Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Narrow River 10K Race Report

Literally 4 hours after I had finished Boston, I got a text from Joy, my running buddy/race instigator extraordinnaire, that said "Do you want to run and maybe win a 10K in 3 weeks?". I'll admit, I was intrigued. I haven't done a 10K since early 2010, where I ran a 44 something that stood as my PR. What does it say about how much I care about the distance that I can't even REMEMBER my PR? I also know myself well enough to know that the "OMG RAAAAACE" bug hits pretty rapidly after a marathon so I figured, why not? The added bonus of of a lovely day on the Rhode Island beach was all I needed to pull the trigger. And so on Saturday Joy and I headed down to Naragansett to run this race.

In a typically smart decision, I had gone to bed at 1:30 am the night before and while I didn't drink much at the concert I was at, the lack of water combined with lack of sleep had me feeling...not stellar come race morning. Still, I was looking forward to having a reason to give myself a little kick in the butt and a reminder that I can't just slack off until it's time to start marathon training again. We arrived at the race about 45 minutes early and picked up THE MOST AMAZING SHIRTS OF ALL TIME:

I basically feel that race shirts should fall into one of two camps: useful/cool looking, or entirely ridiculous. If a shirt is cool looking but made of cotton, I'm probably not going to get much use out of it. If it's totally ridiculous and made out of cotton? Sign me up! This shirt was entirely ridiculous, and ENTIRELY awesome. I just couldn't stop laughing at the graphic of these birds running along the shoreline. To be honest, for $25 I was pretty impressed that shirts were even part of the package, and if you're going to get a cotton shirt it might as well be awesome. 

We went out for a quick 10 minute warmup, which was OK, and then it was time to get running. I basically told myself that I was going to take it out at a tempo style, "comfortably hard" pace and then if I happened to have anything left at the end, pick it up. There was a 5K at the race as well which was running the "back" part of the 10K out and back, so there were only about 100 people at the 10K start...kind of nice, since the last couple of races I've done have been in the 20,000s. There weren't chips, so I lined up pretty close to the front row...and 3, 2, 1, go! 

I went out at what I felt like was a pretty relaxed pace, with a few guys spreading out in front of me and Joy right next to me. I was actually surprised when I passed her pretty early, because she usually goes out like a wild woman, and I got a little worried that I was going out too fast. But I didn't care at that moment, because holy shit, I was leading! Aside from one dinky 5K in college, I can't ever remember a situation where I looked to the road ahead and didn't see any women there. I've gotta say, no matter how small the race, that feeling was kind of cool. I passed the mile in 6:56 and I was pretty cool with that. It was around this time that one of the women who I had picked out before the race as being a potential threat passed me. Womp, womp. I briefly assessed whether there was going to be any chance of me staying with her, and I quickly realized that given how I was feeling and given how fast she was running, I was not. Oh well. I locked onto a guy in a blue shirt and just sort of hung out off his shoulder for awhile. We came down a HUGE hill, and since this was an out and back course I knew that said hill was going to be a total bitch to run up later. Mile 2 was a 6:54, which still sounded about right given how I was feeling. I knew in the moment, and I know now, that I could have run harder. But in the grand scheme of things, it seemed like a better idea to keep it "comfortably fast" and not go to the red line - or at least that's what I told myself. In reality, I think it's been so long since I really RACED anything below a half that I don't really even remember how to push myself to the limits of my speed and strength. But clearly, as I was already hot, sticky, and getting a headache of mile 2 of this 10K, today was not the day to try to remember. 

My little pack. I'm actually enjoying the view of the lovely river to my left...because that's what we do in races, right? The guy in the black comes into play later in the story.

The next couple miles were pretty much the same old story. I kept grinding along, not really feeling like I was slowing down but certainly not feeling like I had any capacity to speed up. I was feeling way too dehydrated and WAY too hot for a 60 degree and cloudy day (the 83% humidity, which I didn't realize until after the race, probably played a part). Mile 3 was a 6:59, and my only concern at the turnaround was whether there were any women close to me. First place had already run wayyy out of my reach, and although I could still see her in the distance I knew that she wasn't going to be coming back. Resigned to second, and with no one anywhere nearby besides black shirt guy right behind me, I really had no reason to attempt to pick up the pace. I remember thinking during mile 4 somewhere, "maybe I could run faster, but I just really don't want to". I was absolutely not in the mood to be really really uncomfortable; I was uncomfortable enough as it was.

Mile 4 actually turned out to be a 6:51, not bad, and we headed back over the bridge. I actually grabbed some water here and dumped it on myself because my face was doing it's usual "it's hot and I feel like something is burning from underneath my skin" thing and I needed to cool off. We then headed up the giant hill, which as advertised sucked a big one. According to Strava there was a section of 7.5% grade where my pace took a giant nosedive, and boy did I feel it. I felt like I was walking up the damn hill. Now I was totally over this whole thing - I just wanted to be done. The mile up the hill was a 7:17, gross. It was right around this point where black shirt passed me. I tried to stay with him for awhile, but again was just feeling so over this whole "running" thing that I didn't worry about it and just sort of kept trucking along. Eventually, it occurred to me that if I wanted to keep the 2015 PR streak alive for another race, I was going to sort of have to make an effort for this last 1.2 miles.  And so finally I kind of made myself stop being lazy and relaxed and tried to push it a little bit. I was rewarded for my effort with another 6:51 mile, and apparently managed to assemble some sort of a kick (seriously, what did I do with my life before minute by minute GPS data?). I finished in a 43:30, and I think this may have been the most anticlimactic PR of my life. I was irritated that I hadn't managed to dip under 7:00 pace, I was annoyed at myself for not trying harder, but mostly I was just kind of like, eh, my old PR was super soft anyway. It's a little less exciting to PR when all that PR means is your 10K and half PR pace are now the same. But, a PR is still a PR, and with this race I have thus far in 2015 run a PR in every single race that I've run (5 different races total). So that's pretty cool. And this whole "racing for fun" thing? Also pretty cool! Even as a workout, or a not full out race effort, or whatever, it's good to practice running fast/hard, and to get things like amazing bird t-shirts for your efforts. 

After the race the guy in the black shirt came up and started chatting with me, and thanked me for pulling him along to a sub-7 pace which apparently he had been shooting for for quite some time. He was super enthusiastic and cool, and I later found out that he's in his 60s which definitely makes him even cooler in my book. After grabbing some Gatorade and water and watching Joy finish, we headed off to do a quick cooldown and then back for the awards. I had assumed as 2nd overall woman that I would get one of the cool bird photo 'plaques' that were being out...so I was a little bit sad when I found out they weren't doing overall and AG awards for the open, just one person in the AG. So, no bird picture to match my bird shirt...wompppp. My black shirted friend actually came up to me after and was like "what, you don't get anything for second place?!" and was totally taken aback and went to talk to the guy who was giving out the awards...again, Harry, you're my new favorite person. 

All in all, 3 weeks out from a PR marathon I really can't complain about this race at all. I did what I set out to do, which was to run a comfortably hard, controlled effort. I'd say I worked a little harder for 7:00 pace than was probably strictly necessary, but a lot of that was a problem of my own making. I didn't hate the 10K distance, and I do think that it's one where I probably have quite a bit of room for improvement if I can just remember how to actually run HARD through an entire race. The long distance mentality of 'you can't really be working hard in the first half' doesn't really apply in the short distances...maybe THAT'S why I like marathons better!

Well, after the race, I had pretty much the best day ever:

 It was really foggy but a very pleasant temperature. And despite putting on sunscreen, my face still burned...


We went to a brewery and got to hang out with the world's cutest Aussie shepherd puppy

And then I drank some beer. Because all good days end with beer. 

Narrow River 10K
43:30 (7:00 pace) PR
9/99 OA, 2/58 F, 2/33 open women (18-39)

Quick race notes:
Course: out & back through neighborhoods with a couple of nice bridge views over water, one big downhill at mile 2/uphill at mile 5. Couple of rollers. 3 water stops, not closed to traffic but I literally did not see a car during the entire race
Organization: very well organized for a tiny race; no chip times but it's so small it doesn't really matter. Very nice volunteers. Your usual water/gatorade/oranges/bagels/bananas at the finish; I have to note that the Gatorade was SUPER COLD which was pretty great. I feel like that doesn't always happen. 
Swag: SUPER SWEET BIRD SHIRT, my only gripe is that I feel like if you're giving AG awards or awards for a 5K walk, that it would be nice to go 3 deep for men and women as well (this is my way of saying...I loved this race but I really wanted a bird picture. Guess I'm just going to have to be faster next year ;))
All in all, a really nice, no frills 5K/10K. I liked it. It's really nice to get away from the city sometimes and just go to a chill race where everyone is there to have fun and you just kind of do your thing and go to the beach. I plan on making this an annual tradition!