Once again, it was time to head south a bit to run in the Monument Ave 10k. This event has become an annual tradition for Rebecca and I, as we join a large contingent of people running in the race and celebrating after. This year was no different, but with the added bonus of VCU playing in the Final Four game that night, there was a special sense of spirit in the whole city of Richmond....despite their eventual loss :(
Like 2 years ago, I would be running this post-marathon, so it's always difficult to figure out exactly how the legs are going to hold up. With pretty solid recovery the week before and a test run last week, my legs felt surprisingly fresh, so I decided that I'd try to race it, rather than trot along. With 40,000 runners, there are a billion waves consisting of anywhere between 750 to 3000 runners per wave, and they send each wave off in 1 minute intervals. However, one of the unique experiences about this race is that the first 9 waves are seeded and require qualifying times. A 43 minute or less finishing time qualifies for the A Wave. I used my 41:37 time that I ran here last year to qualify myself. Based on my fitness level before the marathon, I knew that I'd be able to far surpass that time, so I developed my race plan to race the 1st half of the race at about that pace (6:37/mile) and try to pick it up for the 2nd half if the legs were feeling good.
After having only enough time to muster a 4 minute warm up (never good for a 10k), they announced 2 minutes until the race was starting. So much for that! I quickly jumped into my corral and barely had a chance to breathe before they started the race.
I stayed pretty true to my pacing and let TONs of people pass, knowing they were likely going out too hard. Most of them fell back after the first 1/2 mile. I just tried to stay comfortable and came through Mile 1 in 6:31 and was feeling alright. The one thing I noticed was that my HR was very quickly rising (typical of fatigue still in my legs from the marathon), so I noted to myself that I need to keep an eye on that if it continued to increase. The last thing I wanted out of this race was some type of overuse injury, so I was a bit concerned as my HR started to creep into 5k effort levels, despite running what had been my tempo pace during my marathon training. Mile 2 clicked through in 6:43 and knowing that Mile 3 had the largest rise on the course, I knew my HR was going to continue climbing. At that point, I decided that I'd keep the effort up through the 5k point and if the HR was still super high, I'd shut it down and cruise it in. I came through Mile 3 in 6:41 and the 5k mark in 20:43, which was right on pace for where I wanted to be.
However, because my HR was so high, I didn't think it would be wise to keep pushing and risk anything. It was a difficult decision, but I like to think of myself as a smart runner. I was rolling the dice by running a hard effort this close to the marathon and pushing too much would just compromise my recovery and the amount of time it takes for me to get back to my regular training. Given the effort required to run the paces I was hitting, it just didn't make sense to try and force it. On almost any training day, I could hit these paces at HRs of 10-15 bpm lower than what I was currently running. It was the right thing to do.
I spent Mile 4 a bit slower, taking in the crowds, the bands, and chatting it up with a few people running next to me and cheering them on. I was still moving pretty good, but not racing anymore. I came through in 7:30. Mile 5 was a little more of the same - enjoying the sights and the experience. At some point, I heard Rebecca from the other side of the street as she was headed out on the course, since her wave started 20 minutes after mine. It was around this time that I glanced down at my watch and started having thoughts in my head about what my finish time would be. Well somehow, I got it in my head that if I picked up the pace, I could still finish in 43 minutes and assure myself a spot in the A Wave for next year. Kind of stupid, since I'm pretty sure I'll be running another 10k this year, but the mind always is a bit strange in the middle of a race anyways. Mile 5 was 7:17 and I really started picking up the pace again, with my new goal of sub 43. I knew I'd have to bust it though, as time was quickly running out. Mile 6 came through in 6:52 and just when I didn't think I'd make it, I put it in the next gear for the last .2 running it at a 5:51/mile pace.
Was that stupid? Yes. I could have pulled something in that last effort and running hard again totally went against the reason why I shut things down in the first place. But what was my finish time? 42:59 :) Actually, that was my unofficial time - they changed it the next day to 43:00.
So I was a little sore the next day, but nothing terrible or specific that I need to specially address as a result of this race. The next 2 weeks will be spent continuing my post-marathon recovery. Hopefully by the time that is over, my legs will start coming back and I'll actually be able to train to race (and PR) much faster than that 10k time.
I also wanted to mention a note of praise for this race and a lesson for every other race out there. With 40,000 runners, unofficial results were posted on their website by early afternoon of the SAME DAY of the race and official results were posted the next day. There is simply no excuse for any race that uses a chip timing system, that they can't get the results up on the same day. Thanks to the people at the Monument Ave 10k for making it one of the best race experiences of almost every race I've been a part of. Low registration fees, good expo, great crowd support, bands on the course, and excellent race management. This is the reason we keep coming back.