Sunday, November 10, 2013
A slice of humble pie: Veteran's Day 10k 2013
The Army Ten Miler was my big race of Fall 2013, and the PR of 1:05:41 was well celebrated. That was three weeks ago, and after recovering the first week (I was stiff and sore for 4 days after – nearly as painful as post marathon soreness), it was back to work. I did a few more track workouts, a couple more tempo runs, and a couple of solid long runs. I felt great, and was ready to go after it in one final formal race for the year – the Veteran’s Day 10k. I ran 41:27 there in 2011 and 39:50 in 2012 – this is a good race for big PRs. The build up looked good – I had a nice day on Saturday with a little shower thrown by my DC bridesmaid. And just relaxed at home Saturday night – was able to get a good night’s sleep.
It was a beautiful morning for our race at West Potomac Park. The sun was just bursting across the National Mall, illuminating the backdrop for one of DC’s premier races. And it is definitely a premier one – our British Olympian Clare Hallisey was there, as were many of the DC racing teams – these are people who have qualified for the Olympic Trials. It was fairly cold outside with some wind, but still very sunny. I lined up at the start and hoped for the best.
And we were off! Brr, I couldn’t feel my hands! They would’ve been sweatballs with gloves, but it was taking a while to warm up. The pace felt so fast – I came through the first mile in 6:21 (which was my goal pace), and it felt like an all out sprint. It was one thing to feel like I was working hard, but this did not feel like that. I’ve had days where the road rose to meet me, or days where I just had to hunker down, but this was option C. I was just trying to hold on, and as I passed through mile 2, it became more evident that it was not my day. But I just tried to keep going – it’s not as if I was going to stop. I still had a glimmer of hope that I could reel it back in and negative split. But I went through the 5k in about 20:20, and with that I saw my changes of sub 40 slipping away. That’s not an easy feeling, but the race was still going, and I was just doing my best to be steady and not let too many people pass me. You couldn’t ask for a more stunning landscape to run along – monuments rushing by left and right and the Potomac just glistened in the autumn rays. I just focused on that and willed the mile markers to show up. With about half a mile to go, I felt another woman come up alongside me, and I recognized her. She lives in VA too and places well in her age group – 50-54. We nearly were running side by side – I was only half a yard in front of her. And I just didn’t want to get beaten by someone over two decades older than me, so my final focus was just on that.
I actually moved up in place compared to last year. And while I actually ran this race at a pace (6:37) slower than my 10 mile race pace (6:34), it was nice to see advanced in the standings. Of course, I was a little hard on myself for a bit. This was not at all what I had expected.
I did my cooldown around the Tidal Basin, and the sun was fully risen – absolutely breakthtaking. And this is my city – I get to do these kind of races any time – what a privilege. I was happy to also see an old running friend of mine who had been in Arizona for Army training – now she’s back! And friendship is more important than a PR. I made my way to my car to head on home.
As I was driving back, I got a healthy dose of perspective. I have perhaps become entitled to good races – I have come to expect consistently good races. That’s why I love training: hard work + consistency = success on race day. But that’s not an absolute. I thought about the New York City Marathon – Meb Keflezkhi ran a sub-optimal time but still finished the race. At the Dash to the Finish 5k, Shalane Flannagan, a bronze medalist, came in third, in admittedly, not her best race. Kara Goucher pulled out of NYC because of an injury – yet she was come in 3rd in Boston and New York a few years ago. We don’t get good days all of the time, and even those at the highest level of training don’t always get the banner race days that they have worked their careers for. Why would I expect the same thing?
I have all of my limbs. I am healthy enough to complete a 10k race and the synergy all of my bodily systems allow me to compete at a high level. I have a loving family and wonderful friends, and in six months am marrying the love of my life. An off day at the races is not that big of a deal. It was a beautiful day to be a part of a great race.