Monday, October 7, 2013

Race Day Magic! 10K RR

Race day magic. It's what happens on those days when you feel like cr@p, your expectations are low, and yet, somehow, you end up surprising the hell out of yourself.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I haven't blooped in two weeks, since my last race, where I had a sub-par 5K that left me gloomy and grumpy. I have been fighting plantar fasciitis for several weeks now, and that had me down too. The next week I rested, mostly, and did massage and stretching. The PF was getting a little better, so I did two hilly trail runs on the weekend for 17 miles total, and the feet still felt OK after. Not perfect, but better.

Then Tuesday it all went to hell.

I ran with my group and the heel was nagging, and then at 1.7 miles something got strained or something, and the pain got much worse. I had to stop. I couldn't run without limping. I turned back and walked/limped/tried to jog all the way back. It was bad. So I knew I needed more downtime and wasn't sure if I would be able to race on Saturday, 3 1/2 days later.

Also on Tuesday, the government shut down, and with it, the Grand Canyon, and I realized my rim to rim trip the next week was in danger. Of course, if I can't hardly walk, it was moot anyway. Blerg.

So I spent the rest of the week hoping for improvement. And moping.

Friday night it was better. I test-jogged 1/2 a block while walking the dogs, and I didn't limp, so I decided to go ahead and get up the next day and go to the race and at least start it. If the pain came back, I would bail and "DNF" if necessary. I figured it was 50/50. And then we had friends come over. And they brought champagne and wine. And vodka. And it would be rude not to try all the drink concoctions that were cooked up, right? So I had 5 drinks and went to bed buzzed. Whatever.

Race day dawned sunny and hot. It would get to the high 80's later that day - record heat for the beach. But it was fine in the low 60's at race time, with plenty of shade. I did about a half mile warmup, and the heel was a little sore, but certainly a manageable pain. Nothing that would impact my stride. And my legs felt very fresh! I guess all the rest was good for something! I felt significantly better in my warmup than I did for the 5K two weeks ago. I started to feel that I could maybe have a good day!

This is the only 10K of the year for me, and I had been aiming for it all summer. My goal was to go under 7 minute pace, and beat my over-40 PR from last year of 43:16. This was a tough goal because this course is quite a bit harder than the one I ran last year. There are rolling hills throughout, and one nasty hill in mile 5 that can really break you. This race is also a very competitive one - all the good local racers are here. Over 3,500 people.

It's also a local tradition for 36 years now. I have done it 13 times. They give medals ten deep in each AG! And I have never got one. But based on last year, I knew I could be close, so that was another goal. The track club I joined focuses on this race too. We all wore our uniforms and were all over the course! It was really fun to be part of a team again! This club dominates the awards, and I was hoping I could be part of the celebration. Here we are after the race.

The course starts at the red mark, loops around and back, then out and back next to my trail, and then finishes with 1 mile on the beach bike path. A great course.

OK, race time!

I got out ahead of most of the crowd, but didn't get sucked out too fast either. Just right. I was at 6:45 pace in the first 1/4 mile and tried to relax. I already had several club members around me and I used them to help me stay on pace. The heel was fine, and I hit mile 1 in 6:50.

I was working hard, and getting the usual mid-race realization of just how much this was going to hurt. A couple little hills amped up the breathing, but they were followed by downhills which were just enough to make me feel alive again. I got through mile 2 in 6:53, but was hating life, and getting the usual thought that there was NO WAY I could keep this pace up for 4 more miles! Silly thoughts like "I'll just get to 3 and call it good, and coast in from there". But the experienced racer inside knew I was on the right pace, and that, although it would hurt, I could keep this going. Oh yes, there will be pain. But that's why we do this, right? To test our limits.

Here I am at mile 2. The guy to my right is 66 and ran 44 something, winning his AG. The girl behind me is 51 and ran 43 something. 2nd in her AG. We ran together, back and forth, for much of the race. Friendly rivals, but racing hard. It was fun.

I hate to break it to you, but sometimes my feet do touch the ground. I just look so much better floating. But this pic shows a better view of how I really felt.
Mile 3 had more rollers and I ran 7:01. Mile 4 had more downhill and I managed 6:54. So I was still on track for sub-7, although it was closer than that at the actual mile markers. The heel was fine. Sore but not a problem. Race pain was much worse than a silly heel bruise pain.

I caught a few people I knew and edged ahead of my rivals. Still feeling confident despite the suffering. I was hanging on...right on the edge. And then we hit the big hill. About 100 feet or so in 2 blocks. I tried to take it conservatively, but I immediately got into oxygen debt and the legs got heavy. I REALLY felt like I was dying and would be passed any minute, but I guess we were all suffering the same since no one passed me.

Cresting that hill was so sweet. Because then was an even steeper downhill that you can charge down as your lungs try to get back to normal. Wheeeeee!!!!!!!!!! But then was a hard left turn on to the bike path and over a mile straight to the finish. Mile 5 was 7:14 with the hill, and I knew from experience that mile 6 would be fast.

The last mile you can see the pier off in the distance, marking the finish. People are cheering the whole way. It is narrow and loud and exciting and beautiful. And I am just suffering greatly. Still recovering from the hill, but now with the end in sight, you automatically ramp it up (too early), go into oxygen debt (again) and just hang on as long as you can. It's brilliantly brutal and memorable.

I knew I would be close to my goal, so I was giving it all I could. Still had a little left and passed a few more people. Just hanging on mostly. Soon it would be over, so just hang on!!


Mile 6 was 6:47, with the last .26 at 6:06 pace. I saw the clock click over my goal time just before I got there, but I knew I had a few seconds chip time in my pocket. Official final time: 43:14 A new PR by two seconds! 6:58 pace. Got it!!

Check out the hill, and its effect on my pace.

Oh, man. It took quite some time to get my breathing back to normal. But I was so happy and excited! Race day magic! My feared DNS or DNF turned into a surprise PR! 10K #94 done! Best time in 11 years.

I hung out with my club afterward for the awards ceremony. The timers had some problems so they never posted results until they finally announced the winners about 90 minutes after I finished. So I waited and hoped as they read off the names for the top ten medal winners. I figured it would be close, but then I heard my name right at the end! 10th place! I jumped up to get my medal and my new club-mates applauded. It was nice.

And to top it off, I got home to find the DW had got In 'N Out double burgers! Who's the happiest guy in town? This guy!


Postscript: By the next day they had updated the results, and now they show me 12th in my AG. Oops! But the medal is already on my wall of fame. I'm thinking I just won't say anything. Unless they ask me to return it.

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