Thursday, April 22, 2010

Race Report: Easter Sun Run '10

Well, this race report is almost two weeks overdue. I've been . . . otherwise occupied, and not at all interested in blogging about a race at which I didn't even perform to my potential. But the weather was nice, and there were lots of happy people, so the race wasn't a total bust. A good day, but not a great race.

Morning began late for me, because I'd been out late the night before. But I hadn't been drinking, so at least my race prep was better than for this race. I rode to Sedgwick County Park with my parents. My dad was running the 10k, and my mom was going to try her hand at the 2 mile run (NOT the 2 mile walk!). Weather was perfect: mid 50s with a light wind (this being Kansas, anything under 20 MPH is light) and plenty of sunshine. I shucked my warm ups and headed out for about a mile of warming up.

As I jogged around the park, I couldn't help but appreciate the beauty of the day. I actually just stood and stared at one of the lakes for a while. It really couldn't have been a more perfect atmosphere for what we were doing.

This year's race featured "chip timing," but really it was just a chip finish. I have no idea where the start line was, or how far I ran before I crossed it. I estimated, and my finish time is based on that (the official finish time doesn't take the slightly delayed start into account). I went out hard; my intention was to set a pace of 5:20/km. My dream was to run sub-50:00, which would require a 5:00/km pace.

I did well for the first few kilometers, but my body was sending me early warning signs; the pace was not sustainable. After 3 or 4 kilometers, I was starting to be passed back by some of the people I had run by earlier. One of my cycling buddies caught me at around the 6k mark, but couldn't sustain my pace through the dirt section (most of kilometer 6 is run on an unpaved road in the park). I didn't exactly drop her, though; she stayed just about 20 yards behind me for the rest of the race, apparently. Kilometer 6 was also measured long; my split for that one was 6 something, while my 7k split was under 5.

I started trying to accelerate at 8k, then picked it up a little more at 9k. I was passing a few people, at that point. But I had run myself into a dangerous situation, from a competitive vantage point, because I wasn't with any significant group. There was a group of ladies just a little bit too far ahead to catch with a 500m surge, and no one close enough behind me to pose any threat. By that point, I was just sort of cruising to the finish in an (official) time of 54:12, an average pace of 8:43. The time on my watch was 53:44. But, like I said before, I 100% guessed as to the location of the start line. Last year's time was 54:07, so I'm in a comparable place this year. Which I'm not necessarily happy about. I mean, I was happy with last year's time; sub-9:00 pace for a 10k? Alright! But this year, I want to be better. And I wasn't, at least not significantly.

Thing is, I feel like I'm in better run shape. I've been running better. I ran a 2:02 1/2 marathon in January; that's excruciatingly close to that 2-hour mark! I'm stronger and faster than I was a year ago, and I have the numbers to prove it. I think there were two main elements that held me back at the Sun Run.

The first is that my legs were dead. I had done a track workout the week before (a recovery week, mind you) in my Vibrams. It felt good at the time. But for a good 5 days after, my calves were deathly sore. Like having trouble walking kind of sore. I could barely stand up, they were so sore. And that soreness and bone-deep fatigue were still there on Saturday. So my legs weren't as responsive or as snappy as they could have been.

The other element was mental. Maybe it was my race strategy. Last year, my plan was to go out with my heart rate under 165, then turn it up as high as I dared on the last 5k. And I had a great race, with that plan. But this year, my plan was to do even pacing at 5:24/mile, which was ambitious. There was a good chance that I would blow up with a plan like that.

But I didn't blow up; I just never seized the race and made it my own. I never found that extra gear, not just in terms of physicality (because, again, legs of lead), but also mentally. I never found it in myself to push through pain for a great performance. I had a good performance, but not a great performance.

Still, I suppose it's good that I didn't lose any ground. It sets me up well for this next season. And there will be other 10k races. Still plenty of time to set that new PR, to hit that 50-minute mark.

By the way, my dad ran the 10k in 1:02, which is an 8-minute PR for him and a 10-minute mile! Way to go, Dad! And my mom ran/walked the 2-mile in just over 31 minutes, which was a great achievement for her. She was crying when she came across the line! My mom's first running race! She still thinks I'm crazy for wanting to run 10 miles at a time, though. I guess it may take some time for that to sink in.

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