A.K.A. Now I Know Why the Hare Needs that Nap.
In January when all of my running friends were training for Holiday Lake 50k (or so it seemed) I decided to choose a goal race. I decided, having never really raced a road 10k, to focus on the Ukrop's Monument Avenue 10k in Richmond at the end of March. It was my first ever 10k in 2010 when Todd paced me to run it in 51:13, almost five minutes faster than I thought possible at the time. Last year I registered in the 48 minute wave, hoping to run it in sub 47 when I found out I was pregnant. Morning sickness overcame me in the weeks leading up to the race and laziness had me pouting on the couch instead of running but I still managed to run it in 53:01 last April.
This year I started out just wanting to run it in under 50 minutes. I had not raced in a road race yet this year and was not sure what kind of time to expect at the 10k distance. I ran a trail 10k in January in 54 minutes but I knew that I had improved and gotten stronger since then. This race on my calendar was the reason I started looking for a group to do speed work with each week. However, other than speed work I wasn't really doing anything to prepare me for this flat (by my standards) road race. A few weeks ago a fellow runner told me I should try out Tempo runs. I managed two tempo runs into my schedule over the last few weeks, the first run at an 8 minute pace and the second at a sub 8 for six miles. I began to think I could run Ukrop's even faster than anticipated, maybe even somewhere between 45:30-46:30.
So I concocted a plan, I would aim to run a sub 23:30 5k split, or as close to 7:30 as possible and then get progressively faster over the second 5k getting a negative split, hoping to work my overall pace down to 7:20 by the end of the race. That was my plan. Why I decided at the starting line to throw it out and just throw caution to the wind? I have NO idea. I've been asking myself what happened every half hour I've been awake since the race commenced.
I mean Felix warned against going out too fast minutes before the race started. I, myself, am always warning Todd about going out too fast. I NEVER go out too fast (Ok, there was that ONE time at the Bedford Christmas Classic 5k but even then I swore I would never do that again!). I am the Turtle. I pride myself on being the Turtle, slow and steady. And yet I'm standing there in my wave at the start line and my iPod won't work, I stuff the silly thing down my bra and begin to get so worked up about not having Cat Stevens and Conor Oberst to help me through any trials and tribulations that might arise during the run that my race plan apparently got buried. I mean they let my wave go and the next thing I know I'm running and passing people and thinking to myself, "This seems fast Self, too fast, what is this pace?"
A quick glance at my watch to verify what I already know, I'm running faster than planned. I wasn't sprinting but I was keeping a 7:02 overall pace at this point. "That's too fast!!!" One side of my brain said to the other. "You can do this at this pace, just see how long you can keep this up, it doesn't feel that bad" said the other side in defense. So I trucked along, passing others and running hard for just about two miles when I started to get exhausted. Both sides of my brain tried to console me and told me just to slow and recover. And that's what I did, but it was mental anguish. I hadn't hit the halfway point and I was feeling as though I'd ruined my race with a rookie mistake. The thoughts that I'd ruined my race, that I was too cocky, that I knew better than to race this poorly overwhelmed me as I crossed over the 5k marker. I was pretty sure that I wasn't going to have a negative split and was wondering just how badly I had effected my race. I felt awful and slow as dozens of people flew by me looking stronger and smarter. It was possibly the worst race experience I've ever had, I wouldn't give myself a break and I just couldn't push any harder during miles three and four. At four miles I started wondering if I should just call it and walk. I ran my slowest mile here, but did slow for some Gatorade at an aid station. At the five mile marker I tried to convince myself that it was just over a mile and I began to pick the pace up, but just a little. I would run a little harder for a minute and then worry that I was going to pass out. At the last aid station I grabbed a cup of water and poured it on my head, it felt warm, You just poured that over your iPod, do you really have no sense left in you? I further berated myself. I wanted so badly to quit. I wanted so badly to start over. It's something terrible to be in something and know how badly you failed it and yet have to continue on or risk further failure.
And finally I knew we were coming in to the finish and I managed to run, according to my Garmin, the fastest quarter mile split of the entire race. And just like that the race was over. However, my mental torment was just beginning. Despite the knowledge of a PR I just couldn't get over the feeling that I'd not raced smart. I want to be fast and I am at somewhat of a loss as to really make that happen, and that is frustrating, and yet it is even more frustrating to know I could have run better if only I had run smarter.
I finished in 46:52 which I should be ecstatic about, I was originally hoping for anything sub 50. It isn't my time that I'm unhappy about but rather the fact that I took the time to devise a race plan and then go all Willy-nilly at the starting line. I don't know how much faster I could have been if I'd started slower or even if I would have been any faster had I started more reserved, but I know that personally I do not like to slow down during a race unless I'm running up a hill.
I downloaded the splits from my Garmin and I didn't race as poorly as I felt at the time, the first eight quarter mile splits were between 1:44-1:47, the next four miles were mostly 1:54-1:56 with a few 1:58, 2:00. 2:04 was the slowest when I slowed for Gatorade. The last quarter was 1:38. On a graph, it doesn't look so bad. If only I could get a reprieve from the voices in my head. I am my biggest critic.
At least my shoes didn't come untied.