Race Report: Great Race 10K

My poor abandoned running blog. I got so behind, I just got overwhelmed. I have a lot to write about, but here’s a race report to hold you over until the rest:

 

I was up at 5 the next morning and immediately got my pre-race grinds: black coffee (with sugar) and my normal amount of oatmeal, since I had SO MUCH TIME before the 9:30 am 10K start. I had my outfit all laid out the night before, deciding to wear what I had intended to wear for the Air Force half, which was injured for, having wrenched my ankle during a tempo run that week and not wanting to take any chances, even though it probably would have been just fine. I was donning full on Brooks pretty much head to toe, and threw in some Pro Compression socks for good measure. Because they make me feel legit. Also, kept my calves a little warmer for the chilly waiting around part.

I also donned a throwaway shirt, cause it was a TAD chilly. Rain was in the forecast, but not until like 11 a.m., when we would be finished. Oh, weathermen. The epic failure.

A little before 6 a.m., I had a car full of people, and NB took the wheel: I crammed in the backseat between NB’s mom and his roommate Rachel, and NB’s dad road shotgun. We soon arrived downtown and found reasonable-ish parking, heading down to the bus lines. We deposited NB’s parents in their bus line and then stood inside the atrium that led down to the T, getting some wind blocking for at least a little while before our own buses started their route.

We arrived up in Squirrel Hill to almost no lines at the portos – though it turned out that NB, who had scored a seeded bib, could have used the Special Elite Portos, but he stayed with us laypeople until the start. I eventually found Ellen, and MCC found us, and we stood around chatting and trying to warm up our muscles. I could feel those 16 miles in my legs, and wasn’t sure what my chances were for anything close to 50 minutes. Ellen was running her first 10K and was hoping I would pace her. I told her I probably wouldn’t be doing sub-50. “Please, I want to do it! you can totally do it!”

Ready to race! Left to right: MCC, NB, Me, Rachel, and Ellen

Fifteen minutes to start, after getting our picture taken, NB went to warm up and then headed to the seeded corral, while I tore off my throwaway shirt, took my Gu, and did some butt-kicks and high knees to try to warm up a little. We had a decent starting spot so I didn’t really want to move anywhere. Plus, I figured I wouldn’t need a warmup when I wasn’t trying to PR.

Soon, “shout” was playing, per tradition, and the gun went off. The seeded runners had taken off and I silently wished NB well as the rest of us accordioned our way to the start line. I hit my watch a little late – like a second, maybe – and was soon cruising down Beechwood stride for stride with Ellen. As we made our way up the hill and onto Forbes, we kept each other within sight, trying to weed our way through. The first mile is very rolling, and with adrenaline in my veins, my watch was reading a low 8-minute pace, which is perfect for a sub-50 finish, but I figured it wouldn’t last. We hit the first mile in 8:03, and as I called the split to Ellen, we were starting to cruise down Forbes hill.

Soon we were running a low 7 minute pace, and while I knew it was the hill, I warned my companion to watch the speed so we didn’t burn up our legs. The hill rolled back up and we came screaming around Morewood. The second split ticked off in 7:20. It’s the hill, it’s the hill, I said to myself, but the next split was reading just as fast. “I’m going to have to back off,” I said. “I can’t keep this pace.” My legs were already starting to protest – or maybe it was my brain. Ellen wished me well and assured me I would catch up with her (I didn’t, but perhaps if I hadn’t run 16 the day before…)

I clicked away down Fifth Avenue, staying much closer to an 8 minute mile, but a few seconds below. I wanted to slow down. I even sort of wanted to walk. But I just let myself relax and slow up a bit, hitting about 7:50s, when I noticed one of my co-workers (whom I’d recommended this race to). I chatted with him for a few seconds, wished him luck, and then let him go. My pace had ticked back up to 7:55, and as I crossed the 5K mat, I saw I was coming in under 25 minutes. I could actually PR this thing. Because of my fast mile 2, I’d built in about 45 seconds of cushion for mile five: the dreaded long, slogging uphill of Blvd of the Allies.

Around the halfway point, it started to rain. First just occasional drops. Then a light, misty drizzle. It was cooling me off, so I didn’t really mind it, and slogged on. By the time I came down the on ramp heading toward Blvd of the Allies, it was raining steadily. I eased up my pace a little and quickened my cadence, worried how my shoes would do on the slick surface (and silently thanking myself for choosing my Brooks Launch over my Pure Flows, the latter of which I feel would be slippery in those conditions). I hit mile four in 7:47 and kept on.

As always, the climb was grueling. It doesn’t even look like a hill – it’s subtle, but it’s there. Around me, people were slowing down. Near the end of that long mile, some were walking. I told myself I could ease off, but I wouldn’t let myself walk. But somehow, I managed to click away that mile in 8:13, and was thrilled. The road finally dipped down, and though I kept my speed in check for the exit ramp and a quick spot of brick walk, I felt myself starting to kick.

I had an amazing playlist going, and a little bit into mile 6, I switched over to my current favorite finishing track from The Dark Knight Rises soundtrack, “Remember the Fire” (seriously, listen to it: I guarantee you’ll want to run fast). I was running low 7s and thought I could be in trouble, but I knew I had plenty of time – a PR was basically guaranteed, as long as I didn’t trip and fall on my face. It was raining pretty hard at this point, so this was actually a reasonable possibility.

I hit mile 6 (by my Garmin, anyway, and we know how accurate GPS can be) in 7:09 and came down the long finishing chute. The running surface changed once more, and it was suddenly narrow and crowded, so I didn’t kick as hard as maybe I could have.

This is my suffering face

But strides from the finish, there was Rachel! I pushed hard to catch her, but she edged me out by literally a second. Not that I mind. We both clearly owned this race.

Psyched to see the clock!

I glanced at my watch: 48:21 – since I started it late, my chip time was 48:22, but I was SO thrilled. It was a huge PR, after basically no speedwork for a month. And having done 16 the day before. I was astounded. Apparently marathon training is making me faster!

NB and I found each other quickly – he had run a killer race, too, running 43:15 – and I met up with Ellen and Rachel to talk about our races (Ellen ran like 47:30ish. Ridiculous. Girl is a BEAST) and wait as NB tried to find his parents in the pouring rain. Eventually we gave him my phone and went to stand under a hotel overhang, where we eventually found NB’s dad, and called NB into the hotel, since that’s where his parents had decided to meet up.

I am so attractive

We packed it in – the rain finally letting up a bit – and went to our separate abodes to get cleaned up, before NB picked us all up to go to Bagel Factory on Craig Street for some grub. We were going to get breakfast/brunch, but considering it was around noon, I sprung for a burger and sweet potato fries. What’s marathon training for if not for eating ALL the calories?

Previous PR (on a course my garmin measured short but was allegedly USATF certified): 49:47

Chip time/new PR: 48:21

Pace: 7:47

 

Only a few more weeks of marathon training. More updates to come – lots on Ragnar DC, marathon training, 20 milers, and oh so much more. Stay tuned!

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I'm a 30-year-old writer and runner. This is my running blog.

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