Another weekend, another race! This past weekend was the Rock Hall 10K, an event I participate in every year. This race has a half marathon, relay, 10K, and 5K. The first two years, I did the half, but because it's always so hot and humid, starting last year I started doing the 10K. Last year, it was my first ever 10K, so this year was my first opportunity to set a 10K PR.
Going into the race, I was ready to try for a big PR. My PR from 2017 was a 48:40. Based on my training, I knew a 45:00 10K (7:15 avg) was 100% realistic, and maybe I could even end up a little faster. My race strategy was to run the first 5K at 7:20-7:30 pace, and then run the second 5K at 7:00-7:10.
I made sure to get downtown early because parking was a little chaotic last year. But because I tried a different garage this year, it was smooth and I even found portapotties at a construction site so I didn't have to wait in line! Afterwards, I headed over to the start area and met up with friends to relax before go time. The half took off at 7am and shortly after I started my warmup since the 10K started at 7:30. I got in a solid 20 minute warmup with some strides and hopped into the corral with 3 minutes to spare. The game plan was to have my running partner, Mike, pace me for the first 5K since he was aiming to average 7:30 overall.
When we took off, we had a slight uphill from Browns' stadium, and then down onto the Shoreway and onto South Marginal Road. My watch was all over the place with the overpasses and I tried to stay at what felt like a 7:30. When we went through the first mile, I could see my watch had been slightly off because it was a 7:18. It sorted itself out during the next mile because it was much more open. I hung right around 7:25 and I was thinking how good I felt and I was excited that my goal seemed in reach.
During mile 3, I aimed to stay at 7:25 again and I was doing a decent job, but then around 2.75, I started feeling a little nauseous and I tried to shake it. I even backed down the pace a little but it wouldn't go away. At 3.3, we ran up the overpass ramp, across the bridge, and then back down the other side on North Marginal Road to head back downtown. On the down ramp, right around 3.5 miles, there was a water stop, and I grabbed a cup, thinking it would help. I was kind of right. About 15 steps later, I pulled over to throw up. I could not believe that it happened when I was feeling so good in the first couple miles.
Once I was "done" I took off again. I tried to stay right under 8 minute miles, unsure of exactly what to expect. The mile from 3.5 to 4.5 or so was a complete sufferfest but I just urged myself forward. But during that mile, I realized that a PR was still completely in reach, even if the "A" goal was out. So I broke the rest of the race up in my mind. I knew we would meet up with the back of the 5K at 5.1 miles. I told myself to get there and then maybe I could drop the pace. I ended up speeding up to get there. Then when I hit the 5K runners, I felt even better. I wove through them and worked to speed up throughout the last mile.
The benefit of doing the race so many times was that I knew the course. I knew we'd hit mile 6 at the base of a hill, head up it for just shy of .1 miles and then it was downhill to the finish. As soon as I hit 6 miles, I pushed it up the hill and gave the downhill sprint all I had. My watch clocked the last .2 at 6:30 avg. I crossed in 47:13--a 1 minute 27 second PR.
I was pretty happy to walk away with the PR, given the episode at 3.5 miles. I also ended up with a 2nd place Age Group finish. Of course now that I've had time to reflect, I'm frustrated with myself. First of all, the episode was likely the result of me pushing too hard in the first mile. Yes my watch was messed up, but realistically I kinda knew I was moving too fast. Second, I probably could have pushed harder once I got going again. I know it sounds like I'm being too hard on myself, but honestly reflecting on it, I spent 3.5 for 4.5 wallowing in what happened, and from 3.5 until 6, I was trying to stay at a comfortable pace, not a racing pace. So yes, I'm thrilled I PR-ed, but next time, I will run a smarter race and in the meantime, I'll work on toughening up too.
A distance runner racing a mile is always going to be an interesting experience. On August 11th, I took on a different kind of running challenge by racing my shortest race to date, and possibly one of my biggest challenges.
The race was the Guardian Mile in downtown Cleveland. The race started near the West Side Market, ran across the Hope-Memorial Bridge, and ended in front of Progressive Field. Because the race ran up a bridge, it had a decent chunk of elevation gain from .25 to .5 miles. Then it finished with the last half mile down hill.
I made the decision to try an all out mile about 3 weeks prior to the race. My coach adjusted my training to key in my speed work to train for the mile. We started off with :30 hill repeats, then moved to 8x1:00 at the same pace on flat ground, then 8x1:30 repeats at that pace, and finally 8x2:00 repeats. during race week. My goal was to be in the low 6s because my training was indicating that I was capable of that time.
When the gun went off I went with the pack, but quickly noticed that people were going out WAY too fast when I glanced down at my watch and saw a number starting with a 4. I told myself to let them go. They all pulled away from me and I was kind of by myself I felt good and began powering up the hill. With probably .05 to the top, it was feeling like the last part of a hill repeat workout, but I was sure the downhill would be a cake walk so I told myself to just get to the top. I hit the top in 6:03 on my watch, just :02 faster than my coach had recommended.
When I started the descent I was ready to cruise through the second half of the race. But my legs would not turn over. I could not manage more than a 6:40. The .5 mile to the .75 mile was the hardest part of the race. It felt longer than the entire mile combined. Once I hit the .75 mile mark I was finally able to move my legs a little faster, but still not where they were in the first half. The last quarter mile I just stared at the finish line and told myself to hang on until I could get there. I crossed on my watch in 6:25, with an official time of 6:31 because the race had no timing mat at the start.
After the race I could not stop coughing and my lungs were on fire. I wandered back up the bridge to watch the Master's Division to watch the Cleveland West Roadrunners Members compete. Then I met up with then after to watch the Elite races which was a whole different world. The winning female elite ran a 4:31 and the male winner went sub-4 with a 3:59. It was truly crazy and amazing to watch them go screaming by into the finish line.
The Guardian Mile was a unique experience and a painful one. Long distance running is definitely my preference, but I think I would be interested in trying the mile again next year at this event or finding a flat mile somewhere to see what I can do with more training on a friendlier course. And as a result, I'm noticing that I gained some speed after training for the miler, which is a benefit with marathon training kicking up! I would recommend this race, especially because of the unique opportunity to be on the bridge in downtown CLE with the road closed and the sun setting.