Up until last Sunday, my 10K PR was actually the first 10K race I ran, the Capitol Hill Classic, back in 2013. I’ve run a handful of 10K races since then, but after I started running half marathons and then full marathons, I never really thought about trying to improve on it. 10Ks became my “fun runs.” But, then I declared 2017 to be “Year of the PR” because it did occur to me that even though my training cycles are ultimately driven my target half and full marathon goals, my shorter race times should be improving as well. I needed to give some of those “fun runs” some more serious effort and use them as a mid-cycle gauge to see how I’m coming along.
I’ve run the Pacers St. Pat’s 10K for the last few years. It’s a flat course that I’ve run many times over in long runs as well as races. The start and finish is right by the Washington Monument and the course takes you down Independence Ave, by the Kennedy Center, around the Tidal Basin and through West Potomac Park…these are parts of common race routes for the best known races in this area (Army 10, Navy Half, Marine Corp, Cherry Blossom just to name a few few.)
I started off thinking I’d just use the race as a 4 mile tempo run. My goal tempo pace is 9:09. But then I looked up my current 10K PR, which was 56:35 (9:07 pace) and it seemed silly to not try and PR. Now, I’d like to tell you that I sat down and figured out what my 10K pace “should” be based on my current pace goals. But, I didn’t. I just decided I was going to shoot for 55:55, which was based on a 9:00 pace. In retrospect, I probably should have thought it through a little more because speed work times are directly related to 10K time, which I should have taken into consideration (lesson learned #1.)
Pre-PR Race Preparation
For any race I’m taking seriously, I try to give my legs a full 24 hours of rest. I ran for 6 miles on Saturday but was done within 24 hours of race start and then really took it easy for the rest of the day. My legs are tired all the time now, as to be expected with Hanson’s, but I was hoping to have them be as fresh as possible.
My pre-race meals are always poultry or pork (never, ever, ever, ever red meat) and while I don’t carb load like I would for a marathon, I definitely make sure I have a good solid day of carbs.
It was really, really cold on race day – in the mid-20’s. I was excited to be running my first race in my Oiselle singlet but there was NO way I was going to wear just that. I’ve never actually raced in such cold weather, so it was a little bit of a dilemma deciding what to wear. I know I don’t run as well if I get too hot, so staying a little cold was probably a good idea but what was going to keep me just “a little” cold? I decided for:
- Cold gear leggings
- Long sleeved fitted shirt that wasn’t insulated or made for cold weather (just to keep my skin covered) under my singlet
- Cold weather, lightweight vest (to keep my chest warm)
- Lux headband that covered my ears
- No gloves
This was actually a PERFECT cold weather race choice (lesson learned #2). It kind of sucked pre-race, but I remembered to bring hand warmers and that helped.
I’d eaten half a Lara bar before I left for the race, and popped a Huma Chia gel about 30 minutes before the start. I’m digging those gels so much more than the Stingers.
I lined up right at the beginning of the 9:00 group…or maybe I was in the 8:00 – 8:59 group? I was following a fellow bird to the start who’s a much faster runner than I and may have gone too far. Either way, I was going to be running a lot faster than I normally do, so I figured I could use the peer pressure of keeping up.
And we were off!
Mile 1: 8:18 pace – I am always a spazz in the first mile of a race. I’m get so excited and caught up in the moment and I literally cannot make myself slow down. What is irritating is that at some point in that first mile, my shoe came untied and I had to stop and tie it, which probably lost me about 10 seconds. However, I didn’t let that get to me. I knew I was running much faster than I needed to be and that wouldn’t throw away the PR.
Mile 2: 8:37 pace – mile #2 is always the worst of the race for me. The excitement of the first mile has wore off, but I haven’t quite completely warmed up yet and fallen into the “zone.” Also, this is a really uninspiring part of the race – most of it is running up and back next to the Kennedy Center.
Mile 3: 8:34 pace – my body seemed to have fallen into my speed workout pace. Even though I’ve missed a few speed workouts this cycle, my paces were the same for last training cycle, and I think my legs seem to know what my “run fast” pace is supposed to be and was just doing it on their own. So, even though I was running faster than I thought I should be, I just decided to let my legs do my thinking for me on this one (lesson learned #3). I was definitely starting to feel the pain of that pace, though.
Mile 4: 8:42 pace – I slowed a little but was still in my speed workout pace range. I was definitely pushing myself to keep running, but the pace still felt “right.”
Mile 5: 8:42 pace – oh damn, I was getting tired. And hungry. I wasn’t carrying water and I didn’t want to stop for water, so I never had my other gel. However, at this point, the thought of a sub-9:00 overall pace was very much a reality, so I was just going to KEEP GOING!
Mile 6: 8:32 pace – as much as my body did not want to, I pushed with everything I had left in my very tired legs and was able to pick up a little speed. There is a little hill in this last stretch that seemed much steeper than it actually was.
Final .2 Mile- 8:11 pace – a good strong finish – followed by the immediate concern that I was going to vomit after I crossed the finish line. I haven’t felt that way after a race since my first half marathon!
The fact that I felt a little sick at the end tells me that I pushed myself just hard enough. Probably on a scale from 1 – 10, I’d put this race at a 9 in terms of effort.
- Race Results: 6.2 miles in 53:56 which is an 8:40 pace
- Garmin Results: 6.29 miles in 53:47 which is an 8:33 pace (I based my individual mile paces off Garmin)
I ran much faster than I’d thought I could and I was able to hold a fairly consistent pace for the entire race, aside from my spazzy first mile. Looking at pace predictions, my race time of 53:56 for a 10K predicts a 1:59 half-marathon time. These are all HUGE positives, especially given I’m halfway through this training cycle. Apparently, I’m not giving myself enough credit when I decide in my head what I’m capable of (lesson learned #4.)
I was unprepared for how fatigued my legs were going to be and how tired overall I would be for the next two to three days. Sure, I’d only ran a 10K, but I never have run that far at that speed. Ever. I’m finding that I’m having to adjust my training schedule on the fly, which never ends well for me. I think my final lesson learned is that if I’m going to race for a PR in a training cycle, I need to also plan out my recovery ahead of time as well as allow for enough recovery time. I don’t see three SOS runs happening for me this week.
This has definitely been a training cycle with challenges so I’m thrilled to have already hit one of my running goals for the year. And I even took a decent post race picture!