also known as the I Had A Race on my Training Plan and This is the Best Option I Could Find Race.
In lieu of a typical long run, we had a 10K test race on the training plan for Sunday. I shopped around and it was between the Home Run 10K or some race out in Reston. The Accomplice mapped out a spreadsheet of race pro/cons, and the Home Run race won on account of being closer, starting later, and being for charity (benefiting the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington). And it turned out to be a pretty well run race!
Backing up a bit, on Saturday I woke up and decided to do a wee half hour run around the neighborhood. Autumn was finally in the air, and I like to encourage any sudden desire of mine to get up and run since my pre-planned running isn’t always fun. The half hour trot went well and I threw in some strides for variety. I went swimming later in the afternoon as well, which was relaxed and easy. Between these two light workouts and a shopping trip to Costco that nearly drained away my will to live, I was worried that I’d be tired for the race the next day but the on effect seemed to be that I slept like a rock on Saturday night.
Sunday morning found The Accomplice and I heading up to Rockville bright and early for the race. It turned out to be a good thing we left early because the race wasn’t in the place we thought it was; it was several miles away in a shopping plaza, which we figured out only after doing doughnuts in downtown Rockville for 10 minutes. Still, we managed to make it to the race on time and even had a few minutes to warm up. This was my first time attempting any sort of pre-race warm up, which, in the past, always seemed like a waste of my meager running reserves. However, this time I knew I could cover the distance and I knew I always have trouble with the first few miles of a longer run, so doing some shuffling around the parking lot to wake the legs up seemed like an idea worth trying. And, lo, it didn’t suck! I may try something even longer for next time.
We lined up in the corral in the Panera Bread parking lot, someone up front shouted ‘Go’ into a microphone, and off the 10K group went just like that. In keeping with my ‘Let’s Go Run this Random Race in the Middle of the ‘Burbs’ attitude for the day, I had also not taken more than a cursory look at the course map. This was…well, not a mistake because I don’t think I would’ve changed anything, but it left me blissfully unaware of just how many damn hills there were. We turned out of the parking lot and onto the street and there was where the flatness ended. From that point onward we were either going up or going down.
I trotted alongside The Accomplice for a little while going a ridiculous pace I knew I couldn’t sustain. I figured this was ok because it was mostly downhill for the first half mile and I was right; no harm done. I was unsurprised to see nearly everyone pull away in the first quarter mile, but I was surprised that there were a few stragglers running near me. Shortly before mile 1, The Accomplice pulled away to get down to the business of getting a 10K PR, while I settled into the effort I wanted to maintain for the entire race: high Z3-low Z4 heart rate (around 80% max HR). This weekend I switched from my frustrating heart rate soft strap back to the old style Garmin plastic one on the theory that, although it hurts a bit more, at least it records data correctly. And it did well: no weird HR readings and no dropouts. The chafing was pretty minimal, too.
I went into the race resigned to the fact that I’d probably be dead last, but I passed a group of women early on and suddenly it became my goal to keep them behind me. I felt like I could do it as long as I kept my effort up and kept running, even up the hills. There were a surprising number of volunteers out cheering, which was fun. They also had several water stops. I carried a small flask with me and it was cool enough that I didn’t think I needed to drink much, but I dutifully walked all the water stops anyway. I plan to walk the water stops of the half marathon and I wanted to get in some practice at walking, drinking, and then starting to run again right away. Historically, walking a water stop meant sitting down, doing some light yoga, telling my life story to anyone in earshot, etc. before finally deigning to start running again. This time I ran to the water grab, walked for <30 seconds, tossed the cup, and started running again. No more sipping daintily, pinky aloft, while sauntering halfway to the next aid station. Grab, Gulp, Go was my new water stop motto.
Shortly after the turnaround point, I passed another guy. One person passed! Yay! He seemed to be doing a run really really fast/walk a lot strategy that eventually tipped more firmly into the walking zone. Since there was no one else around, I used the cheers of the sideline volunteers to tell me how close he was to me, and was pleased to hear that he dropped further behind as I went along. There was a killer hill around mile 5 that I needed to walk and another one shortly before mile 6. I think, overall, the final mile was largely uphill (all that downhill I sped through on the way out needed to be run back up), which was sad making, but not horrible. My last full mile split was as 15:06, my slowest split of the race, but given that it included a few minutes of walking the hills, it’s not bad.
Finally, I trotted back into the Panera parking lot and over the finish line and ended up with a 1:31:42 (14:32 min/mile on a 6.32 mile course, a long course rather than my inability to run a tangent). Roughly 10 minutes slower than my 10K PR, but I knew a PR wasn’t even in the realm of possibility given my recent speeds.
Comparisons to 2 years ago aside, can I just say how chuffed I was about this race? I wanted to bump up the effort and hold it even when it hurt a bit, and I did. I wanted to run most of the time, and I did. I wanted to not be last, and I wasn’t. I wanted to practice faster water stops, and I did. I haven’t been training on hills at all these past few months, but I shuffled up every one of the hills except the final two. It was a shockingly well executed race for me, and I’ll take well executed over a fast time any day.
The Hebrew Home & Pacers Running puts on the Home Run 10K/5K every year around this time. If you’re in the area and looking for a good, hilly weekend race, I recommend it. There were great volunteers helping out on the course, and they even worked with the local cops to close a lane on some pretty large roads. Moreover, the race proceeds go to the Hebrew Home, which provides long-term care for elderly residents in the DC area.