Maybe I just became spoiled to new personal records, so I now have high standards for myself. The problem with that mentality is new PRs every race are unrealistic - at least as much as I race. I'm signed up for 5 all in the first 3 months of the year, with the anticipation of running a 6th. This weekend, I ran my first of the Knoxville Track Club high mileage series.
This would only be my 2nd 10 mile race ever, although I've ran a couple of 15K which would be comparable for pacing. Last year I registered for the Calhoun's 10 miler, but it was cancelled due to unsafe driving weather.
This year's weather forecast was less than favorable - wind chills in the teens with heavy winds. While the roads were certainly drive-able, I started questioning Friday night if the weather would allow it to be race-able.
The plan was for negative splits, but I didn't account for the terrain. The chart seemed to show a net gain on the way out and net loss on the way back. Problem #1 - I didn't read it well enough to notice the mega hill at mile 1 (and returning at mile 9).
Problem #2 - I didn't consider the wind being at our back on the way out. Deductive reasoning says it therefore must be a headwind on the way back. I made no adjustments for this in my pace plan. A couple of my Ragnar teammates (Amy & Michelle) had planned to run this as a training run, so I joined them at the start line.
"Cemetery Hill" - a hill so infamous it gets a name. I had been forewarned that it was a doozy, and made myself promise to take it easy and not wear myself out. Both Amy & Michelle are stronger than me on hills, so at the base I said "It was great running with you guys" and settled into my own pace for the climb.
Mile 1 - 10:04
I can run downhill like a champ, so I didn't have any trouble catching up with them in the 2nd mile. I'm sure they pulled up a bit when they heard me swishing behind them. We chatted about books and tried to keep a steady pace. As a mostly downhill mile, I was okay with being a bit fast.
Mile 2 - 9:33
While Michelle was on our Ragnar team, I never got to chat much with her because we were in different vans. For the first few miles of the race, I enjoyed getting to know her better. This made the first part of the race go by quickly.
Mile 3 - 9:46
Before I knew it, it was time to take a gel. In training, I'm trying to go for 5 miles before taking them but for races I like them every 3-4. Given the distance, I had decided to take some at the 3.5 and 7 mile mark. This started a bit of a climb, so I was already slowing from their pace.
Mile 4 - 10:04
Although not running "with" anyone, miles 4 & 5 were hardly alone. I was starting to meet some of the faster people making their return trip. By mile 4.75, I took a brief uphill walk break. The girl behind me said "Good job Brooke." When I turned to see who it was, I saw a stranger's smiling face. "I assume your name is Brooke," she continued, "given all the people cheering for you by name."
Mile 5 - 10:13
After the turn around gave a nice little decline section, allowing me to catch my breath and return the "lookin' good" comments to some of teammates. My newly made buddy and I stuck together, chatting about this and that, for a little while before she pulled ahead.
Mile 6 - 10:00
The race start/finish was by a lake marina. The wind coming off the water was cold and harsh. Later a buddy told me that gusts topped out at 25MPH. At the time, all I had to work off of was the burning in my lungs. Judging from my Garmin report, I started taking walk breaks in earnest around 5.9 miles.
Mile 7 - 10:39
From that point on, I took a total of 11 breaks in the course of just over 3 miles. Normally I'm hesitant to walk during races. I question my ability to start back running, what the breaks will do to my pace, and how the slower pace will affect my mental game. During this race, none of those were issues.
Mile 8 - 11:03
I'm learning to trust my body more and more as a runner. While asthma doesn't define me, it does sometimes limit me. Speed was just not to be had that day. More importantly than what it did to my pace, I'm very pleased with what it did not do to my determination.
In those 3 miles with walk breaks, I ran less than half-mile spurts. Yet I was still able to power walk and run quickly enough to keep my pace up to a decent speed. The last mile containing cemetery hill yet again came in at my slowest.
Mile 9 - 11:51
Running down the hill, I was able to gain a bit of momentum and pick up my stride. By this point, a fellow KTC Socialite had come up to pass me. For the remaining mile, I tried to keep pace with him.
Mile 10 - 9:58
As with most races, I didn't quite run the tangents, so I ran this certified course a bit long. I didn't mind the extra tenth or so, because I was able to see what kind of kick was left in the home stretch.
My chip time was 1:44:35. I didn't meet my time goals. This race, however, did teach me I was mentally strong enough to push through and give up. Given that my mental game is the weakest part of me as a racers, I count this race as a success!
Age group: 18/22
Oh, and technically a PR from my only other 10 mile race. Although, save injury, I knew a PR was guaranteed from my previous 2:08:41 time. As Michelle pointed out, no matter the circumstances (or the 3+ years that have passed) I've come a long way in my running to shave off 24 minutes and 6 seconds!