Sunday, September 24, 2023

The Perfect 10: Perfectly Wet!

I was supposed to run the Susquehanna River Half Marathon yesterday, but it was cancelled due to a tropical storm. This did not come as a surprise to me as the course runs over a mile-long bridge and the forecast called for gusts of over 35 mph. Thankfully I was able to cancel my hotel room with no penalty and the race offered a 50% voucher towards next year's event. I was really excited about the course so I hope to do it next year.

So instead of running the half marathon yesterday, I ran a local ten-mile race day called "The Perfect 10." Runners choose between a 10K or a 10 miler. I had run this same course back in 2015, also as a backup race for a half marathon that was canceled due to weather. My time was 1:15:31 back then. I reviewed my Strava data to get re-acquainted with the course profile and I remembered running a really strong race.

Why is this race always my backup and not my goal race? Mainly because it's not in a particularly exciting location, or a location that's new to me. It's also quite hilly. And I prefer half marathon tune-up races over 10 mile races. But I do enjoy races put on by our local running store, Potomac River Running. I knew the race would be well managed and I'd probably know other runners.

I received the cancellation email when I woke up on Friday morning. I registered for the 10 miler that same day and went to pick up my bib. On Saturday morning the storm was in full swing so I did my shakeout run on the treadmill: an easy 30 minutes.

Before the Race
I was quite indecisive about my outfit. On the one hand, it was forecast to be 62 degrees, which meant shorts and a sports bra. On the other hand, it was supposed to be rainy and windy which meant it would feel colder. I remembered the Firecracker 5K from July when I raced in a wet tank top and the cooling effect it had. So I figured I would wear a form-fitted tank top and longer-than-normal compression shorts. The hope was that these clothes would feel cool against my body and be tight enough not to be flapping around.

On the topic of weather, I give this weather a 6 out of 10 on my race weather scale. It was 62 degrees with 100% humidity and a light steady rain. Thankfully the wind was light at around 8 mph. If it had rained any harder, I would have given this a 5. If it didn't rain at all, I would have given this a 4. But it was the PERFECT amount of rain to keep me cool without being a heavy downpour. So, yay for the perfect rain!

We arrived about an hour before the race started. I drank a serving of UCAN Energy Powder in the car. I have been using this more and more before my long runs and it's been working well. There was a time when I had stopped using it due to stomach distress but I think that was a one-off incident. After that was done, I used the bathroom and started my warm up. 

The original plan was to run at least 13 miles so I would have the distance of a half marathon, but then I realized that 1 or 2 extra miles would not make a difference in the grand scheme of things so I warmed up for 2.3 miles. 

Greg played the role of cheerleader and videographer for this race. His injury is finally starting to heal but he's not ready to run quite yet. He wore a big poncho that was the same shade of red as the demons in the movie The Village. We had just watched this movie a week prior so it was fresh in our minds. Those demons where referred to "Those of Whom We Do Not Speak" so we kept making jokes about how Greg was one of Those of Whom We Do Not Speak. If you saw the movie and Greg in the poncho, you'd get it.

Miles 1-3
The 10K and 10 mile runners started together. After 6 miles the 10K runners would turn off towards the finish line and the 10-mile runners would run a 4-mile loop to get to the same finish line. I didn't really

Mile 1, photo by Cheryl Young
have a time goal for this race. It was too hilly for it to be a true predictor of my Marine Corps Marathon time, so I decided it would be nice to beat my 2015 time (1:15:31) by at least two minutes, and ideally run under 1:13. If I was having a good day, maybe I could squeak under 1:12.

The race started and I realized it was on the small side for a Potomac River Running race. I think a lot of people must have bailed due to the weather. My physical therapist was supposed to run it and I didn't see him. I am guessing his absence was not weather-related though. 

The roads were soaked and I didn't even try to dodge the puddles. I did have to be extra careful with the potholes and there were places with a lot of fallen acorns that were also challenging. 

I took a caffeinated Maurten gel about 5 minutes into the race. It didn't sit well and I had a nauseous feeling for the next 10 minutes.  

I remembered my 2015 splits and and pacing. I paced it really well in 2015 so I tried to mimic that strategy. The first three miles were hilly but they were mostly equal parts uphill and equal parts downhill.

Mile 1: 7:03
Mile 2: 7:05
Mile 3: 7:18

Miles 4-6
As you can see, my pacing wasn't exactly going in the right direction. But I wasn't discouraged because I knew I was keeping the effort steady. In 2015, mile 4 was my slowest mile. So I gave myself some grace here. I knew, however, that I would be rewarded with a very fast mile 5. As I was giving myself grace, two runners passed me. One of whom was a female. I glanced at her bib to see if she was running the 10K or the 10 mile. I could see that the corner of it was a darker shade of blue which meant she was in the 10 miler. I told myself not to get too competitive at this stage in the game. I could catch up later.

She was ahead of me for maybe half a mile and then as we started descending the hill I was able to pass her. 

I saw Greg at mile 6 as we approached the start/finish, which is where the 10K runners were turning off. At this point, he told me that I was in second place. I honestly had no idea where I was in the field because I couldn't tell which runners were in the 10K vs. the 10 miler. But second place, that was pretty awesome. I hoped I could hold onto that. 

Mile 4: 7:25
Mile 5: 6:55
Mile 6: 7:04

Miles 7-10
I knew to expect that miles 7 and 8 were net uphill and miles 9 and 10 were net downhill. Mentally I told myself I just had to get to mile marker 9 and then I would mostly be done with the uphill. It didn't exactly
go that way and the ups and downs weren't exactly where I expected. But I told myself just to roll with it. I had another Maurten gel at the start of the 7th mile - this time without the caffeine. I only had half of it though because I didn't need the whole thing to get me through about 30 minutes of work. It didn't sit well but thankfully I was only uncomfortable for a few minutes. 

My legs were starting to feel pretty beat up by this point. They had zero pep going up the hills. I did not feel like I had strong legs at all. From a cardiovascular perspective, I think I had a little more to give. But my legs didn't want any part of it!

Running to the finish!
My biggest focus now was to hang in there enough so that the woman I had passed earlier in the race didn't catch up. I wanted to solidify my second place position. 

Unfortunately mile 9 was not the big downhill I had expected based on the elevation data. But mile 10 had a nice decline. 

The finish of this race was not nice. They had us run through the high school parking lot, down a hill, and then do a hairpin turn to come back up that same hill! And then down a hill with a few turns onto a track. But we only got to run about 100 meters on the track. At the hairpin turn I saw my competition about 20 seconds behind me. If she had a good final kick she could maybe close the gap. This motivated me to give it all I had, while also minding the pot holes and bumpy pavement in the school parking lot.

Mile 7: 7:42 (yikes!)
Mile 8: 7:25
Mile 9: 7:27
Mile 10: 7:03
Last 0.06 on my Garmin: 6:38 pace

I sprinted through the finish line with an official time of 1:12:53. I was the second female finisher! The First place female was over 8 minutes ahead of me; there was no attempt to catch her. 

After the Race
I reunited with Greg and it wasn't long before my typical dry heaving started. This was never an issue in my 30s. But once I turned 40 it's happened at almost every race longer than a 10K. And if it's not dry heaving, it's actual vomit.

Instead of doing a cool down run I decided to prioritize getting warm. Even though it was 62 degrees I was soaked and I did not want to risk hypothermia. I learned my lesson on that last year! I changed into dry clothing immediately and waited for the awards to start. 

I won a gift certificate to the running store which more than made up for the registration fee. Then we drove home and I was quick to get into a nice warm bath.

Final Thoughts and Key Takeaways
During the race and immediately after I wasn't too pleased with my performance. It got very hard in the last 4 miles and I slowed down. But the more I thought about it from all angles, the more I realized that this was a strong performance. 

  • Even though I had better pacing in 2015, it was 35 degrees cooler back then (the early March rendition of this same race).
  • Speaking of 2015, my original goal was to beat that time by two minutes, and I beat it by more than 2:30! In much warmer weather!
  • Speaking of weather, even though the rain made this manageable for me, the humidity still posed a
    challenge. Running these kind of paces in temps above 60 degrees is really good for me. Especially on hills.
  • Speaking of hills, I am sure I used extra muscles to stabilize myself on the downhills with the wet pavement. You have to be careful running downhill on wet pavement to not bite it! Especially in the adidas Adios Pro which has almost no traction.
  • This course is not a good predictor for what I will be able to accomplish at MCM. All things being equal, the McMillan Running Calculator has me at 3:24. But all things will not be equal because MCM is far less hilly, and should be cooler. I'll also have an additional 5 weeks of training under my belt. So my MCM goal of sub 3:20 seems realistic if the stars align.
  • Speaking of 5 weeks of training - I'm getting so close! I really only have two big weeks ahead of me and then I go on a cruise. During which I pray not to get sick. I know it's not the smartest idea to go on a cruise two weeks before a marathon, but my sister invited me and we haven't been on vacation together in a long time.
Provided that I don't get sick and that we don't have tropical weather on race day, I think I am good to go for Marine Corps. I have been having some minor high hamstring irritation, but I am keeping that under control with physical therapy. Today's race did not seem to make it worse; I hope I still feel this way tomorrow morning. 

Overall a fun morning and I am really glad I showed up!

1 comment:

  1. Congrats Elizabeth! What a great backup plan! I do love a 10 miler. This had to be such a confidence booster for MCM. Now let's hope for good weather!