Today was the first race of my spring season. Today I raced the Cardinal Strut 10K. Next week I race the first triathlon of the year and the weekend after that, I'm doing a 5K. I've been gearing up for this distance for a couple of months and this was the third time I've done this race, and still, I was as nervous as I was for the B2B half iron! I had dreams that I was late, that I lost my change of clothes and that they moved the finish line halfway through the run!
|Don't Start Too Fast|
Fortunately, none of those things happened. I awoke on time, ate my giant smoothie, sipped on my Amino Vital Pro, double-checked my checklist and arrived at the race site. I had talked to Coach Stacey on Friday and she helped me with a race strategy. We talked about not starting out too fast. We talked tuning into that threshold pace. We talked about drafting off other runners and running the tangents. I reviewed my notes in the warm car. I wrote: I RACE SMARTER, HARDER & FASTER THAN I TRAIN on my arm. I took a last swig of water and decided I was ready.
|YDubTriClub: Joe, Beth, Meredith, Holly and Me|
I socialized for a few minutes with my YDubTriClub team and then went to warm up. I've never actually done a real warm-up before and I took 20 minutes to incorporate skips, hops, butt kicks, high knees, hip openers, hip closers, jogging, strides and jumps. I arrived at the start line hot - not warm. My heart rate was in zone two and I opted for no gloves and no jacket. (great choices even though the temp was 40 degrees) Plus, I was able to pull up my sleeves and read my arm: I RACE SMARTER, FASTER, HARDER THAN I TRAIN.
I RACED SMARTER:
I didn't overbake the first few miles. At the first turn, I watched my watch, ARGO, for clues on pacing. And I slowed down. Every year...every race I start too fast. It's hard to hold back at the start. There is an adrenaline rush and swish swish swish of people moving fast. There is a vortex of contagious energy that pushes and pulls you forward. For at least a mile, you are with other runners who are just as excited, nervous and encouraging as you are. In 2012, I started too fast (in the 7:20s/mile pace) and finished in 52:02. I did a time trial on the course two weeks ago and started in the 7:50s/mile pace - I finished in 51:07. Today, my goal for mile one and two was around 8:10. My goal for the rest of the race: 8:02/mile.
ARGO read 7:55, then 7:58 then 8:05 in the first half mile - which was great because it meant I was slowing down. It's counter-intuitive because I felt great at that 7:55 pace! I'm thinking, if I feel great now, shouldn't I run fast now? Plus, it was hard watching people pass me.
|My Unofficial Race Finish|
The pacing paid off. My average pace for the race was right on target at 8:03/mile. In the past, I have overbaked the start and slowed to an 8:20 or 8:30 pace in the last few miles. Today I was consistent - my mile averages were between 7:58 and 8:09.
The Cardinal Strut 10K is a fairly technical course. There are at least 12 turns on the first loop - and there are two loops. The race winds through curvy suburban neighborhoods and includes what I call the ditch: a 100 yard downhill with a right-hand turn and then a 100-yard climb. I feels steep and short - like the side of a ditch. You get to jump the ditch twice in the 10K.
|How to Run a Tangent|
I have done this course at least 50 times. It is close to the YDUBTRICLUB headquarters and it's a safe easy course to get mileage and practice tempos. I know the curves and the turns, the dips and the ditch. So, I raced smarter by playing the tangent game. Everybody knows that a line is the shortest distance between two points. A tangent is a straight line that just touches a curve. It doesn't intersect the curve, and it doesn't miss the curve. To run the tangents, you really have to know what's coming around the bend. [And hope that there's not a car or a 5K runner in your tangent.] You'll notice in the picture of my watch that the distance reads: 6.18 miles and not 6.2 miles. I think it's because I ran on the inside of the curves and took a straight line when possible. I promise I didn't run through anyone's yard. :)
My last smart move was drafting. I've never done it before - never even thought of doing it before. We do it on the bike every outing, but I never thought there would be an advantage on a run. Sure enough, it pays off. There was a head-windy stretch in mile two and five. In mile two, I was able to tuck in behind a bigger guy at my pace and follow him as he blocked the wind for me. In mile five, I used another runner to edge up a short slope and catch my breath at the top of the hill. And I used yet another runner to race harder......
I RACED HARDER THAN I TRAIN A lot of times, if you work smarter, you don't have to work harder. In this race I was determined to work harder. It would be so much easier to stop and walk up that ditch. It would have been so much better to slow for a sip of water or think, I'm tired, I'll slow down and still have a respectable time.
Today I raced harder. I didn't quit. In the last two miles I passed three women (one of whom may have been a 5K runner), but I used them as carrots. I'm usually competitive with myself and I actually perform well if I know I'm being chased, but never look for anyone to chase. The other day in the pool, on a dare, I caught up with one of our faster swimmers. I imagined doing that same thing in this race. In the last mile, I watched as a woman ahead of me slow for the water station and thought, I bet I can catch her. There was that pesky headwind so, I used the runner ahead of me to draft until I was 10 yards from her. I moved from his draft into her draft. Ten yards later, I moved around her. We made a turn and headed down a little slope and she passed me. I thought, ANYbody can pass me on a hill. Now watch this. At the bottom of that hill, I edged to her left and was able to take the left turn on the inside and pass her. From there I picked it up every 20 seconds until I reached the finish line! She didn't catch me after that!
I RACE FASTER THAN I TRAIN The results? That unofficial 49:46 finish and a clock time of 49:54. That beat my time from 2011 by nearly a minute, it beat my time trial from two weeks ago by over 1m15s and it beat last year's 10K by over 2 minutes. I placed first in my age-group and won an awesome beach towel! I'm excited about my progress and my start to the season. I'm thankful for my friends and for my coach!
|Podium Finisher! First in Age-Group|
|Podium Finishers from the YDubTriClub Including Holly Konrady and Beth Sheppard|
|Drinking Amino Vital in the Pancake Line|