I ran the St. Patricks Day 10K today, finishing in 40:26.
I had high hopes for this race when I registered. I've been feeling pretty good about my fitness, and this course is wonderfully fast. It's essentially the 10K version of the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, which is my favorite race of the year.
And then, consistent with the rest of this winter, nature decided to play hard ball. All week, the weather experts had been chatting about a storm to come in Sunday afternoon. On Saturday, the schedule shifted, with the storm now plotted to come in at race time (9 am for the 10K). The race management posted an update noting that the 10K might be cancelled, and offered any 10K registrant the opportunity to shift to the 5K, scheduled to start 45 minutes earlier. They'd announce for sure whether the 10K would be held at 5:15 am race day morning. Of course, they also (understandably) reserved the option of cancelling or rerouting the 10K last minute if they absolutely had to, due to weather.
A bit chaotic, but it definitely wasn't the race management's fault - they were doing the best they could in a tricky situation (and frankly, handling the weather call and communication better than OPM or most local schools, though perhaps it's unfair to make comparisons). So I went to bed, reasoning that I'd learn in the morning whether I was racing a 10K (my preference), a 5K, or doing yet another workout under the Whitehurst freeway (my back-up plan if everything was cancelled). I set my alarm a bit earlier than I normally would for a 9:00 am race, so I could swap to the 5K if need be.
I woke up at 5:15 to the good news that the 10K was on. And also the less positive realization that I had a mild sore throat and a headache. Crap. The sore throat and headache weren't horrible, but I definitely didn't feel great. I was battling an overwhelming urge to sit on the couch and watch crappy talk shows while eating Whole Foods chili - these simultaneous cravings for bad on-demand television and good chili out of a plastic tub only hit when I'm coming down with something.
Ugh. What to do? I know that a normal person would do the smart thing - skip the race, stay out of the impending ice storm, and just try to get rid of the cold. A teammate's past experience with losing an entire season to walking pneumonia also came to mind. And my newly adopted cat had very strong views on whether I should leave my warm apartment.
On the other hand, this was an awesome course, and I've been feeling good about my fitness. And I've set PRs in the past on days that I woke up feeling sick - as soon as the gun goes off, it all disappears.
And.. all my symptoms were above the neck - I remembered reading that it was fine to run if that was the case, from a health perspective (note: I later looked that up and realized that was for EASY runs. Not races. Ooops).
So, I headed off for the race. I decided that I'd at least try a warm-up jog, and see how I felt. The warm-up jog wasn't horrible. It wasn't great, and my throat and headache weren't improving, but my legs felt normal. I very rarely feel good warming up, so as long as I wasn't feeling shaky or horrible, there was no reason not to start. And though sleet was falling and the sidewalks were getting slick, the roads themselves seemed fine.
Stopped by to see my coach, and to give him a chance to pull me if I was doing something really silly by racing. He told me the call was up to me, so I decided to give it a shot. "The gun goes off and nothing else matters" right?
We lined up, and they sent us off. No air horn or gun - apparently those were pulled because of the conditions. Instead, just a verbal start and we were off. I believe they actually started us a minute early, but the sleet was coming down harder by the minute, and I think everyone appreciated just getting it started.
The race starts with a mild downhill first mile that can pull you out too fast. Mindful of that, and the fact that in cold weather I really benefit from a slow first 800, I kept the brakes on for 3-4 minutes before picking it up to 10K effort. Then I just tried to hold a steady effort, working with some others in a group.
Around mile 3 or so, I started pulling ahead of the group. I let it happen, but the unfortunate consequence was that I ended up running by myself at just the point where I would have loved to have had someone blocking the sleet from my face. Sleet was pelting my face, and the footing was starting to get slick, but all I could do was keep chugging. I did make a point of not running the tangents in some places, but instead running wherever the pavement seemed clearest - reasoning that any additional distance was more than balanced out by the slickness.
I'm not sure how much of it was the mental effort of running by myself into the sleet and wind, and how much was being a bit under the weather, but around 4 miles I started running out of gas, and got passed by two of the women I had been leading. I hate being passed, but I really didn't have any option except to keep chugging, and to remind myself that there was a very fast female master still behind me.
For the rest of the race, I just focused on my form, staying relaxed while running full blast. The footing was getting progressively slicker by the minute, and I was starting to slip. I could hear some breathing behind me - I wasn't sure if it was that fast female master, but I decided to assume it was, and keep digging.
When I saw the 6 mile marker, I started to try to kick. My feet slipped out from under me, but I didn't go down. Gathered myself back together, then started kicking more gingerly, if that makes sense. Finally the finish line was there. I got myself across it (turns out fast female master was a bit behind me) and then caught my breath. I wasn't crazy about the time, but I had gotten out there and raced, and the post-race high mitigates a lot.
My head and throat still hurt. So much for my hopes of it just being pre-race nerves. But on the balance, I'm glad I did this. I don't feel any worse than I did pre-race, so I don't think I made myself sicker. And I'm honestly not sure how much being sick affected my race, if any.
And though I'm bummed I didn't at least break 40, there were other benefits from the race -- I really think it's important not to go too long between races - I was due to get back out there. And heck, it was far better conditions than the only other race I've done this year :)
Mile 1: 6:17
Miles 2-4: 19:29 (6:30 pace)
Last 2.21 miles: 14:37 (6:37 pace).
I'm not crazy about the positive split, but I think the fact that the footing went from good to poor as the race progressed explains this, and I really do feel for the people who were running this in the 45-50 minute range - it must have been pretty tough for them.
Shortened my planned cool down jog to the half mile it took me to get back to my car, and then shuttled home for (you guessed it), chili and bad television, plus kitty and Facebook. Which is not a bad way to spend a Sunday.