The plan heading into this 10K was to do what I call a “Dead Leg” tempo run. It's exactly what it sounds like, a tempo run done on legs that I fried the day prior. In this particular case, I wore them down doing a 13.5-mile run in Central Park broken into three segments (4 easy miles @ 8-minute pace, 8 moderate miles @ 7-7:20 pace, 1.5 easy cool down miles @ 8-minute pace). I know that these are not my true paces, but because of my recent bout with inconsistency and illness I didn’t want to overdo it and risk any sort of injury.
We arrived at the high school in Rowayton nice and early to grab our numbers, etc., but weren’t too happy with the 28-degrees with a bit of wind for good measure. With our registration task and bathroom visitations completed we went back out to the car and sat comfortably with the heated seats cranking. Coach Adam, who typically jabs at me about wearing tights and warm clothes in such weather, broke down and stated, “I’m not going back out there till five minutes before the race starts.” It was a refreshing change in tune, but he still showed me up running in shorts and a long sleeve t-shirt, the cheeky bastard!
The biggest challenge for me in a race like this, without a pace partner around, is not getting caught up in the moment and completely disregarding my plan. This is the mental discipline part of running that I have really had to learn and ingrain in myself over the last two years and I think I am finally getting the hang of it, because I did what I set out to do.
My self-prescribed plan involved starting out in the back of the pack and working my way forward for the duration of the race. I wanted to feel that little mental edge and motivation that is inherent in passing people on the course. That little added confidence that keeps the spring in your stride, something that I have not felt since New York. Honestly, I’m completely fascinated by all of the subtle psychological nuances that influence a runner and how they race. I am always trying to keep a clear, focused mind so I can hear and feel how my body reacts to everything while on the course - wind, body temperature, hills, false flats, icy spots, other runners, my own footfall, annoying people with headphones who can't hear you when you are trying to pass them on a trail, etc. It is a constant and perpetual learning experience.
From the starting gun, which I never even heard, I quickly settled into my pace (roughly 6:30s) and never lost it. I was within +/- 5 seconds from start to finish. My legs felt pretty good despite the previous day’s miles, but my breathing rhythm was a little erratic during miles 5 and 6, thanks to a couple of well placed hills. The frustrating part in all of that was I knew they were coming and tried to prepare myself for them, but still ended up all over the place with my breathing. At least I didn’t get to the top of that last hill and have to stop so I could dry heave, like I did the previous year. This race last year was the only time I have EVER had to stop in a race, because I thought I was going to puke.
For the last three-quarters of a mile I had a little fun catching up to this big triathlon guy who every time I got level with him would start sprinting a bit. These bursts were nice and he looked really fast while doing them, but I kept the same pace and with each one the separation he created decreased until he really just had nothing left. The last time we came level I said to him, “come on, big man, only 400 meters to go push’em out,” and then proceeded to pass him. That was the last I saw of him, but I heard him trying to get his wind back to catch me all the way through the finish.
The last 100 meters of this race was the BEST! You came into the high school’s parking lot and the road that leads up to the front door, which also happened to be our finish, was like running on a Slip’N Slide that someone left out for the winter. It was nothing but densely packed ice that scared the crap out of me! Earlier, when I walked across it to go inside and get my bib I nearly bought it and sprawled out on the ice like Jason Priestley playing a figure skater on SNL and that was just walking. It also drummed up memories of my college days running in the winter and that one fatal slip on a sidewalk in PA that resulted in a torn hamstring and the end of my running days for a great many moons.
I ended up finishing 40th overall at a 6:39 pace according to them and a 6:30 pace according to my watch. It was a good test for my legs and lungs. I maintained my pace throughout, was disciplined and finished with energy to burn. It was a great run, some good fun and I am looking forward to the second Build-Up race in two weeks, which has even more meaning since it was the last race I participated in last year before I deferred my Boston entry due to my injured left foot. It will be time for some revenge!