One thing I learned from the second half 0f 2010 was that I don't run enough miles to really run well. I had some poor performances, culminating in a very disappointing Veteran's Day 10k. I came in expecting a sub-33, but with low mileage and less time running than swimming or biking, I didn't even get under my then-PR. I have since set my expectations for myself pretty low. 20-35 miles per week won't get me among the best runners, and I had to fail to realize that.
This spring though has forced me to amend that thinking, with my big PRs in 5k and 10 miles on, once again, 20-35 miles per week. I now approach races with a conservative confidence. I CAN PR, but I need to be realistic. That's how I approached Pike's Peek 10k. My goal was to get under 33:00, with an epic day goal of 32:40. MacMillan suggested a 32:20, but that seemed crazy to me. Dave W and I formulated a plan to go out in 16:20 and try to hang on from there. We both doubted that it would be possible.
Sometimes though, a plan doesn't always work out quite the way it's meant to!
The race started and I let a large crowd of people sprint out. We had a bit of a headwind for the first 200m, and I just relaxed in, turning onto 355 behind a number of women and guys who I knew wouldn't last in front of me. Dave came up alongside me, Murphy too, and we began to settle in and cruise. About half a mile in, the crowd in front of me shrank and continued to shrink. We went through the first mile in 5:10, which was faster than the planned pace... but wow, it felt REALLY good. We kept it going, hitting mile 2 in 5:12. Again, really controlled and relaxed. At this point I decided that it was time to pick it up a little bit, and I put a tiny bit of distance on the group, hitting 5:08 for the 3rd mile. At this point, I was right around a 32:10 pace! And it still felt really good... I was quite astonished.
I hit the 1/5th mile long hill just after the 5k mark and didn't slow. Instead, I passed at least 2 guys and started to reel in Dave Miller, who I've made a point of targeting at larger races. Got to mile 4 in 5:08 again, still feeling solid. My aerobic fitness, despite my lack of running miles, is very high... probably due to the high overall mileage between the 3 sports. About halfway to mile 5 however, I began to feel a familiar ache -- my upper back. Oh no... this is what ended my race at Veteran's Day 2010! Why again?? It wasn't as bad this time though and I kept the effort high, but hit the 5th mile in 5:12, so I was starting to fade a bit However, my 5-mile split told me "Wow, you're really going to PR huge today!" and willed myself on. Dave and the leading Ethiopian ladies passed me and I made an attempt to hang on, but they began to put distance on me. I mustered a few words of encouragement to Dave and then focused on not losing any more ground. My back at this point was legitimately aching, and I began to breathe audibly. I hit mile 6 in 5:18, which really isn't so bad... I thought the damage was worse, but my legs were really carrying me at this point... my arms and upper body couldn't help much. I heard Jake tell me that I needed to really move to get under 32:20, which was a secret epic goal of mine...
Crossed the line in 32:16!! That's an almost 2min PR from my previous best of 34:05 in 2009. I also ranked 34th overall and won my age group and some cash (a rarity for me in large running races). I wish I had been able to stay with Dave, who nearly snuck in under 32:00, but he will be a solid training and racing partner for me moving forward, provided he doesn't get too far ahead of me! And I'll have to work on my running form. Todd seems to think I'm too tense up top. That is probably true. I lean my head back a little too much even when I'm not tired. That can't help me. This will be especially important in triathlon season as I may come off the bike with tense shoulders from sitting in aero position for an hour.
I'm pretty darn happy about this improvement, as I really believed that I was incapable of running fast over a longer race because of my triathlon training. With the right quality of training, coaching and teammates, anything is possible. This wraps up my running season for the first half of 2011, and I leave with 3 solid PRs and a high level of excitement for my running future.
My one picture from the race so far. See me? I'm the chump behind the winning lady. If you were to imagine that she's not there, I'm about to break the tape for my age group win. Eye roll.