Not because I had a lot at stake in terms of performance. I already earned a 10 mile PR a few weeks ago. Considering it’s close proximity to Boston, I was never planning to race this for a PR. That was not the focus here. In Week 16 of Hansons, it calls for a run with 10 miles at marathon pace. This would be a great way to break up the monotony of doing solo tempo runs and get on some challenging terrain. I always do my tempos on the Plainfield trail, which is flat, flat, flat. Another factor that motivated me to keep my pace in check was my dumb big toe. At the beginning of the week I screwed up my big toe pretty badly. Most of the week was spent questioning myself: Do I run this, knowing that I could do more damage? Do I back out?
The reason I didn’t automatically back out was because Charissa was coming in from Jersey to visit and run the race. I figured I was going to the race either way. I planned to go and warm up with her. If it didn’t feel like a good idea, I’d cheer her on at the start, do a few easy miles while I was waiting for her, and cheer on her finish.
Putting my toe issues aside, I had several goals for this race. The theme of this race was “Don’t breathe. Back off. Slow down.”
- Pace: Shoot for marathon pace (7:03/mile). My last 10 miler was 6:33 pace, so I thought this was a realistic goal.
- Effort: In the event that I get competitive on the course (who, me?) and found myself running faster than marathon pace, practice running on effort. The advice I got on a recent long run from my speedy friend Megan: run on effort, “don’t breathe”. If I’m breathing heavy, I’m running too hard.
- Injury: If my toe became an issue at all, back off. Drop out if it’s doing more harm than good. Btown > Ktown since I ultimately trained for Btown!
Charissa came over on Friday. We got pizza and had some wine and caught up. I’d been on edge all week about this race because of my dumb toe, and felt physically drained. We went to bed early, around 9pm. It’s a local race and we didn’t have to get up until at least 6am, so I was thankful for the extra rest. I still felt tired when I woke up, but better than I’d felt in the past few days.
I made coffee, and had my sweet potato waffle with Just Great Stuff chocolate peanut butter. I grabbed a banana and water with a Lemon Tea Nuun tablet and we headed out. We made a quick Starbucks stop (because coffee) and got to Kutztown around 7:45. It was pouring rain, which I was not expecting. I hadn’t been watching the weather too closely (all focus had been on my damn toe) and had no idea rain was in the forecast. I was wearing a tank top, but had a backpack full of random running clothes and quickly decided on a thin long sleeved top. I’m a baby about being cold when rain is involved.
We begrudgingly got out of the car for our bibs, and went out for a quick warm up. I did 2.5 miles and noticed I felt okay. My heart rate, however, was through the roof. My Garmin informed me that after our 2.5 mile warm up at something like a 9:30 pace, I needed 57 hours of recovery. You might say I was a little anxious. My Garmin also tells me my heart rate was operating in zone 5 for 87% of my warm up. In the actual race, it was only in zone 5 for 47% of the run. The effect stress can have on your heart is unreal and I never realized it until I had a way of tracking heart rate.
We lined up at the start and another speedy local runner, Carolyn, came to say hello to me. Carolyn came in ahead of me at the Super Bowl Sunday 10K this year, so I assumed she’d win this race.
The race began, and as usual I shot out quickly – mostly to get away from the crowd. I found myself running with the lead men, with no other women in close proximity. I backed off a bit and watched the lead men take off. I settled into a pace and focused on my breathing, my foot, and the music on my iPod. The effort for miles one and two felt very comfortable, but were much too fast for a tempo run. I just kept repeating to myself, Don’t breathe. Back off. Slow down. Mile 1 & 2 splits: 6:21, 6:38.
At the end of the second mile we began to climb…and the climb didn’t stop:
See that huge hill? The whole thing happened between miles two and three. I got off pace for that mile but I stuck by my mantra: Don’t breathe. Back off. Slow down. Mile 3: 7:11.
The downhill hit and I took full advantage of it to make up for the time I’d lost on the uphill. We had a nice flat/rolling section for the next few miles so I continued to run on effort and not “breathe”. I seemed to be running alone. I could still see one of the lead men in the distance when we would hit an open stretch of road, but at this point I was the first female and the fifth overall runner. I settled into a pace for the next few miles and took a GU at 4.5. These miles were comfortable and relatively uneventful, and my toe seemed to be cooperating. Each time my Garmin beeped, it was apparent that I was not running marathon pace and I was running on effort. Miles 4-6: 6:16, 6:20, 6:30.
Around mile 7, you resume climbing. I believe this course is more difficult than Quakertown from a few weeks ago because there’s a huge climb at the beginning of the race, and then a net uphill at the end of the race. In Quakertown, the majority of the climbing happens in the early miles, and then it’s mostly downhill from just past the halfway mark. In Kutztown, the hills show up later in the race and stick around right through the end. I still felt good, I still wasn’t breathing, and still hadn’t seen another person on the course (other than the volunteers) through miles seven eight. Miles 7 & 8: 6:43, 6:32.
The course boasts that the last “hill” is in mile 8, so imagine my surprise when my Garmin indicated I’d reached mile 9 and I turned a corner to find a HUGE incline. On the elevation chart, you can see it – it’s the hill that kind of looks like it’s giving you the middle finger at the end of the course:
At that point, I felt good. I hadn’t “breathed”. So I relaxed up the hill, and then I picked it up on the way down to make up the time. I went back to “not breathing” after I got my pace under control. Miles 9 & 10: 6:42, 6:41.
Why am I not talking about the finish line yet? Oh, because the course was LONG!!! By .07! I ran the tangents. I wasn’t dodging other runners. An extra .07 meant an extra 24 seconds on my time. Mile 10.07: 5:24 pace (I was a little ragey). Overall time, 1:06:22 (6:35 pace), 1st place female, 5th overall runner.
Had the course been an accurate 10 miles, I would have broken 1:06. Had the course been accurate and had I pushed the climbs and “breathed” a little, I likely would have run a PR. This makes me happy for several reasons: I didn’t feel like I was working as hard as I had for Quakertown, and I didn’t have someone to push me like I did at that race. In Quakertown, I was truly racing – Kristen K and I were duking it out right until the last .25, when she dusted me. This time around, I had a bum foot so to be able to run that pace on those hills without sacrificing my form or feeling discomfort made me over the moon happy. Sure, as I cooled down my foot didn’t feel AMAZING but it didn’t feel like I did more damage. Did I set back my healing time a little? Probably. But again, knowing I could push the pace with it was a huge confidence booster and made me feel a whole lot better about Boston.
Another big positive was that I was mentally not “in it” until about mile six. At first, I was anxious and scared that at any moment my foot would make me have to drop out. I still felt a bit tired and drained – even after the good night’s sleep. I started to relax and enjoy myself around mile three when we were cruising down Crystal Cave Road (which happens to be a favorite of mine for biking), but I was still leery of my foot. Around mile six, it was like I was suddenly sold on running the race since I was closer to the finish line and perked up. For all of the variables that were not going my way – the weather, the foot, and my body/head not showing up – to be able to run that way was a huge, huge confidence boost.
As I came through the finish line, the spectators and lead males were standing by and cheering. I felt great as I handed in the tag from my bib and went to cheer on the other runners. I was expecting to see Carolyn on my tail, but found the second female crossed 1:18 seconds after me in 1:07:40, and it was a girl named Alysha. I congratulated her and learned she’s new to the area as we chatted. We exchanged contact information so we could get together for a few runs. She was five months postpartum and threw down a 1:07 – what?!?! What a huge inspiration! Carolyn ended up being the 4th female in 1:11, but that isn’t like her at all. She’s more like a 1:05-1:07 10 mile runner and had an off day.
After I saw Carolyn and a few local men cross, I headed back on the course for a cool down and to catch Charissa on the course. I ran with her until we got close to the finish, and then I veered off the course to continue my cool down. I looped back to the finish line and she did an additional mile with me, making my cooldown 2.5 miles. With warm up, the race, and the cool down I ended up with 15 miles for the day.
We grabbed our dry clothing (the rain had lessened for the race, thankfully) and headed to the building where the post race food and awards were. We warmed up, got some soup and waited for the awards to start. Don’t mind my completely ridiculous outfit choice. It’s what happens when you don’t prepare for a cool, rainy day.
I won’t tell you about Charissa’s race (you need to read her recap for that!), but I won a $100 gift card to a local running store called The Emmaus Run Inn! I usually get my sneakers at their competitor, Aardvark, but I wasn’t going to discriminate for a free pair of shoes. I headed to the store the next day and grabbed a new pair of Pure Flows to have on hand for when my current ones wear out. For what started out as a rough day, it definitely ended on a positive note 🙂
Ever run a race as a training run? Ever run a race with an injury (come in, we’re runners – spill it!)?