Sunday, September 6, 2009

10K Fun

There was no good training reason to be getting up stupid-early this morning for a 10K. With Berlin two weeks away shouldn’t I be, I don’t know, not racing? But racing is what makes all this fun, so there I was, asking myself, “Already?” when the radio came on at 5:15, Liane Hansen talking to union guy Richard Trumka.

Run Portland Run was set for 7; I needed to be on Max at 6:09 for the ride downtown; thus, my out-the-door goal was 6. Coffee, some white rice I'd cooked the night before (sweetened with a little maple syrup), a couple of visits to the bathroom, a last check through my stuff and off I went, into the dark, into the rain and wind.

* * *

The skies were only spitting as I waited for the train but by the time I got off, a block from the race start/finish, it was a steady shower. First year for this race so the crowd was not huge, maybe 500 people divided among half marathon, 10k and 5k. (Turned out there were 456 finishers: 240 HM, 123 10K and 93 5K.) Most everyone was huddled under tents. I huddled, too, then when the rain let up a little decided I'd better warm up. It was about 25 ‘til 7. I took off my extra clothes and checked them and donned the trash bag that I had punched holes in the night before and brought along just in case.

I ran up closed-off Naito Parkway along the Willamette River. Under the Morrison Bridge on-ramp there was a good 25 yards under cover, perfect for some back-and-forth surges and other undefined loosening activities. Most excellent. Decently warmed up I made my way back to the start/finish area about 6:50, not sure exactly when the 10K would launch. It was really raining now. While I was making the second of what would be four, I think, visits to the toilet in the 45 minutes before the race they said the half marathon would go at 7 and the 10K 10 minutes later. So by 7 I was back under the tents with the 10K and 5K runners while the half marathon people gathered at the start, on the street. It pretty much stopped raining then, which was a good thing for the half marathoners, as the start was delayed 10 minutes "so the volunteers could get into place." I warmed up a little more, the half marathon people took off, we 10K types congregated, it was showering again, and then we were off.

Of course there were slow people who had placed themselves at the very front. Why, my fine running compatriots, why? I quickly made my way past those folks as two guys went way out front, followed several yards back by a group of three or four people, then a lone woman, then me. Nothing was hurting, legs felt fresh. The only thing bothering me was that my socks were soaked and I was running squishy. It made me feel awkward, almost slow, but I grew accustomed to it. Oh, I was wearing my Asics racing shoes. They provide a lot less cushion than the Gel-Cumulus but feel light and fast. I'll probably wear them for Berlin.

* * *

It was just some good comfortable hard running over the first flat, straight mile. When I'd looked at my Garmin about a half-mile into the race it said I was running a pace around 6:11, and I hit the Mile 1 sign at 6:13. My Garmin and the official signs were precisely aligned, too (at that point and at every mile marker, it turned out). We then made a small loop back around to begin heading onto the Broadway Bridge to cross the Willamette. A little climb into the strong, spitting wind. I realized then that most of the first mile, northbound, was run with a big southerly breeze at our backs and I started to worry about the wind we'd face on the return portion of this out-and-back. Of course, it's a strange sort of thing to worry about something like that in a race. It pops into your head and really doesn't stay for long, but it makes an impression; you sort of feel like it's ready to come back into full consciousness at any moment.

Onward over the bridge. I'd passed a bunch of laggard half marathoners and the 10K chick who had been in front of me, a shapely, somewhat short girl in black tights with a very compact, consistent stride. She then passed me as we hit the most substantial incline on the bridge and I was going to say something to her, something small and not too clever but not stupid about the bridge, or the wind, or the rain, but she was doing the iPod thing so I didn't. I passed her once more on the decline and that was that, never saw her again.

The Mile 2 marker seemed to come quickly, but it was a 6:46 split (putting me at 12:59 overall). A litle slow but the bridge climb and some other ups and downs ... that's OK, still good, I thought. I just kept cruising, feeling like I maybe could have been pushing just a little more but thinking—there it was, coming back to mind—about the return-direction wind and how I'd want to make sure I was strong for that. But it turned out I ran a solid third mile, 6:35 (19:33 overall), and just after rounding the turnaround I looked at my Garmin and saw 20:19. Well, I won't break 40 minutes, I thought, but maybe if I stay strong I can beat 41.

One thing that was really weird at this point was that I was running alone. There were some slow folks and walkers still coming from the other direction, but the two really fast 10K runners were way out in front, out of sight, and the other small group (two or three) of 10K runners in front of me was barely in view. I took a brief moment to consider the scenery as I passed the Mile 4 marker (6:36; 26:09 overall): industrial, lots of on-ramps and off-ramps to the nearby I-5 and 405 and the gigantic Fremont Bridge and smaller Broadway.

* * *

The Broadway was the one we came over and the one we'd go back over. It was a gentler climb up this eastern side and a steeper decline back down onto the west side of the river, which I tried to take advantage of with some longer and faster striding.

Not soon after coming off the bridge came the Mile 5 marker: 6:35 (32:43 overall), which seemed to be my midrace sweetspot, with miles 3, 4 and 5 in 6:35, 6:36 and 6:35.

OK, only 1.2 to go. I told myself: Push a bit. I wish there had been someone to chase, or someone bearing down on me. Still, I was able to crank up the effort a little. I didn't take it to the absolute red line, but brought it close, I think. It felt good. The effort was stressing the whole system, that whole crazy mysterious human machine, but everything was holding together.

We were going mostly into the wind, which gusted at times and made the barely spritzing rain seem more intense, but there was a stretch between some buildings during the sixth mile where the wind got turned around. Ah, yes, I said: I remember going into the wind on this short stretch as we headed out. But that didn't last long and the course emerged back onto Naito Parkway along the river fully exposed to the southerly gale. Pushing, I hit Mile 6 with a 6:18 split and a total time of 39:01. I was wishing the course wasn't so accurately marked and that the finish might come in one-tenth rather than two and I'd slip in under 40 minutes. No such luck. I gave it almost everything I had in that final straight. Almost, I say, since to give it all would mean, I don't know, that I'd be dead right now, or hospitalized, or at least resting comfortably on the couch with a little piece of tape covering the spot where the post-race IV had piped magic stuff into my veins.

There were timing mats in front of the start/finish archway itself, and behind it. I stopped my clock at that archway, looked down at the time, felt a nice wave of satisfaction, then, quite spent just then, walked carefully to the three volunteers sitting and clipping timing chips off finished racers. By the time I walked another 20 or 30 yards to the staging area to pick up my clothes bag I felt pretty well recovered. That surprised me, how quickly I stopped breathing hard. I grabbed a half of a bagel and a cup of water and strolled the block to the Max station. The train arrived a few minutes later and once on, I changed out of my wet shirt into a dry one, then relaxed and reviewed my splits on the Garmin during the 15 minute ride to the NE 60th Ave Station.

* * *

My official time was 40:17, a second faster than what I had myself at on the Garmin, which measured the course to be 6.22 miles. That’s a PR by 44 seconds, a nice drop of seven seconds per mile. What I liked even better—and I didn’t realize this until just now—was that I actually ran the second half of the race (19:59) faster than the first (20:18 I'm calling it, since I looked down at the time just after the turnaround). And to think: My first sub-20 5K was in August 2008—and now I ran the second half of a 10K under 20. That tells me my fitness is very much improved.

So whether it helped or hurt for Berlin—and given that I feel great right now, I can't see how it hurt—I had a blast running a good 10K course pretty damn hard. Even in the rain. I'd really like to point to one of these 10Ks, make it a focus race, train specifically for it physically and get in a mindset to try to kill it. If I did that, I have no doubt I'd get under 40 minutes.

Want data?
Official results.
My Garmin.


  1. Ha! Sixth overall. That was a very fine run, my friend. I don't think there's any doubt you'd knock down 40:00.

  2. Thanks! Now it's time to think about more moderate 10Ks: 45-minute 10Ks, back-to-back-back-to-back — plus another 1.4 miles (just to make sure we've had enough).