Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Charlotte 10-Miler Recap: Truly Running Reckless

10 miles had always been something of a cursed distance for me.  Before last weekend's Charlotte 10-miler, I had registered for three 10-mile races and had to DNS all of them, either due to scheduling or inclement weather cancellations.  The first time I ever attempted to run 10 miles in a training run five years ago, I became sidelined with my first ever running injury.  From then on, even when I trained for my first marathon many months later, I would avoid the 10-mile distance.  I would run 8 or 12 miles, but not 10.  I needed to break the curse, and this year's Charlotte 10-miler was my chance. 
When I registered for the race, I figured it would be good, long workout.  However, after having some better-than-expected finishes at the half marathon and 10k distances, and some promising mid-week speed workouts, I came upon race day feeling fast and competitive.  At first, I set an arbitrary goal of 65 minutes.  Then, after checking with the McMillan Pace Calculator and using my recent race times, I found that 64:40-65:00 was right in my expected range.
The weather was what I like to call "trans-freezing (below freezing at the start; above freezing by the end)."  I historically race well in those temperatures, so I was content.  After warming up, I stripped down to a thin singlet and arm sleeves while most of the field wore tights and long-sleeved tops.  I knew I wouldn't feel the cold after a few minutes.  Many familiar faces were at the event.  Running the 4-miler were Sketchers Performance Rep Chris Lamperski, Charlotte area Running/Triathlon Coach Kelly Fillnow, and fellow DARTer Tara Owens.  Fellow 10-milers included morning running pals Hope and Michelle (mPod), Roberta Villnef (who is always a threat to win a masters or grand masters award), Chris Joakim, John Richards, Charlotte's most famous "wrunner (writer-runner)" Theoden Janes, Richard Hefner, early morning training buddy Kristy-Ann Joyce, female elite Meg Hovis, and fellow Reckless Running brand ambassador Bobby Aswell.  I love races with friends!
The race kicked off and I immediately fell into a smooth rhythm.  I glanced at my pace, willing myself to slow down to a mid-6s pace as the front-runners strung out ahead of me.  A long hill in the first mile helped to regulate the pace and thin out the herd a bit.  I counted heads; I was 13th or 14th once the positions had settled.  As always, I was shooting for  top-10 finishing spot (and maybe an age group award), but there was a lot of race left, and I usually make my moves late, as long as I don't do anything stupid early on.
I reached the first mile marker at 6:28, which was about as fast as I wanted to go for the whole race.  I was behind the then first place female (named Jessica), when Meg Hovis passed me with a fixed gaze on her.  "Go get'er, Meg," I urged.  Not long after, Will Isenhour (another common Charlotte racer) passed me but stayed in arm's reach.  Jessica, Meg, Will, and I formed a tacit pace group that would feed off each other for the majority of the race.  When we hit the second mile marker at 12:48, a 6:20 split, I could tell we were only going to get faster.
The next couple of miles were on the flat, arboreal McAlpine Creek Greenway.  The hard-packed dirt was a great surface on which to run, and trading places with the other three runners like a pack of Tour de France cyclists kept me running ever faster than I had planned.  When we emerged from the greenway and did a lollipop loop around a residential section, we got to see most of the field coming out from whence we came.  It was only then that I realized just how many people were running this race.  I later found out it was close to 700 runners.  I saw Chris J., Hope and mPod, Roberta, and several other folks cheering me on as I chased Meg, Jessica, and Will back down into the next, long section of greenway.
I passed the mile 5 marker at 31:40ish, which was faster than my 8k PR.  I was still feeling smooth and fast, but I couldn't help but think that the pace was a bit reckless.  Our group gobbled up a few other runners on the greenway, and each pass gave me a jolt of confidence that no doubt edged my pace faster each time.  Jessica and Will were still with us, but they were starting to lag behind.  Meg was determined to hold on to her 1st place female spot, so she kept the pace up.  I stayed on her shoulder so we could continue to work together.  We breezed through the 6th mile marker in 38 minutes and the 7th in under 44:30.  Generally, it's a good day when I race a 10k in under 40 minutes, and I had just done so by quite a lot in the middle of a 10 mile race.  After the 7th mile at sub-6:20 pace, I decided that there was no use slowing down.  I would just have to continue the reckless pace until I either blew up or finished the race.
"I'm going to push it for 8 miles and then just try to survive," Meg joked.  She was alluding to the infamous hill in the 9th mile, which gains 100 feet of elevation in under 800 meters.  When we got to the base of the hill, I pulled ahead.  As Meg drifted back, I shouted back to encourage her.  The climb sucked.  I resisted looking at my watch.  Each time I turned onto a different block, I was hoping to see the top of the hill, but no, it just kept going up.  For the first time in the race, I was having a hard time maintaining a rhythm.
After I reached the top of the hill, there was one straight, fast mile left.  It took me a minute to find my turnover again, but when I did, I let it out in a long, 1600 meter kick.  I could hear Meg's footfalls faintly behind me.  I wasn't competing with Meg directly, but I didn't want to get chicked in the last mile either.  I ran my last mile in under 6 minutes (which was aided by a very gradual downhill), and when the finish line came into view, I found another gear and ran the last 200 meters in about 35 seconds.  I watched the LED gun clock go from 1:02:59 to 1:03:00 seconds before I finished.  My official time was 1:03:06.  I had beaten my goal by nearly two minutes!  Lamperski was there to congratulate me and take my picture after I finished.  I was 8th overall and 2nd in my age group; right about where I was shooting to be.
Me after a fast finish and a very happily destroyed goal.

I donned my sweats so I wouldn't get chilled and went out on a cool-down run with my phone so I could snap some pictures of my friends.  Hope and mPod finished well, Roberta and Richard won their age groups, and Bobby, Theoden, and I each got age group awards.  Kristy-Ann demolished her expectations, which is a great note to go into her peak marathon phase for her race in three weeks.  Meg finished a few seconds after me and was the 1st overall female.  Lamperski destroyed the 4-mile race in an unfathomable 21:35, which was 90 seconds ahead of the 2nd place finisher.  Kelly Fillnow won the overall women's 4-miler, and Tara Owens won her age group.
Hope and mPod were a little too perky for the last mile of the race...

Technically, this was my 10-mile race debut.  But in this 10-miler, I set unofficial PRs for 8k and 15k, and I ran my 3rd best 10k, but since there were no officially timed splits for those distances, they don't count.  I plugged my results into the McMillan Pace Calculator, and my 10-mile time rendered far faster race predictions for all other distances from 1-mile to marathon than I had done.  Therefore, when distance and pace are taken into account, this 10-mile race technically was my best race performance to date.  Curse be damned!  Sometimes it pays to Run Reckless!

You can find my Suunto GPS data here.
Fun times with mPod and Hope.

Roberta won her age group.  Doesn't she look happy?

Bobby and me.  Reckless Running represents with AG awards.

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