I hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving! I took an unintentional blog vacation while at my parents’ house for the holiday because I have no idea where they keep the password for their wireless network. But now I’m back and I’ve brought a race report with me!
This is the third year in a row that I’ve run the YMCA Bethesda-Chevy Chase Turkey Chase (which I know is a really long name for a race but I didn’t want to say ‘Turkey Chase’ because that’s what every Thanksgiving-time race is called). I like this race because it’s a fun way to get a workout in on Thanksgiving, and because it comes after the Philadelphia marathon so I’m in pretty good shape for it. This year I decided I wanted to PR. I don’t keep track of my times all that closely–I usually have a general idea of what my best time in a given distance is, but sometimes I forget, and most of the time I end up looking up my race history on Athlinks, which is an incredibly useful site if you’re like me. So Wednesday afternoon I looked up my best 10k time: 54:21 at the 2010 Scotland Run 10k, which was in early April. Because Athlinks tells you your average pace in addition to your time, I knew what sort of pace I would have to run in order to PR at the Turkey Chase. I was a little bit nervous about it because I didn’t work all that much on speed while I was training for the marathon, but I figured maintaining a pace below 8:44/mile would be possible, even if it was difficult.
I slept terribly Wednesday night but still managed to get out of bed bright and early Thursday morning. It had been raining, I guess, because the streets were wet and it drizzled off and on while I was on my way to the race. I had wanted my fiancé to come with me, but after three unsuccessful attempts to get him out of bed, I decided to give up and headed out by myself. I was kind of worried about finding a parking space, but I ended up not having much of a problem. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to pick up my packet, take the packet back to my car, and then get back to the start without being late. I have to say, this is a race where I really wish I could pick up my race packet ahead of time. Since I don’t live in the area, though, I always have to pick it up the morning of the race. I’ve always found that the area where they set everything up is sort of difficult to navigate. Check-in was in the same place it had been the past two years, but I’m pretty sure that if I hadn’t run this race before, I could have wandered around for a while trying to find it. There aren’t any directional signs, and the tents themselves aren’t marked with any signs you can see from far away. You don’t really know what a tent is for until you’re there.
I didn’t have any trouble getting my bib, shirt, and race packet, but safety pins seemed to be a rare commodity and I only ended up finding two. Generally I prefer to pin all four corners of my bib, but this would have to do. I also generally bring my own pins just in case I run into situations like this, but that morning I forgot. After picking my stuff up, I thought about putting my packet and shirt in bag check. I must have wandered around for ten minutes trying to figure out where it was. I finally found a small map of the area that indicated where things were, and made my way over to the tennis courts where bag check was located. It wasn’t until that point that it occurred to me to check the contents of my packet to see if there was anything in it that I even wanted. Last year the race packets were contained in a small re-usable Whole Foods bag, but this year we just got plain old plastic bags. And they were just full of paper–advertisements and maybe a coupon or two for a place where I didn’t shop. The bag didn’t really contain anything I wanted so I ended up tying the shirt around my waist and just throwing the bag away so that I didn’t have to deal with checking it and retrieving it later. To be honest, I now feel pretty guilty about that; I should have recycled the bag and all the paper that was in it. Also, I kind of wish there hadn’t been so much paper in it to begin with. But I digress.
The race started at 8:30, by which time it had stopped raining even though the roads were pretty slick. I headed out at a pretty good pace, and managed to hold it in spite of the numerous hills. Even though I’ve run this course three times now, I always forget how extremely hilly it is. By the end of the second mile, I was beginning to really doubt my ability to hold onto my pace. The second mile had been hillier than the first and I knew that miles 3 and 4 were almost a continuous uphill. I tried to push on but I lapsed a little bit. My third mile was my slowest by far.
After that dud mile, things did not get easier by any means. There was no second wind, just a lot of effort on my part to be my own cheerleader and forge ahead. I really didn’t want to give up my PR goal, but I also didn’t want to push myself harder than I was capable of being pushed. I realized that I really need to start doing more speed work in order to get more familiar with what sort of paces my body is able to handle. This race kind of made me feel like I was flying blind. I got back on track with a pace of 8:39 or so for my fourth mile, but I had no idea if I’d be able to hold that for another 2.2.
I kept pushing hard but over the next 2.2 miles I felt like I was really losing speed. Oddly enough, though, my pace didn’t really change at all! When I looked down at my watch at mile 5, I was astonished to see that I was still running an 8:39. I felt so sluggish and tired at that point that I wondered if it was a mistake. As I approached mile 6 I started thinking about stopping and walking. I realized that there wasn’t going to be anyone at the finish line cheering for me, and for a moment I wondered what the point of a PR was if no one was there to see it. I knew at that point that I could beat my previous time, I just wasn’t sure if I could keep it together enough to actually do it. A big part of me just wanted to give up. I’ve done a lot of races alone, but it occurred to me while I was struggling through the tail end of this one that knowing that there’s no one cheering for you at the finish line never really gets any easier.
I managed to rally somehow and talk myself out of walking or giving up. I reminded myself that earlier in the week I had finished a marathon! Surely I was running faster this time, and I was probably still tired from the marathon, and I hadn’t slept well, but I could still finish 6.2 miles, especially after already coming so far! At mile 6 I was surprised again to see that my pace was still 8:39. The finish line was ahead so I threw everything I had into the last bit of the race. I crossed the finish line in 53:54 (watch time is 53:51). I was out of breath, but really happy that I’d managed to accomplish my goal!
After removing my timing chip from my shoelaces, I made my way through the crowd to get to the food and water tent (again pretty difficult to find) to grab something to drink. They had bottles of Powerade and I took one in addition to a bottle of water. I know that the two are probably not significantly different but I really prefer Gatorade. The Powerade I got was fruit punch, but it tasted more like cranberry juice than anything else. Oh well, it was hydrating and that was pretty much all I wanted.
So a race day success! Overall it was a good time, and I’m really pleased with how I did. I’m excited about the fact that I’m not longer constrained by a marathon training plan, and that I can now work a little bit more on things like my speed. Hopefully my next race will be another PR!