Sunday, February 19, 2012

Race report: GW Birthday 10K, February 18, 2012

I ran the “GW Birthday 10K” today, finishing in 40:18 (chip-timing) for a 35 second PR. So yay!

When I signed up for this 10K, I had visions of PRs dancing in my head – my workouts have indicated that I’ve made some significant gains in fitness, and I was eager to show them off.  Indeed, I had visions of a sub-40 minute 10K (while I’m focused on halfs and 10 miles, one of my short to medium term goals is breaking 40) in my head.    I had previously signed up for the Ukrops 10K in Richmond in about 2 months – that race has a reputation for being very fast.

And then I realized that Ukrops was on Saturday March 31, and the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler on Sunday, April 1.  I can’t race both.  And I LOVE Cherry Blossom.  So I needed another 10K.  And this one, described by race promotion management company Pacers as “Flat and fast except for one rise at overpass near start and finish” sounded like a good candidate, weather permitting.

And the weather this morning was gorgeous.  And I felt ready for a great race.  So yay.


I arrived at the race and picked up my bib.  Easiest race ever – I parked right next to the start/finish, with the building hosting bib pick-up right on the other side.  This building (the US Patent Office) also featured tons of bathrooms – the luxury.  So far, perfect.

And then I went for my warm-up.  And noted that the “one rise at overpass” was a bit impressive.  But oh well.  It was just one hill, albeit an imposing one, and I’m fine with hills.  I’ve got Iwo Jima hill repeats and the occasional easy jog on the roller-coaster-esque Custis trail in my mental fuel belt.  One substantial hill - no problem.  Otherwise fast and FLAT, right?  

So, lined up, chatted with some others, and then we were off.  I had noted that the first mile was downhill to the overpass, and thus likely to suck me out way too fast, so I rode the brakes hard for the first half mile, allowing people to flow around me on both sides.  I figured I’d catch them on the flat part of the course, after they burned themselves out on the overpass.

Well, I was partially right.  By mile marker 1, people were struggling on both sides of me, and I gently pulled away into clear territory and could run.  But the course was not flat.  Rather, we were climbing, and then flat or descending slightly, and then climbing.  Never anything that was that bad, but a modest steady climb.  I just focused on maintaining effort, and laughed inside at my naïve trust of the race managers’ representations.  Cherry Blossom is flat and fast.  Philly Distance run is flat and fast.  Haines Point is super flat and super fast. 
This race – not quite.

It's not a slow course by any means.  It's fair and not particularly challenging.  But it's not “flat and fast.”

[n.b. I have been informed that the majority (or at least, the person who counts) believes the course to have been flat and me to be whining.  I disagree (on the course, agree on the whining), but concede I might not be the most unbiased here.  Ergo, I now correct.  The course is flat (or not -- see DC Rainmaker's Race Report for an elevation profile).]

Bad [race management].  Bad, BAD [race management].   You LIED.

With a rueful grin, I held steady effort and stayed patient through the halfway turnaround, and then we were on our way down, and I just rolled.   Up and over the overpass, and then flowing towards home.  I felt the old temptation to start attacking the finish line, but successfully resisted, and instead ran fluidly all the way home.


Post-hoc splits were:

6:28 (downhill, but with overpass)
6:40 (uphill)
6:47 (more uphill)
6:26 (u-turn and downhill)
6:24 (downhill)
6:21 (uphill, overpass, pushing),
1:12 (5:43 pace, uphill)

Once again, it’s interesting how running watchless really works.  If I had been looking at my splits, I would have been worried by how fast my first mile was or how disturbingly slow the second and third (especially the third – nearly half marathon pace).  But, instead I ran on, happily oblivious, and ended up with a pretty good race.

I also note that, though I definitely ran this as a race effort, at the same time I felt that I could have backed off the pace just slightly, and gone a lot longer.  Maybe this is just some residual weakness from whatever bug I had last week, but I'm hoping it also indicates that I've got some really good things in store at my goal race distances.

Other notes:

2 puffs of inhaler 45 minutes before the race.  Weather was bright sunshine and 38 degrees – wore tank top and gloves and was comfortable, though sports bra would have worked too.  Left home at 6:20, got to race at 6:55.  Warm-up was 3 miles progression (ending 15 minutes before) plus drills and strides.

Got to meet DC Rainmaker, which was cool. I just wish I'd had the presence of mind to ask for a sticker.

8th woman overall.  The race only did 10 year age groups, alas.

Sub-40 is close, I think.


  1. CONGRATS on the PR! That's awesome!

    Did the course go through a park area and have a lot of turns? I ran this race back in 2008 and it was 6.4 miles, which they announced when giving out awards. And it definitely wasn't flat.

    I hope that Pacers buying CRC doesn't mean 10-year age groups for all races. Congrats again!

  2. Congratulations! You are at a real turning point with your racing, woman! Very exciting to see, I suspect the spring will bring you PR upon PR.

    1. Thanks - feeling pretty good. Just gotta be patient and not get greedy.

  3. Great PR Cris! Congratulations. That sub-40 is soooo close. I have run several races on that course and it is not flat, but that downhill is nice at the end.

    1. Hmmm. I wonder if they changed it? Our course finished on a very slight uphill. But the downhill after the overpass at about 5.5 was really nice.

  4. I ran all my PR's without a watch! It does keep your mind out of things.

  5. Congrats on your race, I'm stoked for you! I agree with you, not a flat course. (it was different in 2008, but the same as it was last year). That's a tough hill in the morning, and i think if you run it back, it's a rolling hill, not flat. I personally will never understand hills negating each other out.

    Sorry about Ukrops, maybe Pikes Peek?

  6. Congrats on the PR!

    I did it last year and as an added bonus we ran the out portion into a pretty strong wind. I couldn't figure out why I was moving SO slowly until I hit the turnaround. It was pretty fun to fly on the way back.