With winter around the corner and my formal training with Coach Matt about to begin, I wanted to run a hard 10K and gauge my fitness level.
Enter: the Parks 10K in DC near the Jefferson Memorial. Significant rain throughout the night made the course a bit wet, but the rain largely subsided for the race itself leaving a crisp mid-50s temperature and minimal wind. Couple that with a very flat course and we had pretty great November conditions overall.
Quite usefully, this was a Potomac River Running event, so the entire affair was expertly managed with a well-marked course, safety spotters at the turn-around, chip start/finish timing and all sorts of good post-race snacks and tunes.
This was a fairly important test and I had a few specific race goals:
1) Don’t aggravate my leg injury. (✓)
2) Don’t injure anything else. (✓)
3) Run fairly even mile splits (+/- 8 seconds). (X)
4) Break 46 minutes (approx. 7:24 pace). (✓)
Given that my 5K times have averaged just under 7min/mile, a 7:24 pace was theoretically doable… but I needed some help with my pacing and some encouragement for the longer race.
I needed to enlist a rabbit.
Enter: Lindsay Donaldson O’Brien.
It helps when your Maid of Honor is a 6x All-American. (She’s also crazy humble and will hate me for bragging about her… but too bad, Linds).
Lindsay agreed to racewalk a few feet in front of me while I ran (a comment on her relative pace and effort, not her form, which is textbook as you might imagine) and push me throughout the race.
Our first mile was a bit too fast (approx. 7:08), owing to the crowd of runners we had to weave around at the start and early race adrenaline. My abs and legs were hurting more than I would have liked and Lindsay wisely took notice and settled in a bit for the second mile (approx. 7:38) to even things out.
Not feeling great only 1/3 of the way through the race, I normally would have slowed down a ton. This is where having a rabbit helped. Especially a rabbit who wasn’t sweating.
As you can see above, our third mile was right on pace and out fourth mile was overall the strongest of the race. That fourth mile hurt and didn’t feel any faster than mile three, but Lindsay increased the pace ever so slightly and put us in a strong position to break 46min with only two miles to go.
That fifth mile hurt. My hips and knees were bearing the brunt of the force as my form began to deteriorate and I was clearly fatigued. I remember thinking that if Lindsay had not been there, I would have slowed way down. Instead, I just had to focus on staying within 10 meters of her. Yuge.
With only about a half-mile to go, Lindsay calculated that we were slightly ahead of pace and that gave me a much needed boost of confidence. The last half-mile was pretty quick and we even caught a few people before the finish line for a finishing time of 45:32 (74/551 overall, 59th men, average 7:19/mile)!
I was very pleased and even more exhausted. That one hurt.
The race was mentally exhausting as I was fighting my body from the first mile onward. Luckily, my relative cardio-vascular fitness made up for my lack of experience and mental toughness. I can tell that the 80/20 training has begun to pay off.
The out-and-back course was a bit mentally fatiguing, as I spent the first half of the race thinking “shit, I still have to run all this way back?!” I think I prefer a loop or point-to-point course for longer races.
It was so great to have Lindsay there for pacing, support, and fun. No way would I have broken 46min without her there and instead I shattered that barrier.