Sunday, April 01, 2007

Cherry Blossom 10 miler

A bit much drama for a slow guy but...

I ran the Cherry Blossom 10-miler today. The weather was perfect -- cool (50 degrees) and overcast with light winds. This is a very fast course where world records have been set. If I didn't have a good race, I'd have no excuses.

I ran a 5M PR of 34:20 at the end of January, which is my best race by a good bit. According to mcmillan, I could run 1:12 today. The 5M race was extremely hilly though. I've also lost 2 or 3 pounds since then and my long runs have been getting faster at the same heart rate after I started incorporating tempo runs and some hill/intervals the last four weeks. All of this made me think that sub-1:10, while ambitious, was possible. I've been running regularly since 1 Jan 2005 (I had some aborted attempts before that) and an April 10-miler has become my annual fitness test since it was the first distance I ever raced (April 2005). I shocked myself then by running 1:24:49 when I was hoping for 1:40. I met my goal of 1:20 last year running 1:19:25. I'd set this up in my mind as my goal race for the spring. How would I do today?

I was in the green corral, which meant I was in the first wave of the common folk but after the elite and sub-seeded waves went. I did a token 2 minute warmup before I stood and shivered in my short sleeves in the corral. I tried to position myself guestimating at 500 people in front of me (1:10 was around 500th last year). I was afraid I lined up too close to the front, but once we were off, I found myself dodging and weaving to get by people. The green corral is just too big. It goes from 62 minutes to at least 90 and it seems to be a pretty homogeous mix in there.

Last thursday, I did one of my cruise intervals at 7:05 pace. I tried to replicate my breathing and how I felt then during the first mile and it seemed to work. I hit the first mile in 7:12. This 7:12 was probably sub-7 effort though as I dodged people.

The 3-3 breathing I started with gets a little harder to maintain in the second mile. I'm passing people in droves and must be going a min/mi faster than some of them. How were they this far ahead? It doesn't slow me down too much though. Second mile is 6:51. I'm thinking two things: 1) that was my 5K PR pace I set on New Years and 2) I'm back close to 1:10 pace and not feeling too bad.

There are a few gentle inclines now as we approach and pass over the memorial bridge in the third mile. I'm into 2-2 breathing now and I can feel myself over my threshold on a couple of the inclines and back off a little when I feel it. 6:56 for this mile.

I pass the 5K marker and look at my watch. 21:43. My 4 month-old PR is 21:15. (One nice thing about a world class even like this is that I'm pretty sure of all the markers.) We turn onto rock creek parkway, which I remember from last year has a slight uphill grade. I believe I picked it up slightly reacting to the fall off in time between mile 2 and 3. This split is 6:51.

The fifth mile is *very* slightly uphill I think but we're basically in the flat section. The lead elite woman (who had a head start) comes flying by the other way. Nobody is anywhere close to her. We also start to see the elite men and someone says, "they look like they're in such pain." I'm thinking, "that will be us in about four miles." Split is 6:53. It's starting to get hard, but I think that it's supposed to be hard halfway through a 10-miler.

Mile 6 is slightly uphil, but it's definitely uphill. I fade some along with everyone else. I spend some effort dodging people and I notice some people passing me for the first time. I'm just hoping to hit that turnaround between 6 and 7 with enough left to go for it. I pass the 10K mark in 43:14. (My PR from Feb 2006 is 47:21.) Split is 7:05.

We turn around in middle Mile 7 and I think I pick it up a little on the downhill half, but my split is 7:07. Oh no, I'm letting it slip away! Need to push up the effort.

Mile 8 is pure downhill (although slight) and I'm hoping to get back to those low 6:50's as I'm now working hard. Split is 7:00. For the first time I think to look at my overall time and not just the split. It's couple of seconds after I hit the lap button and I see 55:59. 1 second in the bank. I'm running 7:00 min/mi on the downhill with one second in the bank. (Turns out I actually had a whopping 6 seconds in the bank.) I'm going to have to work harder.

Mile 9 is back on the flat part. I'm running hard but can't let it all out just yet. I'm hoping to get anywhere near 7 on this split and then hope I can sprint in at the end and gain back whatever seconds I lose. Late in this mile when it gets hard, I think about what it would be like to be on the edge of a boston qualifier and whether I'd gut it out and make it. I decide I'm going to prove to myself I can gut it out. Split is 6:59. I'm going to need another sub-7 in the last mile.

I pick it up as much as I can, but I can't sprint yet. I'm passing people, but others are passing me. Am I going slower or faster? I have no idea. Just go as fast as you can I tell myself. You don't want to find yourself a second over. Finally, I can see the finish line from a very long way down the flat, straight Ohio drive. It looks so far way. I look at my watch and I'm at about 1:07. I think I'll never get there. I'm now into ragged, freight train breathing now. Nobody around me seems to be breathing this hard. At one point I think I see Bill Rodgers! (No, it's just a girl with short brown hair.) There's an older guy (65+) next to me who's outkicking me. How is he doing that? One minute left. They're screaming in the megaphones to kick. At this point I think I'll never make it. It's so far away. Then suddenly I'm right there at the finish (!) and this easy sprint comes out of nowhere to cross the line. I stop my watch and it says 1:09:48. Last split 6:56. I'm elated. It was very, very hard and I did it. No regrets. Not a thing I'd have done differently. Just a perfect race.

Next stop is the frederick marathon (after my backup 10-miler that I'm now running as a training run).

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