Sunday, May 23, 2010

Race Report: River Run '10


So . . . this race report is over 2 weeks late. If I were pregnant, and the baby were 2 weeks late, I would be pissed. It's a good thing my blog is not my baby. Because if it were, it would have died from neglect this month.

Anyway. Back into the race report.

The River Run is THE race in Wichita. Actually, it's arguably the largest race in Kansas (the big Kansas City races are on the MO side, natch). There were around 2200 signed up for the 10k, and another 3200 who finished the 2 mile race. More people than that signed up, but that's how many finished. The River Run has had up to 10,000 participants in past years. In other words, around here it's a big deal.

That's me and The Photographer. And Craig. From cycling class.
I rode my bike to the race, all on the bike paths. It was a little chilly, and my hands and feet were frozen by the time I reached downtown Wichita. The Photographer was there, and I found her right away. What took me much longer was finding my dad. I was later than I'd expected to be, and he'd already put his phone away. I found him at our arranged meeting point, and we walked way far away to where he'd parked so I could stow my bike and spare gear in his car. We jogged back to the start line (a good mile), and I decided that I HAD to find a toilet. So I went to stand in a remarkably short port-a-pottie line (great organization from the River Festival folks), and came back out right as they were announcing "90 seconds to the start!" I hustled to the mass of humanity waiting to run, and pressed as far forward as I dared, trying to seed myself for the mass start. This would turn out to be my big mistake for the day.

When the cannon blasted, everyone sort of jumped forward, like they were going to be able to run or something. I walked. No sense in making the 10k one step longer than it has to be! The start line was hard to miss at this race, and so I was able to start my watch right where it should start. The pack was moving slowly, though. I couldn't open up any kind of speed, except in bursts. I really seeded myself too far back; I should have pressed forward closer to the front. I spent a good mile running, walking, and sprinting, trying to get around the slower runners and up to my own speed. Running through the narrow streets of Old Town was the worst. I hopped up onto a raised planter and ran along that for a while, trying to pass people from above. The course cleared out sufficiently after the Old Town section, and I was able to move myself up through the ranks a little.

In spite of the sluggish start, I hit the 2-mile split in 17:01!

After finally working my speed up to a good (for me) pace, I checked my heart rate and settled in at about 163 BPM. I've realized that the best way for me to pace my races is probably by heart rate. I know it's variable, but the last time I tried to run by pace at a 10k, I really blew up. I'll keep experimenting with race strategies, but I was confident that a heart-rate based pace would help me do my best for the River Run. I really wanted to redeem my performance at the Easter Sun Run, at which I was not very happy with my performance.

Keeping my heart rate in the 160s, I tried to find someone off of whom I could mentally draft. You know, let them set the pace and just kind of dove-tail. I ran with a few people for a little bit; one of them seemed almost perfect. She was running just the right pace, and I think I stayed with her for about a 1/2 mile. Then her pace got a little quicker, and my heart rate got a little higher, and I decided that it was harder than I wanted to work before the half-way point. So I let her go, and felt pretty good about it. I hit the half-way point in 25:59. 

After the 3-mile mark, I let my heart rate start moving up to 165-168; at 4 miles (34:33), I let it creep up to 170; at 5 miles (42:58), I just opened it up. And right about that time, I came upon the woman who'd out-paced me previously. Apparently she had run a little harder than she could sustain, too. I locked into step with her. We ran right through the water station (I'd made a point of hydrating for two days prior to the race so I wouldn't need to slow down), and I thought I'd lost her in the crowd. Then I spied her a couple yards ahead and most of the way across the road. I reeled her in, then settled down to stay with her until just before the finish.

We played a little bit, testing each other's strength and speed. She'd try to surge; I'd try to surge. Coming around the last corner, with just about 400 m to go, I picked up my pace significantly, hoping to drop her before I had to out-sprint her. No dice. She responded, and stayed right with me. It was less than 100 m to the line before I really opened up the sprint, and felt her slowly dropping back. I crossed the line with her maybe two seconds behind, and stopped my watch at 52:37, a new PR.

Me and my running buddy in lockstep. This is right where I started to drop her.
I had the most vicious side stitch, and my running buddy was bent over like she was going to hurl. I gave her a hug and thanked her for pushing me to my limits. She expressed the same sentiment. My Photographer found me, and we went over together to watch my dad finish. He came across in under an hour--a new PR for him, too! After we collected him, lo and behold! there were my mom and younger brother! They had woken up early (a true sacrifice for my mom) to come see us race! It was very special to me. Thanks to Stephen for helping my mom wake up!

My parents and me.
This was a great race. It was fun and well-organized. Genesis Health Clubs, the gyms at which I work, are one of the main sponsors for the race, so there were plenty of familiar faces on the race course and in the crowd. I ran in to Jerome Biggars, who's lost almost 300 lbs and had run his first 10k that day. I saw buddies from the cycling scene, and from the tri scene. I ran past people I've taught to swim and coached to their first 70.3s. I even ran into a couple who come to my 8:00 Arthritis water aerobics class, whose son was running the 10k.

And my whole family was there, which just can't be beat. Reflecting on it now (two weeks later), I realize that it was one of the best races I've had--fun, friendly, and with a new PR to boot.