- If your idea of the perfect late summer morning is running ten meandering miles through the parks and tree lined neighborhoods of Denver, empty of cars, devoid of off-leash dogs, in the company of hundreds of other runners, then we should be best friends. Or running partners at the very least. Because I can think of no better way to spend Labor Day than running the Aetna Park to Park Ten Miler. And no I did not get a free or discounted race entry for saying that (though I sure would like to, in case you are reading this, Alamo Events).
Image credit: http://www.parktopark10miler.com/
This was the third time I ran this race. The 2009 race was depressing because I ran slower than I wanted to and I was being really pitiful about it. In 2010, the year I think of as my Great Comeback, I had a breakthrough performance at this race, coming off of a fantastic triathlon season. That race was one of the reasons I started to think maybe I really could qualify for Boston someday, and though I got close, it remains on my To-Do list.
This year I didn’t have anything to prove. I had a major PR at the Santa Barbara International Half Marathon in November, I finally beat Dan at a 5k this December, I PR’ed at the Urban Ten Miler this May. I signed up for this race because I love the course, and because I needed something on the calendar to keep me motivated to run. As much as I love to run, I love the snooze button more. I need a little fear to get me out of bed in the morning. This is why I don’t do too many 5k’s. While I would like to get faster at shorter distances, 5k’s don’t intimidate me. But ten miles is a distance I can’t just pull out of my a** out of nowhere come race day. A brisk ten miles off the couch? Fuhgeddaboudit.
Which brings me to this morning. I had trained, though not as diligently as I had for the May ten miler. I had been running about four times per week, and I built my speed work into most of my long runs starting in late July. My most recent quality run was eleven miles on the treadmill, with miles four through ten descending from 8:00/mile, ending up at about a 7:20 pace. This whole training cycle, I only did one track workout and one hill workout. I wasn’t quite in shape to run my best race, but that was never the goal. If this race taught me anything about what kind of training works for me, it’s that the fifth day a week of running, even if it’s only 3-5 miles- makes a difference, and that two or three quality days a week work well for me.
Wednesday- the day I mailed in my $70 registration fee for this race- my knee randomly hurt during my run, so I didn’t run again until Sunday. I biked to work and for other errands, which was my only exercise this week. My pre-race ritual calls for a day of rest two days before race day, and a 20-30 minute run with some short sprints the day before the race. My run yesterday sucked. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, even running slowly. I wasn’t sure what that meant for today. To be on the safe side, I abstained from coffee and my allergy pill this morning.
I got only a three minute warm up because of a porto-potty line snafu. Ideally I would have warmed up for ten to twenty minutes. Although I felt good during my warm-up, I immediately felt that same shortness of breath I had experienced on my run yesterday once the race started. Of course I started to wonder if I was pregnant, because pregnancy is my scapegoat of choice for symptoms including but not limited to: bitchiness, crankiness, bloating, cravings, fatigue, vivid dreams, and of course, sub-par running. I might be wise to note that the only other time I was actually pregnant, the sole sign of possible pregnancy was that my period was about six hours overdue, but I never said I was wise.
I was hopeful that eventually the shortness of breath would wear off and I could salvage my performance. I passed the first mile mark at a hair under eight minutes, and my effort felt way too hard for that pace this early in the race. I slowed down a bit, but continued to feel like my breathing was much too labored for the pace.
Between miles four and five there was a long, gradual hill. I tucked in behind two runners who looked relaxed and hoped they didn’t mind me breathing down their necks for a mile or so. It eventually got to a point where it was too awkward to continue to be all up in their business without saying hello, so I introduced myself. They turned out to be really friendly. We chatted for a few blocks, then I thanked them for curing me of my blahs and surged ahead, finally feeling like myself again. I don’t know what changed, but my breathing evened out and I knew I could negative split and still eek out a respectable time.
From miles five to seven I felt like I was doing a tempo workout. It was hard but not edge-of-death hard. At mile seven, I wished I had trained more. I was starting to fatigue but I would not allow myself to back off the pace. It was at that point that I started reeling in other runners, and I gave myself a mental high five for not having gone out too fast. At mile eight, I told myself all I needed to worry about was getting to mile nine. I was surrounded by men and I focused on catching and passing whoever was directly ahead of me.
It hurt, but not as much as childbirth. There are a lot of reasons I think natural childbirth is a worthwhile, even life changing endeavor and chief among them is it makes everything else look easy. So after some of the oomph of my favorite mantra wore off (“Yes, you can,” for the record), I thought of childbirth. Nothing lifts my spirits like reliving the worst pain imaginable.
I’ve heard women say you forget how much childbirth hurts. I haven’t forgotten. So I kept it in mind as I reeled in the men running ahead of me. I’m sorry guys, but this is what I was thinking as I passed you. His body has not created another human, carried it, birthed it into the world, and then provided it’s sole nourishment for half a year. There’s just no strength in the world like that required to give life to another human. Ladies, if you are looking to step up your athletic game, I would highly recommend the time honored strategy known in elite running circles as “having a baby.”
From mile nine to ten, my goal was simply to catch the four guys I could see in front of me. I got past three, and as for the fourth, I kept him in my sights until the finish line. I tried not to let him widen the gap between us as I hung on for dear life.
My final time was 1:21:30, and while not a PR, it was a win, considering my training was not 100% focused, and my race started out poorly. Here are my splits, based on my Garmin. Note, they are based on a 10.15 mile course, according to my Garmin. Given all the turns on the course, I wouldn’t be surprised if I added an extra .15 miles.
Mile 1 7:57
Mile 2 8:17
Mile 3 8:11
Mile 4 8:13
Mile 5 8:31(uphill)
Mile 6 7:58
Mile 7 7:35 (downhill)
Mile 8 8:15
Mile 9 7:54
Mile 10 7:35
Final .15 (according to Garmin) 59.97 seconds (6:49/mi)
My Garmin thinks my pace was 8:02/mile
Officially, for the ten mile course, my pace was 8:09/mile