Friday, June 15, 2012

NYRR Mini 10K #2: Getting a 10K PR despite not knowing how to race a 10k

Short Version

Distance: 10K
Previous PR: 54:27 (from June 2011)
New PR: 50:45 @ 8:11mm pace
               24:51 for the first 5K, 25:56 for the second 5K 
Overall / Gender Place: 804 / 6119
Age Place: 221 / 1406
AG Gender Place: 1138 / 6119
AG Percent: 59.79%

Long Version
I had done this all female 10K last year and had a great time. I hadn't planned on doing this race again - I initially decided that my goal 10K race would be the Scotland Run in April. Unfortunately, my brain failed to register that I would be out of town that weekend.  
So instead, I decided to suck it up and pay the $35 to register for the Mini 10K - it may not be expensive for a 10K, but it was a steep price increase from $18 last year for NYRR members. Since it was a club points race for women, I would get the chance to represent my work team. It turned out that this would be my last chance to represent team HSS - I recently graduated from business school and was offered an amazing opportunity at another hospital, so as of next month, I'll be switching jobs. It was bittersweet - it was fun representing the team for a final time, but we weren't scored as a team because we did not have the 5 runners required - we only had four. 

The last time I really raced a 10K was this exact race last year, so my previous PR of 54:27 was very soft (my 15K and HM paces were faster). When setting my goals, I plugged in my 4 mile time of 31:31 into McMillan and got 50:03 as my optimal 10K time. Since there was only a four second difference between that and sub-50, I decided to make 49:59 my "A" goal for this race. While it was achievable, I knew that it would be a reach for me. I arbitrarily set my "B" goal at sub-52, and my "C" goal was simply to PR. 

I went to number pick-up a few days before the race, and since it was a women's only race, I got placed in the second corral for the first time ever. We ended up getting a fitted, orange, cotton t-shirt that for once wasn't way too big on me.  I had taken a cutback week so that I would be well rested for this race.

The morning of the race, I woke up early, and after catching a downtown bus, jogged to the baggage check area. After checking my bag, I recognized one of my Facebook running friends, Meaghan, starting her warm-up, and after introducing myself, she was gracious enough to let me tag along during her warm-up. After running about 1.5 miles together, we headed towards the start corrals. 

I started in the back of the red / second corral, and met up with another Facebook running friend, Gemma. Meanwhile, in another part of the corral, this happened. I won't go into detail here, but let's just say that I was very lucky I wasn't standing anywhere near that.  

Since this was the 41st year, and the 40th anniversary of racing the 1st ever race, they had the very first winner,  Jacqueline Dixon, who was a 17 year old Californian at the time, come in and say a few words. This was the first time she had been back since she won the race. Other notable athletes at the event included Nina Kuscsik, Desiree Davilla,  Katherine Switzer, and  Edna Kiplagat, who ended up winning the race in 32:08. On a personal note, my own mother ran the race in 1988 when it was called the L'Eggs Mini Marathon. 

After the customary National Anthem, the race began, and since I was close to the front, it took me less than 30 seconds to get across the start. For the first mile and a half, the course went directly up Central Park west, which is the western border of Central Park, instead of directly in the park. Since this was flat and fast, I finished my first mile slightly faster than I intended at 7:50. Last year, my parents were waiting on their corner to take pictures, but this year they were out of town. We entered the park in the middle of mile two, and I slowed down slightly to finish at 8:02. Mile three had the northern part of the park, which included Harlem Hill, but I stayed pretty consistent and finished in 8:03. I ended up crossing the 5K point at 24:51, which was a 7:59 average pace.

Since there was a timing mat at the 5K split, am I allowed to call this a 5K PR?

At this point, I was still going strong, but shortly after that, the wheels fell off the bus. Not only did mile four have the most elevation gain, there was no elevation loss. Here is what I had to say about mile four from last year's report: "Mile 4 was the hardest for me - after Harlem hill, the incline towards Engineer's Gate always seems unnecessary and painful....I found myself starting to get tired." Let's just say that history repeated itself. Despite my best efforts, my pace dropped to an 8:20 for that mile. 

At that point, I said to myself, "Ok, you're behind your "A" goal, but if you turn it around during mile 5, you might have a shot".  Despite my best efforts, and despite having a downhill for at least a quarter of a mile, my legs were not having it and I finished the mile in 8:16. When I crossed the mile marker, I knew that my sub-50 was out of the question, but that I still had a good chance of hitting my sub-52 "B" goal. I said to myself, "you have less than 10 minutes of running to go. Let's do it!" Despite my pep talk, and even after putting in my best effort, I was still obviously struggling - mile 6 ended up being the slowest one of the race at 8:23.  I am the first to admit that I am much better at pacing an HM than I am a 10K  

When the 50 minute mark passed on my Garmin, I was less than 200m away from the finish. I ran as fast as my tired legs would allow, and I finished the remaining 0.2 in 1:50. My Garmin said I finished in 50:47, and the official time was 50:45. Although not getting sub-50 was disappointing, I still PRd by approximately 3 1/2 minutes.  After looking at my results, I was more dissapointed when I realized that had I been 12 seconds faster, I would have reached 60% AG. Oh well, live and learn.  On the bright side, I finished first out of the members of my team. My garmin splits can be found here

After the race, I met up with a few friends for coffee. Wallis, Amy, and Barbara ran the mini as well, and we met up at the Starbucks after the race. An elderly gentleman was kind enough to take our picture. Everyone got a medal for finishing the 10K - while I personally don't think a medal for a 10K is necessary, we got that, and a pink flower (and true to tradition, I manage to break one and find another sitting around on the grass, just like last year). 

Coffee with some of my favorite
NYC running buddies
A few days later, the Brightroon pictures came out, and to my horror, I look like I am dying in each and every picture - probably because all of the pictures of me were taken within the last couple of miles on the course. Below is the one picture in which I look remotely decent. 
I decided to do a variant on my usual hands
in the air finish - I'm doing sign language
for the letter "Y". I thought about this
a great deal over the last two miles
in an attempt to forget the pain in my legs
In retrospect, I realize that although I have the potential to run a sub-50 10K, I just did not have the fitness to do so that day. Here are some reasons why things might have not worked out:

1) Possibly too little pre-race nutrition. I usually have something more substantial than a serving of shot bloks beforehand
2) The course. On a flat 10K, sub-50 might have been possible. Central Park is very hilly, and I'm used to running it in the other direction
3) The weather. The humidity wasn't quite as bad as last year, but 69% and 55% humidity still isn't ideal racing weather for me. 
I am very grateful to Meaghan for letting me tag along with her during her warm-up. I doubt that I would have done as much of a warm-up on my own, and it's one of the reasons why my first 5K went as well as it did. 

Thanks everyone for reading! The Corporate Challenge Race Report will be coming along sometime this weekend! 

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