Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I ran for Boston: Pike's Peek 10k

Sunday was the Pike's Peek 10k. And no, not the one in Colorado. The Rockville Pike - this 10k is a 3,000 person race and $1,000 on the line for the winner. Spoiler alert: it's not me. But, what it means is that the competitive is incredibly fierce, and a lot of big runners come out to score a good pay day. And for me, it meant there were a lot of fast runners to hang onto!
After the Cherry Blossom 10 miler 2 weeks ago, I had done a few workouts to keep the speed intact, but basically the hay was already in the barn. My PR from the fall was 39:50, and I was hoping to chip about 10 seconds off of it. After all, I had knocked off 18 seconds in my 10 mile time, so I probably wasn't going to be able to milk much more out of the 10k. I was a woman on a mission, and Boston only added fuel to the fire. I was going to run well for my adopted city and put everything out there to make that happen. They gave out blue and gold ribbons, which I attached to my 2011 Boston shirt. Boston Boston Boston.
My boyfriend had driven me to the race, and I do really love that he's embraced and supported my running as much as he has. It was a cold morning for April - 35 at the start! I was actually glad that the hot streak had fizzled out. I got in my warm up, and took my spot in the first wave (yes, they actually break this up into corrals with separate starts, which is pretty cool). I was fairly far back, as the bigwigs were out there. Even my coach/trainer/grad school friend Sarah was racing too - although beyond the start, I knew I wouldn't see her for the rest of the race. We bowed our heads for a moment of silence, which it was definitely hard to keep emotions in check. Another pause, and we were off.
This is a point to point race. We made one turn out of the parking lot, and then it is straight for the last 6 miles. There are a lot of rolling hills, but because it is relatively straight, you can just push hard and not have to ease off for so many turns. Things felt so fast going out - and that's because they were - 6:12 for the first mile. I could ease off and relax, because that way too fast. Yet, I also had in my ear a loud breather named Hector (his name was on his shirt), whose breathing was so distracting that I just wanted to get away.
Getting away from Hector (in bright blue)
Less than .2 to go!

Have you ever ran alongside someone whose breathing (or moaning, as it were) just made you yourself feel sick? I needed to get away, but that wasn't a good reason to press the pace either. I picked things up just enough to get out of earshot, and continued on. There were a few steep uphills, although nothing harder than what I had trained on. I just aimed to be not too aggressive on these. I came through mile 3 in about 19:12 - and while there wasn't a 5k mark, I knew I was right under 20 minutes for the 5k, and needed to pick things up in the second half. 
The 10k is my favorite race in terms of pacing. I can really determine how much to put in, and how to just pick things up a little at 5k, 4 (little more), 5 (throw it all down), in order to negative split (second half faster). Damn it, I was going to push hard - this was for Boston! Things had spread out with the people, so I was working to try to catch up with the next pack. I didn't feel the sense that I could blow up. Unlike Cherry Blossom, when I felt just awful the whole time (even though en route to a PR), I felt strong this time and consistent with the pace. I was getting a lot of cheers with my Boston shirt of "Go Boston" and there were a lot of other Boston alumni out there too. 
This was the first time in a while where I didn't write on hands my expected splits - I was hoping that I could just go and not be fixated on the numbers. Bad choice - here I was, running 9+ mph trying to do math in my head to see if I was on track. I thought I was pretty close, but math is hard while running!
After cresting the last hill, someone shouted, "It's all downhill from here," and really, it meant half of a mile of just going for it. I just put everything I had with the finish in sight. Right after I got through the 6 mile mark, there was Pat cheering for me (you can actually see him in the picture - he's taking a picture - very meta), giving me that final boost for the end. I was all in, and my eyes widened in shock as I crossed the finish line.
6:22 pace
Overall: 148/2446
Women: 32/1276 (you can tell how competitive it is!)
Student and Coach (or PhD candidate and PhD)
Age group: 14/150
To put it into perspective, I ran 2 5ks and an 8k earlier this spring all at a slower pace than this 10k - proof that it takes time to build up speed. Goal races are there for a reason, and it takes a season to get there.
This was a big victory - for me and for Boston. It was faster than I believed I could go, and really, that's what Boston stands for at its best - conquering the insurmountable. 
I caught up with Sarah after and she ran very well (36:32) - once we started, she was so ahead of me, I didn't see her until the end. She just defended her dissertation on Tuesday - showing that the PhD is achievable. Really, she's showing me how to get both done: fast times and a successful dissertation. 
It was a phenomenal morning - better than I could have imagined. And Boston was very much on all of our minds that morning, as it will be for months to come. Boston is a place where heroes are made, and this weekend was a salute to Beantown's heroes.
A run to remember

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