Just got back from the 2009 Seal Beach 5/10K run this morning. Whew.
This was more or less a race to gauge my level of fitness since I loosely started following the Pfitz 12/55 program for the upcoming Santa Barbara Wine Country Half-Marathon next month. Emphasis on the "loosely". My weekly totals the past few weeks have looked something like this:
2/23 - 3/1 = 36.8 miles
3/2 - 3/8 = 56.4 miles (bullshit week, 31+ of that was my 50K)
3/9 - 3/15 = 41.7 miles
3/16 - 3/22 = 40.3 miles
3/23 - 3/29 = 25.6 miles (skipped my long run to volunteer)
Add to it all, I haven't really hit tempo runs exceeding 3+ miles in god knows how long. These aren't excuses, these are just the facts. It didn't really help that since acquiring my Newtons last week, I've been running just a few miles here and there to get acclimated to running in them. I knew I had this 10K coming up and wanted so badly to run in them.
However, my lack of targeted training to build up speed had me doubting I could PR in this race. Still, I had every intent on going "balls to the wall" in this race and to let the chips fall where they may. My previous PR in this distance was back in late October of 2008 in the LA Cancer Challenge when I was still knee-deep in the Pfitz 18/55 for CIM. PR time then = 44:46. Wanted to at least PR today but definitely had my doubts.
Since this brings you up to speed, fast forward to this morning.
I had intended on getting out the door by 6am to arrive around 6:30pm (start time was = 8am). However, after tossing and turning last night, I hit the snooze a couple of times this morning and finally made it out the door by around 6:20am. I made the approximately 30 minute drive south just as the morning sun was starting to rise.
I found parking about a block and a half from the start, so I used that time to jog over to get my bib and chip, then back to the car to make some crucial wardrobe decisions. Fuel belt or no fuel belt (opted for the latter)? Arm warmers or no arm warmers (went with the former)? With about 30-40 minutes still to spare, I decided to make my way back to the starting area which had swelled tremendously in number. The PA guy said something about 5,000+ runners I believe?
Anyway, I aimlessly warmed up, stretched, warmed up again, hit a couple of strides and basically, tried to look like I knew what the hell I was doing. Nearing race time, I positioned myself at the start of the 7 minute/mile corral (volunteers held up signs), all the while keeping an eye out for Danica who was also racing today. No luck. I was getting antsy and wanted to settle the nerves by running already. Finally, the herd of folks in front of me started moving and a little after 8am...we were off!
This was probably the most frustrating part of the race. After repeated pleas from the PA guy to start off in the right corral, for almost the entirety of the initial mile, I was side-stepping walkers, people running with strollers, folks running 11 minute mile paces...never seemed to end. Grrr...
About 1/2 a mile into the race, I spot a pair of pink arm-warmers and a ponytail and sure enough, it's our gal Danica! We ran together for several steps, trying to talk while dodging people at the same time. I don't know what her goal pace was but I just wanted to get into a rhythm and hit my paces already. Around 0.85 miles, I finally saw a bit of wiggle room and so I took off to start turning the legs over at my goal pace (target = sub-7:15).
Mile 1 - 7:36
I really tried to go off effort and not press too hard early on. I occasionally glanced at my Garmin to make sure my average pace was right around 7:15, but other than that, I focused more on slowly picking folks off one by one. This was easier in the 2nd mile when the overzealous runners started dropping back and people running their legitimate paces continued to chug along. We hit our first water stop between miles 2 and 3 I believe and I was already kinda parched, so it couldn't have come at a better time.
Mile 2 - 7:11
Mile 3 - 7:02
The course was as advertised - with the exception of a couple of steady and extended climbs, it was nearly flat for the duration (elevation: +1042.4/-1056.6 ft/net: -14.2 ft). Certainly a PR course.
Right around mile 3, we made our 2nd turn of the run, a hard left that took us down a drab main street that had a huge outdoor mall lot on the left, and traffic off to the right. I was starting to suck wind and just started battling with the mind a bit. I tried focusing on form, staying relaxed and staying in position with some other similar paced runners out there. When I was struggling, I told myself that everyone else was hurting just as bad and to keep pumping my arms and moving forward. Given the lack of stimuli, this was definitely a difficult stretch.
Mile 4 - 7:11
A little after mile 4, we took a soft left into a bike path that ran along a river leading out to the bay. Definitely the most scenic part of the race, but also my toughest mile. I was certainly fatigued at this point and began cursing myself for my lack of conditioning. I really wanted to kick it up a gear in my last mile and thought I had been running somewhat conservatively, but I started doubting if that extra gear was there.
Mile 5 - 7:20
Okay, moment of truth - 1.2 miles to go. Seemingly nothing on a long training run, an eternity in this race. After running without spectators, we finally got a little crowd support during the homestretch. Did I notice them? Barely. I was too busy grinding my shifter into the non-existent extra gear I was looking for to finish strong. Instead, I wanted to throw up. Just give me one more mile, I kept telling myself. You can puke, heave - do whatever you want after you cross that line. But only after you cross that line.
Mile 6 - 7:04
Finally, in the last .2 miles - the finish came into view and I started sprinting. By "sprinting", I mean tongue hanging out, wheezing like an old geriatric suffering from a heart attack. I'm sure I looked hot.
Mile 6.2 - 1:17 (6:22 pace)
Finally, I stepped on the finish mat, hit the Garmin and after hunching over gasping for air, looked at my finish time and started laughing to myself. Final time (unofficially) = 44:42 - a PR by a whole 4 seconds! I at least hit the tangents right, as final mileage was right at 6.20 miles.
Whatever delusions I had of running a sub-44 10K on relatively little training with nothing but a new pair of magical Newton shoes were quickly dashed. But I guess I'll take it. I was proud of my effort however and held true to going "B.T.T.W".
After recovering, I rounded the corner and joined the spectators to cheer in the other runners. A couple of minutes later, I saw Danica beaming and proudly finishing strong. We grabbed some water, chatted a little about the race and then jogged over to my car to snap a couple of quick pictures before bidding goodbye (she was running back home!).
My "no duh" conclusions from today: 10K's are just hard. And not very fun. I suppose they can be if you've trained properly for them, but clearly, that was not me today. Any hopes of running a sub-1:35 half in a month are now just laughable. But I'll do what I can to see if at least a new PR is plausible. Before that race though, another ultra (a 50K) up in San Jose.
Thanks for reading folks.