Saturday, November 28, 2009

Silicon Valley Turkey Trot 10K

Probably 10 million guys have run 10 kilometers in less than 40 minutes. Who knows? Maybe it's 20 million if you count the barefooted tribesmen who chased down udus and gerenuks in millennia of yore. My point being this is not considered exceptional beyond the bounds of my own ego. Alas, this blog represents the (indecent) public exposure of said ego. Those given to easy blushing are invited to click away.

You can find a 10K result for me on the Internet from 1999. The time: 46:21. I was a hard-core mountain biker then. I didn't run much, but I was very fit and also was 36 years old. On Thanksgiving Day this year I was five days shy of 47. I've been running a lot lately. If there were close observers—and on this count, at least, I suppose I'll be thankful there are not—they might say it's practically all I do. And so I found myself lining up with 11,000 other people in a bright sun—at its low angle managing to warm the morning chill—for the Applied Materials Silicon Valley Turkey Trot in San Jose. Mostly the multitudes were there to run the 5K. Actually, mostly they were there to make a preemptive strike against Thanksgiving-gorging guilt. Some 3,000 were doing the 10K.

One could argue I should not have been among them. The California International Marathon was just 10 days off. A 10K might fit into the taper as a tempo run, I suppose. Or maybe (though not likely) a VO2 workout, depending on how one approaches it. But my approach, inevitably, wouldn't fit either category of workout. I'd be racing it. I never for a second imagined anything else. Most coaches would have advised against it, but I did a hard 10K two weeks before Berlin and that worked out OK. More importantly, I was in San Jose, there was an attractive race there, so.... It's like 2+2=4.

Great sleep the night before, easy 15-minute drive downtown from my parents', where everyone was still asleep when I left at 6:45. Parking 200 yards from the start/finish. No lines at the porta-potties. This was looking good. When it came time to race, feeling bold and no longer a sucker, I positioned myself near the front. So often I've spent the first several hundred yards of races fighting past much slower runners. Finally I was going to avoid that. To the fore! There were some skinny dudes around me who were clearly ready to run 15s or 16s in the 5K, along with a few scattered tubbies who either didn't hear or didn't care about the frequent admonishments from the race announcer (bless him) to seed yourself according to your ability, but mostly I seemed to be among my people.

And we were off.

Well it wasn't really that exciting, this little 10 kilometer circle around San Jose's downtown, starting and ending in front of the HP Pavilion, aka The Shark Tank. Noteworthy, I suppose, is that as I hit the Mile 1 sign my Garmin showed 6:06, which is actually faster than what I ran my first mile in when I got my 5K PR. Unsustainable but not ludicrous, I thought. Maybe time in the bank? Time in the bank doesn't work. You'll die later. But maybe not. Who knows?

No more mile splits from there. My Garmin was marking laps at kilometers, and I looked down as each beep sounded to see which side of four minutes I had landed on. Here's how it all went:


There was a little drama just past the halfway point, when I was working really hard to relax—if that makes sense—and slow down while maintaining my speed (if that makes sense). We were on a wide boulevard and the runners were scattered about, no clusters at all, and some fellow masters runner couldn't find his way past me without brushing me and then getting right in front of me, forcing me to move to my left. I said something like, "Dude, it's a wide street." He didn't say anything or even look back, but when I passed him with a half mile to go he said, "Good job," and when he passed me with a tenth of a mile to go I said, "Strong."

I was pretty strong down the stretch, too. Relatively speaking, of course. I made that clear at the beginning of this entry, right? That running 10K under 40 minutes isn't a big deal? I ran 39:13, 1:04 better than my previous best at the distance, 7:08 faster than in 1999. From here I suspect any further improvements will be measured in much smaller increments, if they happen at all, but I'm sure I'll keep trying.

Finish: 39:13
Pace: 6:19
Overall: 43/3,238
Men: 42/1,679
M45-49: 6/197