Monday, October 28, 2013

Anthem Wicked 10k or: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Run

The impetus for writing this post is because of the race I did this past weekend, but it's really more of a story of the last 7 or so weeks of my training (as with any race). I've alluded to it previously, but I've been working on my run like crazy because I'm a triathlete, not an aquaveloist, so it finally paid off and has only made me more anxious for next tri season.
Since Hy-Vee, I haven't ridden with really any consistency, and even my swimming has taken a secondary priority. I have been running and running and running, some weeks touching close to 70 miles. Part of the transition was trying to seriously convince myself that I am a runner. I switched entirely to running in singlets (known to normal people as "tank tops"). I started taking ice baths on a pretty frequent basis, double-running, you name it...except that I did very little intensity. Originally the plan was to race a half marathon sometime in mid-November, so I was doing a lot of longer, slower work than normal if I were training specifically for a 10km. From a long term perspective, that's probably for the best because I managed to avoid getting injured during this whole build-up, which is always a risk.
I started to build a fair bit of confidence when I accidentally set a personal best 10km during the Colonial 200 a few weeks ago. I was asked at the last minute to be on a team of a few other coasties from the area, and in one of my 6.3 mi legs, I realized by the 3 mi mark that I was well on pace to beat my previous personal best of a 38:50 that was set a few years ago in a tri and I'm slightly embarrassed to say I haven't come too close to it since. After that though, I stayed focused on that original plan for the half marathon, though.
Solid summary of what a 200 mile ultra relay entails...using your foam roller to take a nap in some random grassy field and hoping there's no dog poo there.
Team Shallow Water Runners at the finish, with our skeleton buddy who spent the majority of the race tied to the front of the van. He's looking fit in this photo, only a few pounds off his proper race weight.
So fast forwarding quite a bit until earlier this week, when a combination of changes in coaching situations, work schedules, personal life, and a general desire not to run for an hour and a half caused me to change up my plans. I decided fairly late to register for the race, one that I knew would have faster runners than me, but isn't necessarily a super-competitive race. Instead, it's more like a really fast Halloween parade than a race, but that's fine and kind of what makes it fun. Even some of the faster runners dressed up; they just weren't wearing a tiki figurine costume like this runner. I actually picked up my number and everything the day before, which was cool because I got to check out the expo, which I later figured out was not really there the day of the race. I ran into a few people I knew, saw some of the typical expo fare, but one thing that really caught my eye, which I suppose is the point, was the amount of high-vis attire there, at almost every booth. This is an idea I've recently taken to as well, because there's no good reason aside from "it looks silly" not to wear something loudly colored. One company in particular made nothing but high-visibility clothing, RUseeN, which is really cool in my opinion.
Anyway, come race morning, it was brutally cold. Well, it was brutally cold for Virginia in October, something in the upper 30s when I woke up, still only getting up into the 40s by the time the race started.
I was fortunate enough that I could run about a mile to the convention center/start line as my warmup, so that's exactly what I did, just wearing a little extra clothing and putting the dry gear bag in my pocket.
I did my warmup and made my way into the first corral. Unlike a tri, I feel less anxious about getting absolutely onto the front line in a bigger running race. In some ways it helps me because it keeps me from accidentally starting out wayyyy too fast and then blowing up, kind of like how everybody swims in a triathlon.
I didn't get to set up a transition, so I laid everything out on my bed before I got dressed. Don't judge me. The black shorts and arm warmers don't really come through when on a black background. I'm not a photographer.
So the race started and I was conscious to start under control. I didn't entirely know what to expect, but I figured I would be somewhere in the rough ballpark of 34 to 38 minutes, so I didn't want to burn myself up too much and run 5:00 miles to start off. It turns out I did that more or less anyway, because when a gap started to open up .25 mi into the race, I surged to cover it and stay with the three leaders like it was a breakaway in a criterium. I found I was still kind of comfortable running with them, but I also knew that trying to drop them would be suicide, because the secret to running a fast 10k is not killing yourself in the first 5k. A couple of times I thought about dropping myself off the back of the group, but then reminded myself that the longer I was up front, the farther up I would be, completely ignoring the possibility to Bikini Atoll the second half of the race.
By the 2 mile mark I had gradually fallen off the pace and was alone anyway. I struggled through, including getting passed once by a guy who seemed to come out of nowhere and just blow by me (HOWWWWW DO YOU KEEP YOURSELF IN CHECK THAT MUCH IN THE FIRST MILE?) We left the boardwalk, passing the Thriller dance crew doing the only actual part of Thriller that I know (the T-rex arms thing), then hitting the first 5k mark, where I came in officially at 17:25. I ran back down Atlantic, then onto the second stretch of the boardwalk. I had to use every ounce of willpower not to take anything from the candy station, because anybody who knows me knows that I have zero willpower for candy, especially candy corn (it's gluten-free, at least...). If you recall my race report on Tri, Tri Again, or saw my pre-long run photo last week on Twitter, I often use non-traditional forms of nutrition, like candy...or bacon. Had it not been in the 40s and only a 10km race, I may have been able to justify it, but I did not take any candy. I promise. On the boardwalk, I also noticed for the first time that I was barely gaining some ground on the runner in front of me, who'd also fallen off the pace of the leaders. I tried to set my sights on him, but didn't have much of another gear to go get him. As I left the second stretch of the course on the boardwalk, I passed through the Zombie Zone, but they were nice enough to move out of the way.
I think the plan is the zombies mess with you, but they decided F=ma means they'll be on the losing side of that freshman college phyics problem, even if I was decelerating by this point at mile 4+ and weigh about 5 lbs less than I did during the bulk of tri season
Normally the 4 mile mark signifies the time when my body and brain wake up in a 10k and snap out of their funk, which is what I was hoping for in this race, but I was wrong. I knew I was in a position to survive for a top 10 finish and at least under 37 minutes, but I knew I was still going to have to push hard to keep it under 36. Each time I noticed that I was some sort of recognizable distance away from the finish, whether 1.5 mi like the Coast Guard fitness test, or my super-common 2km track repeats, at the 5 mi mark thinking "ok, less than 2km," even down to the 1km mark that I couldn't figure out where it was.
No more of this look during my runs. I need to just run instead of doing surprisingly difficult subtraction, metric conversions, and other math problems. You'd think I would have done the math out to figure out that the metabolic demands of doing this math in my head detracts from my ability to run, but no, I haven't done that. I'll do troll math, physics, engineering, and even chemistry, but I draw the line at biology, mainly because I haven't taken biology since my freshman year of high school.
Right around when I was hoping I was at the 1km to go mark but wasn't, two other runners caught up to me and I tried to stay on their heels, but I came up short. I stayed within a few steps, but I couldn't just sit on their shoulders and wait for a sprint, not with the long drawn out drag race of a finish line they had set up. I still had it ingrained in me that every 5 seconds that passes on the clock is another point lost (an ode to doing the PFE as a cadet where point values are given for the run in 5 second increments), so that made me really try to get under 35:30 when it looked like it was almost possible. I ended up just missing it with a chip time of 35:32, but I couldn't be too much happier. The results show me in 6th place, but for some reason I could have sworn I was 7th; that's relying on my lactate-heavy counting skills, though. That's not too terribly important to me, so much as the fact that I was 3:18 faster than any official sort of time and still about 2:20 faster than even a recent time. That's HUGE.
Not a triathlon, so the course is actually legit. That's a bit over the correction factor, though, so it appears I can't run a straight line. I'm too much of a swimmer; I need lane lines to run straight. I should also learn not to take pictures of my watch in a greenhouse-style windowed convention center where the lighting is awkward. Again, not a photographer.
Afterward, I enjoyed the chili and beer and being mildly social with the various people I knew at the race, as well as see some more of the costumes. I wish I'd gotten a photo, but there was one guy in a Richard Simmons outfit, which was awesome, until I realized that the only difference between what he and I were wearing was his wig. He had short shorts and a singlet and it was a costume. Mine was just "running clothes." To be fair, I was wearing orange shoes and a singlet with black shorts, so that had an element of Halloween theme to it.
I also got to think quite a bit while waiting in line for the Blue Moon that I ended up drinking 4 sips of before remembering that I don't like Blue Moon. I've long believed that I underperform at the 10km distance, if my 5km times have been any indication. It was awesome to finally feel great running in a race. It's even better knowing that I did this less than properly prepared to race this format, so I can only continue to hope and expect even bigger improvement next year for tri season. I finished this tri season more anxious and hungry for next season to start than ever before. Previously, I'd always finished the season kind of tired, ready to be done and take some time off. Not this year. If I could jump in a time machine until next March, I'd absolutely do it. I want to race like no other, but I also know it will take time. I may be capable now of running a mid-35 10k. In the grand scheme of runners and triathletes, that's still not terribly fast. *Maybe* as a tri split I would be content, but I'd still like to shave another couple minutes off of that for an open 10k. At this point though, it's time to just relax and enjoy and wait for next season.
With Jess, a coworker who was 1/3 of a package of Fun Dip with two of her friends
Most importantly, with a sub-36 10k to my name, I now feel I can call myself a runner once again.
I do own shorts that are shorter than this, but I think these would certainly qualify as the loudest pair I own. I was saving them until I felt fast enough to justify wearing them.

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