Sunday, December 20, 2015

Race report: PVTC Christmas Caper 10K, December 19, 2015

I ran the PVTC Christmas Caper "10K" yesterday, finishing in 38:29 - a substantial PR.

[In case you haven't guessed, the course was significantly short.]

Despite (or perhaps because of) the mis-measured course, I was pretty happy with the race.  I really just wanted to get back out there and race and have fun and remember why I enjoyed racing.   And this low key inexpensive hand timed small race fit the bill perfectly, and let me do just that.

When signing up for this race, I had my choice of running 5K or 10K.  After thinking about it, I decided to go with the 10K.  Any fitness I have right now is just the remnants of my fall marathon training cycle, and I am far from sharp - the only fast running I've done since before Thanksgiving was a cautious hill workout on Tuesday.  I figured that, given my lack of fitness and training, I'd be running the same pace whether I raced 5K or 10K.  So I might as well race the 10K.

I did have a bit of trepidation about the longer distance, though.  With so little speedwork, I didn't know how I was going to handle 6+ miles of fast running.  However, I rationalized that I couldn't have lost all of my marathon strength, and that would carry me through.  Plus I have a half-marathon in late January that I'd like to run fast at - the 10K would be a better workout.

The other concern about the 10K course was the course itself.  The 5K was one out and back, while the 10K would be two loops, turning just short of the finish line to head back out again. 
That's a bit mentally challenging, especially when you have some trepidation about the length of the race to begin with.  But I decided to don my big girl panties and give it a shot - I'd just go out at tempo effort for the first loop, and then up the effort for the second loop.


As it turned out, race morning featured perfect running weather.  The forecast had been for very windy conditions, which would have been miserable on the exposed peninsula that is Hains Point.  But the wind held off until after the race, giving us crisp and clear conditions for the race, with just a slight wind from the south.

I met with my teammate Patrick to do my standard warm-up - 3 miles very easy.  When he headed over to the start line for the 5K (which started 10 minutes before the 10K), I shifted to drills and strides, plus a pre-race inhaler puff.  Then I lined up with others behind the freshly painted start line.  At these small races, it's always hard to figure out who your competition is.  I noted a few other women who looked like they might be about my speed.  [by the way, this whole visual assessment is quite amusing, given that I don't necessarily look like "my speed."].  I also noted one very young looking blonde girl, either in high school or in college, who looked like she could be fast.  Or she could just be young.  Either way, I'd find out in a few minutes.

The starter sounded "go" and we were off.  I managed to tug on my own reins pretty quickly and restrain myself to tempo effort, letting other surge ahead of me.  Young blonde girl, on the other hand, exploded off the line like a lightning bolt.  I watched her fly, fairly amused.  Going with her was not an option.  Either she was REALLY fast, or she was a high school kid pacing her race like most high school kids, and was going to have a very painful race.

Per my plan, I held tempo effort for the first out and back - an effort level which allowed me to slowly close the gap on several runners male and female.  By the halfway point, I was in third place for women, with the second about 30 seconds ahead of me.  As for young blonde girl?  She was literally out of sight.  

For the second loop, I tried to up the pace a bit, but wasn't really able to.  I think my limits here were mental, not physical.  Since I haven't done much in the way of hard running recently, I'm out of mental shape right now.  I'm not currently able to be comfortable and relaxed while running really hard and hurting, so I didn't let myself push it to that point.  I'm not too worried about this - it will come back with a few workouts.

I was fortunate enough to pull along side of a male runner partway through the second loop.  Sometimes I'd build a small gap on him, and then he would fight his way back.  For the rest of the race we dueled - it was awesome, because it distracted me from the discomfort of racing, and gave me some much needed mental practice.  At the same time, I could also see the second place woman, and realized I was closing the gap on her.

Unfortunately, before I was able to catch up to her, the finish area came into sight.  Mr. Male Runner (for lack of anything else to call him) started kicking, and I responded. We were neck and neck coming into the corral, but he did manage to edge me at the last second.  No problem - I was so happy to have the chance to practice battling someone else to the finish that I actually didn't care which one of us won - it was the practice that mattered.

As we came through the finish, the clock read 48 minutes.  I knew immediately that was wrong - no matter how out of shape I was, there was no way I had run 48 minutes for 10K.  I then looked at my Garmin, and saw "38:29".  I had about 2 seconds of "holy shit" and then I noted the distance - less than 6 miles.  Yup, the course was way short.  Ah well.

While others were upset about the course (it appears a volunteer misplaced the cone used for turnarounds 1 and 3), I wasn't terribly mad.  I'd have been pissed off if I had paid a lot of money for this race, or if I had been in good shape and targeting a PR.  But neither was the case.  I signed up for this race to get a hard run in, to practice racing, and to have fun.  I achieved all three and also managed to kick my post-shitty-marathon blues, which have been lingering since Philly.  All in all, it was a good morning.

As for fast young blonde girl?  She won the race overall, finishing the short course in just over 33 minutes.  I did some googling afterwards, and read that she had a PR of 33:xx for the 10K on the track.  Just goes to show, no matter how lowkey the race, you never know who is going to show up.


Splits from my Garmin (set to autolap) were:
Mile 1: 6:40
Mile 2: 6:44
Mile 3: 6:44
Mile 4: 6:38
Mile 5: 6:39
Last .79: 5:05 (6:26 pace).

According to my Garmin, the total distance was 5.79.  My Garmin is usually very accurate on Hains Point.  On the other hand, my Garmin does like to short change me on hairpin turns, assuming that I turned sooner than I did.  That may have happened some here, as I know that miles 2 and 3 were run much harder and faster than Mile 1, despite the splits above.  But even if my Garmin was inaccurate, there's still no way this was a 10K, and probably not even close to 6 miles.  But again, I wasn't up for a PR, just for a good time and a chance to race someone else, so it doesn't matter in the end.

Other notes:

  • Weather was 32 degrees at the start - perfect.  I wore a long sleeve and tights for this race, which is more than I'd normally wear for a 10K in these conditions.  But again, I was racing this for fun, not a blazing time, so why not be a bit more comfortable at the start line.
  •  Looking at my Garmin after shows that my heart rate never got out of tempo range (low 170s) which is consistent with my perception that I never really hit true race effort.  I'm not too upset with this - running hard requires practice, which I'll get in the next few weeks.
  • With regard to asthma meds, I took a puff of Foradil in the morning, and then a puff of Albuterol right before race start.  The second (and perhaps the first) might have been unnecessary - my asthma is almost always a non-factor in cold December temperatures.  But there was no harm to playing it safe.
  • As part of my ongoing caffeine experiment, I also had a Sea Salt Chocolate GU in the morning, plus one Black Cherry shot blok.  It seemed like they helped some.  And they were also yummy, so that's a plus.
  • My normal taper for a 10K is 6-8 miles with a mile pick-up at 10K pace two days before, then short and easy the day before.  Since I just started workouts again, I skipped the mile pick-up this time.  It just seemed like overkill to start back with a hill workout, then a mile pick-up two days later, and then a race two days after that.  Better to go into the race cold than cooked.
  • Won my 10 year age group and got a Christmas ornament.  Asked if they had any that were cat safe, and got a strange look.  Oh well.


  1. I love the game of "assess the competition" - even though I am so often totally wrong! The girl with a too-long running skirt, an ipod, a November project shirt, and a silly hat? She might kill the second half to pass three people and win overall. Fast chick in a tri suit with top-of-the-line Garmin and an Ironman tattoo? Totally fades in mile three and ends up walking. It's still fun to guess, though!

  2. When you wrote that you run a 38:29, I did not think the course was short-- I think you are totally capable of running that time on an accurately measured course! Anyway, it's great that you got out there and did this one again-- I know you've done it in the past. Happy New Year!