Building off my PR at the Oakland 5K, I decided to try to PR at the 10K distance. Since Cathryn was going for the same goal and signed up for the Danville 10K, I decided to follow suit. Even though it would probably be hot, I knew that the course, which runs along the Iron Horse Trail, is paved, relatively flat, and out-and-back, which mean it would be easier to run exactly 6.2 miles. Plus, regardless of what happened, we would have brunch after, which is always a win in my book!
Training had not gone quite as well as it did for the Oakland 5K, so going into race day, I didn’t feel particularly confident. Did I think I had a good chance of knocking off some time from my almost 3-year-old 10K PR of 52:51? Yes, I thought that was very possible. The question was how much time, and how much of a strugglefest would it be to get there?
My basic race strategy was something like this:
- Don’t go out too fast, like at LMJS last month.
- Related: stay behind Cathryn and Angela, who were aiming for 50 minutes. (My vague “A goal” was 51:xx.)
- Try to hang on to Cathryn and Angela for as long as possible without driving myself into the ground.
- Try to run a negative split.
- Dig deep and continue to push in miles 5 and 6, where I struggled tremendously during last month’s LMJS race.
What I forgot (until after the race) was that the course has a very slight decline going out, and a very slight incline on the way back. So the negative split would be even tougher to accomplish than usual. Then, as the race morning forecast came in, I had to further adjust my expectations. It was supposed to be sunny and 75-80 degrees by the time I finished the race, and I haven’t been training in the heat at all. (I know, we’re kind of wimpy here in Northern California. Just for perspective, it’s been overcast and in the 50’s for all of my morning runs.) With the temps in mind, I readjusted my goals to basically forget about time and just go for whatever felt like the right pace – hard but sustainable over 10K.
I got to the race about an hour early with LJ, the Gypsy Runner’s sister, who was attempting her first 10K. Angela and Cathryn, along with the rest of Team Ramsden, were already there, and we chatted for a while. I spent the next hour doing the usual pre-race stuff – bathroom, bib, and hip swings. Angela and I went on an easy warm-up jog and I was already drenched in sweat by the end. This was going to be a sweatfest! I felt really bad for the half marathon runners. Danielle came to spectate and support us, which was super awesome.
After the singing of the National Anthem, there was a flyover (race proceeds benefit the Semper Fi Fund), and then the half marathon started around 8:00 a.m. Shortly after, the 10K runners lined up. I followed Angela and Cathryn as they worked through the crowd and we lined up towards the front of the group. In retrospect, I should’ve gone all the way to front, as the race is gun-timed and I spent about 15-20 seconds (according to my Garmin) just walking to the start line after the gun went off. Precious seconds when one is trying to PR!
Once I finally started running, I took off too fast with the group. Luckily, Angela was being a good pacer and reigning Cathryn in. And since my plan was to start smart, I stayed about 3 seconds behind them for the first half mile. I felt pretty decent during the first mile, and when my Garmin beeped a mile split of 8:19, I might’ve done a fist pump. In an ideal world, I was aiming for an 8:20/mile pace as my A-goal. However, like I mentioned above, I had totally forgotten about the slight descent on the way out, which definitely helped my pace for the first 3 miles.
If you’ve ever run on the Iron Horse Trail, you’ll know that there’s really not that much to report scenery-wise. So, I mostly just focused on other runners and not getting run over at intersections. There were volunteers at each crossing to control traffic, and I made sure to thank them all. It wasn’t a closed course, either, so there was a bit of weaving around pedestrians out on a Saturday morning stroll – but generally, it wasn’t too bad. I started passing the slower half marathoners in the 2nd mile, and luckily there was no congestion with that either (i.e., no groups walking 3-4 person abreast, blocking the path). My second mile split came in at 8:17. Sweet.
Shortly after two miles, there was a drinks table with tons of volunteers, but none of them actually handing out cups. I hate to complain about this, but I really wished I didn’t have to stop for a few seconds and distinguish between Gatorade and water, then pick up the cup I wanted from the table. (According to my watch, I came to a full stop and it took me about 30 seconds to complete the whole process of picking up water, drinking and getting back to full speed.) Anyway, I made sure to grab water at every station because I knew I tend to overheat easily and stopping would be time well spent. I took a swallow of water and then splashed the rest on my neck and back. I was really glad to be running in just a sports bra and shorts because it was getting hot!
Right around the 3 mile mark, I caught up to a young girl (late teens?) and we ran together and chatted briefly, as my watch indicated a 3rd mile split of 8:19. As I approached the turn around, I cheered Angela and Cathryn going the other way. Then, I noticed 3 spectators by the turn around — it was Danielle and Team Ramsden! I was so surprised and delighted to see them! They told me and the girl that we were 5th and 6th female. Well, that was exciting! Angela and Cathryn were still visible in the distance, but quickly slipping away. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to catch up to them.
Immediately after the turn around, I was cheered on by loads of 10K runners still on the “out” section, which I found really energizing. Then, I focused on trying to find LJ. I saw her at mile 3.4 and she looked great. We cheered each other on, and I went back to focusing on the race. I was dismayed to see that I was only at 3.5 miles and feeling significantly less strong (again, I forgot about the slight incline). I knew that the remainder of the race might be a struggle, so I tried to find things to focus on. At this point, Cathryn and Angela were way off in the distance, and the closest runner to me was about 20 seconds ahead. Instead of saying, “Over 2 miles to go” I tried to emphasize, “I’ve already more than halfway there.” The next goal was to get to the drinks table, which I knew was around mile 4. Shortly after I grabbed water, I stumbled along as my watch beeped another split: 8:37. Drat!
The next two miles were a struggle. I kept trying to find another gear, and I felt like I was pushing hard, only to look down at my watch and see paces in the 8:45-8:50 range. I tried to implement mini fartleks to no avail. Since I suck at math during races, I was genuinely afraid that my PR was slipping away – especially when my watch indicated the splits for miles 5 and 6 at 8:50 and 8:51, respectively. The highlight from this section of the race was one of the volunteer boy scouts at a crossing, who cheered me on with, “Don’t stop! I believe in you!” Thanks, little guy!
I was determined not to let this be a repeat of the LMJS race, where I finished 5 seconds slower than my PR, so I tried my darndest to push through the last stretch. As I came upon the finish arch, I heard people cheering my name, but I didn’t turn my head to look. The race photographer told me to smile, and at best I managed a grimace. I couldn’t make out the race clock, which was awkwardly placed behind the 1st “arch”. I saw 52:xx and had flashbacks to LMJS. I sprinted past the finish and finally saw 52:2x. Yes! A PR by almost 30 seconds!!
5/67 F, 14/111 overall
52:24 (8:31/mile for 6.15 miles)
Moving time: 52:05 (8:28/mile)
Elevation: 74′ gain/loss
I saw the whole crew waiting at the finish and caught up with them after going to grab some much-needed water, Gatorade, and fruit. Angela and Cathryn came in at an impressive 50:21, good for 3rd /4th place female and 9th/10th overall! It was then that I realized the person cheering my name at the finish was Layla, who surprised us all by being there on her bike! (Poor woman hasn’t been able to ride her bike outside since last summer…) I then went to wait for LJ, who unfortunately DNF’d due to knee pain. You’ll get them next time, LJ! We waited for the awards ceremony, where Angela came away with the 3rd female trophy. Then it finally time for everyone favorite post-race activitiy: BRUNCH! We had a leisurely meal at Chow, dining al fresco.
To be honest, I felt a bit deflated yesterday about my performance, that I could’ve and should’ve done better. However, a full day later, I have a bit more perspective on things – it was warm, the course didn’t lend itself to a negative split, and my training hadn’t been as consistent as it could’ve been. I still don’t know how to properly pace a 10K, obviously, but I’m not really that eager to learn how. I can be proud of the fact that I didn’t give up, even when my pace was slipping. I dug deep and worked on building resilience and grit – the two things I’ve lacked in the past. I managed to cross the finish line at ~7:30/mile pace. Also there were a lot of things that went well: I was hot, but I never overheated. My stomach felt great. My legs held up without significant hamstring pain. And in spite all of the sweat: no chafing!
What’s next? The year of PR attempts continues! I’m planning on racing the Brazen Summer Breeze half marathon in August to try to take down my previous PR of 1:58:51 (Kaiser, 2014). That’s still my first and only sub-2 half marathon to date. I would love to finish Summer Breeze closer to 1:56. Then, in December, I’ll be returning to where it all started: the California International Marathon. My current marathon PR is from Santa Rosa last year (4:21:52). I know it’s WAY too early to say anything about time goals, but I’d love to knock at least 10 minutes off that time. Apart from running, I need to work on strength training and injury prevention. I only recently realized that my hamstring issue may be related to a tight IT band. A bit of foam rolling indicated that my ITB was super tight, and rolling it has helped tremendously with the hamstring issue.
Anyway, I’ll stop rambling here. Thanks for reading! If you’re interested in the race details, see below.
About the race:
- Website: Danville Half Marathon and 10K
- Cost: Early registration for the 10K was a very reasonable $35, and went up to $45 on March 1. Race day registration was $55. The half marathon was $55 early/65 after March 1/75 race day. All proceeds went to the Semper Fi Fund.
- Course: A majority of the course is on the Iron Horse Trail, which is a relatively flat, paved path. The first and last 0.2 miles are on neighborhood streets. There were many intersection crossings, manned by volunteers. I’d say about 80% of course was shaded? The course is fairly straightforward, except for the sections not on the Iron Horse Trail. I was lucky to have some runners ahead of me who knew where they were going, but I could see how you could get lost.
- Parking: A lot of (free) parking at the LDS church where the start/finish area is located.
- Aid stations: Water and Gatorade stops at ~0.7 mile, ~2 miles, ~4 miles, ~5.5 miles. No one was handing out cups at the station at miles 2 and 4.
- Bathrooms: The LDS church was open to runners to use their bathroom facilities.
- Swag: Short sleeve cotton tee that I skipped and a medal at the finish.
- Post race food and drinks: Water, Gatorade, and fruit (watermelon, oranges, and bananas). There may have been other food, but I didn’t notice.
- Other notes: I thought this was a really nicely organized local race. In cooler temps, this would be a great race to attempt a PR. However, because it’s benefiting the Semper Fi Fund, I think they purposely plan it for Memorial Day weekend. I wouldn’t be keen to run the half marathon here, mostly because the course is monotonous and the weather is likely to be warm. One last note – to counteract the temps, I wished that the race started an hour earlier.