Saturday, March 22, 2008

Crescent City Classic 10K, New Orleans, LA

10K, officially 39:40, 6:24 pace, Max HR = 183, Avg HR = 171

This represents a new PR for me! I'm not surprised at the PR because I haven't run many 10Ks over the past year. The only recent entries were my Bayou City Classic collapse and the Mardi Gras Mambo in Baton Rouge, which I ran conservatively because I was injured. But I am somewhat surprised that I slid in under my goal time of 40:00. I took the last week almost completely off due to motivation issues, coupled by a slightly larger than normal work load. During the week I put on five pounds by overeating and eating bad food. I wasn't in top race shape.

But I can't say this with enough emphasis -- I was in top mental shape for this race. So much of running is mental; more than we care to admit. If you take the average non-runner off of the street I'd be willing to bet that they could run a 8:00 mile if the were offered $1 Million. Our bodies are capable of so much more than our brain will allow us to consider. Running helps me to understand that, and consequently push myself to new limits.

I've spent the entire year trying to win a poster at the Crescent City Classic by finishing in the top 500. Last year I ran a 53:03, and this year I wanted to run more than two minutes per mile faster. Every time I took a day off or had a really great day training I pondered how it would affect my CCC10K time. So I was mentally prepared for this race more so than any other I've ever run.

I decided on a strategy of starting out fast and holding on. Since my fitness level is down slightly, I knew my goal of 40 minutes would be more about will than fitness. So I wanted to get out early and put myself in a position of willing myself to hold on. Because the race starts out around tall buildings downtown, the garmin didn't provide accurate split information. But I did hit the lap button at the 3M, 5K, 4M, and 5M point to get accurate splits there.

Mile 1 cumulative time - 6:04?
I think my first mile was about 6:04 according to the official clock (which would be a few seconds slower than my chip time.) I saw a child (perhaps 8 years old) at the starting line, and I was worried I'd trip over him at the start. Too many times slower people get at the front of a race line, and cause accidents and near-misses with faster runners. Children tend to get underfoot easily, so I was a little perturbed that he would be so close to the start (notice the foreshadowing).

That first mile was easy. I felt great and I didn't have to weave too much. The adrenaline was rushing through my body, picking up my heart rate to 97 BPM before the starting gun. By the end of the first quarter mile it was up to 160. Through the crowd I could see a guy dressed in a bunny outfit running with the lead pack. Wow . . .I wonder how long he held on at the 4:30 pace run by the top finishers. With my first mile behind me I prepared to turn onto Rampart and run along the north side of the french quarter.

Mile 2 cumulative time - 12:22?
Rampart had a few potholes and I had to watch my step. I also met the only other external challenge of the race here -- a very small head wind. Nothing would impede my goal, other than the internal forces that ask you to slow down. A few people started to pass me during this stretch, and I was aware of slowing down a bit. But I wanted a fast start and I was ok with settling down into a rhythm afterwards. Unfortunately my watch was already skewed to the point that it was useless in determining my overall pace, and thus help me to gauge my chances of finishing under 40 minutes. I wouldn't know how close I was until I could see the clock at the final kick, because I don't trust my math when I see an official split while running.

Mile 3 cumulative time - 18:40, 5k cumulative time - 19:23
I'm thinking I'm ahead of schedule at this point, although I'm not quite sure until I hit the 5k time and double it (that math I can do.) I'm only five or six seconds off of a 5K PR, so I know I'll never be able to hold this pace. This mile makes the left turn onto Esplanade where most of the spectators are. I pass my favorite group of spectators -- the guys (slightly younger than me) dressed in high school band uniforms handing out free beer, but charging $4.75 for water. The water is a joke (they probably don't have any at all), but the beer really is free. I pass this year since I'm on a mission, but I reflect back to last year's race where I grabbed a cup, and also to the White Rock marathon where I sampled some free beer as well. Just before the end of mile 3 I see Dave's cousin (Chris) and his wife. I wave, but they don't recognize me. They don't know me very well, and I look a lot different when I'm running. Under the I-10 overpass is a brass band entertaining the runners. It's a nice sound, although it would be better if there were more bands along the route as there were in prior years. I start to get wary at the three mile marker because I know it's only half way over. No matter how long the race, I can always run one more mile, and the one just before the last mile is always the hardest for me. So at the end of three, I'm thinking I could gut out one more mile, and then have my finishing mile. But that only puts me to mile five. I still have 1.2 after that. So I try to relax and forget about how far I have to go. It's during this mile that the (eight year old?) kid from earlier passes me. I smile to myself and think how elitist my earlier thinking was about how he didn't deserve to be at the front of the starting line. I consider drafting off of him (figuratively, since he's half my size), but I decide to let him go but keep him within sight so I don't blow my chance to have a strong kick at the end.

Mile 4 cumulative time - 25:19
All of this mile is along Esplanade. I can see city park ahead, and I'm thinking (incorrectly) that once I'm in the park I only have one more mile to go. In reality it's two, but I'll end up confronting that issue later. This mile contains another famous "freebie" . . . the Devil Dog. Runners can get Devil Dog hot dogs. There are several clever signs, but my favorite is the one promising that their dogs are 99% rectum free. I'm really tiring at this point, but nobody is really passing me any more. I know my pace is slipping, and with that goes my chance at a sub-40 time. But I'm determined to kick it home when that time comes, even though I don't know if it will be too late by then.

Mile 5 cumulative time - 31:55
Now that I've finished mile four, I can use my old trick of "one more hard mile" and then the last mile after that. I'm a little behind my 31:26 Park to Park 5M Race, although I don't remember that at the time and probably wouldn't have cared anyway. The bridge over Bayou St. John provides the only "climb" of the course (about 5 feet high, if that), and I joke to myself that I'm glad I've been doing hill workouts. During this mile I dog-leg off of Esplanade onto Carrollton and then City Park Avenue. I'm running along the park now, and I realize I'll be doing that for a couple more miles instead of just one like I previously thought. One year I walked/ran the CCC10K and this was a brutal stretch of heat. This year it's very pleasant. I can remember having to weave in and out of the crowd last year, using the sidewalk and curb to make passes. Closer to the front there isn't as much competition for space so passing is easier. And that's what I'm starting to do during this mile. I'm sure some people passed me, but I don't remember any from the time I hit City Park Ave at about mile 4.5. All of my work to date was to put me into this position. The last two miles wouldn't be easy, but I was thinking it could be done if I wanted to do it. In reality I still had no idea where I stood regarding my potential overall time, but I ignored that fact and pushed onward.

10K Official finishing time -- 39:40
I have 1.2 more miles to go. It's easy to think of a 10K race as 6 miles since it's twice the distance of a 5K. A 5K is 3.1 miles, but you kind of forget about that extra tenth. That tenth becomes two tenths in a 10K, so the last "mile" is really 1.2. It's during this stretch that that they call out your unofficial place (mine was about 135 if I remember correctly) meaning that I'd easily finish in the top 500. But my goal was 40:00, and when I passed the "one mile to go" sign I knew it would come down to a contest between my will and the course. I'm passing a lot of people now, which is quite rewarding but very secondary to my goal time. There are some curves along this road inside of city park, and I'm trying to run the tangents to shave a couple of seconds. Panic hits me that I didn't know how I would feel about finishing a second or two outside of my goal. I also start thinking that I want a gun time of 40:00 or less, meaning that I'll have to overcome the second or two after the start that it took for me to cross the starting line. The chip time is what I consider "official" and that takes away the effect of taking time to cross the starting line, but in reality all races are won based on gun time. I run down Lelong Drive and passed a couple of guys and a girl. Without noticing it, I see the 8 year old kid again. He's probably too far away for me to catch in the short amount of time left, so I'm not worrying about him. I take the half circle of Collins Diboll Circle and it's a straight shot to the finish line. Since there are so many beautiful oak trees lining the course at this point, I can't see the finish line but my watch tells me that it's about to turn midnight on my goal to break 40. I pick up the pace, but I don't know how much longer I have to go . . . until I see the finish photo line . . 150 (or so) yards from the finish line. This line always fools people because they think its over, only to cross and notice that they still have a tenth of a mile to run. I can see the clock and I panic at how close it is to 40 minutes. I ran that stretch at full speed, watching each second tick off toward my goal. I think I passed a couple more people but I'm mostly blind except for that clock. It took about three seconds for me to realize that I'd make it. That made me run harder. I crossed the finish line elated.

In my next post I'll give some more thoughts on the CCC10K, and give an account of my roller coaster ride regarding whether the organization would accept my time (and award me with a poster) or if they lost it through errors.

1 comment:

Gaslight ;-) said...

Congrats- outstanding time! I managed a decent race there as well but would hae benefitted from knowing the course better.