Sunday, March 24, 2013

Ontario Mills 10K

Me, with the Nigerian Nightmare Christian Okoye
Originally posted on 1/20/13

I'm definitely not a "morning person," so getting up at 4:15 to run a race isn't my idea of a great time.  But since the start time for the Ontario Mills 10K was 7:00, and the venue is 45 minutes from my house, and also since I wanted to have time for my breakfast (a banana and some Oikos Raspberry Yogurt) to run its course, I was up and out of bed well before sunrise.  This was a good thing, though, because according to all the advice and articles I've come across so far in my training, you want your body to be up to speed when the starting gun sounds.

Theresa and I arrived at Ontario Mills (a large outlet mall) at about 6:15, giving me time to warm up a little bit, down a mandarin orange GU Energy Gel, and even get my picture taken with the event host, former Kansas City Chiefs running back Christian Okoye.

Then it was race time.

I've heard from several experienced runners that race day excitement and adrenaline can potentially help trim as much as 30 seconds to a full minute per mile off of your normal training times.  This can actually be a problem in longer races like marathons because if you burn too much energy too soon, you're likely to "bonk" or "hit the wall" in the final stages.  That's something I'll have to keep an eye on down the road, but for a shorter event like a 10K (6.2 miles), I didn't think it would be a problem.  So my strategy was to run hard (not sprint, but go a little above my training pace) for the first half of the race, and then turn it on in the second half alternating full sprints with a slower pace when I needed to back off a little bit.

It worked.

Crossing the finish line.
Keeping track of my pace with my Garmin Forerunner watch, I saw that I was right around eight minutes per mile for the first two miles.  This was significantly faster than even my "pushing it" training pace, which is usually between 9:20 and 9:40.  Thing is, it didn't feel like I was working much harder than usual.  I think the adrenaline, along with the fact that when there are other runners around you the instinct is to keep up with the flow, helped me maintain a quicker speed for a longer time.

At the halfway point, my total time was right around 25 minutes, which was well under my previous best for a 5K.  It looked like a PR for the 10K was well within my reach.  During the second half of the race, I kept with my strategy and stepped up the pace periodically.  I passed several runners, and still felt fresh . . . no fatigue in my legs, I wasn't out of breath.  It looked good.

With about half a mile to go, I got passed by a 14-year old kid who didn't even look like he was trying.  I think he was texting someone as he flew by me.  I was tempted to crank it up an pass him in return, but then I thought better of it.  He'd probably catch me again anyway, so I decided to cut my losses.

Wearing the finisher's medal with pride.
I crossed the finish line, and the time clock read "51:10."  I'd set a new personal record by a margin of almost five minutes.  Looks like the "race day adrenaline" theory is alive and well.  That time was good for 58th place overall (in a field of over 200), and 7th place in my age group. 

I am also very grateful to my wife Theresa and to my mom for being there at the finish line.  Having the support of my family makes the training runs easier, and it's great to be able to share in the excitement with them.  Plus, Mom treated us to breakfast after the race and who am I to say no to a free meal.

So now it's back to the training runs to get ready for the next event on my schedule, the San Diego Half Marathon.  At 13.1 miles, this race will be more of an endurance test than a speed test.  I've gone well beyond this distance in my training, so I know I can do it, but strategy, nutrition, and hydration will play a much greater role this time.

Man, this is fun.

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