Monday, November 12, 2012

That Other Mythical Barrier: 2012 Veteran's Day 10k

While the Army Ten Miler was my goal race for the fall season, I still had one last race on the formal schedule: the Veteran's Day 10k.  I still did a few hard workouts to get ready for it, but mostly the hay was in the barn.  All of the training in preparation for ATM was going to carry over.  I had a good 4 mile tempo last weekend at 6:50 pace, and a race week workout on Tuesday to just get in some fast laps.  In compared to some of my most recent times, my 10k PR (40:55 from the Pike's Peek 10k in April) had been a little soft.  Sarah said to get ready to plan an "assault" on the 10k time, and aim for a 40:20 race.  I've done this race before, and I've run numerous other races on this course.  I had accumulated a lot of good runs and races this season, and it was time to wrap the season up with the 10k.
Saturday night, Pat and I cooked a gluten free pasta dinner together and just relaxed.  He even does foot  and back rubs!  All loosened up and ready to go.  I've tanked getting a good night's sleep the night before recently, and last night was similar.  I finally fell asleep around 2, and 6AM came all too fast!  But, I actually didn't feel too crappy waking up.  I had a little breakfast, and then ran my warm-up to the race.  The greenest way to travel, right?
Stolen from someone's instagram - it was really a gorgeous morning
It was a beautiful morning: low 40s, sunny, no wind, and lots of beautiful changing leaves on the trees of the National Mall.  I had cut things close a little bit with getting out the door (I needed to write my predicted mile splits on my hands), that all of the pre-race prep left me with just 3 minutes to the start, and I hadn't checked my jacket/pants/etc.  I followed the lead of a couple other runners and tucked them up in a tree (with fingers crossed).  I then took my place at the start.  I was in the 5th row - this is a super competitive race, and the local racing teams each had a bunch of runners competing.
We took off, and a ton of people really bolted out.  At this point, I'm just going to assume from here on out that other than a marathon or maybe a half, that it's always just going to feel fast from the get go.  I went through the first mile in 6:15, and knew I needed to just pull back ever so slightly - after all, this is not a 5k!  By mile 2 I was running closer to 6:25 pace, and while that was slightly faster than goal pace, I was going to roll with it.  That was the plan - take it out pretty hard, and not get too caught up in the splits.  I was feeling pretty strong, and while I wasn't going to pick things up, I was planning on being able to push more in the second half of the race.  What I like about the course is that the turns are pretty smooth - no turning around a cone!  You can sort of bend into them much easier.  I hit the first 5k in under 20 minutes, and was feeling good.  Could I keep this pace up for 20 more minutes?  I was in a good place, yes there were lots of people in front of me, but no one was really passing me at this point.  I was feeling a little tired (I forgot to take a GU beforehand, and I was a little bummed about that), but was just trucking along.  Mile 4 came along quickly, and at this point, I started to pick things up.  Or maybe just an effort to maintain the pace - I was determined not to blow up.  I kept checking my watch, and tried to not get too worked up about the times that there coming up - they definitely did not match the splits I had inked on my hands.  In Kathrine Switzer's Marathon Woman, she described her 2:51 marathon PR at the 1975 Boston Marathon and said "It felt like the road was rising to meet me."  Some of my best races have felt like that - that I was light and ready.  Those PRs were not easy to attain, yet in the moment, everything came together.  That's how I felt today.  I knew I had one more gear left, and started to accelerate as I hit mile 5.  There's one bridge to cross with three-quarters of a mile left, and I wanted to save a little for that, and I rolled through that, determined to just keep motoring.  And then came mile 6.  I could see the finish line, but you always have to remember that with the 10k, that .2 is almost a lap around the track - it takes time to do it.  I was pushing so hard, and I could finally start to see the clock appear with a time that was showing a time I have thought for years was unattainable, and could've started to cry as I crossed the finish line:
6:25 pace
I went sub 40 for the 10k!  The sub 20 minute 5k has a mythical nature to it, and I just broke that in March for the first time.  But to do 2 sub 20 5ks back to back seemed impossible at this point.  I could not believe it.  I did not think that within the same year of going sub 20, I'd also go sub 40.
The crazy thing about the results was:
94/1920 overall
20/1042 women
7/280 age group
This was a super competitive race!  The female winner won in 33:45.  And while yes, it is great to place really high or win an age group award, today I was going out with a time goal in mind.  And I had lots of people to key off of.  I did my cooldown with a big smile on my face - I was just stunned.
And then when I came home, pancakes and bacon for breakfast.  Yum!  The flowers in the background are from Pat (so sweet).
The first race I ever ran was the Jingle All the Way 10k in December 2008.  I ran it in 55:04 (8:52 pace), and was happy with that time.  In four years, I've chipped away over 15 minutes off of that time.  While there aren't many more minutes left in my threshold, I'll be curious to see what's left in the tank.  All I know for now, is that yesterday's race was beyond anything I could've dreamed of.
We broke out the bubbly last night - something I also did when I went sub 20.  There's something about the special milestones that just merit a little extra celebration.  They don't come along every day - those mythical barriers.  And they are just so important to hold onto during challenging moments - I know this will be my boost for a while.

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