After two consecutive years of big PRs at this race, I fell off this time around to finish in 41:18 – 55 seconds off my best time. But, unlike the past two years, I have been focused on ultrarunning in 2013 and have done no significant speed work since returning from my injuries last fall. The majority of my mileage has been the slow and steady variety, aimed at increasing my ability to run longer distances.
I looked at this race as an opportunity to discover how the slow training would manifest itself during a faster race; to see if, in fact, the aerobic development would also make it easier to run faster. I have to say I am pleased with the results – to be able to run this time with minimal speed work in the past year and directly on the heels of some big training weeks, including a 20-mile trail run just 6 days before this race, shows that I’m still within striking distance of the ever-elusive sub-40 if I were to focus myself on the necessary training.
I didn’t have a solid time goal for this race other than to re-qualify myself for the A-wave in next year’s race by running a time of 41:59 or faster. Judging from recent workouts, I thought a 6:40 pace – or 41:30 overall – was a likely outcome. However, qualification times for this race are good for two years, so it wasn’t imperative to qualify this year since I could still use last year’s race for the 2014 event. It was just something that I could aim for.
This race, as always, was a fun one. Although as a runner in the first wave who is focused on running as hard as I can, it can be tough to really soak up the external atmosphere that makes this race what it is. I don’t see the spectators’ funny signs, the people running in costume are far behind me, and I only get to hear about 8 seconds of music from each band I pass along the way.
This was only the second time I’ve run this race with a Garmin, but it was interesting to compare this year’s splits with those from 2012. Although I was 9 seconds per mile off last year’s pace (6:38 this year vs. 6:29 last year), each mile of my race rose and fell in the same way both years.
This year I opened with a 6:29, which felt incredibly easy as I was sucked along with the crowd. I briefly flirted with the outlandish possibility of running sub-40, but that thought was quickly dashed with a 6:41 second mile. I didn’t feel like my effort had decreased, and yet there I was. The third mile was, like last year, the slowest of the day, coming in at 6:48. I was definitely working hard but still felt strong. My 5k split was 20:49, and I realized that I could pretty easily hit my goal of sub-42 since I had plenty left in the tank.
However, I think this is where the ultra training started to rear its head. Although I felt strong and had plenty of energy, I didn’t have those extra gears of speed to tap when I reached the later miles. Mile 4 – generously sloping downhill, passed in 6:35, and then I was back up to 6:45 for the slightly hillier fifth mile.
In the biggest departure from last year, I could only muster a 6:30 for mile 6 – a downhill mile that I covered in 6:13 last year. Again, I felt relatively strong, but my effort wasn’t translating into faster speeds. The last 0.2 kick was at a 6:13 pace – not even close to last year’s 5:45 effort.
But that’s OK. I’m a different runner this year and I embrace the training path that I’ve chosen. That’s the wonderfully liberating thing about running – it can be whatever you want it to be, whatever fits your life at the moment and provides the fulfillment you need. And, even so, it’s still rewarding to knock out a 41-minute 10k when just a few years ago I was over the moon with a 45-minute performance.
Now it’s on to the real test of all this ultra training – the Promise Land 50k in just two weeks!
Stats: 345/32,226 overall; 41/1,433 men 35-39