Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Recap of the Lake Norman Rotary 10K

One of my goals this year has been to race a 10K in under 40 minutes.  Given the effort it takes to maintain a 6:26 minute/mile pace for that period of time, I figured I would need to condition myself for the whole year to do it.  However, I have been peaking in my training lately, and I did maintain a 6:26 pace for 8K during the Leprechaun Loop 3 weeks ago.  Maybe now was the time.  There were four 10K races occuring this month.  Two were likely too expensive or too hard to work around my vacation.  That left Our Boys 10K at the end of the month and the Lake Norman Rotary 10K on the 7th.  The latter was a five minute drive from the house, and an easily accessible course for preview.  Still, the task seemed daunting.  Then, the light bulb went off.  Fellow DARTer Dave Munger also had been keeping his eyes open for a chance at a sub-40 10K.  Of late, Dave and I had been performing fairly comparably at middle distances, so I shot him a message to see if he was interested in the two of us pacing each other to our sub-40 minute goal.  Neither of us had held that pace for that distance before, but I figured working as a team could give each of us that extra push to make it happen.  After previewing the weather forecast, he was in.

Dave and I previewed the course the morning before the race.  It was laden with gently rolling hills but a negative elevation for the first half.  The second half had some long climbing on the 4th mile, a downhill reprieve on the fifth mile, and a steep hill to start out the last mile before a downhill finish.  We agreed upon our race strategy in advance: 1) mantain a 6:20 pace; 2) if either runner could not maintain the goal pace, the other runner would continue on ahead; 3) for the last mile, it was each runner for himself.  It was important to communicate these goals in advance because we likely would be unable to speak coherently while trying to maintain a 6:20 pace.

Fellow DARTer Stephanie with Dave and me before the race.
Race morning was pleasantly chilly--just under 40 degrees, but destined to warm up rapidly.  Dave and I did a brief warm-up jog over the last mile or so of the course to re-familiarize ourselves with the last hill.  In doing so, we noticed that instead of mile markers, the course was marked every kilometer.  While this is strange for an average neighborhood race in the United States, it made math easy for Dave and me.  As long as we were under 4 minutes for each km split, we were golden.  After warming up, we ran into fellow DARTer Stephanie Rodsater.  Her chiropracing practice, which she runs with her husband, was one of the main sponsors for the event.  Stephanie was running the 5K, and she dressed for the occasion in Easter Bunny ears, nose, and a furry tail.

I was sure to grab a spot right on the line so Dave and I didn't have to knock down any children at the starting gun.  At the "go" call, we were off.  Dave and I did our best to ignore everyone else and pay attention only to our watches and each other.  For the first couple of miles, our race worked out as planned.  When one of us would notice a lag in pace, he would push a little harder, and the other would follow the cue and match him.  Racing with Dave was also like wearing two Garmins.  Dave keeps his watch configured to show mile splits, time elapsed for the current mile, and instantaneous pace.  I also have a data field for instantaneous pace, but I keep the total elapsed time on my screen as well.  So Dave could monitor our progress mile by mile, and I could use the kilometer markings against the race clock to tell how far we were ahead of our splits for our 40 minute goal.

During a sustained long hill on mile 3, I asked Dave, "glide or push it?"  "I'll take it easy," was the only reply I needed.  We had banked some time with negative splits thus far, so it was prudent to save energy for the upcoming hills.  Our strategy for the 4th mile was to dig as hard as we could up the series of climbs and endure whatever pain was required to maintain a 6:20 pace, knowing mile 5 would give us a chance to breath on the downhills.  Both Dave and I were breathing audibly heavier during this stretch, but this is where I think we benefited the most from each other's pacing.  Neither of us was willing to take responsibility for slowing the other down, so we dug deep. 

After a turnaround at about mile 4.3, we coasted through a largely downhill stretch.  We were about 50 seconds ahead of an even 40 minute pace, so I focused on maintaining speed and energy rather than trying to steal more seconds.  Dave slowly faded behind me, but I could track his progress by his footfalls for a while.  With only one turn left on the route, he knew the way to the finish line.  I focused on the lead bicyclist and carried on.  Wait, the lead cyclist?  I had been paying so much attention to our pace that I had forgotten Dave and I were in the lead.  Now, I was in 1st place!  At the 8km marker, my split was 31:11, which was 46 second faster than the 8K PR I had set 3 weeks earlier.  I still had one last hill to climb, but as long as I didn't die on it, I was feeling pretty optimistic. 

Me crossing the finish line.
When I saw the hill, I called out to the lead cyclist, "This part is the real b-----!"  He affirmed my assessment but reminded my that it was all downhill after that.  I dug into the hill and focused on my breathing.  I wanted to save a little something for the final push, so I did not want to be wheezing by the time I got to the top of this hill.  Surprisingly, I was maintaining a pace in the 6:20's.  I passed the 9km mark at an elapsed time of 35:04.  I had my sub-40 goal all but locked up.  All I had to do was finish strong.  I coasted down the last hill and veered into the parking area towards the finish line and saw 38:52 on the gun clock ahead.  I settled into a final sprint and finished with an official time of 38:59.  I had beaten 40 minutes...and 39 minutes as well.  Immediately I turned around and cheered on Dave, who had just made the final turn into toward the finish.  Dave finished with a 39:18, also well clear of our goal. 
Dave's strong second place finish.

As icing on the cake, we had taken first and second place!  Go DART!  The third place finisher was a scant 3 seconds behind Dave, close enough to keep Dave on his toes for the last part of the race.

1st and 2nd place!  Go DART!
One of the most sage pieces of racing advice we all hear is to "run your own race."  However, in this case, I think running as a team is what gave Dave and I the edge to crush our goal so decisively.  Having a like minded runner to back you up on your race plan and hold you accountable for pace while you do the same for him takes a lot of the pressure and solitude out of racing for a target time.  I may have broken 40 minutes without Dave, but I surely would not have managed my pace as well, and I would have had a more painful last couple of miles.  This collaboration really ephasized the "Team" in "Davidson Area Running Team," so I found it appropriate that we both wore our DART singlets for this race. 

You can find Dave's recap of the race on his blog.

Gear used:
Inov-8 Road-X 155: Super light racing flats with a 3mm heel-toe drop.  I usually go sockless, but since I wore socks for theis race, I removed the insoles, making these 155 gram shoes even lighter.  You can't beat the bright yellow color!
My Inov-8 Road-X 155's

Next on my race calender:
4/28/12 (possibly) Our Boys 10K, Concord, NC
5/6/12: Long Cane 50K, Abbeville, SC
6/1-2/12: 24 hours of Loopy for a Cause, Davidson, NC
9/7-8/12: (possibly) Blue Ridge Relay, Asheville, NC
9/29-30/12:Hinson Lake 24 Hour Classic, Rockingham, NC
11/10/12: Anthem Marathon, Richmond, VA

1 comment:

  1. DUDE!!!! That is so freaking awesome! Way to go - and way to use the buddy system to get you both to some amazing PRs! and hardware!