Friday afternoon, we loaded up the family in the van and headed to the world's smallest race expo. There really wasn't anything there except for some drawings to enter, so we just grabbed out packets and headed out to meet our friends for dinner. I ate a amazing pasta with mushroom sauce, which I would later regret when I couldn't get to sleep because it was tearing up my stomach. I really need to ask what's in stuff that I'm going to eat the night before a long run. After dinner we all headed back to Fabulous Ferndale where we enjoyed some MSU football and Tigers baseball. Since it was also the night of the Blue Moon - I had to enjoy a beer too.
Saturday morning I was awake around 5 to get ready. This was a race, but my full intention was to run it slow & easy like a Saturday long run. I knew from some info I'd found online that this would be a very tough, hilly, 1/2 dirt road course. If you know me at all, you know I don't train hills and I don't train on dirt roads.
The race was very small & informal, but also had the perks of chip timing & a great post-race party. We got there early because the 30/30 challenge (where you bike 30k and then run 30k) and both 30k races started before the 10k. I didn't want caught in closed roads. We (hubs also ran but we didn't run together) lined up at the start and the announcer just counted down and said "GO!"
Mile 1: (split 10:59 with a best pace of 10:01) The race started on the road and up a bit of an incline. Not a true hill but I could feel it. I had to work very hard to keep my pace slow I still couldn't stay over an 11 minute/mile pace. The road was closed for the first 1.5 miles or so which made it easier to spread out a little. M passed me about .4 in and it took everything I had not to close the gap. This first mile was pretty flat and there was a water station around mile 1.5 where I grabbed a cup of water. (I did not carry water with me for this race - I will in the future.)
Mile 2: (split 10:40 with a best pace of 9:24) Most of the 2nd mile was flat with a downhill at the end. I felt like I was in a pretty good groove and even passed a few people. Remember I wasn't trying to race, but this pace felt really natural. My shin/injury site wasn't bothering me at all and my calves even felt pretty loose.
Mile 3: (split 11:27 with a best pace of 9:16) Holy Mary Mother of Hills. About half way into the 3rd mile we hit our first hill. I really had it in my head to run this entire race without walking, but this first hill basically slapped me across the face. I made it about 1/2 way up the hill and walked for a few seconds, then kept plugging along. There was a couple pushing a jogger stroller - I'd have died. At the 5k mark, I was right around 34 minutes which is close to my 5k PR (33:40). I started thinking I could maybe pull a 10k PR out of this race if I continued to run smart. Well, "smart" is a relative word.
Mile 4: (split 11:38 with a best pace of 9:45) The dirt road started at about the 5k mark and I knew I was in trouble. This mile started with a steep climb & then leveled off but the dirt road was really rutted & uneven. The dirt was packed hard here though but I still slowed way down. I was also wishing I had my water bottles & inhaler. I think I walked again on this hill. I was really bummed that I didn't hit my "run without stopping" goal.
Mile 5: (split 10:42 with a best pace of 9:03) There was another steep but short climb at the beginning of the 5th mile, then a really steep downhill. There was a woman run/walking who I walked with for a few seconds here and then passed when I started running again. On the downhill I think this is where my knee started to hurt. Have you noticed all those "best pace" times in the 9s? I'm sure ALL of them were on downhill sections. When people tell you that downhills will tear you up more than uphills they are 150% correct. My quads couldn't take the pounding. I was definitely running too fast and probably a little out of control on those downhills.
Mile 6: (split 10:47 with a best pace of 8:52) The last mile was mostly flat but then had another steep downhill at the end. The dirt here changed to sand & gravel & was really hard to run in. My knee was hurting and I was pretty sure I was going to not PR. I walked again here I think, trying to get my knee to cooperate, but I realized it hurt whether I ran or walked and I just wanted to be done at this point. There were 2 more aid stations on this last road (in miles 4 and 5) but I skipped them. With about 1/2 a mile to go, we were back on the main road & it wasn't closed. Cars coming up behind me at 50 mph with just some cones between me & certain death was not fun.
Mile 6.2 (split 2:11 an 8:39 pace with a best pace of 7:50!!!!) There was a tall, young blond girl who had passed me at some point & I caught & passed her at the 6 mile mark. She sped up too but never caught me :) I sprinted most of that last 1/2 mile and definitely the last 1/4 mile. The final .25 came in at an 8:39 pace with a top pace of 7:50. I don't think I've EVER run a 7:50 pace before, and certainly not after having run 6 miles of hills. I crossed the finish line and I literally could not breathe. I left it all out there. My family was there with "good jobs" and "are you ok?" but mostly I just was fighting the urge to throw up. I've never felt that close to puking at the end of a race before. After I got some water and my bling, I had to look up what my previous PR was because my brain wasn't working and I knew I was close. I couldn't believe it when I realized I'd beat my previous PR by over a minute and a half! My breathing returned to normal pretty quickly and I really felt good other than my knee feeling a little sore.
As you can see from my runmeter app, the elevation changes were crazy for this runner who prefers nice, flat courses :) My pace was all over the place, too. I need to get MUCH better at tackling the uphills and controlling the downhills.
Even so, in the end I finished with a shiny new 10k PR on one of the hardest courses I've ever run, after suffering a pretty severe injury this past spring. I'm pretty freaking proud of myself for that.
There was even a great after party, with burgers & Fat Tire beer! I might have had a beer (or two).
In hindsight I probably ran this race/training run too fast. I really didn't intend to go for the PR - it just happened, but pushing at the end and not having control of my pace on the downhills is definitely causing some pain now. It's a learning experience though. I KNOW I need more hill training and I need to figure out what's going on with my knee. I still have some lofty goals for my half in November and it's only 10 weeks away. (Which makes me both SQUEEE and say OH SHIT!)
Have you ever decided at the last minute to run a race or used a race as a training run? How did that work out for you? Were you able to keep it slow and easy or run it like I did and almost blow up?