In November, I raced a 5 miler at 7:45 pace, so I knew that I had built up some middle distance speed in the last few years. I figured I could probably run in the 48-49 minute range, and at least break 8 min pace if race day conditions were good (that 5 miler was in 32 degree temps). I decided to sign up for a 10K after my marathon season was done, and picked the Cap 10K. It's the biggest 10K in Texas and on a certified course. Sometimes it's hard to navigate the people, but if you position yourself close up in the corral, it's possible to do a minimal amount of swerving around people. I would have preferred a smaller race, but 10Ks are hard to come by and I wanted to be sure it was on an accurate course (not short!), something you can't always guarantee in smaller races. So the Cap 10K on April 8 it would be.
Leading up to the race, my speed workouts were going pretty well. I was feeling like I had maintained pretty good fitness at the shorter distances and was eager to see how it would translate in a race. I had hoped that the Texas Independence Relay at the end of March would allow me to see where I was at, but the hot weather and difficulty of my leg assignments kicked my butt. I still think I ran pretty well, but all my legs were far off my expected 10K pace.
As we got closer to race day, I started weather obsessing. Shockingly enough, the weather was going to be spectacular for April in Texas. The weather for the Cap 10K is usually warm and humid, but not this time! Still a bit of humidity, but a starting temp of 42 degrees was ideal! I couldn't have been happier. If there was ever a time I could bust out a good PR, it was going to be at this race.
The husband was also shooting for a new PR. He ran a 45:49 last time he raced the Cap 10K, and it was still his current PR. He was hoping to break 45 minutes today, and I had a lot of faith that he'd actually break 44 minutes. He's been training so well lately for his marathon, and his speed is pretty impressive. With the good weather, I figured he'd be so close to 7 min pace, if not actually break it.
I went back and forth of what I thought I was capable of, and finally settled on an A goal of breaking 49 minutes. On a less hilly course, perhaps I could be a bit faster, but there is over 300 feet of elevation gain in this 10K. It mostly all comes in the first half of the race, and there's a lot of downhill to take advantage of, so it's most definitely a PR course if you know how to approach the hills. But it's also possible for them to take a toll. It remained to be seen!
We positioned ourselves about 15-20 seconds back from the start. With 22,000 runners I was so glad we had the first corral. This race is just so packed, and many people position themselves wrong in the corrals so it's not uncommon to encounter walkers within a quarter mile or so (yes, seriously, even in the first corral). I wasn't taking any chances. It also meant I was going out at my race pace...no warm up mile... and I had to hold that pace. Balls to the wall with nothing to lose, right??
The first mile was actually pretty uneventful. I went out at a comfortably hard pace, but not too crazy considering the first mile is a gradual uphill with over 100 feet of elevation gain (ouch!). It doesn't feel horrible and you're running towards the Capitol, but it's still not so easy. I hit the first mile in 8:06. Not too bad. Still needed to speed up.
As soon as we got to a downhill at the beginning of mile 2, I sped up. I wanted to take advantage of every downhill I could and not worry about whether it was wrecking my legs. Miles 2 and 3 are a constant rolling hill section, and you don't really get any relief until the second half of the race. Mile 2 came in at 7:53, and with the biggest hills during mile 3, that one came in at 8:02. I was a little disappointed that I was over 8 minutes on mile 3, so I knew that I needed to have no more fear for the second half of the race. I was really looking forward to all the elevation loss coming up, that's for sure!
At the halfway point, I was at 24:59. If I wanted to break 49 minutes I would need to run a full minute faster during the second half. At this point I had run the tangents well and didn't have any extra distance added on, but this course will bite you in the butt on that in the second half. It's notorious for forcing extra steps and I really have no idea why if you run tangents well, but it is what it is. I knew that I would have at least an extra 30 seconds of running beyond what my watch says was a 10K distance, and I needed to pace myself like I was running longer than a 10K. This is pretty much how any race goes, I know that, and neither the husband nor I have been able to hit the 10K distance even close to perfectly in this race. So....first half in 24:59 and an 8:02 pace, with the second half needing to be closer to 7:30 pace.
I saw my teammate Drew right after the halfway point, and I'm glad I saw him during a downhill because I bet I looked much better than if he'd seen me on an uphill! A quick wave to Drew and now a new focus on finishing this thing out. I was steadily speeding up and hoping it wasn't going to make me blow up. But like I kept thinking...I had nothing to lose and everything to gain by being fearless.
Mile 4 came in at 7:42 and again my watch beeped right at the mile marker. I was hoping I could get even faster in those last 2 miles, but mile 6 would be unforgiving. It's pretty flat and feels harder than it is. So mile 5 needed to be totally awesome. I felt okay. It was most certainly hard, but I still thought I could keep running this pace for another 17 minutes. I was getting warm so I took my gloves off and rolled down my arm sleeves...I was surprised I was actually feeling warm! My watch beeped before the Mile 5 marker (just like I thought it would!) with a 7:37 mile, and I passed the mile marker at about 39:40. I need to run the last 1.2 miles in about 9 minutes...I definitely thought I could do this!
I somehow gave a little extra distance to the course during mile 6 (of course I did...ugh)....and oh my gosh mile 6 can totally suck! But I was almost done and just needed to suck it up. Making the turn from Cesar Chavez Ave to South 1st Street is one of the best moments of the race. There is less than a half mile to go and you can see the finish festival. I knew Greg would already be done and waiting for me and I wanted him to be proud of my finish. My watch beeped that I ran mile 6 in 7:35 and I was so thrilled with that! I was steadily improving my pace during the race and was about to finish strong. One more turn onto Riverside Drive and the finish line was in sight. I just gave it all I had at this point. That last 1/4 mile was at 6:45 pace! I don't think I've ever even seen that pace during a 5K race, much less a 10K.
|Pain cave at the finish sprint. Photo cred: Nancy K|
I finished the race in 48:54....barely making my goal. An official pace of 7:52 per mile. SO DAMN HAPPY.
MY HUSBAND WAS A TOTAL ROCKSTAR!!! He not only made his goal of breaking 45 minutes, but he made MY goal for him of breaking 44 minutes! He ran 43:33! He's pretty incredible and I'm so proud of him.
|Free vodka is always appreciated|
Looking back at my splits and analyzing how I felt, I have to say that I don't think I could have run this race any better. I was in Zone 4 for over 42 minutes of the race, with a couple minutes in Zone 5, so I was in control and running at threshold just like I wanted to be. My average heartrate was 159 and it never went over 168. I almost negative split every mile and am okay with mile 3 being slower since it was the hilliest mile. My second half was 1:05 faster than the first half and I clocked my fastest 5K on this watch (23:29). Based on my January marathon time, I think this is right where I should be in my fitness. It gives me confidence going into the rest of the year and future 2018 marathon training.
Stats for me: 28/1232 F40-44, 225/10349 women, 1145/18752 overall
Stats for husband: 33/969 M40-44, 313/8403 males, 348/18752 overall (only 35 women beat him!)
On Monday morning, guess what was found on the Statesman's Instagram feed? A picture of me!! How cool is that??
And that husband of mine? He's well on his way to being able to BQ in his July marathon!