I had been coming off an excellent training week and had been fresh off a new half marathon PR. Now was the time to attack the shorter distances. In the 3 days before this race, I faced a massive shift in my body chemistry. I will not get my hopes up too high but there is a chance that I could be free from all pills very soon. That would be a miracle. Without a doubt, I will see improvement in my running as a result.
I have nothing major to report in terms of pre-race adventures. I left work early and headed east on I-20 to Atlanta. I arrived at my buddy Nick's place just after dinner and was soon ready for bed. Unfortunately, Nick could not run because he was getting over a case of bronchitis. I cheered him to a big half PR last year and hoped that he could return the favor. I woke up very early without an alarm and simply went about my normal routine. I felt strong warming up but seemed to get just a bit of tightness just before the start. Probably, it's just last minute paranoia so I would take no action.
Course and strategy:
Very fast course. The first 1.6 miles or so were mild-moderately rolling on the road. There was really only one tough hill and it was early enough in the race that it did not cause too much pain. The last 3/4 of the race was run on the Silver Comet trail, which was almost perfectly straight with no significant hills. In fact, the next 2 miles were all flat-very gently downhill. The final 2 miles had a mix of slight inclines and declines with a slight uphill finish. This has got to be one of the fastest 10Ks in the country and the perfect place for a PR. The plan was to go out near 6:30 pace and try to hold on. If I could hold that pace, I would come through the first half in about 20:10. My pipe dream was a sub-40 but I knew that was probably unrealistic. If I came through the first half with a shot, I would go for it. Most likely, I would be hanging on. Under 41 would be great but I'd settle for a baby PR of 41:14 or under. Based on last year's results, that time might be good enough to place in my age group.
I executed the plan to near perfection. In a good 10K, the pace feels like a hard short tempo for the first third of the race. Sometime in mile 3, I will start feeling the effort and it will be pretty much all out to the line. It was a good clean start and I was able to rein in my energy fairly well. The first quarter mile passed by at about 6:15 pace. That's a little quick but I maintained an even effort and just waited for the pace to slow a bit. The first mile was gently up and down and I passed through the first marker just a hair ahead of schedule. Next, we headed up a pretty significant climb for about a third of mile. It was here that I made up a lot of ground and by the time we hit a downhill that led us onto the trail, I was in 19th place and holding the pace very well. I passed a man who appeared to be my age and set my sights on another runner who appeared to be 10-15 seconds ahead. As expected, the effort began to take a toll in Mile 3. I would be passed by one runner here then another just at the halfway point, which I passed in approximately 20:15. I made a brief attempt to pick up the pace here but I just did not have a sub-40 in me today. Soon, it would become a painful affair with an earnest hope for a sub-41 but a small PR all but assured. The 2 runners, both of whom appeared to be over 35, would gradually pull away over the last half of the race. My pace slowed just a tad over the next 2 Miles but there would be no brutal fade. My breathing was pretty well controlled but I had some tightness in my calves with lots of lactic acid buildup. Actually, since the last 2 miles contained a few small inclines, I'd say that I held the pace pretty well. After passing Mile 6, I tried to get on my toes and sprint but there just was not much there. The sub-41 goal was within my reach and I wanted it badly so I charged up the slight incline to finish banner. Nick was right there at the line exhorting me to "get under 41." I made a last drive for the line to ensure that I made it just before the clock turned. My watch showed that I had it comfortably but I wanted to leave nothing to chance. Yes!
Gun time: 40:58, Chip time: 40:55 (6:34 pace). 20th place. 3rd out of 30 in age group.
This is a PR by 19 seconds and I am now within 9 seconds/mile of my lifetime goal of a sub-40.
I will NOT be going to New Orleans in April for another crack at it. If training goes well, my next attempt will be at the Senior Bowl in Mobile in November. Next race is a local 5K with a flat course and good competition. Sub-20 should be a cinch but I'm looking to get close to 19. I will probably need more speed work to get there but I should have a shot at my comeback PR of 19:27, which was set in July of 2009. Time to update that one.
6:29 (6:29) just a hair fast
6:32 (13:01) perfect
6:35 (19:36) starting to hurt
6:35 (26:11) slight downhill all the way
6:42 (32:53) hang on. don't let it slip away
6:45 (39:38) not much left
1:17 (40:55) 6:01 pace for last .22. Yes!
Grade on the day is a solid A.