5/21/11 (Results) All throughout the spring, when people asked "what are you training for?" I would say, "I'm training to run a fast 10k at the Twilight Meet in May." Saturday, May 21 was the day.
"So, what are you doing this weekend?" one of my friends asked me on Friday. "Sitting around, drinking water, eating bread, being nervous, and then running a 10k at 8 pm," I told him. That pretty much summarizes my Saturday. I went for a short shakeout when I woke up, and then sat around all day, finally driving to the meet in the afternoon.
My ambitious goal was 35:30 (the Tier 1 standard). The goal I was aiming for was 35:45 (the time standard for winning money in this 10k, and what I thought I could run). My backup goal was 36:00. Any of these would be a huge PR, as my 10k PR was 37:53 from the Tufts 10k, and my track 10k PR from college was 41:59.
My coach suggested that I not engage mentally too much for the first four miles, make it like a tempo run but faster, and then start racing with two miles to go. The idea is that if you focus a lot in the beginning of a 10k, you will run out of mental focus by the end. That seemed reasonable to me, so I tried to find someone to share the pace in the first four miles. I talked to Carly, whom I had met at the previous race, but she was planning to go 1-2 seconds slower per lap, which is a lot in a 10k, so we decided not to run together. She suggested that I ask Jordan, which was a great idea because we were both hoping for 35:45, so I introduced myself to Jordan, and Jordan and I decided to lead alternate 800s. Great! I did a 20-minute warm-up on a field and around a parking lot, because I didn't want to run any hills.
The 10k was at 7:50, just as darkness fell. Usually the wind dies down at sunset, but in this case it picked up, and was really kind of windy. I did strides in only one direction because of it. The hip numbers were different this week, which was good because both of mine came off in the 5k, and we were instructed to stick them directly to our arms.
Teammate: "Right on the skin?"
Official: "Yeah. For you, it might go all the way around and overlap, but we're trying it this week."
It worked; it stayed on, and I didn't think about it after the first few laps. Anyway, now for the race. I was seeded #9 out of 11, one of which didn't show up, so I was seeded 8th. The gun went off and I started really slow (see video below), second to last, being cautious in a 25-lap race. I tucked in behind Jordan and she led the first 800, as planned. The first lap was a little fast (85); the second a little slow (87); pretty typical for the beginning of a long race, finding the pace. I took over and led the second 800 just about like the first. The wind on the backstretch was really something -- I tucked in tight when I was behind, and had to fight it hard when I was leading. We came through the mile in 5:46 or so, right on pace. Jordan took over again and I was happy to not have to think too much. I took over and brought us through two miles in 11:34 or so, again just about on pace. I could tell that I was pullling away from Jordan, so I was not surprised when she didn't pass me to take the next 800. From here on out, I would be mostly alone.
About 20 meters ahead of me was a runner in white (Megan). "No matter," I thought, "I'm running my own race." I ran with a consistent gap between us for about two laps, until Alan shouted, "come on, catch up with her!" So I put in a surge, and almost before I had really accelerated, I was on her shoulder. I ran behind her for a lap or two, following the plan to not think too much in the first four miles, and also to conserve energy on the windy backstretch. We were catching a runner in orange. I could hear people cheering for Shauneen. "The runner in orange cannot possibly be Shauneen," I thought; "she was a national champion for AmHerst in college." But indeed it was. I stuck behind Megan just until we caught and passed Shauneen, but by that time I could tell that she was running slower than I wanted to run, so I passed both of them and ran on to face the wind myself.
My goal was to go through 5k in 17:50. After 12 laps, Alan ran across the track to give me my 5k time: 18:05. "WHAT?" I had no idea that I was running so far off the pace. But one or two seconds on six or seven laps really adds up. Now it was go time. Running behind Megan, I had been chomping at the bit, ready to get out there and race. When I heard the 18:05, I abandoned the plan to wait until four miles and just went for it. I pretended that it was a 5k starting right then, and ran hard. I was rewarded with a couple of laps in the mid 85s.
Around this time, Katie lapped me. I knew that I would get lapped, because there was a group that was going for the national qualifying standard of 33:40, and they had a rabbit leading them through a 16:45 5k. I thought I would get lapped with about a mile to go, and my plan was to tuck in behind whomever lapped me, and try to hang on. When Katie lapped me (at 18:30 in the video), I stuck with the plan for a few seconds, and then realized that (a) it was way too early in the race to accelerate like that, and (b) Katie was running much too fast for me. On the race video, the commentators wonder aloud whether I knew I was getting lapped, rather than just passed by a competitor. I knew. So I accelerated briefly, and then went back to my regular pace.
Last Thanksgiving, I ran a five-mile race in a PR of 30:09. I was a little annoyed to not break 30, and I decided that the next time I raced five miles, I wouldn't break 30; I'd break 29. A few days before this 10k, I realized that this was my chance. Alan measured out the five mile mark on the track (just past 20 laps) and stood ready to take my split. So, coming up to 20 laps, I knew I was running for my preliminary goal. Unfortunately, I didn't break 29. Fortunately, when I broke 30 for the first time it was in style, with a 29:05.
When I passed the invisible five-mile mark on the track as described above, I was running with Jenn. She lapped me at a perfect moment, with six or seven laps to go, and this time I followed my plan. She passed me, and I stuck right with her. In the video (at about 27:15), the commentators remark on this, and that I actually closed the gap after she passed me. I ran behind her for two laps, before she surged on the windy backstretch and dropped me. This was really helpful, and I only wish I'd been able to hang on longer!
With a mile to go, I started running harder. It should be noted that while I started engaging the race and running harder at 5k, I didn't actually run any faster, still around 86-87 per lap. My friend and training partner Erin was sitting on the water jump barrier, and every time I ran by she would tell me I looked smooth, and she'd say to run faster. I was running smooth! I felt fine! But I wasn't really running faster. I had asked Alan to tell me, with one lap to go, what I needed to run in order to achieve my goal time. This "goal time" would be either 35:30, 35:45, or 36:00 depending on my time at the end of 24 laps.
With one lap to go, Alan told me I needed a 78 to go under 36:00. (They rang a bell for me, which was nice -- they were ringing the bell for everyone as they passed the "one lap to go" mark, so each person had their own personal bell lap. I've never had that happen before, but then again I've never been in a strung-out 10k with only 10 competitors!) I started running faster. I told myself it was a kick. I could see an orange singlet ahead of me and was shocked that I had a possibility of lapping Shauneen (which I didn't end up doing). Alan ran to the next corner and told me what I needed for the last 300. He met me at the water jump and shouted again. Finally, he ran to the top of the homestretch and read aloud "nineteen, eighteen, seventeen..." I know what a 17-second 100 feels like: it's really fast. I accelerated and kicked down the homestretch for all I was worth. (In the video, they remark that it's almost as though I know the 36-minute mark is approaching. I sure was running fast.) I kicked through the finish and it was over.
On the result: In my second-ever track 10k, in college, I kicked the last lap in 80 seconds and just squeaked under 42 minutes, with 41:59.06. This time, in my third-ever track 10k, I hammered out a 78.5 last lap and didn't quite make it under 36, running 36:00.50. So it goes! It's a nearly-two-minute PR, and I can now succinctly state my 10k PR as "36 flat." My two 5ks were 18:05 and 17:55; hence the title of this post, "eighteen times two." It would have been 18:05+18:03=36:08, if it weren't for my ferocious kick! Alan was fond of pointing out that the first half 18:05 was my fifth-fastest 5k ever, and the second half 17:55 was my fourth-fastest 5k ever (which demoted the 18:05 to #6).
In the end, I was fourth, just as in the previous week's 5k. The only people ahead of me were the three people who were chasing that 33:40 standard -- Katie and Jenn, who lapped me, and Teresa, who almost lapped me but finished just after they rang the bell for my last lap. I did a nice cooldown with Katie and Jenn, and then celebrated my successful race at the team party with lots of nice folks until the wee hours.
On the plan: Strangely enough, I never got bored or mentally drained during the race. This could be because I conserved my mental energy during the first 5k. However, I actually think it's because I had trained for several months for this particular race, visualized this race in my workouts, told everyone it was my goal race -- how could I get bored in a situation like this? This is the day! This is the race! It's go time! I doubt that I'll have enough opportunities to race 10k on the track to actually experiment with different strategies, but if I did, I would certainly experiment with engaging from the beginning. If I had a perfect group at my goal pace, then I would just tuck in, but if I had a situation like this again where I had to run my pace myself, then I would try the strategy of focusing from the beginning and see where it took me. A 10k has a lot of laps, but when you've focused on it for several months, focusing for 25 laps isn't so difficult.
On the wind: During the race, I didn't think too much about the wind, except for trying to tuck in behind people, and obviously fighting against it -- in particular, I never thought, "It's windy, so I guess I won't get a fast time." Far from making excuses, I never even thought about it. But after the race, I started to realize that it was seriously windy. Hip numbers were blowing across the infield. The NB tent almost blew over (see video). I think that the wind probably affected me, that without it I would have run a few tenths of a second faster per lap. Also, if I had had a group to run with at perfect 35:30 or 35:45 pace, I probably could have trotted right along behind them; I wasn't very good at hitting the splits myself, but I was quite good at sticking right behind everyone I ran with (except Katie, who I never really ran with).
So I think I can run faster, and I hope to have the opportunity to run another fast 10k on the track next year, when I have another year of training, and perhaps less wind and a larger group at my goal pace. In the meantime, I'm very happy with this one.
06/22/17 PHD comic: 'Technically'
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