Why I wanted to run this race / Goals: See Race Preview.
I slept really poorly all week, culminating in a 6-hour tossing-and-turning session that I doubt qualified as actual sleep. In terms of nutrition, I actually behaved myself and cut junk food and alcohol out of my diet for the 2 days pre-race. This was really difficult, especially since we were at a baseball game on Friday night and I have a special weakness for stadium hot dogs. It took all of my willpower to say no to my beloved dogs. I’m no saint, however; I did enjoy a few nachos dipped in fake cheese. Yum.
Because I slept so poorly, I was actually relieved to wake up at 5:50 a.m. when my alarm went off. I went through my routine: ate PB&J, drank 1/2 cup of coffee (only because I was so tired), got dressed, etc. The race was at the San Leandro Marina, only 15 minutes away, but I thought that parking might be crazy, so I got there at 7:35 a.m. for a 8:15 race. It turned out to be good timing because the nearby lots were just beginning to fill up.
Even though Summer Breeze is one of Brazen’s most popular events (about 1600 runners total for 3 distances), bib and t-shirt pickup were a snap. It took me about 5-7 minutes to complete the whole process. Opting out of sweat drop services, I decided to jog the 0.35 miles back to my car as the warm-up so I could drop off my t-shirt and hoodie. I was thankful for the chilly, foggy morning, and hoped that the sun would hold off for at least another hour. Then I jogged back to the start/finish area, used the porta potty, did some dynamic stretching, and headed toward the start line.
At about 8:07, they called for the 10K runners to line up. I positioned myself near the front, but behind people who looked like they were experienced racers. Just as I was wondering if I was too far up, the two women next to me inquired to see what my goal was. I erred on the side of caution and said 56 minutes, hoping that I wouldn’t get laughed at, and I was relieved to hear their goal times of 56 minutes and 1 hour, respectively. (My unannounced A-goal was 54 minutes.) I double and triple checked my Garmin to make sure it was working, and blocked off the pace display with tape, as planned. Before long, Sam the race director started counting down from 10 and then we were off!
Miles 1-3*: 8:27, 8:34, 8:50
*my splits are a bit off since I only logged 6.11 miles for the whole race.
My goal was to start of conservatively for the first half mile, then ramp up to tempo pace through 4 miles. Well, obviously, I didn’t really follow through with that plan. The problem with lining up towards the front of the pack is that it’s fairly easy to get carried along by the initial surge. I kept checking in with my breath to make sure I wasn’t going too fast too soon. I missed the first mile split entirely, but when I saw the second mile split at 8:34, I thought, “Holy crap! It’s time to slow down!” However, I wanted to be smart and not over-correct myself. So I kept focusing on my form and breathing, all the while mindful of the fact that I needed to rein it in until the 5th mile.
The course was completely flat and uneventful – and luckily, not as windy as a I had feared. We were on a paved bike path for most of the race, running alongside the water for some parts and next to a residential area for others. The only thing of note that happened during the first couple of miles was that a woman tried to pass me, but instead of passing me completely, she ever-so-slightly started nudging me to the right, so that I was almost forced off the path! I wanted to elbow her in the chest and yell, “Excuse me!”, but decided that drafting off of her for 1/2 mile, then passing her was better revenge.
Miles 4-5: 8:51, 8:43
This was an out-and-back course with the turnaround right at 3.1 miles. As I approached the turnaround, I saw the leaders coming back. I noticed that there were only ~20 women in front of me, which gave me a huge boost of confidence. Then, as I made it to the turnaround and headed toward the finish, I was even more excited to see how many people were behind me. I’m not normally very competitive at races — mostly, I run to compete with myself — but for the first time ever, I thought to myself, “Don’t let any ladies pass you from now on.” (In the end, 2 ladies overtook me, but I also overtook a few people – male and female.)
Instead of focusing on my fatigue, I concentrated on getting amped about turning on the jets at mile 5. As in “I get to run faster when I see the mile 4 marker” instead of “I have to run faster.” I couldn’t do math very well, but it seemed to me that I was on track to my A-goal of 54 minutes, so that made me even more excited.
Miles 6, last 0.2 (0.11*): 8:34, 7:57
This was a really problematic mile, because I spent quite a bit of effort weaving around the 5K walkers and yelling, “On your left!” There was a wide gravel path to one side of the paved bike path, so a lot of the walkers were considerate enough to leave the paved path for runners. Unfortunately, there are always a few “special” people out there who are either oblivious or just plain inconsiderate. There was one woman who had headphones on and didn’t budge an inch even as I screamed “On your left!” about 4 times. Sigh.
By the end of the 6th mile, my breath was near wheezing and I could not wait to cross the finish line. I was aiming for suicide pace for the last 0.2 miles, so I consider it a success that I really felt like puking about 100 feet from the finish line. Luckily, I finished without incident (throwing up or otherwise) and was flabbergasted to see my time: 52:51!! Almost 4 minutes faster than my previous PR of 56:49, and 1 whole minute faster than the predicted McMillan time (based on my most recent half marathon finish). Sweet!
I picked up my medal and saw RC and LJ in the distance, waving. They had already finished the 5K and were waiting to see me. We took some (sweaty) photos and they headed home, while I waited for the 10K results to be posted. An age group (AG) placing would be the cherry on top of an already sweet race; plus, Brazen AG medals are pretty awesome. A volunteer posted the first set of results for the 10K and a group of about 10 of us immediately swarmed upon the pieces of paper. I scrolled down, found my name, and took a quick photo with my iPhone so that others could take a look (see, I’m *so* considerate…ha). I opened up the photo on my phone, zoomed in, followed the info across the screen and saw that I had placed 3rd in my AG! I excitedly went to pick up my bonus medal, then asked a random stranger to take a photo of me at the Brazen Age Group Winner photo backdrop. Victory!
Oh, and one of the ladies from the beginning of the race (who had a goal of 1 hour) came up to me after the race and told me she used me for a pacer for the first 2 miles. She ended up dropping me because she couldn’t keep up and really slowed down in the last 2 miles, but she still finished in 57 minutes. I was glad to “help” but also felt a little sheepish when I realized how fast my first 2 miles were. Oops!
I’m still coming to grips with the fact that I just ran a 52:51 10K, especially when my A-goal was 54 minutes. I mean, that’s crazy, right?? In retrospect, these are the factors that I believe contributed to this big PR (in no particular order):
- Setting an effort-based strategy as opposed to a time-based one. I did, for the most part, stick to my plan. I didn’t get the negative split that I hoped, but that’s really inconsequential considering that I PR’ed AND I didn’t bonk.
- Concentrating on positive thoughts. The morning of the race, Jenny tweeted about a mental training article by Jeff Gaudette. In particular, this section struck a chord with me:
Before you begin the race, decide on a few easy to remember mantras that will help you gain confidence and persevere through any rough patches during a race. Make sure that all the words in your mantra are positive. For example, use “I am strong, I can do this” as opposed to “push through the pain, don’t give up”. The second mantra elicits negative connotations with the words “pain” and “give up”.
I kept telling myself that I am strong, and that I’ve improved so much in the past year and this was the time to prove it. Sounds cheesy, but it really helped!
- As I mentioned above, the out-and-back course added fuel to my competitive fire. Once I realized the position I was in, I decided to really fight for it.
- My recent increase in mileage due to marathon training, with one trail run a week (on average), is starting to pay dividends. Even though I haven’t been doing any speed work, learning to run on tired legs has been a good for my training, physically and mentally.
- Lack of sleep = secret to big PR? See below:
One final thought: I was surprised to find that none of my race photos turned out to be horrendous, even though I specifically wanted them to be. One thing I did notice, though, is that my arms are often swinging across my torso instead of next to my body. Something to work on, for sure. On the plus side — there were more photos of me with both feet off the ground. So, yay for progress?!
About the race:
- Organizers: Brazen Racing
- Cost: ~$45 (I received a free entry because I volunteered last week at the Bad Bass race.)
- Course: San Leandro Marina Park. Paved bike path for 90% of the course with a grassy section at the beginning and end. Flat as a pancake.
- Parking: Plentiful and free, but you might have to walk a bit to the start area.
- Aid stations: 2 for the 10K, which we passed twice (4 in all).
- Bathrooms: Plenty of porta potties and one real bathroom with flush toilets. I saw 1-2 porta potties at the first aid station and also an outhouse somewhere along the course.
- Swag: Well-designed t-shirt and medal, as usual. Lots of food afterwards. Tons of free photos posted on Picasa.
Official time: 52:51 (8:31/mile)
3/71 AG, 23/358 F, 80/520 overall