Saturday, March 28, 2015

Race report: Monument Avenue 10K, March 28, 2015

I ran the Monument Avenue 10K in Richmond, Virginia this morning, finishing in a time of 39:55.  I'm pretty happy with this for multiple reasons.

For one thing, I actually finally got to race the darn thing this year, which is my fourth year in a row registering for it.  The saga goes like this:

2012: Realized after registering that it was on the same weekend as Cherry Blossom.
2013: Registered for it very early, then decided to do Shamrock Marathon instead.
2014: Injured.
2015: Finally.

But I very nearly didn't race it this year.  I had originally planned to race the RNR USA Half Harathon, and then do Monument Avenue two weeks later.    When I shifted to doing Shamrock Half Marathon instead, a scant 6 days before, I thought that Monument Avenue was out of the question.  It generally takes me about a week to 10 days to feel totally recovered and zoomy after a half marathon.

But, after Shamrock, my coach raised the issue again, as we stood cheering the marathoners.  He thought that I should take a shot at it if nothing was hurting and I didn't feel too sluggish come Thursday.  I was a bit skittish about the idea, but I really didn't want to miss the race for a fourth year in a row.  And if my coach was on board with the idea....

Additionally, after reviewing the website, I realized that the race didn't start until 8:30 am, making it feasible to drive down the morning of the race and save the hotel bill.  (I had paid to have my bib mailed to me when I registered, so I didn't need to hit the expo the day before).  This was good, because I hadn't planned on paying for a hotel 2 weeks in a row.  Additionally, if it turned out I was too tired to run a good race, I'd feel a lot better about it if I hadn't paid well over $200 for a room.

So what the hell, I'd give it a shot.


The Monday to Friday stretch between the two races was dedicated exclusively to recovery.  I ran a bit, but it was all short and very easy, with the exception of a mile pick-up on Thursday to see how I felt.  I didn't feel great and I was a bit slow (a mile at "10K effort" ended up being 6:34) but my coach pointed out I had been running slightly uphill.    And I didn't feel so sluggish that I didn't want to take a shot.  Heck, if nothing else, at least I'd finally get to run it.

The mathematics of an 8:30 am start plus a 1:45 minute drive and a need for a lengthy warm-up dictated that I leave home between 5 and 5:15 am.  Early, but doable - sometimes that's the start time for my morning run.  I hoped to get to Richmond a bit before 7, which would give me enough time to find parking and shift my gear over to the local Golds Gym, where I could stash my stuff and do my pre-run hip stretching and mobilization.  I normally do this before I drive to my run or race, but an over 90 minute drive was going to lock my hips up again anyway.

It also gave me some fudge time in case I hit traffic.   I didn't think it was too likely that I'd hit traffic, given that it was early Saturday morning.  But this is Northern Virginia - you never know.

Good thing I had the fudge time.

Somewhere north of Richmond on I 95.

I finally got to Richmond around 7:20.  Still plenty of time to stretch and get warmed up, but I was worried about finding parking.  Luckily, 7:20 was still early enough that there was plenty of parking in the reserved lots.  Parked, relocated to Golds for stretching, and then off I jogged, as a combination warm-up and "where the heck is the start."  I did have a brief moment as I approached a start line where the announcer was eagerly rallying participants for an 8:00 am start.  Oops?  But it turned out that was the childrens' one mile run, and I still had time.

Found the start and my teammates Susanna, Karina, and Ann, and we all wished each other luck.  Then we lined up in the corrals.  I seeded myself in the very back of the corral since I knew that the cut off for the corral was 41 minutes (verified by a recent race time, so no dreamers allowed), and I didn't want to get dragged out too fast.   I knew I was taking a bit of a risk here, as I didn't know whether age group awards were done by gun or chip time.  But I decided I'd rather lose an award to gun time then lose it by crashing and burning after getting dragged out by the sub 35 minute crew.

The gun went off, and after what seemed like a very long pause (weird being in the back of the corral) Ann and I walked to the front and then started running.  One of my missions for this race was to correct the sins of last week and go out slow.  To this extent, I had looked at a map of the course, and told myself that I would keep stuff very restrained until we turned onto Monument Avenue, before hitting 10K effort.  It took some doing, but I did it.

From there, I basically just went to race mode -  trying to hold right at 10K effort while staying relaxed and loose, and NOT THINKING TOO MUCH.  Running like that doesn't make for interesting blog posts, but I do seem to run my best....

It was decently windy on the course, with a head wind on the way out.  Luckily, this is a pretty big race, so I had plenty of people to draft off of.  A nice change, that.

The course for Monument 10K reminds me a lot of Cherry Blossom.  It's not perfectly flat, but has slight undulations that I think make it faster than a perfectly flat course, since it lets you shift gears slightly.

By Mile 5 I was feeling pretty tired, both mentally and physically.  I hung on without much of a fade, but it was a bit of a struggle (made a bit tougher by being passed by a teammate with a lot of leg speed :)).  No doubt part of it was residual fatigue from last week's half and the morning's drive, and a lot of it was that I was at mile 5 of a 10K race!  But I think also that a bit might have been blood sugar - I had slurped a gel right before the start of the race, and that's about when the sugar burst would have been wearing off. 

In times past, I used to pop something sugary about halfway into a 8K or 10K race.  I don't think it makes a physical difference, but the sugar burst does seem to help with the late race doubts and mental fog.  I may try that again.

Finally, I saw the finish line ahead.  As I approached, I saw the timer ticking down to 40.  I knew I had started the race late, so I could break 40 if I just gunned it like hell.  I gave it everything I had (this is why I ALWAYS kick in a race, so I have that skill when I really need it).  Crossed the line, checked the watch, and yup, I had broken 40.  Cue big grin.

I've broken 40 before, but only on net downhill courses.  This is my first time breaking it on a legitimate course.  I'm counting this as a PR.

I'm feeling pretty damn spiffy.  And really happy with my coach for encouraging me to run this.

Two PRs in 6 days.  Not bad.

I've cut and pasted my splits because they amuse the heck out of me.
Those are manual splits, not autolapping.  Says something about the accuracy of the mile markers and the accuracy of my Garmin on this course.  (ignore the last 5 seconds - I hit lap instead of stop when I crossed the finish).

Other notes:

  • For asthma, did one puff Foradil before driving down, and one puff Albuterol 20 minutes before the start.  Breathing was great - a bit of congestion and watery eyes from allergies, but nothing horrid.
  • For my warm-up, I did extended strides - instead of 20 seconds or so, I held the "stride" for about 60 seconds - until I saw my HR hit 170.  I've done that both for this race and for Shamrock, and it seems to warm me up much better than shorter strides.
  • Race temps was 33 degrees.  Cold for many, but ideal for me.  Felt awesome.  
  • The drive back took 2 and a half hours.  I-95 is a pox upon the beautiful meadows of Virginia.  So that's 4.5 hours of driving today.  And I don't like driving.  However, I like hotel bills (and packing) even less.  And I heard it took 3-3.5 hours to drive down yesterday.  So I think I'll keep this race as a day trip.
  • My friend Cathy (speedy Cathy) also ran this race.  And her husband, a excellent photographer (check out his work) took this picture of us after.  I love this shot (Cathy on the left in green, me on the right in red).
  • Wore my Adidas Takumi Sens today - my first time racing in them (they're like the Adios, but fit the foot slightly differently - a bit wider in the toebox and narrower in the heel).  I liked them. 
  • Next race is Cherry Blossom in 2 weeks (I'll probably wear the Takumi Sens for that).  I've now raced three races in 14 days, with one overall win, two age group wins (the one for today is pending - because I'm 99% sure the current "winner" of the 40-44 women AG is a male), and two PRs.  Tomorrow is a recovery day.


  1. Nice job on the sub-40 so soon after the half PR.

    I sometimes wonder if the "racing as training" strategy has more value than most people give it credit for. A 10k/10 miler is some of the best lactate threshold training you can get.

    1. I agree. I've found that I get a huge boost in fitness from racing 10 milers and halves - even if the race goes poorly, I feel I still get something out of it. And LT work seems to be what really gets me fit.

  2. Nice sub-40 and PR! That's fab! I know just what you mean about the gel bonk - I hesitate to take one before a short race, because I know that will happen, but 10k is kind of the cut-off to run without fuel. It's something I haven't quite figured out.

    1. I've always felt kinda silly taking one during a 10K. But I also feel silly fading in the second half, so there's that.

  3. AMAZING! That's such a huge accomplishment, and it's awesome it happened on a course you've been meaning to try out for a long time. AND on the heels of a half marathon PR. Congrats!