which was good. The 5K started 10 minutes before the 10K. In all of the email correspondence we received beforehand, the 10K was scheduled to start 15 minutes after the 5K. But they must have realized that this could result in the 5K winner running into a finish line that was packed with 10K starters, since the start line and finish line are the same. In any event, we started 10 minutes after the 5K.

We did a quick warmup, lined up and were running a few minutes later.

Miles 1-2 (7:26, 7:25)
My plan was to not look at my Garmin and race by feel. Since I didn't know what kind of shape I was in and because it was so windy, I didn't want to be married to a particular pace. I know this course like the back of my hand. I knew to expect a long (about 1/2 mile) hill in the first mile and then a fast mile 2. The race started off well, I felt strong and I felt like I was putting forth the appropriate amount of effort. During the second mile, I started running into 5K walkers and joggers. This was annoying, but I knew to expect it. Weaving through small children and walkers was mentally exhausting disrupting to my rhythm, but I did my best to just plow through, keeping my eye on other 10K runners who were going at the same pace as me.

Approaching the finish line
Miles 3-4 (7:44, 7:45)
Mile 3 was tough. This was directly into a headwind and up a hill. Dirt and gravel and stuff came flying at my face and I wasn't wearing sunglasses. It was definitely a physical and mental battle. I knew I was slowing down, but it didn't bother me. I just focused on doing the best I could, knowing that I would soon turn around and not have the strong wind gusts. During the 4th mile, things really thinned out and there were only two other people in my vicinity- both men. Usually I try to pass women in the second half of races as they are my competitors, but there were no women to be seen.

Miles 5-6 (7:26, 7:54, 6:33 pace for the 0.22)
Me and the two guys leap frogged these miles. I kept expecting that they would pull ahead because they were guys, but they didn't. I held my own with them until that last final hill, once again into a headwind. I just couldn't push through it as fast as they could and I let them finish about 5-10 seconds ahead of me. I kept wishing that a mantra would pop into my head like it normally does, but it didn't. I was having a conversation with myself instead, which is fine, but I think I do better if I repeat a mind-numbing mantra over and over. Anyway, the last thing you want at the end of a 10K is a long hill with a 15 MPH headwind. I slowed down, but I stayed strong.

The finish and beyond
In retrospect, I wish I would have looked at my Garmin leading up to the finish line. I was right on the
verge of 47:00 and if I had known that, I think I could have motivated myself to be a few seconds faster. I definitely ran the race as fast as I could until that point, but seeing numbers towards the end of a race always motivates me to pull out every last drop of strength. 

Official finish time was 47:03 (avg. 7:34 pace), which was good for 12th overall female out of 202. I usually win an age group award at this race, but this year my age group was particularly competitive. If I was in my 20's I would have gotten first place, or in my 40's I would have gotten second place. But that's okay- I can't control who shows up and how old they are!

I'm kind of neutral about this race. I am not thrilled, but I am not disappointed. I am satisfied that I ran the best race I could in windy conditions. And it's always fun to keep with traditions. In terms of "process" I did everything right except for maybe I should have peaked at the Garmin at the end. If I can repeat this process when I am better trained and the conditions are more favorable, I know I'll be racing extremely well. I performed to the best of my ability given my preparation (training) and the windy conditions. And that's really all I can ever ask for!

As I look ahead to 2014, I see a lot of question marks. The year feels very uncertain to me for some reason, and I guess I am okay with that. I don't know the extent to which this newish job and long commute will affect my marathon training and how I will be able to balance running, commuting, working, and spending time with Greg. Running used to be front and center in my life and in my mind. And now it's taking up much less space. Supposedly that's a good thing in terms of being more well-rounded and ironically performing better. I guess I'm just adjusting the change.

Happy New Year to my blog readers! I've thankfully had time over the holidays to read some of your blogs, and I hope the continue following them in the future.