Chi-Town 10k Race Recap

Hey! I have a new PR! I took 4 minutes off my old 10k PR from July (51:58 at the NYRR Boomer's Run to Breathe). My chip time was 47:59!

Here's how it went down: 

On Thursday afternoon I went for a short run to test my ankle. My plan was to do between 2 and 4 miles, depending on how it felt. Immediately I felt unmistakable twinges in the first mile and cut my normal route a little short, thinking I'd be responsible and do only two miles. But after I'd warmed up, the pain (which was mild) disappeared. Instead of going home, passed my house and did another loop, dropping below a 7:30 pace after I hit the third mile. Still no pain! I was pretty winded from the effort, but my legs felt fast and it was so incredible to run after a whole week off!

Back home, I iced it for ten minutes and took an ibuprofin and hoped for the best. Fortunately, when I woke up the next morning I felt completely fine. I was tempted to run one more time before my race, but figured I'd take the rest days. If my ankle handled 6.2 hard miles on race day, then I'd consider myself borderline healed. If not, I'd rather know that I had let my ankle rest as much as possible.

With my ankle off the sick list, I made a few race goals. I believed I could PR, no problem. I know I'm a much stronger runner than I was last summer -- but I wasn't sure how strong. It's always hard to choose a goal pace for the first race of the season, or for any non-goal race during training. My McMillian equivalent 10k pace for a 1:45 half marathon is 7:35. I don't quite feel capable of that yet, especially with the week+ I've taken off due to injury, so my "A" goal was to hold an average 7:45 pace (about 48:08), a pace that feels and sounds scary-fast to me.  

We went to go see The Room and a Q&A with Tommy Wiseau last night and amid all the spoon-throwing I didn't get home until after 1am on Saturday. I did remember to lay out my race stuff and drink a big glass of water before bed. The race didn't start until 8:15, so I woke up at 6:30 and immediately thought, "Why am I awake so early?"  I only had about 10 minutes of stuff to do: I made some coffee, ate the only breakfast food I had on hand, cereal, and checked the weather. It was 30-but-feels-like-15 degrees, with 15mph winds and light snow, so I debated what to wear. In the end I settled with tights, a tank, and a half-zip with wool socks and ear warmers. I considered wearing a jacket over all of that but knew I'd be so uncomfortable if I was too hot, so I left it behind. I grabbed a cab outside my apartment at about 7:30 and made it to the race in plenty of time.  

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I had checked the course map and saw that the 10k-ers and the half marathoners would be running together for the first 5 and a half miles. From what I can tell, most people at this race were doing the half marathon. It's a small race but there were pace groups, which was pretty awesome. I saw only 7:38 and 8:00 pace groups, so decided at the race that my strategy would be to keep the 7:38 group in my sight and not let the 8:00 group pass me. 

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I hung out in my jacket until the very last minute. It was really cold out there!

I'd lost one of my earbud tips for my headphones, and at the last minute I found a spare pare of regular iPod headphones. I was messing with them the whole time and almost took them out completely, but needed something block out the wind's howling (which um, has a way of eroding my mental game really fast). 

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The race got started at exactly 8:15. I set out with the 7:38 pace group and felt incredible. I'd forgotten how magical that very first mile feels in a race -- I was grinning like crazy, I felt superhuman, and briefly considered passing the 7:38 group. Fortunately, my rational brain nixed that plan and I stayed just behind the group.

Mile 1: 7:39

When my watch beeped I felt great. We turned onto a long windy stretch right by the water. The lake's thawed here and it was really beautiful, even on such an overcast, cold day. I was in a tight pack of people and felt comfortable with the pace. I tried to focus on my breathing because for me, that's the #1 thing that impacts how I relaxed and strong I feel.

I thought I felt us speed up a little bit, and when I checked my Garmin I saw we were running an average lap pace of 7:20. I knew I should slow down, but I wanted so badly to stay with them, so I kept going. 

Mile 2: 7:28

I started to really appreciate the few seconds' difference between the pace I was holding and the tempo pace I've hit so well in my three tempo runs (7:50 or so). I was starting to breathe harder and felt really indecisive about what to do. The pace group eventually decided for me as the gap between us yawned wider. I couldn't have sped up to stay with them if I tried. There were a few stragglers, all dudes, who were dropped along with me and I fell in step with a guy in blue shoes with yellow shoelaces, and we ran side-by-side.  I saw him slow through the water station and went ahead without him, only to see him catch up with me right away. 

Mile 3: 7:32  

The course was well-marked with arrows, but I hadn't seen any mile markers yet and felt grateful to have my watch ticking off miles for me. The route didn't seem as twisty-turny as the map had looked, although the path kept changing from packed gravel to concrete and back again. I was relieved to reach the halfway point, because I figured whatever is now going to happen on the back half of the course as a result of my decisions in the first half is happening now. I'd much rather just suffer than anticipate how much suffering I'd feel. 

Mile 4: 7:45

I tried my best to stay with Blue Shoes but he started to drift away from me. Is there any loneliness like the loneliness of getting dropped by your last remaining race buddy? 

I looked down at my watch and saw an 8:15 pace and thought, "Surely this can't be right." We went underground a few times through a couple tunnels and I thought maybe my watch had lost its satellite for a moment. Still, I could feel that I really was moving slower and so I tried to speed up. I couldn't. I told myself to "just move my feet faster," -- which sounds dumb, but if I'm getting fatigued the best thing to do to keep the pace is to make my strides shorter and increase foot turnover. I wanted that 7:59 mile but I couldn't make up the pace fast enough.

Mile 5: 8:01

And man, I was tired from the effort. I knew the 10k route would split off around here somewhere and I finally saw it -- a weird U-turn through a mulched median with a couple of cones marking it off. I took my headphones out and asked a volunteer if this was right, and she said it was. 

Mile 6: 7:58

I was pretty disoriented from not knowing the park very well and all of the loops and hairpin turns we'd made, and I had no idea where the start/finish line was. I anxiously searched for it and as soon as I saw it come into view I did my best to speed up, but I had almost nothing left.  I saw James on the sidelines and tried to do my fastest, most graceful sprint toward the finish.  

.2: 1:34 (7:33 pace) 

 

I look like a wooden puppet. Also, I look like I'm power walking. That's not really the graceful sprint I had in mind.

I look like a wooden puppet. Also, I look like I'm power walking. That's not really the graceful sprint I had in mind.

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Immediately after I crossed the finish line a volunteer told me there would be an announcement from the race director. He said some people had gone off-course. Confused, I thought he was telling me I had gone off course. (I hadn't.)

While I was standing around waiting to hear the Big Announcement, it became clear that there was a pretty serious screw-up. Some of the 10k-ers were directed off course and either went through the finish line after only a mile or so, or somehow finished the race about a mile short. 

Protection from the wind

Protection from the wind

Some people seemed pretty upset, and I felt awful for them. It was a pretty gross day out and I'm sure some of them had driven pretty far to get here, not to mention they had trained for weeks. Before the race I spotted someone from my running group who was doing his first-ever race, and I thought of him and hoped that his race wasn't affected.

At 9:25 the race director climbed on stage and apologized profusely to the crowd. He accepted total responsibility and offered full refunds plus $10 off a future race. A few people clapped and he said to please stop because he doesn't deserve it. I know some people are still angry, but, I don't know, races are run almost completely by volunteers and mistakes happen every once in a while. I'm sure I'd be angrier if it had happened to me, but I thought All Community's response was immediate and generous. 

(Of course, I will not be requesting a refund because my race was fine.) 

The bad news is that my ankle, which had held up like a champ for the entire race, started hurting almost immediately after I stopped. It hurt when we walked to get bagels and coffee after the race, and on the cab ride home. It hurt after icing it and taking ibuprofin. Now a day later, it hurts when I'm walking down stairs. I'm happy about my PR and don't feel guilty for racing because my ankle felt 100% after my Thursday night test run, but I'm so confused, discouraged and disappointed about what's up with my ankle and how to fix it. I don't want to cede any more days to "total rest" but I also don't want to be dumb.

If anyone has had achilles tendonitis before, please tell me all about it!