Racing season begins! I have a lighter than usual schedule planned leading up to my March marathon, but I can’t swear off completely. I had been really excited to run this race. It seems that 10Ks aren’t very common these days and my 10K PR is out of line with my 5K and half marathon times. I have run this race several times, and while the course is flat and the weather is cool, it falls at a time of year after I have either eased up on my training or recently run a marathon. This year, however, I would be in the middle of a marathon build, which I thought just might translate into a great race.
Unfortunately, I had been battling a calf injury the past couple months. Several of my runs had been replaced with elliptical and step mill sessions and I hadn’t gone faster than a nine-minute mile pace in weeks. I had been feeling good lately, though, so I was ready to come out and see what I could do. Within reason, of course. What kind of pace my body would let me run and, more importantly, hold?
It had been two and a half months since my last SAR race, and it was good to see familiar faces. This race is several years old, but the course gets tweaked constantly. While it was a little chilly when I arrived, I shed almost all of my layers by the 9 o’clock start. Bright, sunny, and cool, you could not ask for more perfect running weather. I did an easy warm-up mile and then headed to the start. There was a 5K option that started slightly earlier at a different part of the park, and those runners dashed by just before we were set loose.
I took off at what felt like a good pace and was pleasantly surprised when I clocked my first mile in 7:07. My PR pace was 7:05. Maybe I can do this, I thought and I tried to run a little faster. My calf was a non-issue. As I felt the familiar burn in my legs and lungs, my mental DJ briefly considered Rob Base’s “Joy and Pain”, but then settled on “It Takes Two“. I don’t know all the words, but there is a profane reference to a popular fast food burger. At least the energy level was about what I was looking for.
Former Ragnar teammate Steve F. was ahead of me but in sight. Another Ragnar teammate, Steve O., passed me, but I tried to keep fairly close. I went back and forth with a big guy in a navy tank top a few times. My next splits were 7:11, 7:19, 7:04. I knew I probably wasn’t going to PR, so I adjusted my goal to finish under 45 minutes. Part of the 10K course looped back on itself and it was here that local legend and Olympic Trials runner Craig Curley passed me. I finally pulled away from navy tank. We also started mingling with some of the 5K runners and I could no longer see the Steves. I was now fixated on the song “Propane Nightmares“ as it repeatedly growled, bring it on home.
I came upon a fork I had run by before, and there was a chalk 10K on the road with an arrow pointing straight – the same way I had gone last time. I had run 5.8 miles and thought that if I followed the arrow, the finish line had to be farther away than .4 miles away. Still, I wasn’t sure and there was no instruction to go a different way the second time through, so I went straight. When my watch hit six without a six-mile marker or the finish line anywhere in sight, I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach. My friend Keith, who had been done for a little while took a picture and cheered me on while I yelled something like “I went too far!”
My detour had me approaching the finish line from the wrong side, so I cut through the crowd to U-turn into the chute. I figured if anyone said anything, I would point to the 7+ miles displayed on my Garmin. Or just be DQ’ed and be done with it. I was annoyed and in some ways glad that I hadn’t been on the verge of a PR. I know an athlete should know the course, but on the other hand, during a race, I don’t always think clearly.
I ran a few cool down miles with some friends and hung out for a while. One of my friends pointed to a couple of men who were approaching the finish line, one leading the other with a strap. A blind man was running the race. Instant perspective. We all cheered loudly for them.
All in all, it was a great day. I was happy with my 7:14 pace and my calf felt fine. I also felt confident that I would be able to run my marathon without a problem as long as I didn’t go crazy with speed or hills, which my plan doesn’t call for anyway.
Race Data: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/429034450