As previously mentioned, Rebecca and I headed down to Richmond to stay with a friend and run the Monument Ave 10k. We did this race last year, so we were a lot more prepared for the largeness of the race. Despite the nearly 37,000 people that registered, the race does NOT come close to feeling that crowded. With 33 waves of runners (ranging from 750 to 3500 runners per wave) and each wave going off between 1-2 minutes after the one before it, the race is staggered quite a bit. Of course, because people are seeded on expected finish time, this can lead to crowding in some of the later waves, because not everyone knows what time to expect. Fortunately for me, I was in the 1st wave (sub-43 minutes) and all who wanted to be in this wave had to "qualify" from a previous race to be placed in it. So I only had to deal with the couple hundred people that were in front of me, rather than that thousands that most other people had to deal with.
About 30 minutes before the race started, I went out for an easy 2 mile jog, followed by some strides, and plyometrics to get a decent warm up. It was a mere 32 degrees at race start (Rebecca even slipped on some ice on the way to the race), so it took a little to get truly warmed up. With only about 5 minutes till the race start, I weaved my way through the 4 waves lined up behind the A Wave (I couldn't just jump in because they had metal fences to keep people from doing it), so I literally got into the A Wave with 2 minutes to spare. There were a few small announcements, a countdown, and then a simple "Go!" over the microphone. I guess since there are so many waves, it doesn't make sense to use a horn or starting gun.
Mile 1 - I was actually shocked at some of the slower paces my wave started out in. I purposely did not put myself toward the front of the wave, because with a wave of sub-43 minute runners, there is a pretty large range of times mixed in there (some as fast as sub-29 minutes!), so I didn't want to get sucked into too fast a pace. I wanted to ease into this race, unlike my traditional way of starting by blasting the 1st mile and burning the rest of the race. So I went at a comfortably hard pace, but by no means pushing or breathing too hard. My goal for these first 3 miles was to remain in control, but know that there is more in the tank. The course is generally up hill on the way out and generally downhill on the way back, so I figured if I could remain in control on the up, I'd cruise the down. I came through Mile 1 in 6:28 and knew that was pretty close to right where I should be at this level of effort.
Mile 2 - Mile 2 brought the first series of smaller rolling hills and also was primarily run on cobblestones, which made for interesting footing (and not to mention sore calf muscles!). I cruised through Mile 2 with a 6:40 split. I was pretty content, because my effort was solid and I really didn't feel tired at all yet.
Mile 3 - This last mile before the turnaround is the toughest of the course, since it contains the longest continuous uphill part of the course. I knew my pace would slip a little here, but I was mentally prepared for it. The goal continued to be to just run comfortably hard. I hit Mile 3 in 6:52, and crossed the 5k mark at 20:45. I knew if my legs would hold up according plan (running the 2nd half equal to or faster, a PR was in play).
Mile 4 - I started to push a little harder after I crossed the 5k mark, but also came to find more small rollers than I remembered, so my legs were beginning to tire. I still held a constant pace, trying to play cat and mouse with a few runners around me. I knocked the pace back down a bit, coming through in 6:46.
Mile 5 - I kept telling myself the hills were over, but they kept on coming. I remembered last year that the mile marker sign was right after a hill and one of the larger monuments on the course. Only problem was that it was another hill. Where did these come from? I told myself to just hold pace for this mile and to start pushing once I get to that marker and kick on the downhill. I hit Mile 5 in 6:43.
Mile 6 - With just a little bit to go, I knew I could start giving whatever I had left. I simply focused on proper form, smooth breathing, and just relaxing. Before I knew it, I could see the stage where the camera people take your picture above the course, just as runners enter the homestretch. I kept picking up the pace and pushing with what I had left. Mile 6 came through in 6:42. I was too focused on finishing hard, that I didn't pay attention to the last .2, but knew I finished strong.
Final Time: 41:37 (10k PR by 28 seconds, course PR by 1:11)
Avg Pace: 6:42/Mile
Avg HR: 181
Overall Place: 438/30,800 finishers
Age Group (30-34): 53/1600
I couldn't be more happy with the results. This race is just further proof that what I am doing in my training is the right thing for me. I did this race (and the one last year) with ZERO speedwork and still managed to PR by a large margin. In fact, aside from the 2 baseline tests I've done and my last 10k in December, I haven't run anywhere close to sub-7 minute pace for the past 4 months, yet my 10k PR has dropped by more than a minute. The reasons to explain all of this and more will come in another post.
Until then, I'm going to enjoy my shiny new PR ;)
P.S. I also wanted to give a big shout out to Rebecca who also smashed her 10k PR by a TON, but I'll let her do the talking on that.
P.P.S I managed to get in 3 games of beer pong, before being eliminated from the tournament. My partner, who was randomly picked out of names in a hat, had NEVER played a single game of beer pong before the tournament. So to be able to win 1 game was a success.
P.P.P.S I. AM. SORE.