Today was my second race of the season and my goal was to break 40 minutes. This was my fifth Monument 10k and every year my goal has to been break 40 minutes. Looking back, this was probably not a realistic goal because I wasn't putting in the appropriate level of training to get there. My previous best was two years ago when I ran 40:47. Today my stretch goal was to run 38:59 but I told myself I would be pleased with sub 40. After running a strong half marathon a few weeks ago, I felt primed for a good race. My only concern was that Ironman training is not exactly conducive to short high intensity races, but I am confident in the early season work I have put in.
My goal for this race was to take it out fast and hold on. However, I don't have nearly as much experience with shorter races and I have a difficult time with pacing. I know it sounds crazy, but I would much rather run a half or full marathon where I can lock in at a much more aerobic pace. I am much more mentally adept at zoning out and getting locked in for the long haul rather than throttling myself for 40 minutes.
I started the day by meeting at John's house. We decided we would run to the start line for warm up and then run back for cool down. I figured that not having a car would keep my warm up and cool down honest. John lives about 3 miles from the start line and we set off from his house at about 7:45 for the 8:30 a.m. start. I took the run to the start line pretty easy and ran a nice comfortable 8:15 pace. When we got down near the start line I did a few short high intensity intervals to get my heart rate up. After a few minutes of stretching I was ready to go.
The beginning of the race was typical of most running races, cluttered and hectic. I find that it is generally difficult to keep your pace under control at running races because inevitably everyone hammers out of the box and the atmosphere is pretty exciting. Normally I find this annoying, but today it was helpful to my race plan of getting out fast. The first mile was busy and I had to do a fair amount of weaving through the crowds. The crowd thinned out at about the first mile marker.
My first mile felt fast but under control, and I clicked through the mile marker at 6:11 which was right on target. Mile 2 also felt relaxed but fast. Unfortunately, I wasn't paying much attention to my real time pacing during mile 2 and when my auto lap clicked off at 6:08 I was surprised. I was definitely not expecting to see a faster second mile. I knew immediately that 6:08 is at the edge of my capabilities, and was taken off guard that my second mile was faster than the first. Ultimately, this was a tactical error and this second mile would ultimately lead to me falling apart a bit in the latter stages of the race.
After seeing my mile 2 split I realized that the back half was going to be painful and had unwittingly pot committed to the strategy of "fly and die". I decided to keep up the intensity for mile 3 and hope for the best. Mile 3 was definitely more painful but manageable. I was still moving through the field well and maintaining optimism. Mile 3 was slightly slower than mile 2 but still a strong split of 6:16. The turnaround was shortly after the mile 3 marker and after making the turn I immediately knew I was going to hurt. I got through 5K at 19:27 (which was also happens to be a PR) and my focus immediately changed to holding on for dear life. Through mile 4 the pain level started to ramp up significantly and I was giving it everything I had to keep my pace under 6:20. The fourth mile was 6:20. I remember thinking, "not great, but I'll take it". The fifth mile is where the wheels really started to fall off and I had to pay the piper for my overly ambitious second mile. I was in big time pain, my heart rate was spiking, and I started moving backwards through the field. Mile 5 was my worst, and my split spiked significantly to 6:38. My focus immediately shifted to limiting the damage and trying to keep mile 6 under 6:38. After seeing my 5th mile split, I knew sub 40 was going to be a close call. Mile 6 was all about gritting my teeth and embracing the suffer. I put my head down and ran as fast as I could. I was somewhat encouraged to see that my 6th mile was a bit faster at 6:34 which is a good sign for my overall fitness given the significant level of discomfort I was in. I could see the finish line with about 3 tenths of a mile to go and went for broke. As I got closer, I could see the clock ticking dangerously close to 40 minutes and I put on a final surge. I crossed the line at 39:44....Mission accomplished.