Hot Chocolate 10k

On Saturday, January 22, 2011 I participated in my first ever 10k race. For those of you that don’t know, that’s 6.2 miles. Over the past 6-7 months I have done many 5k’s (3.1 miles), and 8k (4.97 miles) and  4 mile race, but this has been, to this point at least, the farthest distance I have ever run…and that includes training.

Going into the race I was a little nervous. As I said, this is going to be the farthest I have ever run. The temperature was about 23 degrees around the start of the race, and by looking at most of the other runners you would have thought that it was -23 degrees. Almost everyone was bundled up like they were going to run in a blizzard. I guess that’s what happens when there is a race in January, in the South. 🙂

Anyways, as I said, I was a little nervous going into the start. My wife and daughters, my support group, was not with me at the start (they were volunteers at the last water stop), so I was a little lost as well. However, I had a plan going into the race; I was going to start closer to the front, take it nice and easy, and take some walk breaks about every mile to keep myself fresh. This idea was given to me by a book that I am currently reading, “Galloway’s book on Running” by Jeff Galloway.

Well, let’s just say that my plans were hindered from the start. During the pre-race instructions I realized that I was on the wrong side of the group. I wanted to start on the left side of the pack since that would make it easier for my wife and daughters to see me when I passed by them (the 4th water stop was at the bottom of the hill where the race started and ended). As I was going around the back of the pack (there were too many runners to cut through) I ran into a friend and was talking to her. While we were talking I realized that the race was beginning, and I was in a position that I just did not like…the back of the pack!

I slowly made my way towards the front, as close as what I could, until I was in the thick of the group and getting ready to cross the starting pad. Come to find out, from the time the race actually started and I crossed the starting pad to start my timing chip, 58 seconds had already gone by. This is the reason why I was wanting to start closer to the front. I didn’t want to be at the front of the pack, but in the first third at least.

Now comes the real fun, the event that I didn’t prepare for all that well…at least I didn’t think so. We were off and running and I was determined to finish in less than 1 hour and 15 minutes by pacing myself and taking scheduled walk breaks every mile.

I decided to, once again, take advice from Galloway’s book and pay close attention to my form and see how I felt. I kept my body erect, moved my arms very slightly, and used my ankles to propel me forward. Following this advice I began to feel really good, and was very comfortable throughout the race. I passed by the first mile marker and was not breathing too hard, my legs still felt strong, and one runner that I have been trying to beat every race was not too far ahead of me. I decided, at that time, that I would tough it out until the first water station at the 1.5 mile mark to take my first walk break.

The first water stop comes, I stop and grab a cup of water, and walk so that I can drink the entire contents of the cup. The entire process for this act really only takes a couple of seconds, maybe 15 at the most. Then, I decide that I am going to continue my run. I felt that I could take a break at the 2 mile mark if need be. Plus, I wanted to stay close to my friendly competitor.

I finally caught and passed him at around the 2 mile mark, and, since I still felt strong, and I did not want to give him the chance to overtake me again and lose ground to him, I decided to continue on until the 3 mile mark where the next water stop was located.

When I reached the mid-point of the race, and was heading into the French Broad River Park, I was starting to feel a little tired. I decided to walk a bit at the water station going into the park, drank my cup of water, and hit the 3 mile mark in about 33 minutes. I was either right at, or just ahead of my race pace and still feeling okay. I finished the loop in the park and hit the water station heading out of the park and walked a bit more while drinking that cup of water. I could now feel the effects of mostly training for 5k’s, but I was determined to push on and beat my time goal.

I take off again and decide that I will not walk again until I reach the third water station at around the 4.75 mile mark. I am doing really good and am remaining focused on the task at hand. My legs are still feeling alright, and my breathing, although a little more labored, is still better than what I thought it would have been. I reach the third water station and decide this is a good point to walk for a little bit. I ended up walking for about a minute and a half, and start running again just before the 5 mile mark.

I figure that I am good to go until I get to the final water stop since I only have a little over a mile left to go. Then, I start hitting “the wall.” I realize that I am starting to force myself to continue on. I know that if I continue then my legs will start to get tired and will cause me to walk even more at the end of the race. So, I decide to take one final walk break before I reach the last water station.

Since my support group is working this final station, and I am starting to get really warm, I decide to start shedding my hat, gloves, and jacket so that I can drop it off to them as I am passing by. This is also when I decide it’s time to take my final walk break. I take a two-minute walk break and figure that I am now good to go. I drop my jacket – containing all my extra items – at the water station, grab a couple of cups of water, stop long enough to drink them, then continue on. I am going to finish this race strong!

The final 1/2 mile of the race is uphill. Although I was aware of this before the race began, I was not prepared for how difficult it was actually going to be! Let me say this, I prefer running hills over flat land…but not when it is to finish a race! Especially when it is the longest race I have ever run! This, folks, is where I completely hit the wall, and hit it HARD! I had no choice to walk most of the way up. And, yes, the finish line was actually on an uphill portion of this road. I could see the finish, but I just could not muster up the energy to run the rest of the way. I finally force myself to run the final 50 yards or so to finish.

I DID IT! I finished, and I was still alive, at least I hoped I was!

Here’s how the entire race broke down for me:

I kept a nice  pace throughout the race, my split times were; mile 1 – 9:53, mile 2 – 11:08, mile 3 – 10:57, mile 4 – 11:32, mile 5 – 11:24, mile 6 – 12:13, and the final 0.2 miles – 2:55. I finished the race in 1 hour 11 minutes (my chip time was 1 hour 10 minutes 2 seconds – meaning it took me 58 seconds to cross the starting pad from the time the race actually began).

I realized that I had gone out a little fast to begin with, but, if I would have taking walk breaks – as I had originally planned – I believe that I could have finished with a faster time. I could have at least kept my splits closer to the 11 minute mark rather than them continuously going higher.

Either way, I beat my goal of 1 hour 15 minutes, finished 661/825 overall and 54/58 in my age group (M 30-34). I also finally beat my friendly competitor – although, some might not think it is much of an accomplishment to finally beat the oldest runner in Asheville. But, even though he is 88 years old, he can run a 5k in under 35 minutes, regularly! So, yes, this is a big accomplishment for me. And, in the end, I felt really good after all was said and done.

With my first 10k in the books, and the first big race of 2011 now behind me, it is time to focus on the next race. Although I will be running in a couple 5k’s over the next two weekends – Blackjack 5k’s on 1/29/11 and 2/5/11, put on by Foot Rx – I will mainly be using those as “group” runs. The next race that I will attempt to earn a PR (personal record) will be the Black Mountain Valentine’s Day 5k on Saturday, February 12, 2011.

For a list of upcoming races click one of the “links” to the right.

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