I'll get it out of the way first. Best part of the Veteran's Day 10k, above the "best part" that is most appropriate for this running/multisport-related blog, were the chocolate chip cookies that were provided at the race. MAN, they were great. Chewy but not overly so and with chocolate chips the size of Montana, I must have eaten at least 8 of them and even shared some with Charlie, who can do a good Cookie Monster.
About the race, it was pretty good too. Great morning for racing at Hain's Point, mid-40s at start time, so I was able to go jersey and my new half-tights, which Chris "SURPRISE" Sloane sold me, with no winter gear. A little bit windy, which one could definitely feel on the Point.
Race started and I did my best to hang back, but this also made life difficult as a big gap immediately opened up between me and my to-be main competitor in the race, PRR's Andy Ciarfalia and the front pack... about 8-10 seconds by the time we got to the point. Andy C got about 10 seconds ahead of me by mile 1, so aside from a Riadha girl I had just passed, I was alone, my least favorite way to be at HP. Came through mile 1 in 5:10 according to my watch and Jerry, who reminded me to relax. I was feeling pretty relaxed though, so it must have been a short mile. I do remember it being a little bit further down the road. The positioning stayed the same up to and around the turn at the end of HP, and came through mile 2 in 5:50, which also didn't feel right, so miles 1 and 2 definitely weren't measured correctly.
Made the turn to head down the other side of HP, and was greeted, pushed rather, by a tailwind. We had been running into a headwind from the start so this was refreshing. Came through 5k in 17:00, which was my plan. I went through in 16:40 or so last year and fell apart, so at least this year I could say I took it conservative and smart, so the race was shaping up well so far. I also had caught up to Ciarfalia and a young guy from Falls Road team, Alex Weldt, who had fallen way off his 33:low pace. I caught both at the turn to head home, at around 3.5mi. Weldt couldn't keep pace but Ciarfalia nestled behind my left shoulder and I knew it would be a race from here. We exchanged leads for the next 2 miles, giving each other momentary breaks from the unexpected headwind (yeah, it felt a headwind going both ways, must have been a crosswind).
I passed by Jerry at mile 5 and he gave me some encouragement and I realized that I was well on my way to getting close to 33:45. Ciarfalia then asked me if I was Andy as well, since all he had been hearing from guys like Charlie, Max and Jerry was encouragement for "Andy" (or fish-stick, Captain, Chicken Tender et al.). We exchanged chuckles and resumed the competition. I tried at this point to pull away and for a second I did, but strangely enough my legs weren't agreeing. They didn't hurt, they just didn't want to speed up. Aerobically I felt great... regular breathing, controlled/tempo HR, but my legs just didn't want to spin any faster or harder than sub-threshold. We sped up a bit as we came within half a mile to go, but I really couldn't get my legs to go faster, despite feeling like I had a lot of energy to expend. Finally hit mile 6 and I knew I'd hit my B goal of 33:45 or better, but Ciarfalia launched his kick and my legs didn't respond. Hit the line in 33:45 and 18th overall, 5:26/mi. My best finish at Veteran's Day and any HP 10k. And my first non-disaster at Vets Day! Sweet! And my best 10k not named Pike's Peak (which is an absurdly fast race). Also got a gift certificate for 3rd in the 25-29 age group, so that pays for a new pair of half-tights that Chris Sloane will enthusiastically sell to me.
So what about that inability to speed up? I talked to Jerry and expressed my concerns. He presented a logical explanation: I need more speed work. I agree. I've had 3 straight weeks of good speed work, but that's not enough. A months-worth more of speed and I hopefully will be able to increase my turnover and leg speed by XC Club Nationals. But this race was quite the positive experience and was good practice for me to finally race smart and strong the whole way through. Plus, it was a lot of fun and to me that was the BEST part of all. As I wrote before, my competitive spirit had been quelled after Columbia, but running MCM around Emily in October reignited that fire. I felt it today and it made racing a heck of a lot more exciting. Running with the team and seeing them succeed as well (we won the team competition, no thanks to me who always runs too slow to be counted) makes it even better.
Here's to some more speed and fun in the next month.
1 mile in.