Sunday, November 8, 2015

Race report: Veterans Day 10K, November 8, 2015

I ran the Veterans Day 10K today, finishing in a chip time of 40:07.  Strangely, I'm both happy with this and a bit bummed.

I'm bummed because I believe I'm in much better shape than this.  I'm also a bit frustrated that I couldn't even break 40 on a good weather day and a fast course.

On the other hand, my legs feel like marathon legs.  They can keep going and going, but aren't tuned to speed.  They also felt very heavy this morning, which I attribute to the past three weeks of high mileage, plus last Sunday's 21 mile long run and Wednesday's hard track workout.  My legs are far from fresh.  Which isn't a horrible thing, because they don't need to be fresh now, as long as they're fresh in two weeks.

I'm a bit sad, because I missed an opportunity to run a great race here.  But there will be other opportunities - this gets me hungry for another season focused on shorter races.

So other than that, how was the race?  

Well...the race was held on Hains Point in DC, which is about as fast as a course gets without being assisted.  Hains Point is essentially a pancake, and the 10K course is also a lollypop-shaped route, meaning that there are no truly sharp turns to lose your momentum.  Super-speedy.

Hains Point can often be windy, as it was today.  But even when windy, it's still a fast course, and one primed for PRs.  And, of course, the weather was beautiful.

As is often the case, the wind was from the north, meaning that it would help us the most in miles 1 and 2, and hurt in the last few miles.  Unfortunate, that - I prefer a headwind in the first few miles, and a tailwind at the end.  My rationale is that it's a lot easier to find a group to tuck in behind at the start of the race, when runners are tightly packed.  By the last miles, we're more strung out, with each runner fending for him/herself.

After my normal 3 or so mile warm-up, plus some drills and strides, I lined up.  I felt tired, and I also felt unmotivated. I've experienced this before in other final pre-marathon tune-up races.. By this point in the cycle, I am so focused on the marathon in two weeks that it's hard to get myself to really focus on the immediate race.  But that was fine - this was a tune-up, and not my goal race.

For the start, I seeded myself decently back in the pack, since these races always start very fast.  Even so, I was surprised by how many people surged past me in the first mile.  It took a lot of mental effort to hold back, but I've made the mistake of going out too fast on this course before.  It can be a very painful last two miles if you charge out too hard.

As I noted above, my legs felt tired from the start, which was concerning.  On the other hand, I'm marathon focused, and 6 miles is nothing to me at this point.  I reminded myself of that fact and just took one mile at a time, holding a steady effort.

After mile 2 or so, I started pulling past other people.  I just held my effort and let it happen.  Around mile 4 or so, a pack that had been running near me picked up their pace substantially.  At this point, we were heading back into the wind, and so I tried to latch on to them.  However, I couldn't quite stay with them. so I had to let them go.  From there on, I just held my hard effort, doing periodic checks to see if my legs could pick up the pace (they couldn't).  And also reminding myself that I'm short, so the wind doesn't affect me the way it does taller runners.

As per my norm, I ran this race with my watch face blanked.  I was a bit disappointed to see 40:0x on the clock as I approached the finish line, but it was what it was.

Splits ended up being
Mile 1: 6:17
Mile 2: 6:20
Mile 3: 6:26
Mile 4: 6:31
Mile 5: 6:37
Mile 6: 6:34
last bit: 78 seconds.

(40:02 on my watch, but 40:07 for the race chip time - I'm not sure where the discrepancy came from, but I'm not going to worry about it).

Based on the splits, it looks like I went out too fast, but I don't think I did.  Certainly I didn't by effort.  I think the splits just reflect the effects of the wind - many people I spoke to had similar splits, including mile 5 being strikingly slow.

Also interesting was just how low my heart rate was in this race - it peaked at 172 - when I usually see in the high 170s at the end of a 10K, and average around 176-177.  I think this points (again) to me being REALLY aerobically fit, but residual fatigue not letting me push to my potential.  Which shows that I REALLY need to taper the next two weeks.

One reason I thought I could run faster was the workout I did on Wednesday - twenty-five 400m repeats at 10K pace with 100m floating recovery (essentially 30 seconds of running at 8:00 pace).  On Wednesday, my twenty-five repeats summed to 39:09, after subtracting the recovery.  I was curious as to how well this workout would predict my time.  Judging from today's race - not that well.  On the other hand, I think my legs were still tired from that workout, so perhaps this morning's race wasn't a fair test.

Time was supposedly good enough for second master female.  I suspect the "first master female" was a bib-swap, but there's no way to know for sure until the race photos come out.  PSA again folks - PLEASE DON'T SWAP BIBS.  Especially if you're in my age group.

Other notes:
  • Weather was awesome - temp 46, dew point 36.  The sun was bright, but that's why they make cool sunglasses, right?
  • Wore my flats (Takumi Sen) for this race.  I normally love these shoes, but they felt a bit strange this morning.  Possibly because I'm in marathon mode, so my stride is slightly different?  It was strange, but I really found myself wishing I had worn my marathon shoes (Boston Boost) for this race.
  • I have a preferred parking spot for Hains Point races - easy to get to from Virginia, and close to the start.  Alas, that area is under construction - imagine my surprise to find "my" parking area coned off.  Fortunately, I got to the race early enough that I was able to drive around and find another parking space.  Though it wasn't the same.
  • Used my Foradil inhaler in the morning; also used my Albuterol inhaler pre-race, though I don't think I needed to.  Breathing was good.
  • Took a Caramel Macchiato GU in the morning, to give myself a spike of caffeine and perk me up.  Alas, I still felt sluggish.  But at least the gel was yummy.


  1. Looks like a pretty solid race by the splits, that headwind for mile 5 was bearable but not easy, to put it mildly. If you can hold that kind of pace at that kind of heart rate, you are in prime marathon shape!

    You are definitely not the only one whose watch did not agree with the timing company. I started mine 2 seconds before I crossed the start line and stopped it a few strides after crossing the backup mat. Yet the timing company has me 3 seconds slower. I'm not so much angry as...confused? What happened?

  2. Congrats! I think your assessment here is spot on. You've got un-tapered marathon legs. Not tapered 10K legs! I've run those windy Hains Point races and the last few miles definitely are harder, so I can believe your effort level was consistent. Without looking at your Garmin, how do you know you aren't going out too fast in a marathon? I would be scared! Anyway, I really like the idea of a 10K tune-up 2 weeks before a marathon, so it's great you did this! Congrats on the placement and a hard effort!