Sunday, November 13, 2016

Racing 10Ks to finish off 2016

Wow, I am slee-peh! After a wet and chilly morning at the Fall Classic 10K at UBC, I warmed myself up with a hot hot shower at home, some leftover pasta, my fuzzy slippers, and even turned on the gas fireplace a few minutes. A bit of overkill, but as I sit on the coach in comfy pants watching the CFL playoffs (Go Lions!), my body is melting away, thinking of a nap, but my mind is buzzing excitedly after a great run today.

10K races have never been my favourite. The distance in of itself isn't a big deal and a distance I run quite regularly. But in a race environment where you want to run it in as fast a time as you can, it's what I call "a little taste of hell". I tend to avoid these races as a result, in favour of either shorter or longer races. A 5K, one can run at quite a high intensity and push quite hard, but it's a quick and dirty distance, done only a short while after it's begun. You might feel like you're going to die, but the finish line isn't far away so you get through it. When you're done, recovery doesn't take long at all.  As a result, the 5K is my favourite racing distance, and normally what I choose when given the choice between a 5K and 10K. A half marathon is much longer, but because of this, you pace yourself accordingly. The hell of this distance isn't breathing or heart rates going up and up, but the distance itself. If you train the distance, it's not a big deal to do this at the event. But a 10K is a piece of hell in between. You have still quite a ways to go to get to the finish line, yet you don't get to let up that much on pace. You are just a gear slower than a 5K pace, over twice the distance; it's both a challenge of high intensity and endurance.

My best 10K efforts were in 2013 and 2014. I actually don't even know what my personal best is because I always look at my 2013 Cunningham Seawall as my best. This race was 9.5km before it became a Rock N Roll event, and my best finish when adjusted for the extra 500m would be 51:08. But of course, I never actually ran a 51:08 10K. In 2014, I ran a 54:46 10K at Summerfast, so that's likely my actual best - it just doesn't feel that way because of that epic Cunningham result.

Then if you remember, I tore my calf in August 2014 and had a comeback to take on. It didn't take long to get my endurance back, but my speed took a hit. I won't rehash what a challenging year 2015 was for me, but since then, I've been working super hard to improve my fitness. But I also know I haven't done enough specific 10K training, you know, running longer intervals etc., as again, I prefer the short speedy stuff or the long comfy stuff and don't like the in between. I know that if I do this work, I will see the returns. I just have to decide what I want to achieve and then go after it. Don't get me wrong - I am still working hard as heck, but I could make that work more specific and see better returns in a 10K. I believe though that the work I've been doing would make for a quite good 5K. So I'm going to keep that up and try for a good 5K before 2016 comes to a close.

After registering for a few 10K races in 2015 and skipping them all due to injury and my bad year, I just ran 3 10K races since September. All went quite well and I'm thrilled.

There was that rainy rainy birthday run at the Eastside 10K, and I did quite well here, finishing in 57:38. Probably because I was eager to get out of the rain, or because I tried a new warmup routine called "hide in your car and whine about going outside" as opposed to my usual dynamic warmup + 2km jog.

Then I tried again at the Rock N Roll 10K in October, but I had a hard time after some recurring migraines leading up to the race. I was slower at this event, but was pleased with this finish considering the circumstances. I felt quite badass that I could do as well as I did considering I felt like absolute crap that week, coming in at 57:54. I originally thought I finished well over 58minutes, but it appears either I misread my watch (didn't stop it on time) or the official results were adjusted. I dunno!

I keep meaning to buy this photo and keep forgetting....

And then there was today's race, the Fall Classic 10K which was my best 10K finish since 2014, coming in at 57:05. I think I look rather cute in my blurry selfie with a combined sweaty and rainy mess of hair in my new pixie do. What an excessively large medal for running 10K, but I'll take it. I worked hard and it was a good race!

I firmly believe I am capable of a 55min 10K at this point in my fitness, again, and perhaps I could have achieved this if I had thought it through sooner and been training with longer intervals. A 5:25-5:30/km pace is pretty comfy and I held it for a good 7km. I had 2 sloggy kms after that before my 10th km wake up call. Up until that point of slogginess, I was with the 55min pacer and holding conversation comfortably. Then a hill came that I couldn't get my breathing right on and found myself playing catch up trying to find the pacer again, more and more runners getting between us. He slowly disappeared from my sight, but thankfully I quickly rid him from my mind too and focused on myself and the task at hand. Once I caught my breath and reset my pacing, I had a heckuva quick last km and finished running strong and proud.

Lesson learned today, and as I look ahead at future races, I'll be more intentional in my planning. I was a bit of a last minute planner with many of my races this year, and this was on purpose. My philosophy was built around the many missed races of 2015 that I didn't want to overly advance plan and face disappointment if I had to give a race a miss. I wanted to be spontaneous and enjoy myself at races rather than being super competitive. My attitude was "sure I'll run that one next week" rather than training for that one the whole time. But I've been injury free this year (touch wood) and my fitness is at its best in a long time so I think now I start advance planning a bit more. If I pair that with being intentional with my weekly speed sessions and how I tackle them, I can ensure they are preparing me strategically for the races I've selected. That prospect excites me. Let's see what 2017 brings!

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