Sunday, October 5, 2014

Spontaneous 10K

On Thursday evening, as I was driving through McLean, I saw a flashing sign that said "road closed on Saturday for race course." It made me think, we are going to have perfect racing weather on Sunday-- I am jealous of all of those racing.

And then I realized, hey wait a minute, it's totally acceptable to run a short race two weeks before a marathon, and in the past I've tried to get a 10K on my schedule then!  My training plan called for a 16-miler with marathon pace miles on Saturday, and a 6-mile recovery run on Sunday. But I figured I could probably do a mini taper Friday-Saturday, and race the 10K with enough warm up and cool down to get some decent mileage in.

When I got home, I went to to search for races and sure enough, there was a 10K on Sunday in DC. And it was a 10K that I had run before and was very familiar with: "Boo! Run for Life." Perfect!

Excited, I emailed my coach and asked him if he thought this was a good idea. After all, I wouldn't want this 10K to negatively impact the marathon. He told me to go for it, so I registered on Friday.

I woke up at 4:00 this morning, just raring to go. I was so excited! After a disappointing half marathon, I felt like I finally had the opportunity to see where I was fitness-wise and where all this training had brought me.

Race Strategy
Pacing wise, my plan was to run even splits and run by feel. I still planned on checking in with the Garmin, but it wasn't going to dictate my pace. My main time goal was to break 45:00, but I wasn't sure by how much I could break it, if it all. I figured I would probably go out at around 7:15 for the first mile and then try to speed up. My previous PR of 45:19 was set in November of 2011, on the exact same course, although technically a different race. It was time to shatter it.

Before the Race
Greg decided to do a Saturday long run instead of joining me for the 10K. To each his own! I was happy to have him cheering me on, taking photos, and holding my stuff for me. I warmed up for 2.4 miles and things felt great. During the warm up, I thought, this is my day. I'm going to nail it. I feel amazing. 

As I was running, a walker asked me, do you know what time it is? Which I thought was borderline rude, to stop someone while they were running-- when there were plenty of other people nearby he could have asked. I just said "I don't know, my watch doesn't have the time screen." (Note- this is foreshadowing.)

After the warm up, I found Greg and he said he was going to go out about a mile and take photos. We hugged and he wished me well. I walked to the start line and felt relaxed and ready. It was 45 degrees and sunny. No wind.

Miles 1-2
The race started and I settled in pretty quickly. About 3-4 minutes into it, I decided to see what pace I
Mile 1
had gone out at. Garmin read 6:50ish. Um, wow. This did not feel like 6:50. It felt more like 7:20. I saw Greg a bit before mile marker 1, and I couldn't help but yell out "sub-6:50 pace!"

Just after the first mile, a couple passed me. One of them was wearing a portable music device with speakers, so everyone around them could hear the music. I started to be grateful that they had passed me because that meant I didn't have to listen to their music for the entire race, but then I checked myself. Ironically, I had told my sports psychologist just a few days prior that loud music during races is jarring to me and I don't like it. He told me that I needed to ignore it and I shouldn't be thinking about what I liked or did not like during a race. It didn't matter.

So this couple ended up not bothering me. But as luck would have it, once they passed me, they did not speed up. They were abut 10-15 feet ahead of me for almost the entire race, and I could hear their music off an on.

Mile 1: 7:03
Mile 2: 7:12

Miles 3-4
It was nice to get to the turnaround point. Mentally, I love feeling like I am running toward the finish line and not away from it.

Shortly after the turnaround, I heard a voice behind me say "what time is it?" I thought to myself, I must be hearing things. Nobody asks that during a race. I must just be remembering what was said to me during my warm up. I wasn't sure if she was talking to me, but I just ignored it. And then I heard "you're keeping a good pace." Hmmm. And then I heard "You're lead a pack of 4 of us here and you're really helping us." I replied, "Are you talking to me?" (And talking during mile 4 of a 10K is never easy.) "Yes," she said. "Nice," I replied, or something to that effect.

I started to pickup the pace. So did musical couple. They still maintained a good 10-15 foot lead on me. At this point, I was running right next to a guy with a hoodie. We were literally side-by-side for almost a mile. I found it odd that in a race with less than 600 participants, I had so many people around me at this stage in the race. There was a ton of unoccupied empty road ahead. But I had hoodie guy, musical couple and the pack of 4. Not complaining- just observing.

Mile 3: 7:10
Mile 4: 7:03

Final Kick
Miles 5-6.2
When I hit the mile 5 marker, I decided to bump up the effort level. I wanted to really gun it home. I passed musical couple and hoodie guy flew way ahead of me. I would be on my own for this mile.  I pushed and pushed and pushed! My spirits were high and I knew it wouldn't be long before a new PR would be mine.

With about 0.3 to go, I started my final kick. I never know how early to start these things, but I was feeling great and the finish line was in clear view. It's nice having something to run toward. In many races, you can't see the finish line until you are right there, which isn't as motivating as being able to see it from far back.

Mile 5: 7:03
Mile 6: 7:08
Last 0.23: 6:35 pace. I felt like I had wings!

After the Race
I finished in 44:13, which is a PR by 1:06. Wow! And to think, all I wanted to do was break 45. I would have never imagined I could average a 7:07 pace for a 10K. I think I'm finally over my plateau.

After catching my breath, the woman from behind me asked me what my time/pace was. I guess she didn't wear a watch! She complimented me and told me that I motivated her for the entire race, but pulled ahead by about a minute in the end.

Greg found me and I was so giddy! This is exactly what I wanted! To finally crush a PR after all this hard work and training.

I cooled down and just felt great all over. I realize that it's the exception, and not the rule, that you have perfect weather and a flat course after an uninjured, high-mileage training cycle. So I was totally basking in my exception.

I found Greg after my cool down and we waited quite a while for the awards ceremony to begin. I
My age group award
was pretty sure I'd won something, but I didn't know how they were doing the awards, since every race is different.

When I realized they were only announcing/recognizing the first place in each age group, and not second or third, I figured I probably didn't get it. And then they called out my time, and then my name! I won my age group! I can't tell from the results how many people were in my age group, but the race had 532 finishers, which is not insignificant.

What next? I have mad confidence in my ability to run a great marathon. This race has definitely opened my eyes to the possibility of running it faster than expected, but this does not change the pace I will go out at.

I have just a few more hard workouts and then marathon day will be upon me!


  1. Congratulations on your 10K! I am pretty jealous of your time and pace. I ran a 46:08 a few weeks ago in one but my splits are nothing like yours. I wish I could evenly split or negative split like that, I always go out way too fast!

    There's nothing like the boost from an AG award and PR to help you through your marathon. You should definitely be confident in your training, maybe the half marathon was just a fluke or something bc we all have bad days, or you body was absorbing the previous training? Anyway, it's cool you jumped into a race and did so well. You should be super proud, and I can't wait to read about your full too.

  2. Congrats Elizabeth! I love how you know exactly the pace you are running without a watch. I am just catching up on reading blogs so I am excited to read about the one with your BQ. :-)