Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Sweetheart Run 10k

Going into Saturday's race I had put a lot of pressure on myself to run a 10k PR. I broke 42 minutes for the first time in the 10k this past fall with a 41:49 at the Zoo Run 10k. I felt like if I could beat that time it would mean I could for sure run a PR at the Aquarium Run half in April. This season I've had a bit of a struggle fest with my tempo runs. I ran a 6 mile tempo at 6:51 pace and followed that up with a 7 mile tempo at 6:47 pace. Since then I've attempted an 8 mile tempo twice and wasn't able to make it happen either time. The first missed attempt I talked about here and was due to overtraining that week (too much speed work). The second missed attempt was due to 30 mph winds. I tried to force the pace running into the wind and killed myself so much I ended up cutting it short with a 6 mile tempo way over my intended pace, in a 7:07 average. Thanks to my failed tempo runs I wasn't feeling very confident in my ability to run a strong 10k. I was able to pull out a great 1200/400 speed workout the week before race week beating all my times from the last time I did the workout (in the fall at 8 weeks into my training cycle) by 6-8 seconds. But I followed that up with a speed workout the following week where I struggled and barely hit the times I had hit during the workout when I did it the week of the Zoo Run 10k. I was hoping to go out and kill my times from that week so I would feel confident in my ability at pulling out a PR. Add in that the Zoo Run 10k is the flattest 10k course I've ever run and although the Sweetheart Run course isn't super hilly it is much more challenging and the hill going into mile 5 kicks my butt every year. Read about that hill in last year's race recap here.
Mom went to get her camera after we took the picture and it was still on timer so we took a goofy pic.
I'm always a bit of a basket case for my first race of the season because I don't have recent races to compare to or to give me confidence in my abilities. This time was even worse because I didn't have any recent strong tempo runs to base my race goals off of. I also had the added pressure that I've set my sights on a sub-1:30 half this season which has been a goal of mine for almost 10 years now, but is one I gave up on after having kids. I thought it was something I would never be able to do now that my body has changed, but this fall's 1:31:49 gave me renewed interest in the goal and a belief that I can actually do it. I wanted a fast 10k time to give me confidence as well as an extra push of motivation going into the second half of this training cycle. My goal was to average 6:35-6:39 miles for this race. That would give me a new 10k PR and some confidence that all the work of these 50 mile weeks is paying off. Initially I planned to take a cut back week the week of the race to give my legs a bit of a rest and to ensure I would be able to run a PR. The more I thought about it the less I wanted to go through with that plan because I had to take a cut back week when I was having issues with my knee during week 4 of this training cycle. I only hit 40 miles for that week. My original plan had been to run 50 mile weeks for 5 weeks and then have a 40-45 mile week the week of the Sweetheart Run, then 2 more 50 mile weeks followed by a 40-45 mile week before my 5k and then start to taper back before the half-marathon. I didn't like the idea of 3 weeks at 50 miles, then a 40 mile week, then one week at 50 miles, and then another 40-45 mile week. I debated it with myself for a while and then decided to focus on my long term goal of a PR at the half. I felt the extra mileage on race week wouldn't hurt me as much for the 10k as not getting enough weekly mileage would hurt me in the long run. I want to run sub-1:30 so badly at this point that I hate to take any chances that might jeopardize my ability to do so, even if it meant not running a PR in the 10k.

Race morning I got up at the same time as Ty who was running the 5k which started at 7:45. My race didn't start until 8:30. I was excited and nervous at the same time. My lack of recent strong workouts was messing with my confidence but I kept telling myself all I could do was go out and run as hard as I could. I was also focusing on the fact that this year Jeremy and I were running the 10k as a team named Sweet Sibs. Last year at this race we were signed up to run the 10k as a team and Jeremy was still in the hospital, just starting to walk, when I ran the race. It was a really tough race for me because I was running alone. Instead of running the 10k with Jeremy, I was lined up at the start by myself while everyone else in my family had run the 5k earlier in the morning. I was so excited that this year was going to be so different from last year! Mom, dad, and Ty left for the race and I got the kids ready to go. We stopped by Jeremy's house so he could follow us and we could park in the same place. Then Jeremy took the kids in the stroller so I could take off for my warm-up. I had planned on a 2 mile warm up but realized it would be pushing it to get a mile and a half in so I just did that. Thank goodness I did as I ran up to the start as they were announcing we had 2 minutes before the race. I didn't have time for a last minute porta potty break so I just took my sweats off and jumped into the corral. I looked over to see the fastest area high school girl standing next to me. She can run sub-18 minute 5ks so I knew I would be racing for 2nd place.
Taking off at the start of the race.
We took off at the start and I made a conscious effort not to look at my watch too much because I knew my mile splits wouldn't be super consistent due to the hills based on how my mile splits have varied in previous years. I definitely wanted to run around 6:40 pace for the most part though. By the half mile mark I had moved up to 2nd female with the high school girl way out ahead of me in the lead pack. There were 2 guys between me and the lead pack and I ran completely alone like that for pretty much the entire race. I went through the first mile in 6:31 which surprised me because I felt like I was running slow and had been a little worried I was going to be over 6:40 for the first mile. We were running out into the wind which wasn't terrible like it had been all week long, but it was enough to notice it and wish it was at my side. Mile 2 was 6:40. We were coming up on Riverside where I knew we would go down the hill that kills me on the way back each year and then we'd turn right and then run down Riverside before running uphill and turning down a road where we would run out and turn around a cone and come back. I knew as we came down the hill we should immediately turn right but there was a police officer there waving us toward him around the median and then to the right. I knew that was adding a bit of distance but didn't worry about it as my 3rd mile was 6:36. I knew I was 13 seconds under pace and wondered if that would be enough for mile 5 which is a real ball buster. Turning around the cone at the half way point and heading back I saw Jeremy and cheered for him. Once I made it to Riverside I started getting excited about seeing Ty before I remembered he'd run the 5k earlier in the morning and I wouldn't be seeing him. Lots of runners heading out toward the turn around cheered for me and told me I was the 2nd female which was nice and gave me a bit of a boost.

My watch beeped for my 4th mile split a little bit before the hill I was dreading. I had run the mile in 6:40. As I went up the hill I kept telling myself to hit at least 6:53 for mile 5. If I could do that and then kick it in the last mile I could still run a PR. We were again waved the long way around the turn. I was tempted to run the course according to the course map and the way we were signaled last year, but I didn't want to look like I was cutting the course and attempting to cheat, especially because I would pass the guy in front of me if I did so. I was doing okay on the hill until about half-way up and then my legs started burning. Once they were on fire I couldn't get them back. I crested the top of the hill and then had to immediately start up a slight, although incredibly long, incline. I was really struggling and knew I was losing momentum. I kept telling myself 6:53, 6:53, 6:53 over and over. When my watch beeped for my mile 5 split which was 7:02, I was heart broken. I was now 9 seconds over pace. I knew I'd have to run a 6:31 mile for the last mile to make up for what I had lost and it just wasn't in my legs. I was struggling and each time I looked down at my watch it would show I was running 6:55 pace which was disheartening. Finally with about half a mile to go a guy passed me and going with him gave me a second wind. It really made me wish I hadn't been running the whole race alone. I went with him and tried to keep the gap from getting too large. I knew a PR was out the window after that terrible 5th mile but I kept telling myself if I could just hang on maybe I could squeak in under 42 minutes. I could tell I wasn't making up as much ground as I would have liked though. As we turned the corner toward the finish I could see Carter and my dad who were both cheering and it was a huge pick me up. I went through mile 6 in 6:46. Then I saw mom and Elise and couldn't stop smiling. Once the finishing clock came into view I could see it was already over 42 minutes and even though I didn't feel motivated to kick it in at that point, I sprinted toward the finish. I was shocked when I stopped my watch and saw I had finished in 42:35 which put me slower than the Aquarium Run 10k last spring where I averaged 6:48 pace. Did I really lose that much time in mile 5?!!!? But then I remembered the extra distance we added going around the median before the turn and saw I had run 6.34 miles. So even though my time was a lot slower than what I had been hoping for, I had still averaged 6:43 pace which was only 4 seconds per mile slower than the high range of my goal so not terrible. I felt pretty confident that if mile 5 hadn't had those big hills I could have held onto at least 6:45 pace for those last 2 miles, if not faster. The hill did me in enough that I couldn't get my legs back during the last mile.
Coming up to the finish. You can tell how much I'm hurting because I'm tilting my head back. Ty, Carter, and dad are in the background.
Running toward the finish line, my mom took this picture.
My Garmin after the race.
I watched Jeremy finish just under 45 minutes looking very strong and then took off for my cool down. I was really bummed about my time and about how much I lost in mile 5. This course gets me every year. Maybe I need to plan better and go out slower or maybe I just need to not attempt a PR on this course. Last year my goal had been sub-43 and I ran 43:11. Although I was slower than my time in the fall, I beat last year's time by almost 40 seconds with the course being longer this year, so I can be proud of that. I just really needed something to boost my confidence after a string of failed tempo runs and this race was not it! Now that I have this race behind me I feel like a lower mileage week this past week so I could run a faster 10k time may have been more helpful to my confidence and my motivation than the extra mileage will be to my fitness and strength toward the half-marathon. It was tough running my cool down on dead tired legs after a sub-par performance. I spent much of the time going over what went wrong and wondering if all this training and all these 50 mile weeks won't actually help me improve my half-marathon time as much as I am hoping. But I was also just pointing out a few days before the race how hard it is to PR in multiple race distances in one training cycle because you are training through races and you aren't in peak performance shape until the end of the cycle. I think running this 10k at the end of a 50 mile week compared to running the Zoo Run 10k at the end of a 35 mile week made a big difference in terms of how I felt during the race and in my time. When I put 6:43 pace for a 10k into a pace calculator it says it equals a 41:44 10k. So even with a terrible 5th mile, had this race been spot on rather than a bit long I still would have had a chance at a PR. While that doesn't make me feel a whole lot better, it does help a bit. I'm disappointed in this race and wish I could have put together a more solid performance, but it is firing me up for my 5k in March quite a bit. I am determined to get a strong race in before the half so I can have a boost of confidence going into it. I am now definitely going to take a cut back week before the 5k, either 40 or 45 miles so I can have a strong race.
Jeremy finishing the 10k.

The silver lining of this race was the team aspect. I looked at the 5k results in the car on the way to Carter's friend's birthday party and saw that my parents had placed 6th out of 95 teams so I figured Jeremy and I probably did pretty well in the 10k team results as I was 9th overall and he was 11th! Sure enough we won the team competition with a combined time almost 30 minutes faster than the 2nd place team! I finished 9th out of 660 overall and 2nd out of 452 females, winning my age group with a time of 42:35. Jeremy was 11th overall and 2nd out of 21 in his age group with a time of 44:56. Mom, dad, and Ty all ran the 5k earlier in the morning. Dad finished in a post-surgery PR, finally making it back under 24 minutes again with a time of 23:40! That put him 2nd out of 26 in his age group. Mom competed in her new 60-64 age group for the first time, taking 2nd out of 23 with a time of 34:16. Ty ran his first race without the stroller in a long time and finished in 27:31 which put him 7th out of 31 in his age group! I was a little bummed when I realized had I run the 5k on a team with Ty, we would have won! I would have needed to run around 20:30 for us to win and I did that at the Race Into the New Year for the 5k portion of what I knew (at the half-way point) was going to be a 3.5 mile race! It was definitely awesome to be on a team with Jeremy in the 10k after the emotional roller coaster of last year's race, that's for sure! So although I am a bit down about this race, I'm not out. I will dust myself off and keep plugging away one run at a time. If this training cycle doesn't yield the results I'm hoping for, I will re-evaluate and try again in the fall. That's what's great about running, you can always try again! And after beating myself up over this race for days I remembered the disappointing race I had at the Twilight Thriller 5k in the fall. Sometimes going for a PR on a course that I know isn't a good course for a fast time just isn't a good idea and backfires on me! Maybe at some point I'll learn!
Dad finishing the 5k.
Ty finishing the 5k.
Mom finishing the 5k.
Me and Jeremy with our winnings.


  1. I'm sorry your race didn't go as you hoped. You're right to take your own advice and remember that you can't peak for all of them! Also, the farther you get your PRs down, the harder it becomes to achieve a new one on a medicore course or day - whether that means elevation, temperature, wind, or not being able to run the tangents. I hate it when race officials direct you to run a longer route, when you know the course was measured and certified on the shortest route (I have the same struggle you did with wanting to run the shortest route but not wanting to look like I'm cutting!).

    In my recent reading about tapering, I also learned that a taper can improve performance by 2-5%. For a race that's 42 minutes, that's an improvement of 50-126 seconds (!!!). Trust your training and the process; your half results will come.

    1. Thanks, Sara! I know it deep down, it's just hard to have a bad race! I didn't realize a taper could make that much of a difference, I probably should have looked into that before I decided to run a regular week and still attempt a PR!

    2. Pretty shocking, huh? I'd say for us it's probably on the lower end of that range -- since we've been running for years, we are fit, and we recovery relatively quickly plus are used to running on tired legs -- but 2-3% is still significant! Now I have another thing to blame when I run sub-par 5K, bahaha! But, seriously, I think you made the best decision for your long-term half goal. Once you have a few more quality tempos and speed workouts, you'll feel much better about it all!

    3. Definitely, I just need to have some good runs to build my confidence again. Two failed tempos, a struggle of a speed workout, and a sub-par 10k have really got me down!

      For sure a good excuse for slower 5k times!

  2. Carter took the goofy picture. He ran up and hit the button, and so we all got ready for a quick picture. I thought it was pretty funny that he did it.

    1. That makes it even funnier! I didn't realize that.