Sunday, April 29, 2012

Our Boys 10K Recap and Plans for the Future

Our Boys 10K was to be my last "short" race and last hard workout before Long Cane 50K on May 6th.  Originally, I had planned on including this race in my calendar as another chance to go sub-40 minutes for 10K in case I did not do so at the LKN Rotary 10K three weeks prior.  The LKN 10K was a gem of a race though, and I broke 39 (38:59) as well as 40.  So the pressure was off.  I intended to have a good time at Our Boys, and perhaps place in the top 3, and I wanted another sub-40 to validate myself a little more, but as long as I ran a good race, I would be happy.

Chatting with fellow DARTers Steve, Jason, and Tara.  Rodney lurks in the background.  Photo courtesy of Stacy Hensley.
The fickle weather gave way to a cool and overcast morning--good racing weather.  Our Boys was a combined 5K/10K event starting and ending at Harris Road Middle School and weaving throughout the residential streets of the Moss Creek neighborhood in Concord, NC.  10K racers would start with the 5k'rs and complete the 5K course, but instead of turning toward the finishing straightaway, we would do a little loop around the bus lot and head back out for a second course lap, but in reverse.  As is my custom, I showed up early to provide enough time for me to run the course as a warm-up.  Luckily, fellow DARTer and RD Jeff McGonnell already was out touching up the final chalk markings on the asphalt so I would not get lost.  I ran the reverse lap as my warm-up.  I would have to save some energy for a sustained incline on mile 4, but other than that, the course looked to be very merciful.

Since Our Boys was the second race in the ROC series, many familiar faces showed up and signed in.  I found a group of fellow DARTers and chatted for a while before Jeff and fellow DARTer/volunteer David Moore arrayed the crowd into the bus parking lot for the start.  Jeff took special care to keep some of the younger and more eager students from lining up directly in front of some of the adults who likely would trample on them (I think he meant me).  Jeff gave an informal "Go" and we were off.
I'm the one with the bright yellow shoes.  Photo courtesy of Stacy Hensley.

My target race pace of 6:20 minutes/mile came and went pretty easily.  After a couple hundred yards, my Garmin was showing a sub-6 pace, so I backed off.  I was out ahead of the pack with two or three other runners.  One runner, Glenn, was out in front of me.  He had about a three second lead, but I could tell he would not sustain it.  The first half mile went gently uphill, and I stayed a couple seconds slow of my race pace, but I was feeling pretty locked-in for this early in the race.  A right turn on Moss Plantation flattened the course out, and my pace increased without any extra effort.  This part was a short out-and-back.  The first mile was a clockwork 6:20. 

I heard runners approaching from behind.  One runner passed me in short order and was looking strong, but I glanced at his bib, which confirmed he was racing the 5K and not the 10K, so I paid him no nurther mind.  Another set of footfalls settled in behind me and stayed there for what would end up being most of the race.  I found out much about this mystery pursuer from the cheers of everyone calling his name.  He was a high school runner named Mason, and he was determined to draft me.  This always seems to happen to me.  Mason and I caught up to Glenn and dropped him halfway through the second mile.  Mr. 5K never got out of view, but kept chugging on ahead.  Mile two: 6:23.

The first half of the third mile was a downhill glide (which I would climb back up in mile 4), so I easily dipped into a 6:00 pace.  Mason kept with me the whole way.  This final mile of the lap was one long circle that led back to Moss Farm, the road leading to and from the Middle School.  Mr. 5K was making good time, so I focused on him rather than on the tall youngster looming behind me.  The cool breeze was beginning to stagnate, and I was starting to get hot despite the pleasantly cool weather, so I removed my singlet so I could drop it off at the turnaround.  The third mile was a 6:10.
Approaching the 5K turnaround with Mason hot on my heels.  Photo courtesy of Stacy Hensley.

David was at the finish line split to cheer us on and make sure the 10K'rs found their way to the turnaround.  I glanced my watch at the turnaround and estimated my halfway split was 19:45--a pretty good 5K time, and right on pace for a sub-40 10K.  It just didn't leave me a lot of room for breathing.  Mason and I passed the whole field on our way back out in reverse.  Hearing the rest of the pack cheering on the front runners never gets old.  I settled in and tried to maintain pace and conserve energy for the one big incline ahead of me.  When we hit the hill, I felt it right away.  Even though it wasn't that steep, I was so focused on maintain a sub-6:30 pace that equal effort went straight out the window.  I figured I could suck it up for this climb and then just hold on for a relatively easy rest of the race.  My pace did not drop off all that much, but I certainly did use up a lot of energy.  By the top of the hill, I was heaving pretty audibly, but Mason's breathing seemed unchanged.  My fourth mile was a respectable 6:29. 

Mile five was fairly uneventful.  I was hanging on to race pace and Mason kept drafting me.  At mile 4.5, we reached our last water stop.  Mason's classmates cheered him on, and he made his move.  As he passed me, I got my first look at him.  Taller, stronger, and younger than me.  I was glad to have held him off for this long.  At least now I had someone to follow.  In the fifth mile, I was back to a 6:20 pace and I was starting to field pretty good, albeit a little zapped.

Letting it all out.  Photo courtesy of Stacy Hensley
The sixth mile started from the far end of the out-and-back from the beginning of the race.  Once, again, I got to see most of the 10K field as they were coming towards me.  Mason and I had opened up a huge lead.  Glenn, who was the early leader, now was in third place with a gap of minutes.  I tried my best to cheer of my fellow DARTers as  they went by, but I could only manage gutteral grunts.  They cheered much more loudly and clearly for me.  The last half mile was slightly downhill, so I poured on whatever I had left.  As I passed sixth mile marker, I filed in with some of the back-of-the-pack 5Kr's, who were just finishing their race.  I weaved around a few of them as I dug for the finish line.  I wanted to give one last hard kick, but I felt like I was already at 100%, so I just maintained my hard run until I crossed the finish line.  My official finishing time was 39:34, an average pace of 6:23.  It was not a PR, but I certainly did not hold anything back out there, so I am very happy with that time.

Now, having races several 5K, 8K, and 10K races in short order, I can shift my focus entirely on my last week of tapering for Long Cane 50K.  Long Cane will be about as different from a road race as anything I have done.  It will be an experiment in pacing, in-race nutrition, hydration, and problem-solving.  I will take up speed traing again in earnest after Long Cane in order to prepare for the Blue Ridge Relay in September, and the Richmond Marathon in November, but Long Cane will be the first in a series of ultra experiments meant to prepare me for tackling distances of 50 miles, 100K, or who knows...
Photo courtesy of David Moore.

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