My family was debating on whether or not to attend, but in the end the lure of the Macy's parade on the TV was more interesting than sweaty people down the street and I can't say that I blame them. I did take the girls to the packet pick up and they had fun looking at all the funny running stuff. I struggled a bit deciding what I was going to wear for the race, as the weather was in that in between zone of the mid 40's but I settled on short sleeves with a compression undershirt, my hat and gloves. It was the right choice, though I may even have been able to go without the undershirt. I took my gloves off around mile 4 and stuffed them in my pocket.
My training for the last few weeks has been going well, mostly because I've slowed myself down and not tried to push my pace at all. I ran 6 miles last saturday at a pace of around 13 minutes per mile and I didn't really have any goals in this race other than to go the distance without putting myself into any great difficulty. As this is the beginning of my 12 week plan to prep for a half marathon, I feared that a hard 10K experience wouldn't be very helpful at this point, so my goal was to take it easy, enjoy the distance and to finish before the first half marathoner.
With this in mind I lined up with the rest of the runners at the start. The half and 10K started at the same time, but we started about a half mile up the road from them, which I think was probably annoying for the faster half marathoners but I enjoyed seeing them run by me. I lined up in the middle of the pack, but stayed to the side and most people moved past me within the first half mile. I kept my pace comfortable and tried to calm my competitive mind. I found myself at the back of the pack and shortly before the first mile I heard some really fast footsteps coming from behind me.
For the next two miles I worked on trying to stay comfortable and not push myself, tempering my pace by my breathing and occasional glances at my watch (which I realized I forgot to start about 2 minutes into the race, so I didn't have a reliable time). I was trying to stay around 12:30, not pushing too hard up hills to maintain energy. More and more half marathoners were passing me, including my super fast friend Natalie, my twitter friend Jennifer (who somehow recognized me from behind) and others I recognized from my weekly runs on the greenway. I walked a few steps through the water stop at mile 2 and soon started to see the other 10K runners heading back after the turn around.
We turned around and headed back and it was nice to be free of the half marathoners passing me. I was feeling pretty good and I started to look ahead of me for people to aim at. The next mile and a half I was trying to stay around 12 minutes but I let myself go a little bit down the hills. It was all about maintaining and I was feeling really good, but I've felt good at 4 miles before so I knew it could still come off the rails. Then we came upon the 5K runners. Oh wow, were there a lot of them. I went from running alone chasing someone 100ft in front of me to being surrounded by people, all of whom were running just a little bit faster than me. I thought to myself, don't get sucked into running too fast and burning out, as there's still a mile and a half to go. I wished I had a sign that said "hey, I'm running twice as far as you!" but I just kept my pace. I did pick it up a bit, but made sure to monitor my breathing and noticed after a quarter mile or so I was about 11:30 and feeling pretty good. Looking back, I think it did help me to have all that company as I think I paced a little more quickly than I would have without it.
About a half mile from the end we split back out again from the 5K runners and I started pushing. There were two people ahead of me that I wanted to catch. In the end, I caught one but not the other but I felt strong enough to really push hard the last quarter mile. I ran past my neighbor Romeo just before the last turn and that gave me a nice burst and I looked up to see the clock at 1:12 and change as I crossed the line. I stopped my watch as I came across the line and took stock of my feelings. I knew my PR was 1:12:48 from the Buford race in June, and I felt right away that I was feeling better than I had after that race. I walked around a bit, grabbed a water and a banana and reflected. This was the first 10K that I felt good after the finish, physically I mean. I recovered quickly and never felt light headed or overly winded.
I walked back up to the corner to stand with my friends and watch the first half marathoners come in. The winner crossed in 1:17, so I barely made my goal of beating him. His wife Natalie, who is super fast, won her age group in 1:33, a PR for her. I ran back to the car to get my jacket and stayed around to cheer for the next hour or so, watching tons of people conquer a distance that a year ago I never though I could do, but in 12 short week, I'll be running myself. My twitter friend Jennifer finished in 1:57, which I found out later was her first sub-2 hour half, which is awesome.
All in all, I felt really great after this race. 10K has always been a humbling distance for me, and finishing 152 out of 164 isn't exactly awe inspiring, but I did set my PR by 15 seconds, with an official time of 1:12:33. I plug that into the McMillan race calculator and it says my half time equivalent would be 2:41, which will be just fine with me. I'm feeling strong and I'm looking forward to seeing what I can do in the next 3 months.