So it could have been better, but it could have been a whole lot worse.
Until Saturday, my post-college 10K resume consisted of a few half-assed efforts and a couple of full-blown meltdowns. In fact, the two 10Ks I ran last year fell squarely in the latter category. (See race reports for the 2010 NYRR Scotland Run 10K and the 2010 NYRR Mini 10K if you feel like a big glass of whine.)
In fact, oddly, my best 10K in recent years was this random Turkey Trot I did on the heels of the NYC Marathon a couple of years ago, after three weeks of no training and after staying up drinking until 3 AM the night before. At 47:55, it was an easy target to smash.
So on one hand, I went in to Saturday’s Capital City Classic with a pretty low bar: all I have to do it not f*ck up, and it’s an improvement.
But on the other hand, I kind of wanted to run what I think I realistically should be able to run for 10K. Which would be somewhere around 42-43 minutes.
Thus, the range of reasonable and acceptable outcomes for this race was 42:01 to 47:54. Quite a spread.
I decided to make it simple and just pick a nice, round number to focus on for my pace. Seven minutes. That would result in a finish between 43 and 44.
Seven minutes, I told myself as I gathered my unruly hair into a ponytail.
Seven minutes, I told myself as I attempted to make coffee, pouring water into the coffee maker and pressing start. (And then realizing, staring stupidly as steaming water dripped into the carafe, that I’d forgotten the grounds. Apparently I need a cup of coffee to be awake enough to operate the coffee maker. If this isn’t the ultimate chicken-and-egg problem, I don’t know what is!)
Seven minutes, I chanted silently as I walked from my apartment to the start area. Seven minutes, as I jogged my warm-up in the cool morning fog. Seven minutes, as I laced up my flats. Seven minutes, as I bounced nervously in the start corral, trying not to count the number of faster-than-me faces in the crowd.
I knew that seven minutes would be a two-part challenge. In the first couple of miles, it would be an admonishment to slow down. But at the end – and particularly during “all climb, all the time!” mile five, it would be a speed-up mantra.
Off we went. As expected, a blazing-fast lead pack immediately broke off. (This race serves as the USATF State 10K Championship, so it attracts a faster field than your average local race.) I tried to relax and let them go and waited until I thought we’d been going at least 4-5 minutes before glancing down at my Garmin. 0.6 miles at 6:35 pace. Oops. Seven minutes, seven minutes. I forced myself to slow down even though that meant being passed by a couple of more people, and letting the pack that was pulling me along slip away for good. Mile 1: 6:58.
Shortly after that first mile marker, the course did a lollipop and doubled back on itself for a few blocks before peeling off, which was a nice little distraction. I got to watch the leaders come back the other way and, after completing the small loop, got to see the rest of the field heading in to it. That second mile flew by. I don’t think I even glanced at my Garmin until I saw the second mile marker coming up – and realized I’d having a little too much fun spectating. Mile 2: 7:12.
Having fallen off my pace a little, I subconsciously picked it up and was soon running in the 6:30s again. Seven minutes, I told myself. Seven minutes. I relaxed a bit, and after a few more minutes of gently rolling but mostly downhill terrain, I hit the next mile marker. Mile 3: 7:04.
Then things started to get a little bit more difficult. Up to this point, the course had meandered around the Captial and through lovely shaded residential streets. Now we were heading out on to an exposed highway for about 1200 meters. The weather wasn’t particularly warm, but compared to the oak canopy I’d come out of, it was Hades out there on that highway. I gritted my teeth and tried not to think of what was coming next – because right at the fourth mile marker, I knew we would turn off the highway and head up a very long hill. The good part: somehow, I was still holding close to my goal pace. The bad part: I was now running all by myself. The guy who’d been in front of me had pulled away and shrunk to ant status, and I could tell by the nature of the volunteers’ cheers that there wasn’t anyone on my tail, either. Mile 4: 7:06.
Around a corner and time to climb. Ugh. I felt my stride flatten, and before long my seven minute mantra had nearly become an eight minute mantra. I was holding steady at 7:45 but couldn’t seem to go any faster.
And then, all of a sudden, the wheels started coming off. Literally. I heard a weird clicking on the ground and realized that it was coming from my right foot. The ends of my laces were dancing on the concrete. One of my brand-spankin’-new, first-time-outta-the-box racing flats had come untied. Shit.
I tried to think: had I ever had a shoe come untied during a race before? I wasn’t sure. Should I stop and tie it, or keep going? I had about a mile and a half left at this point. The shoe didn’t seem to be in danger of coming off, but my heel was definitely slipping a bit and the flying laces were making me nervous. I was starting to have visions of grinning wildly as I crossed the finish line, adoring fans gasping in astonishment as I broke the tape, sporting a bloody maw and missing front teeth because I had tripped and smashed my face on the concrete.
Ok, yeah, probably not. But I made a brief stop, just in case. As brief as I could make it. I yanked the laces hard and hastily jammed them in to the sides of the shoe.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work. Within a couple of blocks, the laces had wormed their way back out and were once again dancing madly with each footfall.
Argh. Eff it.
At least the shoelace drama made me forget that I was running up a hill the whole time. Before I knew it, the next mile marker was in sight. And I was way off pace, but oh well. At least my shoe was still on. Mile 5: 7:55.
The final mile of the course, I knew, was a third downhill, a third uphill, and a third downhill (with the remainder of the distance to the finish downhill as well). So, I only had one more hill to get through. And it was the worst kind of hill: the kind where you come around a corner and see a wall of road and a string of traffic lights ahead of you, each smaller and higher than the last. Oy.
Four more blocks. Seven minutes. Three more. Two more. Seven minutes. One more. Seven minutes. I stuck with my mantra, even though I was struggling to keep it under 7:20. Cresting the that final uphill block, I knew I had less than a half-mile to go and tried to get a quicker turnover going, even though my flat was practically falling off of my foot at this point. Mile 6: 7:18.
Just effing finish. Even if you end up half barefoot. I flew down the Fayetteville Street Mall, and even though there was no one anywhere near me, I gave it a solid kick. Mile 0.2 + tangent trash, 0.12 = 0.32 in 2:01 for a finish time of 45:34.
Well, at least I didn’t lose a shoe.
And my finish time was within the range of acceptable outcomes.
And actually? Except for that one crappy uphill mile where my shoe came untied, I thought I ran the thing pretty darn well. For me, anyway. I realize I have a long way to go in terms of learning how to pace myself at this distance, but with the exception of the shoe drama mile, my splits were all within 20 seconds of one another. Not perfect, but a whole lot better than going out at 6-minute pace, then wanting to die, then finishing at a 9-minute jog, per the usual.
I didn’t exactly blow my goal out of the water, but I didn’t blow up either. And hey – I set a post-college PR! With a wonky shoe. So there’s that.
But the best part? I don’t think I’m afraid of 10Ks any more.
It may not ever be my favorite distance, but now that I know I can race one and not totally implode, I might just look forward to doing another one this fall.
However. For now? Seven minutes. That happens to also be my pace for consuming two post-race mimosas.
Even though I didn’t break the tape or even meet my A-goal, I didn’t f*ck up. And that, my friends, it always worth celebrating.
I lol’d at your water / coffee maker comment. I do that probably 10% of the time…or I forget the water and just burn the coffee. It’s probably funnier to see just semi brown water in the pot though…
Nice job on the 10k!
Nicely done! What racing flats were you wearing?
I am notorious for putting the grounds and water in the coffee maker, then conveniently forgetting to press “start,” leading to a big pot of disappointment when I wander back downstairs a few minutes later.
They are Brooks ST5 Racers. Aside from the little lace issue, I loved them!
Awesome race report. Thanks. But how am I the only one who has disasters during races, then doesn’t manage to pull away with a decent time? This is like the third blog post I’ve read with disastrous tales during races, followed by miraculously fast times considering.
I’m sure I have mine coming to me at some point!
I meant to say yours was like the third blog entry that I had read in that very same hour with supposedly terrible race experiences followed by great outcomes. I had a decent race 2 weeks ago, at least. But this past weekend’s race was just blow-worthy. Anyway, love your blog! 🙂
Good job. I can’t believe you didn’t tie your shoe. You’re pretty hardcore!
Gotta double knot those shoes! Way to go on the race. I actually love 10ks. Glad you hate them a little less now.
nice race, Shelby! I love that mantra and may steal it (well, something a tad slower…) for my 10K this weekend! Awesome job holding it together at the end too – I probably would have freaked out and definitely tripped, gotten run over, sustained some internal bleeding, etc. Congrats!! 🙂
Congrats on the PR with the wonky shoe. I know I totally would have wiped out – you’re so awesome! 🙂
Nicely done! Still a PR and a new appreciation for the distance! 10k is one of my favorites. I’m not a heavy mileage girl by any means, so for me it’s a nice quick race that involves just a little endurance to get me through the whole thing…
Sweet, you were able to walk to the staring line. Nice way to get it started The 10K is a weird race, too long too run balls-to-the -wall, to short to feel accomplished just for finishing. It is scary cause you don’t know how to approach it. You mantra was perfect.
The 10k can smell fear. Now that you shown it you’re not scared and can maintain your composure, the time will keep dropping off. Nice race Shelby!
Being able to walk to races is awesome and one of the reasons I love living downtown!
Anyway, thanks! I think I can take a couple more minutes off next time. At least I hope so!
This is exactly why I triple tie my shoe laces on every run. Congrats on a strong race nonetheless and pushing through that wrinkle!
They WERE triple tied! I’m still not sure how it managed to come undone. The laces are those super-papery-thin ones, I’m thinking I might have to swap them out for regular laces.
Nice race! Sorry about the shoe drama. I hate it when I forget to double knot laces during a regular run and have to stop and tie. I’m sure it was beyond frustrating. Hopefully you can get some new laces and avoid that pesky problem in the future.
Congrats on the post-college PR! (And glad you didn’t trip on your laces and end up with the bloody face you depicted so nicely in Paint. ) 🙂
I’ve totally done the coffee maker thing before too, which is why having a giant pitcher of iced coffee in the fridge just works better for me. Nice race, I still need to master the art of not going out too fast and then dying.
oh g.d. it, I read all your 10k reports, and then commented on the wrong one. damn it monday!
I truly appreciate your “acceptable range of finishing times.” In my inaugural 10k, I learned that mile 5 is a bitch. So that’s neat. Great job on the post college PR!
Um, I have definitely forgotten the coffee grounds while making coffee, too. It happens. HA!
Great race re-cap, and great job! I am such a psycho when running that I feel like if my shoe came untied I would probably have kicked it off and run barefoot, haha. (I have a bad habit of throwing things away that are annoying me while racing – I have tossed sunglasses, a watch, and many, many shirts before). So I think you deserve props for keeping your shoe!!
10k is a tough distance – I absolutely agree. Cheers!
Great recap! Congrats on you solid finish…even with floppy shoe laces!
Oh man, I’ve totally tried to make coffee with out grounds AND other times without water (that’s a lot more dangerous). I’m still scurred of the 10k distance, but I’m going to give it another shot one of these days. Nice job keeping your head in the game despite the shoelace snafu!
bummer about the shoelaces coming undone. i freaking hate shoelaces. on all my shoes. i had my double-knotted-once-looped ones come undone on a run recently. and scrapped up my hand pretty badly. so your fear about mouth + concrete isn’t too far fetched for me)
i suck at pacing 10ks too.
Nice race! Stupid shoes–my shoes never come untied, so I think if I had a pair that came untied during a race I might ditch them.
I tried leaving a comment yesterday but IE at my work is jacked. Firefox ftw.
Anywho…congrats on the PR! I need to try my hand at a 10k this summer.
Runner’s world told me I was tying my shoes wrong, and since listening to them, I haven’t had a shoe come untied. However, I’m still double knotting in Pittsburgh for the half marathon, just because I feel like not doing it would be a guaranteed invite for the Not Listening To Good Advice Even Though You’re A Noob gods to come visit.
Ahh, the classic untied shoelace to distract from the pain technique. I unintentionally use it often.
Wow, I would have died with that shoe drama…..
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