Monday, May 4, 2015

Pike's Peek 10K Recap...

For years and years I've been hearing all about the Pike's Peek 10K race in the area.  Locals love it and lots of runner friends race it every year.  It's known as a PR course since it's fairly flat with an overall elevation loss.  It's a well-known course since you get to run 6.2 miles right down Rockville Pike (if you are not from the area, it's pretty much the main street running right through all of Montgomery County, Maryland.).

Unfortunately, the race always seems to coincide with the weekend of Georgia's birthday party.  Again, this year, the dates aligned and I didn't think I would do the race since it was a Sunday morning run and I had 40+ people coming over my house on Saturday afternoon for the big 4th birthday celebration.  However, after putting in my time training for the Cherry Blossom 10-miler, I knew I had the legs for it and decided to brave a potential hangover and exhaustion to get up and run on Sunday morning.  It would be the crown to my three straight weekends of April races - Cherry Blossom, the Clarksburg 5K, and then this 10K.

Georgia's party was on Saturday and I was on my feet all day running around the house playing hostess.  Nick, Mimi and I finally sat down around 10pm that evening after putting the house back together after the last guests left.  At that point, I was absolutely dreading the idea of an early morning alarm clock for Sunday morning.  To make matters worse, it was raining/sleeting when I climbed into bed.  I had NO desire to get up and run 6+ miles in a freezing cold rain, but I was committed and had plans to meet a friend, Julie, in the morning.  After some quick texts with her confirming that we'd both be there in the AM, I laid out my outfit and crashed for the night.

I woke up to a cold and cloudy morning, but at least the freezing rain had stopped overnight.  I decided to forgo bag check (which looked super organized compared to other races I've run) and wore a few different layers that I figured I could strip along the way and used my spi-belt to store a few other things, including a few dollars, my metro card, identification and a pack of Gu (which I never used).  I  hopped in the car for the short ride to the Shady Grove Metro Station, which is near the starting point for the race.  After running 6.2 miles down the Pike, I'd be jumping on the metro to get back to my car after the race.  I met up with Julie, who was running with a local group (Fleet Feet Gaithersburg) that she trained with and that I've also run with frequently in past years.  They were very welcoming of me crashing their group.  I inhaled my usual banana while we waited for the start.  I spotted lots of familiar faces, including several neighbors.

Starting line pic courtesy of the MCRRC website

After my 10-miler and the previous weekend's 5K, I decided I actually wanted to try a strategy for the 10K.  This was the first time that I've ever "planned" a strategy for a race.  I always have mini goals (aka - don't get picked up by the sweep bus!!), but I really wanted to run a smart 10K.  The previous weekend, my 5K time at Clarksburg was 32:27 with a 10:27 pace.  I also ran my fastest mile of the year - 9:56 - due to peer pressure since I was trying to keep up with some speedy friends.  Bottom line for that race - I had horrible positive splits after that first mile.  I got slower and slower.  My 2nd mile was a 10:14 and my 3rd mile was a 11:26 (with a horrible hill thrown in for the last 1/2 mile).  I wanted to die by the time I hit the finish line and my legs felt every second of that race.

Looking at the Cherry Blossom race, I also had positive splits, but felt pretty good up until miles 8/9 since we went out super slow and paced ourselves.

Looking at those two races and my times, I made a plan.  My goals for the 10K:
1 - Overall, run faster than a 1:10
2 - Negative splits

I've NEVER been a negative splits type of runner, so I knew this was going to be a HUGE challenge for me!  I always go out too fast and then regret it at the end.  I knew the course was supposedly fast, so going out slow was going to be rough for me.  However, everyone also warned me about the lone "big" hill right around mile 4, as well as some small rolling hills throughout the course.

I lined up in the 1:10 pace group with Julie and her crew and decided that I would try to stick with them for a few miles.  Her coach was going to pace them, so I knew it was a good opportunity for me to see how that felt and figured it would keep me in control.  I was a tad nervous since I had only squeezed in one very short run of about 2 miles since the 5K the previous weekend.  With party planning in full swing the previous week, I just never had time to hit the road or the treadmill.  I knew my legs would be fresh, but I didn't want them to have totally forgotten how to run!

And we were off... Did I mention that the first 1/4 mile was all uphill.  Totally not fair when all you hear about this course if that it is flat and down hill?!?!?  I heard lots of people moaning and groaning about this new start to the course (in years past, it started at the top of the hill???).

Mile 1- 11:22
This was definitely a struggle for me to start a race off this slow.  I was dying to open it up a bit, but knew I wanted to get faster and faster throughout this race, so it was a good starting point for me.  Julie knew it was killing me to stay at that pace and kept complimenting me on my restraint!  People passing me left and right was not helping!!

Mile 2 - 11:15
I felt great for the 2nd mile and I started to relax a bit that my legs didn't completely forget how to move since the previous week's 5K!  We passed the first of several Dunkin Donuts on the course and the New Englander in me debated running through the drive-thru for an iced coffee!

Mile 3- 11:03
Right after the mile 2 marker, Julie pointed out that my neighbor had just run past us.  I shouted her name and kicked it up a bit to catch up to her and we chatted thru most of the 3rd mile.  We've run races together in the past and I knew she was a good pace friend for the next few miles.  She was running a little faster than the group that I had run the first 2 miles with and it felt good to open up my legs a bit more.  Since the course was fairly straight, I could look back and still see my original crew just behind us. 

There was also a water station during this mile that definitely slowed us down for a few seconds as we veered over to grab a cup and tried to avoid the inevitable pile-up of people grabbing a quick drink.

Mile 4- 11:15 (the only hill mile)
In all honesty, after running our neighborhood 5K the previous weekend, I barely felt this hill.  If Clarksburg is good for anything, it's hill training.  I told Carla (my neighbor) that if we could handle running up our own street than we could easily conquer this little hill.  I just kept repeating, "This ain't no Snowden Parkway!"

The sun popped out right as we were heading up the incline, so I took that opportunity to strip off my long sleeve shirt and transition to my short sleeves for the rest of the course.  I had learned my lesson at the Cherry Blossom race and had pinned my bib to my running tights so I didn't have to worry about that factor. 

Again, I still felt like I was holding myself back, but I kept telling myself to get to 4.2 miles on my Garmin before I made any big moves.  I knew I could handle a faster final 2 miles if I ran smart up until that point.

Mile 5 - 10:35
This was it.  I said goodbye to Carla and started to kick right as we hit 4.2 miles.  My legs felt great and I really wanted to get those negative splits, so I took off.  I was thrilled when I saw the 10:35 pop up on my watch at the 5 mile marker. 

I started doing some calculations in my head and knew that my goal of 1:10 was within reach.  But, I also knew that those 11+ minute miles had cost me some time in the beginning and I needed to keep pushing.

Mile 6 - 10:25
I definitely let out a little WOO-HOO when I hit the 6 mile marker and saw that I was still shaving time off my mile.  At that point, I was beyond overjoyed.  I was waving to people, thanking the cops at the major intersections, etc.  It's amazing how high that runner's high can take you when you're having a good run and everything is going right for you.

Again, some quick math in my head told me that 1:08 was a possibility, but I knew I was going to have to pick it way up the last 0.2 miles of the course.

For some reason, I got super confused at this point because they turned us off onto a side road that I was completely unprepared for.  In my head, we were continuing straight on the Pike for the remaining 0.2 and would be finishing on a down hill stretch.  Apparently the course had changed a bit from previous years.  I pushed my confusion to the side and just kicked as hard as I could for the finish line, which came into sight as we turned onto the side road.

Segment 6.0-6.2 - 2:06 (9:29 pace)

Official Time - 1:08:00


I waited for my friends at the finish line while someone removed my race chip from my shoe and someone handed me the keychain/bottle opener finisher's "award."  To say I was beyond thrilled with my time was a major understatement.  My plan worked and I was so excited to finally finish a run with negative splits.  I felt strong at the end, which was a new feeling for me.  Even better, I had shaved a good 2 minutes off my 10K pace from the Cherry Blossom 10-miler just two weeks before. 

Done and done!

The after party was impressive - dj/music, lots of food, etc.  I grabbed a bagel with peanut butter (forbidden in my house due to Georgia's allergies) and jelly before we spotted a huge brunch display from Mama Lucia.  I enjoyed a few snacks, exchanged war stories with friends, spotted a few neighbors and then headed to the metro to grab a train back to my car.  I knew I could still make it to the end of Sunday morning soccer practice if I hurried home!

I stopped for a quick selfie as I walked past the finish line, which was quickly being dismantled in order for the roads to be re-opened...

Overall, I LOVED this race and I can see why everyone talked about it.  It was fairly flat with some down hills and some rolling little baby hills.  It was very well-organized and there were friendly faces everywhere.  When else can you run down a major street on a Sunday morning!?!?  I'm already looking forward to next year's race and I'm hoping I can shave a few minutes off my time.  I know I lost some time in the beginning that I could push a bit, as well as 15-45 seconds at the water station.  Now that I know the course, I really want to get faster on it.  It's rare that I walk away from a race and wish the exact same race was scheduled for the following weekend so I could get a re-do opportunity.

Time to head home...  RED LINE TO SHADY GROVE!

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