10k has always been one of my favorite distances: it’s long enough to be interesting, but short enough to be pretty effing painful. And it takes a lot of work to improve one’s time on it.
Say, one full year.
The Burgh 10k was the site of my previous 10k PR, and in that full year since I hadn’t been able to score a faster race (ignore for the duration of this post the fact that there was a grand total of 1 other 10k between these annual races). I’d been steadily crushing my half-marathon times, and 5k races are short enough where the tempo runs and speed work I was doing were dead giveaways I’d demolish my PR for that distance the next time a race came up. But the 10k was a different beast.
I set out this year with a mission: I wasn’t going to beat my PR by a few measly seconds (as the lone 10k I’d run in between races was short of my PR by only a few measly seconds), I was going to PR by at least a handful of minutes.
It was the same course as last year, and while my memory of it was a little fuzzy, I did distinctly recall the rolling hills that stymied my first couple miles last time. It’s a simple out and back route: run down a trail, go through a super-cool tunnel, hit the 5k mark, whip around, and repeat back to the starting line. It’s a small race (a couple hundred people max), so things can afford to be a little tight.
My plan was to keep as close to the 7:10-mile as I could the first half, then kick things up if I was feeling it.
Turns out: aside from one small dip when the trail crosses a road, the entire trail up to the tunnel (just shy of the 3-mile mark, so just shy of the 5k turnaround) is uphill. Which makes the turnaround really difficult: you’re going downhill and losing all your momentum to turn around and go back uphill. Blessedly, it’s a short distance back to the tunnel, at which point the rest of the course (again, with the exception of crossing the road) is downhill.
As you can see from the GPS data, my first mile was a tad quick; it’s difficult to stay on pace when everyone rushes out of the starting gates! Unfortunately, I overcompensated a bit with a slower mile 2, and as mentioned before the turnaround really killed my momentum, resulting in a slow mile 4. The last mile I was redlining: I was pacing a guy who was clearly there for a shake-down run (likely running the Pittsburgh Marathon this weekend, as I am–though only the half) and simply enjoying the “easy” 7-min/mi pace. Without his steady pace I may very well have had a more difficult time of it.
But by golly, I PR’d! As was my mission! A final time of 44:19, which came out to an average pace of 7:08/mi, and resulted in 3rd in my age group! (Rob, of course, came in 1st in our age group with a time of 38-something…what a beast)
What’s next? Our training these last few months has reached its zenith: the Pittsburgh Marathon is this coming weekend, after which The Lady and I are taking some time off from running. I, for one, will likely do lots of cross-training for about two weeks before actually hitting the pavement again. This training schedule has been pretty intense and my body is physically hitting the end of its rope (though this also has a lot to do with grad school).
Down the road, though: we’ve got quite a fall coming up, with the likes of the Zombie 5k, the Air Force Marathon (this year’s featured craft: the B-2 Spirit!), numerous other 5k’s and 10k’s, and the Philadelphia Marathon in November, which has the dubious distinction of being our very first FULL marathon.
All this writing of running has made me tired. I’ma go write some code implementing mathematical formulas I don’t understand.