Where to start, where to start...
I last did this race in 2007, where I posted by fastest 10 mile time of 1:13:49. I've run a few other 10 milers, but was not in what I would consider good fitness to beat that time. As I stated previously, my expectations for this race were to handily beat my PR. This race is advertised as a "net downhill", which simply means that you finish at a lower elevation than you start. What it does NOT mean is that it is generally flat and downhill. Yes, I ran this race, but the mind tends to forget the bad over time and only remember the good. Someone should also have reminded me (besides Rebecca who was yelling my ear about it) that Rebecca ran this race last year, so maybe she would have a better idea of the course. Did I listen? Nope! Lesson learned - listen to your wife ;)
Sorry about that - back to the race report!
Race morning came very early, because of the logistical issues of a point to point race. We had to be at the finish line in time to catch the bus that takes everyone 10 miles down to Mount Vernon to the start of the race. Well in order to get a decent parking spot (ie within stumbling distance from the finish line), you have to get there pretty early. The buses started making trips to the race start at 5:30 am. The race didn't start till 8 am. That is a long time. We boarded by 6 and made it to the start area by 6:20. And then it started to rain. Ugh. It was cool, but very humid (95% humidity) and the rain wasn't helping the situation. Fortunately, it stopped about 30 minutes before the race start, which was just enough to leave the roads slightly slick.
My race plan was to go out relatively slower for the first 2 miles, before upping the pace for the middle 6 and going with whatever else I had left for the last 2 miles. I knew that my recent race times would yield a very good time if I things went according to plan.
After a 15-20 minute warm up, I felt ready to go, so I kissed Rebecca good luck and made my way toward the front of the start line with about 5 minutes till the start. After a short hold, they sounded the horn and we were off.
Mile 1 - My plan was to start off with a 7:09 mile, but I did not take into account the HUGE downhill almost immediately after the start of the race. I found myself running relatively easy, but knew my time would reflect harder work. I came through Mile 1 in 6:48. Ouch. Was I working too hard? I think so. My HR was a bit higher than I was hoping for the first 2 miles, but I wasn't sure if it was from the excitement of the race or something else. I should have held back some more, because an alarm went off in my head after I saw the clock that today is going to be a long day if I don't slow down.
Mile 2 - As usual with a big downhill, it is followed by some up hills. In this case, it was a series of rollers. I forced myself to slow my pace to try and get into my goal pace, which I mostly achieved with a split of 7:06.
Mile 3 - My plan called for me to pick up my pace starting at Mile 3. Given that I busted out a goal pace mile in the first mile, I didn't want to big too deep a hole so early. So I told myself that if I also took Mile 3 at a similar pace, it would at least do some damage control. I held constant and began to slowly pick up the pace toward the end of the mile, which came through in 7:02
Mile 4 - It was around this time that I started noticing my HR creeping up a bit higher than I thought it should be. My paces were alright, but something wasn't right. I started getting very hot, but I was racing in (short) shorts and a light t-shirt, so there wasn't really anything different I would have done. I just knew that my body was starting to have issues dealing with the high humidity and keeping my core temperature down. When I hit the next aid station, I threw one of the cups on my head and it seemed to help a lot. I snapped out of my funk and pressed on, coming through in 7:01
Mile 5 - Based on my time at Mile 4, I knew my legs weren't going to fire up the goal paces I was targeting. I was still moving at a good pace and running strong, but I knew things were going to fall apart at some point, I just didn't know when. I hit a dark moment when I realized that I was only half way through, but could feel my body to start to revolt. My split was 7:04, which put my 5 mile time at 35:05, right at a 7:01/mile pace, which was slightly slower than my goal pace, but still well within where I had hoped to be.
Mile 6 - Aside from all the negative feelings I had, Mile 6 was largely downhill, which kept my spirits up and my hopes alive that maybe I was just feeling "off" because I was working so hard and that it should feel this way. I happily posted a 6:55 split.
Mile 7 - Mile 7 continued more of the same from Mile 6. It was one of the only flat miles on the course. I started struggling toward the end of this mile, but the realization that if I kept this pace up, it would all be over in less than 25 minutes kept my focus. However, my head started to feel woozy and I was starting to get blurry vision. I just kept telling myself to put one foot in front of the other and it would all be over soon. My pace from Mile 6 mostly continued through Mile 7, which was 6:59.
Mile 8 - I knew I had just under a 5k to go and mentally this also became a struggle. I was hurting and I knew the Mile 9 had two major hills that would wreak havoc on my situation. I tried to hold back a little to reserve enough energy to get through things, but my issues with my head started to get worse. I could only see right in front of me and did not know much else other than that. I couldn't care about anything other than getting to the finish line and being done. I was over heated, could not cool myself down, and was dumping 2 cups of water on my head at each water station. It felt good for about 30 seconds, but would go right back to blurry vision and woozy feelings. Mile 8 came through in 7:16.
Mile 9 - The one thing I DID remember from my last time doing this race was that Mile 9 would not be kind to my legs or my body. And given the issues I was already having, I knew it would not feel good. First it was a longer 1/2 mile climb, followed by a short break, which led to the beginning of a short (2 blocks long) but very steep hill. I knew it would be slower and I contemplated just walking it in from there, because I was basically running blind, with tunnel vision. I had to start slowing my pace, because I didn't feel comfortable in my body's coordination at the time and feared I would just collapse if I went faster. You can see that my HR went gradually downhill from Mile 8 to the finish, except for when pushing hard going up hill. Mile 9 came through in 7:28.
Mile 10 - At just the foot of the steepest hill, I started Mile 10 and was not sure whether I would make it up it. I honestly did not know if I would make it to the finish line. I have zero recollection, but I made the climb and headed for the last mile straight, which led all the way to the finish. In some ways, this is the worst mile of them all. Nearly a mile out, you can see the finish line. But, what normally seems like a flat road on any day when you drive through the area, becomes a false flat up hill the whole way to the finish. I don't remember seeing anyone, though I know the streets were lined with people. My tunnel vision got worse and worse and I continued to slow until I finally headed toward the finish line. I heard 2 people (1 male one female) yell my name, but honestly had no clue who it was, because I couldn't see. If anyone saw me, I'm afraid to know what I looked like. I crossed the line with a split of 7:35. Ouch. Not exactly bring it home strong.
Final time: 1:11:17, a PR of 2:32
Avg pace: 7:07/mile
Avg HR: 179
AG Place: 27/366
After I crossed the line, I stumbled out of the finishers area. I couldn't walk straight and I felt the urge to use a porto-potty (that should mean I was drinking enough, right?). I also knew that I needed to get help in the medical tent. As I started thinking (or trying to), I realized that if I made it all the way to the porto-potties, I probably would not make it to the medical tent and collapse somewhere along the way. It was at this point that I made the executive decision to go straight to the medical tent. I collapsed into a cot and they immediately began to take my vitals. My core temperature was over 100 degrees, my blood pressure was a bit high (and I tend to have very low blood pressure, which means it was probably very high for me), and my face was apparently ghost white. They placed a number of ice packs on my head and on my body to try and cool me down, which seemed to start helping after a bit. Shortly after I was feeling a bit better, my hamstrings and calves started to cramp. I immediately popped up to apply pressure to my hamstring and prevent worse cramping. That seemed to do the trick and after 5 minutes of self massage, it sort of went away. Since I was already sitting up, they took my vitals again and I was much improved. My temperature was down to normal and my blood pressure was within a good range. I was finally able to take in some fluids and over the next 20 or so minutes took in about 80 oz of Powerade, which seemed to help bring me back to life. It was after I was completely coherent again and talking to the medical staff that they told me how pale white my face looked when I stumbled in and how glad they were that I was able to feel better so quickly. Shortly after, Rebecca and our friend jokingly thought that I would be in the medical tent, when it was long after the race and they hadn't found me. Sure enough, there I was!
In all, several things may have contributed to this. Most importantly, was that my body was not used to the humid conditions and this created big problems when I asked it to function at a high level. Secondly, I'm pretty sure that first mile didn't help the case. It felt easy, but I should have known to go even slower and start off stupid conservatively, given the not ideal racing conditions. In other words, I may have burned too many matches in my matchbook too soon.
Despite the poor race experience, I still managed to PR by 2:32! Not too shabby if I do say so, once again, given my training methods thus far. It says a lot about the potential I am reaching for.
And once again, Rebecca proved to be the all star of the day, rocking a 13 minute PR over the same course a year ago!