Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rails to Trails 10k

What a beautiful day for a race! Thanks to my good friend Whitney Hollingsworth for directing this great event. I really like the 10k distance, and there aren't very many around. I'm glad that one of them is in Limestone County. I haven't seen any results yet, and I had to leave early, so I'm taking a guess at the numbers here. I think I was first in the 35-39 age group. I think was sixth overall and I ran a personal best about 38:03 or so.

UPDATE: I got my name in the paper! Thanks Whitney! It turns out that I ran a 38:01, officially.  Also, results are available at the HTC website.

I had back to back good nights of rest leading up to this race. I really am starting to think that rest is a key that I have been overlooking. When I woke up, the temps were lower than I expected. I just felt good this morning. I knew that I had to leave early because I was planning to go to Tuscaloosa to watch some football (Roll Tide). So, I was a little out of my routine getting out of the door. I had to do a little extra getting ready. I had to get everything ready so I could shower and leave my house as quickly as possible when I got home from the race.

As I was driving, I was thinking of goals for this race. I struggled for so long to break 40 in the 10k. I knew I was capable of much better than sub-40, but it just never came together for me on race day. I finally broke that silly mental barrier three weeks ago when I ran 39:09 at Monte Sano. I remembered that it was very uncomfortable to run that 39 minute 10k. I felt better today than I did that day and the temps were cooler. So, I just set the modest goal of sub 39.

Oh no. Really? I was over halfway there and realized that I forgot my watch! Nooooo! Oh well. I can't go get it now. I just have to run. What would my strategy be? I saw Tim Vinson and Jon Elmore before the race. I know that both of those guys are much more talented than me, but I knew that they were both coming off the summer doldrums and not quite in peak shape. So, my strategy without a watch was to just hang with them.

The First 5k
This race is really two 5ks. The first 3 miles is on a curvy, hilly road. There are some steep downhills, some flats, and some small climbs. But it is very much a net downhill first 5k. Then you turn onto the Rails to Trails trail that covers an old railroad track. It is a nice, scenic crushed gravel trail. But it is all uphill. There is nothing steep about it, but it is just gradual uphill for 3 miles.

So, you have to positive split this course.

For the first mile, we, Jon, Tim, and I, all ran together. During the second mile, which is a very fast, downhill mile, Tim pulled a little ahead. I wanted to be sure not to let him get too far ahead. The split caller said 7:00 at the first mile. I said, NO WAY! Jon reassured me that it was 6:05 and not 7:00. Whew! The second mile we hit at 11:50. Wow! That didn't really feel THAT fast. But it was pretty close.

Tim extended his lead some in the third mile, but I wanted to keep him close, so I covered part of the distance, and Jon came with me. We were gaining on him late in the third mile and he was coming back a bit. We hit the 3 mile split at 18:00 flat. Wow. I'm just above 5k PR pace. But it was a downhill 5k and I know what's coming. Steady uphill.

The Uphill 5k
During the turn on to the trail, Jon and I passed Tim. He wished me well, telling me to get a PR. I appreciated that and it gave me some energy for the grind I was about to have to endure. All I had to do was to average a 6:15 pace till the end and I'd be near 38. Wow! My goal was sub 39, so I was feeling really good about that. I changed my goal to sub 38 right after the turn. I knew I'd have to work for it, but I also knew it was attainable.

I had Jon right behind me pushing me along, so I was counting on that to help. But, somewhere before the 4 mile marker, Jon fell off. There was nobody calling splits at any of the mile markers on the trail, so I was completely blind to my pace. So, I just focused on effort level.

During the 5th mile, the pace became quite uncomfortable. I allowed negative thoughts to enter. I feared falling apart. I had a new blister on my right foot. I don't really know the split, but there is no doubt that the 5th mile was my worst. I missed Tim and Jon. I was all alone, except for a young guy who started out too fast and was falling completely apart and death marching to the finish. I encouraged him as I passed, hoping that wouldn't be me in the 6th mile.

When I saw the 5 mile marker, I took some new strength. I could see Greg Reynolds in the distance, but I knew there was no way to catch him. I just wanted to keep him in my sight, in the distance. I figured he would be running somewhere near 37 for this race, so I figured I was still close to 38. I just gutted and gritted until I could see the clock.

On this race, you can see the clock for about the last half mile. But you can't make out the numbers. I saw the clock, I was running hard, but I was not getting closer to it! I'm sure we've all had those strange dreams like that, where you're running and running toward something, but you just aren't gaining on it, kinda like Alice in Wonderland. That is exactly what it felt like, except that it was real. And it hurt!

Finally I could make out the numbers on the clock... 37:44... Noooo!!!! There is no way. I knew that I could not break 38. The clock was too far away. I still gave it all I had, and nearly puked before the finish. I turned myself inside out for that last stretch, but didn't make it. I was frustrated when I saw 38:00 and still wasn't there. I almost stopped right then. I did slow down a bit, and crossed at 38:02 or 03 or something like that. Oh well.

Still, I cannot be disappointed with a 1:07 PR. I wanted sub 38, but that wasn't the goal when I left the house. That was a minute better than the goal! Would it have been better if I had my watch? I have no idea. I won't be intentionally leaving my watch behind, that's for sure.

I once read somewhere, I can't remember where, that if you don't have the genetic makeup to run a 38 minute 10k, then you probably won't be able to run a sub 3 hour marathon. Well, I'm calling this a 38 minute 10k, and that on a not very easy course. This gives me confidence that with work, dedication, and focus, I can break 3 hours in the marathon.

1 comment:

Dana said...

OMGOSH!!! I'm so proud of you! ...and so glad you didn't stop when you realized you weren't going to make sub 38! I thought this post was moving in the run by feel vane...and glad to see that's not the case. What's so cool about this race is the confidence boost it should give you!! You can TOTALLY run a sub-3 marathon!!! :D