Friday, August 17, 2012

Nerdy little treatise on the 10k I ran last night

I ran a 10k in Rye, NH yesterday evening. Rye is a pretty little town on the New Hampshire sea coast, about an hour from Salem. For about 4 weeks before the race I added 400 meter repeats to my training. But when I would do my practice race runs I just didn't feel very confident. I was worried about the weather, afraid that it would be very warm, and concerned that I would run the risk of injuring myself if I went all out.

So I decided to change my strategy. Instead of setting an ambitious time goal for myself I decided to not worry about my time that much, and instead concentrate on running negative splits. Negative splits mean that you run the second half of a race faster than the first half. It's what every runner wants to do, but in the excitement of a race it's really, really hard. Everyone gets caught up in the excitement at the beginning and before you know it you're running faster than you should. It feels fine at first, but you pay for it later.

As I pulled into the parking lot for the race lightening flashed across the sky and a sudden downpour started. It only lasted a couple of minutes but it was enough to drop the temperature several degrees, from over 80 to around 75. This was great, but I wasn't going to let that change my plan. I was going to run the first part of this race slow no matter what!

I found the race start, picked up my registration materials and did my usual warmup routine. Each age division was color coded by a dot on your race bib. This was my first race in the 60-69 group. I had a green dot on my bib. I walked around looking at all the other bibs, trying to find other women with green dots. I only saw a few.

This race had an interesting method for giving out tshirts. Not everyone in the race automatically got a tshirt. They had enough tshirts for about half of the runners, distributed evenly through the different divisions according to the number of runners in that division. There were 17 women in the 60-69 age group and 11 of them would get tshirts. There were over 600 runners in this race. Most of them of course were in their 20's, 30's and 40's, but that was still a pretty good number of women in their 60's.

The first 3 miles of the race were a gradual uphill. I planned to run this part between 11:05 and 11:15 miles per minute. That's probably 15 seconds slower than I would normally run the start of a 10k, but I really wanted to see if I could gradually get faster and control my pace.

The fun part of running a race like this is gradually passing so many people, and feeling very fit and confident for most of the race. It was nice to not get tired early for once. I actually got to practice the "rubber band" technique that good runners talk about, where you pretend to throw a rubber band around the runner ahead of you and then use the band to pull yourself closer to them and then past them. This is all just in your imagination of course!

After mile three I increased my pace to between 10:55 and 11:05 miles per minute, still pretty slow. This part of the race was level and slightly downhill. At mile 4 I increased my pace again, to between 10:45 and 10:55 miles per minute. I still felt great.

I was doing my usual run-walk-run routine, which for a 10k means I run 1 minute and walk 20 seconds. One woman called me "sprint girl" so I explained to her what I was doing. She ran with me for a bit, but my pace was too fast for her after awhile. I told her to google Jeff Galloway and told her to have fun for the rest of the race.

After mile five there was only a little over a mile to go. Now was the time to see what I could do! I gradually increased my pace, until at the end I was running around 10:15 miles per minute. This was a pretty fast pace for me in a 10k. I definitely achieved my goal and ran a decisive negative split. I got to see how good that felt - it felt great!

But then I had to deal with my ego. My final time was 1:08, 4 minutes slower than the 10k I ran in Newton last year. It was all too easy to feel disappointed in myself, but I tried not to mind. Plus, the way you found out if you got a tshirt was if you were handed a Popsicle stick at the end of the race. Nobody handed me a stick, so no tshirt for Lynn.

I grabbed some water, a banana and a slice of watermelon and headed back to my car for the long drive home. I was a little surprised that I didn't get a tshirt but I tried not to mind. I ran my negative split and it was fine, right?

After I got home, took a shower and ate some dinner I sat down with my iPad before it was time for bed. There was already an email with the race results. I came in 11th in my division. I looked to see how the other women in the 60-69 age division did and I was in for a surprise. The first 9 finishers in my group all ran the race at an 8 minute mile pace. That's really good, better than my pace for a 5k! The woman that came in 10th ran it in 1:04, which is my best 10k time.

But I came in 11th, and I think I should have gotten a tshirt. I sent the race director a note but I haven't heard anything yet. I don't really care about the shirt, but it's the principle of the thing.

But who were all these speedy 60 year olds? I wonder if this race attracted a lot of good runners because it's part of a race series. I really have no idea, but I have to say I was very impressed by their times, whoever they are, and humbled too.

At the end of every race I always feels like I could have done better. This time I found myself thinking that I could have run faster and still had negative splits, and I'm sure that's correct. But this was the right thing to do for this race. Now it's time to concentrate on the rest of my marathon training. In a little over two months I'll be running through the streets of St. Louis. There are a few little local 5ks coming up in the next month that are enticing, however. I might decide to run in one of them, just for fun, of course.....

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