I haven’t had a chance to recap this one, and it was over a week ago! But we had a surprise snow day today, so before I head to the gym for my track workout I thought I’d go for it. There isn’t much to say about this run except that it was a 9 second PR! I’m not a short distance runner, and the field was stacked with many of the local fast women. That race is funny like that – either all the fasties show up, or none of them do. There have been years where I’ve finished in the top 3, but also years (like this one) where I fought for 2nd in my age group (and only earned it by a few seconds, 3rd place was on my tail!).
What I hate about this race: it’s February. Every year, I sign up and every single year I wake up on race day and think, “WHY did I sign up for this.” Last year, the race got canceled – I was injured with my Achilles so though I’d registered, I was planning to sit it out anyway. The weather is always unpredictable and you never know what you’re going to get. Most people are usually just coming back to running after a break over the holidays so most aren’t in peak fitness. Oh yeah, and it’s hilly as eff:
What I love about this race: Everyone shows up. Here in the Lehigh Valley, we have an incredible running community. Sure, we all have our little groups that we run with but I’d never call those groups “cliques” because everyone is very welcoming. I never feel like I don’t belong. I have my usual core group of friends that I run/travel with, but I never feel hesitant to show up and run with other groups. It’s a wonderful, supportive community here and every year I show up at this race and I’m immediately reminded of why I sign up – because we all show up.
The last time I raced this course, I was in peak fitness (2014, big shocker there) and ran a big PR – like over a minute. But this year, I actually did what many do and took some downtime over the holidays and was in the same boat as most – just getting to the point where I was getting my fitness back! So even though I only ran a PR by 9 seconds, I was pretty stoked on that. First of all, I’m not a great short distance runner. I don’t focus on them and don’t do them as often as I run marathons, so I can’t expect to be great at them. Second, I’ve been following Hansons to a “T” and the week of this race was no different – so there was no taper. In fact, this 10K was my tempo run so it was in the middle of additional miles. Lastly, I was only 8 weeks into my 18 week training plan – so not even halfway yet. I can honestly say that I ran the best race that I could on that day.
I arrived when packet pickup opened, at 8:15 am. My friend, Dean, picked up my packet for me when he saw me pull in so there was some confusion when I went to get my packet it and it wasn’t there – but then Dean found me and had it. He saw me pull in and was just being nice, but it gave me a mini-heart attack. I met up with Megan and we went for a warm up run. Megan is my speedy friend with a 2:47 marathon PR, but she hasn’t trained or raced a marathon in several years.
Since this was my tempo run, I wanted to make sure I did a solid warmup and cool down. Normally, I warm up for three miles, tempo, then cooldown for two. My training plan called for 7 marathon paced miles, but this was only a 10K. I knew I was going to run harder than marathon pace so I figured I would increase my cooldown to 3 miles instead of finishing the race, booking it for another mile, and then cooling down. Not necessary if I was going to be running faster than marathon pace anyway. We warmed up with three easy miles: 9:03, 8:36, 8:20.
By the time we finished our warm up, we got to the start with a few minutes to spare. I lined up towards the front and saw that it was a pretty speedy field of women. I think that actually made me run a smarter race. I knew that if I chased down some of those girls right out of the gates that I would absolutely burn out. I told myself that there was no need to run faster than a 6:30 for the first mile, but it was likely that I wouldn’t touch a 6:30 pace on that day and on that course. I tend to go out too fast in races so 6:30 was going to be my signal to back off.
I had some specific goals for this race going into it:
- Goal A – run 39:28, what Hansons says I should run if I want to run a 3:05. Plus I would love to break 40 in a 10K
- Goal B – run a PR, so anything faster than 41:39
- Goal C – run marathon pace to finish it as a legitimate marathon paced tempo run, 7:03 pace.
I thought all three were reasonable goals, but I thought Goal A was a huge reach – especially for that course on that day. Still, I wasn’t counting it out because I have run well at this race before. As usual, I went out hard but within the first half mile, told myself to back off. I found a rhythm and began to climb the first hill, which slowed me down a lot. A few women passed me, but I wasn’t concerned. I know this course. The first three miles are a huge bitch, and I wasn’t going to overexert myself until after mile 3. After that first shitty hill, my watch beeped. 6:43. Not bad, but I’d need to pick it up if I hoped for a PR or really pick it up to achieve Goal A.
Miles 2 and 3 feature some pretty serious climbs so I just tried to settle into a pace that I could maintain without burning out. I wasn’t going to force a pace that didn’t feel comfortable, and those miles were a bit slower. I hit mile two in 6:45 and mile three in 6:54. Ouch. But I still felt great, and like I had energy left for the final 5K. I picked up the pace a bit and began passing people. While my legs felt pretty good, they were still not moving as fast as I’d hoped. I hit mile four in 6:37 (much better), but mile five in 6:47. That mile features the last big climb of the course. It’s the back side of the beast of a hill at the end of mile one/beginning of mile two and it sucks even worse when you hit it on the way back. Once I crested the hill, I picked up the pace a bit again and ran mile six in 6:33, and the last .2 at 6:21. I ended with a 41:30 (6:41 pace), a nine second PR, and second in my Age group. It was a Goal B kind of day.
After the race, Megan and Kathy joined me for my cooldown. Megan finished about a minute ahead of me, and Kathy finished about 30 seconds behind me. Megan congratulated me but followed it up with, “We need to talk. You can run a 7:20 pace for 14 miles with me and talk the whole time. You are faster than that”. I know she’s right – but I think my problem is that I’ve focused on marathon training for…well, forever. Sure, I’ve seen gains in my marathon time but nothing in the past two years. I’ve said this before, but after talking to her, it might be time for a marathon hiatus. I’m going to finish Boston training, and I’m planning to run the Kentucky Derby Marathon. After that, it might be time to target half marathons, 10Ks, 5 milers, and 5Ks before I try for my next sub-3 attempt. I’m not sold on any fall races yet, so we’ll see. The biggest factor right now is that I have a BQ for 2017 (my 3:12 from Hartford), but I want to make sure I get into wave 1. To do that, I probably need to go sub-3:10. If I achieve my 3:05 in Boston, that would take care of that.
The thing is, the three of us cooled down and after, I looked at our pace. 8:28, 7:51, 7:45. I remember that it felt effortless. The next day, I wasn’t sore and was able to bust out eight miles before work. That tells me that I did have more in me.
According to Hansons, my 41:30 is indicative of a 3:14 marathon. At 8 weeks in, with the amount of work I’d done to that point, I’d say that sounds pretty accurate. It’s still not the 3:05 I’m hoping for but I still have work left to do. However, I was certainly not tapered and it was part of a workout, so there’s also that to consider. I believe I’m capable of a 3:05 and I’m certainly not abandoning my goal, but I was two minutes off the suggested 10K time and it’s something to keep in the back of my mind as I move forward with my training. I realize that every runner has their strength in certain distances and I am not counting a PR out. I’m going to keep training for the 3:05 and see how it goes. When I ran my 3:06, none of my shorter race distances indicated that I was capable of running that, either. Anything could happen 🙂