Sunday, October 4, 2015

Boo! Run for Life 10K - Like a Hurricane!

On Thursday of this week, I had pretty much decided that I was going to bail on my 10K this weekend. A hurricane on the order of magnitude of Sandy was coming through, and the forecast called for lower 60's, heavy rain, and 25 mile per hour winds, if not more. Several local races were canceled because of this forecast, including the Wilson Bridge half marathon.

I just didn't see the need to put myself through those kinds of conditions, so I was prepared to do a long run with some speed work inserted in it instead.

But on Friday, the forecast turned, and it was determined that Hurricane Joaquin would not be hitting the Washington DC metro area. Instead, we'd receive rain and wind throughout the weekend. Further, the temperature dropped down to a more reasonable 58 degrees, which was much more attractive. So I decided that I would run the race as originally planned.

In terms of weather, I was mentally prepared for wind and potentially some light rain. I've run in far worse conditions and Hains Point (where the race was held) is almost always windy anyway.

Last week, I ran a set of 5 x 1600m repeats on the track with 400m recoveries, with paces ranging
from 6:56 to 7:04. This workout made me optimistic that I could set a small 10K PR, and run the race at a pace of 7:00-7:05.

Before the race
I was pleasantly surprised to find my friend Vanessa before the race started. We'd been "virtual" friends for the past five years and hadn't really interacted in person since the days of us being Pacers Ambassadors together.

I warmed up for just under 2 miles, and before I knew it, it was time for the race to start. I noticed that there weren't nearly as many people running it as there were last year. Maybe some people decided to stay home because of the weather. I actually thought that the race might draw a larger crowd due to other local races being canceled.
Mile 1

Vanessa and I chatted at the start line, just up until it was time to take off.

Miles 1-2 (7:02, 7:03)
Last year, I ran the first half mile at a sub-7:00 pace which reminded me that it was really easy to start this race too fast. I intentionally held back and in doing so still ended up with a 7:02 first mile. I was really hoping that I could maintain that pace for the entire race, even with the wind. Mile 2 was 7:03, and while it wasn't easy, things still felt controlled and manageable. At some point during the second mile, a runner (who was running toward me on the course, but not a part of the race) told me that I was the second female, which I sort of knew, but wasn't entirely certain of. I was hopeful that I could maintain that spot throughout the entire race.

Miles 3-4 (7:08, 7:00)
I knew that mile 3 would be tough. The wind was coming out of the northeast, and the direction of the course was running directly into that headwind. Being mentally prepared for this helped me tremendously. I told myself that I needed to push harder because of the wind, but that things would get better once I turned around. And sure enough, when I turned around, things got a lot better and I had a tailwind to aid me to my fastest mile of the race in 7:00.

Heading toward the finish line
Miles 5-6 (7:06, 7:08)
At this point, I knew that I would PR if I just held onto what I had. My average pace so far was 7:04, and if I could just hang in there and not slow down, I knew I would do it. With just 2 miles to go, I reminded myself of how much I wanted this. I knew I would be thinking about the race all day, and I wanted my thoughts to be "I ran my hardest" not "I wish I would have pushed harder." With that in mind, I pushed even harder than I had been previously, which was needed due to the headwind. The wind didn't get really bad until the last mile, at which point it was like being slapped in the face. I was actually grateful that the wind hadn't been all that bad up until this point. I looked down at my Garmin and saw that my pace was slowing and I mustered everything I had to get that last mile under 7:10.

The last 0.2 (6:29 pace)
With the finish line in sight, I told myself to start my final kick early. I usually have an amazing final kick and then I wish I had started it sooner. I told myself that if I wasn't able to maintain that pace all the way to the finish, at least I would have gotten the benefit of that speed early on. When the clock came in sight, I saw that it still said 43:xx. I wanted so badly to break 44 and I could feel the adrenaline pushing me through the finish in 43:56.  

After the race
I met up with Vanessa, who had come in first. It was a great day for both of us! My coach wanted me to run an extra 60 minutes after the race, which was a tall order, but Vanessa agreed to run with me
Vanessa and me
which made it much more manageable. We ended up running just under 45 minutes so as not to miss the awards ceremony. Special thanks to Greg who came to cheer me on and take these photos, who had to wait an additional 45 minutes for me to do this extended cool down!

When we returned, the race organizers were breaking everything down and it looked as if we might have missed the awards. We asked about it and they said that they weren't doing an awards ceremony because they thought people wanted to leave due to the weather. This struck me as odd. It wasn't that cold (56 degrees) and yes it was windy-- but there have been far worse race conditions where the awards ceremony still went on! I didn't care all that much, but it was weird that they wouldn't give us our awards even when we asked for them. They didn't think anyone would stick around, but the top two female finishers certainly did!

Final thoughts
I'm so glad I didn't bail on this race because of the forecast! I ended up being pretty good race weather. I'll take some wind over hot and humid any day. The fact that I was able to break my already-solid 10K PR is a testament to both my fitness level and the mental skills I've been working on: don't set limitations for myself, don't create self-fulfilling prophecies, and don't shy away from racing in tough conditions.

Now that I know I can run a 10K at a pace of 7:04, I'm very confident in my ability to shatter my half marathon PR in two weeks. I'm so glad I did this race, pushed hard, and broke 44:00 in the 10K for the first time ever!

Photo by Gregory M. Clor


  1. Great job and congratulations on the PR! That is so amazing especially considering you weren't even going to race it originally. You paced this really, really, well and that always makes a huge difference (plus sometimes impromptu races are the best, no time to really get nervous). Glad you got to share the race with Vanessa and do a cooldown together afterwards, too.

    I bet you're going to do really well in the half and love reading about your training.

  2. Wow super result, congrats!! Sometimes the races we don't want to do (for whatever reason), turn out to produce the best results.

  3. Congratulations! Love that last picture of you as you can see you look really strong there.