Sunday, September 14, 2008

Single Digits

I've never had a single digit bib number before this morning. These are usually reserved for the elites (or at least the really speedy folks), so I felt special when I got to my club's annual membership race and picked up #6 as a bib number. I thought it had to be a good omen. I'd done nearly everything right for this race: hydrated well over the past 4 days; ate smart over the last week (no alcohol, good balance of veggies, carbs and protein, etc); slept 8 hours last night; ate a decent breakfast early this morning, ....

It should have been my race. The last time I ran this race, back in 2006, I finished in 46:00. I hadn't expected to run that fast this time. In Sept 2006, I weighed 174lb; this morning, I was closer to 190lb (I didn't actually have the courage to stand on the scale). Although 46:00 was too ambitious and I knew I wasn't going to get near my PR, I thought 50:00 was within my grasp ... that turned out to be little more than wishful thinking.

Every September, my club has a membership race at Horse Lovers Park in the far north end of Phoenix. The race is free for club members and $20 for everyone else; the catch is that your entry form is a also a membership application and the entry fee is the first year's club dues (there are lots of smart folks running this club). The race is a 5K / 10K looped event, mostly run on wide dirt trails. The weather this morning was tolerable; gentle winds, low humidity, and temperatures just under 80F (26C) at the 7:15AM gun time. Really nice.

I got to the event at 6:15, picked up my race bib, grabbed my camera and headed out for a slow 3 mile warm up just as the sun was coming up over the horizon. I got passed by several runners along the way, but kept it real and just focused on my warm up and stopped to take pictures along the way. I got back to my car, stowed my camera and jog over to the start line with 10 minutes to spare. So far, so good.

The gun went off and I held back. My strategy (such as it was) was to run 8 minute miles and try to finish south of 50 minutes. Runners streamed by me on the first mile but I passed the MI 1 marker right on target at 8:03; . I tucked in behind a woman on mile 2 and passed the MI 2 marker in 8:04 - still on track. With plenty of nice people running around me, beautiful weather and a nice flat course, I had no complaints. However, mile 3 was different.

The lady I was tailing pulled away and my breathing became labored. Thoughts of running over the timing mats at the end of the first loop and calling it quits at 5K bounced around in my head. Focus, focus, focus ... you can do this ... no you can't stop now, save yourself ...

I passed to the right of the finish line and headed out on the 2nd 5K loop; completing the first 5K in 25:52. I'd already blown any chance of running a sub-50 10K and instead switch my object to something far easier: running the 2nd 5K at MP (8:48/mi). Surely I could plod along at my old MP for 3 miles.

I more or less held my own on mile 4, running an 8:46, but got passed by a guy pushing a 3 wheeled stroller early on mile 5. That really took the wind out of my sails. I also got passed by a guy my age and a couple of women I recognized from the start of the race at the same time. I immediately sped up to hang with them, but got dropped off the back of the pack within 5 minutes. All I could do was watch them slowly pull away from me. Mile 5 -- 8:51.

Mile 6. What can I say about mile 6. I questioned my sanity, my love of running, my purpose in the cosmos, and just about everything else; and I was alone. Most of the racers this morning evidently ran the 5K, because there was no one behind me and only the small cluster of runners from mile 5 in front of me. I had the distinct feeling that I was going to finish LAST. Yes, I know someone has to be last in every race and this morning, it really felt like it was my turn. The MI 6 marker came and went: 9:06. Yes folks, I couldn't hold a sub 9/mi mile. This was not for lack of trying. I just didn't have anything in the tank.

Official Time: 53:48
Official Overall Place: 84/161
Official Gender Place: 62/99

I'm not looking for any sympathy and I have no excuses; but this was my slowest 10K ever and only the second 10K over 50 min. The last time I ran a 50+ 10K was November 2002 when I finished my first ever 10K in 50:40.

I need to put this race behind me and get back to my base training. My next 10K is scheduled for November. I've got 8 weeks to pull myself together and get with the program. I can do it.

I thought I'd finish on a positive note and leave you with a few pictures from this morning:

The Start Line at 6:30 AM

This woman passed me on my warm up. We were running due west as the sun was rising and the long shadow of pony tail swinging behind her as she approached me was rather ominous.

Yours truly with plenty of attitude before the race.

Most of the course looks like this. Soft dirt, short brush, plenty of blue sky.

The 4 mile marker with Piestewa Peak in the background.

Take care


david said...

Looks to me like you are back on track....After the year you have had, you should feel good about today's race...Keep up the good work!

DawnB said...

Phil here's something to make you laugh, when I have a low # like I did for the norwalk series #4 its because I was the first to register!!

you did good today.

Thomas said...

Carrying around all that extra weight is bound to slow you down - and the lack of paint on the single-digit bib won't make up for it (still very cool though!)

Gotta Run said...

Phil - YOU CAN DO THIS!! I love how you are honest in your post in what you felt along the way. So many times people leave the "real guts" of it out.

The course looks nice. You know how I love the dirt :)

Deene said...

so what's the opposite of PR? pw?
but it looks like an ideal course.

Ann Ewbank said...

Hi Phil,

My former coach once told me that the measure of a race isn't comparing your past self to your current self, but rather your effort on that given day. Did you do the best you possibly could yesterday? Then the race was a success!

I always remember that so I don't fall into negative thinking (although it is nice to see improvement over a time period).

angie's pink fuzzy said...

yay for racing, even if the results aren't exactly what's desired! and the pics are cool; looks like a really pretty place to run.

Ewen said...

Looks like a lovely morning Phil, although 26C is getting a little warm for a 10k.

Deciding to do the 10k was a big call, but it probably tells a better story about your current form than you would have got from the 5k. With some concerted work I'm sure you can turn back the clock to 2006.

J~Mom said...

Sorry the day didn't turn out better for you Phil. I know that feeling all too well. BUT at least be happy that you got up and out and did it, right?

jeanne said...

i think 10ks are just a HARD distance. i'd still kill for a time like yours though! it's all a matter of perspective, right?

I need to drop 10 pounds at least. i think i gained 8 this weekend. :)

I'm giving you an A+ for leaving it all out there!