I had high hopes for a PR going into this race - in March I had run a half-marathon at my 10 mile PR pace - a sure indication that I could PR the ten miler on a good day and course. And many of my training partners had run 63-64 minutes at Cherry Blossom a few weeks back, making me think that a time in that range was possible for me as well.
I think Broad Street (point-to-point, net downhill, and yes, I'm counting it as a PR) is a faster course than Cherry Blossom if all other things (i.e. weather) are equal. However, historically Broad Street has been a significantly warmer race than Cherry Blossom (last year being a notable exception), limiting any benefit from the course.
The good news was that we were getting Cherry Blossom-like temperatures for Broad Street this year (51 at the start and dry). The bad news was that the wind was from the south, meaning a headwind for 10 miles.
I was particularly worried about the wind, as I was planning to start in the first "elite/seeded" corral. I had "seeded" status for this race, meaning that I had a choice between starting in the very front or starting with the corral associated with my projected finishing time. Last year I had started at the front, and it had been a miserable experience. Basically 10 miles of being passed by faster people, while running into a headwind. I wasn't anxious to repeat that experience.
On the other hand, I knew I was in far better shape this year then last, and that I had a shot at a masters award, including prize money. However, masters awards were awarded based on gun time, meaning that I had to start at the front if I wanted to contend. What to do? Start at the front to target the masters award? Or start further back where I'd have others to block the headwind, to maximize my chances of PRing?
Fortunately, as it turned out, I didn't have to make that choice. Instead of giving the elite/seeded corral a head start, this year the first corral behind the elite/seeded corral started with us. This was huge, as two of my teammates/training partners were in that corral, giving me the option of running with them. So woo.
Race day dawned, and I left my hotel room at 6:05 to get to the subway stop at 6:15 to get to the start for the 8:00 am race. This wasn't overkill - Broad Street is huge, and though it doesn't take long to get from Center City to the race start area, if you wait too long, it's impossible to board the subway due to the packed cars. As it turned out, 6:15 am was perfect.
Once there, I did my standard warm-up of ~3 miles including some uptempo running, plus drills, strides, and multiple bathroom breaks. Then into my corral at 7:40, which was when the corrals were supposed to close. Though this race isn't quite as strict as Chicago, it's still not a race that you can count on ducking into your corral at the last minute.
I noted two good things - 1) the headwind was not as awful as forecast, and was also intermittent rather than constant; 2) the corrals were't being enforced this year. While this would normally annoy me, this year I was grateful - it meant that I had plenty of people to work with/potentially use as windblocks. Rachel and Catherine ended up right next to me, which was awesome. Well, until Rachel helpfully reminded me that I needed to be starting at the line, not a few rows back.
The gun went off, and everyone went out super fast, as they always do in this race (once again - fast courses are not freebies - you can't do stupid stuff and not pay for it). Rachel, Catherine and I quickly grouped together, and ran the first mile patiently, letting the masses stream around us.
I hung on to the two of them for the first mile, but then they began to pick up a bit of speed. It felt a bit too hard for me this early in the race, so I reluctantly dropped back. About this time, the wind started gusting. Fortunately, there was a pack of large guys just to my right, so I pulled up slightly and ducked in behind them.
Over the next few miles, the headwind gusted and then subsided. I remembered the lesson I had learned at Shamrock about being patient and biding my time during a headwind, and I applied it here - when the wind calmed, I'd move out to the side and build pace, an when it picked up again, I'd find a pack of tall guys and tuck in, even if I had to slow down slightly to do so. Better to bank energy now that I could use at the end.
Amusingly, the pack that I spent the most time with featured a big guy in a "November Project" t-shirt. I'm not a huge fan of any training program that encourages people to go hard everyday. But my practicality outweighs my pride, so I tucked in behind him and an even bigger buddy, grateful that the November Project apparently appeals to former football players who can run a decently fast 10 miler.
I also focused on my form. We've had quite a few windy workouts this spring, giving me a chance to practice dealing with it. When there's a headwind, I have a habit of hunching and ducking, trying to minumize the wind surface. But I've noted that I run much faster when I resist this tendency and instead try to run tall. It's counter-intuitive in much the same way that starting slow is. But it works.
So, running tall and "hopscotching" (my term for jumping from wind block to wind block). I made my way down Broad Street. I like to take a gel during 10 mile races, so I took part of a cherry lime rocktane at around mile 6. It disagreed with me for some reason, and for a few minutes I worried that I might have to take a quick pit stop. Fortunately, my stomach settled.
I know Broad Street, and so once I finished the slight uphill just after mile 8, I started to build, abandoning my windblocks. Around mile 9.5, there's a downhill, and I used that to pick up even more pace. Then I saw the Navy Yard gate that indicated a quarter-mile to go, and I half-closed my eyes and pretended I was back on the track, hammering a 400. As I approached the finish line I was estatic to see it counting down 1:03:4x. A major PR, and I was hopeful that would be good enough for a masters award also.
Mile 1: 6:28
Mile 2: 6:26
Mile 3: 6:22
Mile 4: 6:27
Mile 5: 6:24
Mile 6: 6:24
Mile 7: 6:24
Mile 8-9: 12:49 (6:24-6:25 pace)
Mile 10: 6:11
Amusingly, despite my hopscotching, my splits were shockingly even. I also ran a slight negative split, passing a lot of people in the last 2 miles. Several of the people that I passed late in the race were people I remember pulling ahead earlier, when I was tucked in one of "my" packs. I think a lot of people expended way too much effort running solo and trying to hit splits, and paid for it in the last few miles.
- Stuck with the pre-race food routine that has worked for me: rice-heavy Chipotle for lunch, very light dinner with some unsweetened UCAN as a drink. I'm not sure you need to carb-load for a 10 miler, but I don't think it hurt to go carb-heavy the day before. Breakfast was my normal pre-run. I also brought a berry stroopwafel with me to the start, to nibble on to bridge the gap between breakfast and race start.
- Carried a handheld water bottle for the first two miles before tossing it. I'm sure this also gets some eyerolls, but I don't care. It works for me.
- As I noted above, I ended up 4th masters female. Which meant I got to hangout in the elite tent, participate in the awards ceremony, and also fill out "paperwork" for the cash award (name, address, citizenship, USATF #, Social Security number). I'm a dork, and I was ridiculously happy to be filling out paperwork.
- Temperature 52, DP 40 for the race. Really great weather. Probably the best it's ever been in all the time I've run this race.
- I've had a hilarious history at races outside of DC - until this year, I had PR'd every race that I had run in Richmond or Virginia Beach, and had never had a good race in Philadelphia. This year, I upended the cycle - horrible race in Richmond, and then finally a good race in Philly. Woo.
- Pollen seemed notably high, but again (as it has been since starting on the Xolair), I had little issue with it. I did puff my rescue inhaler pre-race just to be careful, but I might have been able to get away with out it. Yay Xolair.
- Mom and Dad really like these pictures, so I'm posting them here. My blog, my rules.