I ran this race simply to ensure I had another race in between the Houston Half and my next planned race - the Love Run Half in Philly in late March (which will be a tune-up for the Boston Marathon). Some people can go several months without racing and be just fine - I'm not one of them.
I've found that I perform my best when I'm racing at least once a month: the more I race, the sharper I get. And conversely, the longer I go between races, the harder it is to sharpen up again. I can be very fit, but not sharp, and underperform.
This is why, when I'm focusing on shorter distances, I'll do a block of training to get fit and then "coast" by spending 8-10 or more weeks mostly racing and recovering, with a few controlled interval workouts filling the gaps. If we do this right, I improve a bit each race, and run my best performances at the end, right before I start feeling a bit fried (at which point I call it a season).
Of course, this practice doesn't work so well for marathon training - I can't race frequently AND put in the volume of training that a marathon requires without overtraining or getting injured. So marathon training mandates a 7-8 week period where I don't race and just put in the work. Today was solely to squeeze in one more race before entering the heaviest part of my marathon training, which starts on Monday. So that the gap between races would be be 7 weeks rather than 10.
Ideally, I would have raced a 5K on Saturday and then done easy paced mileage on Sunday, but I couldn't find any 5Ks that were appealing (appealing in this context means local, held on asphalt, and not a fun run). However, the For the Love of It 10K did meet my criteria, so what the heck. It would be a moderately hilly race, but that was a plus, since I'm training for a hilly marathon.
Race morning dawned cold - it was 14 degrees at race start, though at least it was sunny with little wind. Another small mercy was that packet pickup was inside the high school hosting the race.
I warmed up with three miles, including about a quarter mile at a harder pace, plus some drills and strides that I continued all the way until 2 minutes before race start. Then I lined up near my teammates Jenn and Matt. At 8:02 (so two minutes late, and an uncomfortable two minutes at that), the race started.
Because of the bright sunshine, I was wearing sunglasses. As if on cue, when the horn sounded, my glasses fogged up, rendering the first 15 seconds of this race even sketchier than race starts normally are. I pushed my sunglasses up onto my forehead where they would reside for the rest of the race, and then I could see.
As the race sorted itself in the first half mile, I found myself behind a pack of around 8 women and men, with Jenn and another pack about 10 seconds ahead. I tucked in and reminded myself to stay patient during the first two miles before opening up. Over those next two miles, my pack fell apart, and I found myself alone. I tried to keep the pack ahead of me in sight, and even to reel them in, but my legs had no spark, and soon they hit a downhill when I hit an uphill, and I lost contact.
From there it was a lonely race - I had nobody ahead to pull me, and nobody near to drive me, and my legs were leaden. This was both tough and fantastic. Frequent racing means frequent practice in handling mentally challenging situations, and being totally alone at mile 4.5 of a 10K with a decent uphill ahead fit the bill.
So I dug in and toughed it out. It wasn't pretty, but I got it done. The last .21 of the race was on the local HS track, and so I tried to kick in my finish as if I was running a hard 400 on the track. No dice - the legs had nothing to give. I saw the clock ticking well over 40 as I finished, which was a bit annoying, but oh well.
Because it was so cold, I set my Garmin to autolap, rather than manually lap at the mile markers (it's hard to hit the lap buttons with my mittens). My autolap splits were:
Mile 1: 6:37
Mile 2: 6:34
Mile 3: 6:13
Mile 4: 6:15
Mile 5: 6:45
Mile 6: 6:32
last ".28" - 1:40
The Garmin read a bit longer than 10K, but I don't think the course was long. Just a bit of satellite reception inaccuracy.
My official pace for the 10K was 6:33, which is amusing, because that's the same pace I ran at the Houston Half three weeks ago.
I don't think this reflects a sudden massive drop in fitness, or poor race execution, or lack of effort. Rather, I was very well rested (two week taper) for Houston, which was a fast course in great weather. In contrast, I came into this race on tired legs due to a jump in weekly mileage, accompanied by hard workouts on Sunday and Tuesday, plus a 90 minute sports massage on Wednesday. While I did cut back on my mileage some in the last three days pre-race, I was still far from rested - I need more than 3 days to truly freshen up. Add the fatigue to a hilly course and frigid temperatures, and it's no surprise that I was way slower than my half-marathon would predict. Which is fine - I didn't do this race as a fitness check.
Despite (or more accurately, independent) of the time, I'm really glad I did this race. A hilly 10K raced all out on tired legs was a good training stimulus for Boston, and having to tough it out at the end was exactly what I needed to keep me race sharp and confident.
- Due to the cold weather, I wore tights over compression shorts on my legs, and a running jacket over a longsleeve shirt over a sportsbra on top. I was very comfortable for most of the race - possibly slightly warm by the end, but I was fine with that. Throughout my Boston training this spring, I'm trying to overdress slightly for all my runs, including workouts and races, in hopes that I'll be somewhat prepped if Boston ends up on the warm side. And the nice thing about running in multiple layers, especially on your legs, is how much faster you feel in shorts.
- Since I didn't particularly care about this race, I decided to wear my Adidas Adios 3s, to see how I liked them at this distance. I normally race 10K in the Adios 2. Despite the fact that the Adios 2 and 3 are nominally sequential generations of the same shoe, I find them very different. The Adios 2 is very firm and stiff, while the Adios 3 is far more soft and flexible. As I suspected, I hated the Adios 3 for fast running - I felt like the softness and flexibility of the shoe was siphoning out what little bounce my legs had. So now I know, and I won't race in them again.
Why did I even try racing in the Adios 3 if I suspected I'd hate it? Because it's getting harder and harder to find pairs of the Adios 2, which has been out of production for over two years at this point. And many of my teammates love the Adios 3 for racing. I've used the Adios 3 for easy runs and marathon pace work and always found the shoe to be a bit draining even at marathon pace, but I thought I might as well give it a solid test at a 10K I didn't really care about, to confirm whether I hated it for faster stuff. Yup - hated it. Won't race in it again.
- It took me 25 minutes door-to-door to get to Southlakes HS. Good to know if I do this race again.
- Major kudoes to the race staff for getting out there this morning, and even maintaining a water station (!!! did anyone drink from that thing?) It is so much harder to stand still in these temperatures than it is to run.
- Really good results from my teammates - Matt won the race on the men's side, and Jenn was second on the women's. So yay!