2017 Monument Avenue 10k Race Report
93/954 (AG) 817/21,953 (Overall)
April 1, 2017 – My first race of the new season is the Monument Avenue 10k, which I’d only done twice before. In 2007 my goal was to go sub-50:00 and I finished in 47:10 after my ability to go sub-50:00 had been questioned (by my well-intentioned neighbor). In 2014 I raced with an injured left IT band after a month-long layoff and was only able to manage a disappointing 48:58. I’d been training all winter with Karen and Erin since the conclusion of my 2016 season, with my only real downtime being the week that I’d spent in Haiti in December. There were a lot of cold, dark mornings where I’d have rather been in bed instead of running outside, but I was determined to get faster before the spring racing season started.
The Monument Avenue 10k was one of the “A” races on my calendar, so my coaches gave me a full taper for it. Karen thought that I might be able to run 7 minute miles, but she had never before trained me for a stand alone 5k or 10k – so I thought she was a bit optimistic. My personal best in a 5k had been at the 2015 Turkey Day 5k in Martinsville, which is a hilly course. I’d run that race at an average pace of 7:13 minutes/mile, so that was my best recent result to use to extrapolate my 10k pacing. There was no point in using my time from the 10k in 2014 since I’d been injured. Ultimately, we (mostly I) decided on shooting for a sub-46:00 race, so I’d need to run 7:24 minutes/mile or better to get it done. I figured that was doable, and would lead to a PR of at least 1:10 if I was successful.
Over the course of my 2016 season I had learned to trust Karen’s pacing strategy. There was some mild disobedience early on where I went out too fast on the run, and that had been counterproductive in every instance. Thus, I was fully committed to doing exactly as she said for the 10k. I was told to run the first three miles at a 7:30 pace, and then to negative split the last 3.2 miles as much as possible. In 2007 and 2014 I’d gone out too hard in the first 5k and then really struggled coming back in.
From a health standpoint, I was injury-free for the first time in about a year. I’d fought metatarsalgia and piriformis for all of 2016, and the metatarsalgia had been controlled with orthopedic inserts in my shoes. I tried a couple of rounds of physical therapy for the piriformis, but it never fully went away. Over the winter I’d started having deep tissue work done once a month at Karen’s suggestion, which was a fairly painful process. That being said, after four or five sessions, the piriformis pain had finally began to abate. So, come race day I was healthy, rested and ready to see if I was faster at 38 than I had been at 28.
My only problem heading into the race is that one of the ear buds for my IPod broke about five minutes before my start time. It still worked, but was hanging by the wire. I managed to get it back in my ear and hoped that it wouldn’t fall out as I ran. Then, it was into the corral with Wave C as we moved forward to the starting line.
Mile 1 (7:29)
Based upon my expected finishing time, I probably should have been seeded in Wave B. Nevertheless, most of the folks in the Wave C corral ran past me in the first mile. I resisted the urge to go with them, and in the past, I’d made the mistake of going too hard in Mile 1. There was a fair amount of congestion, but after we took a right onto Monument Avenue I hugged the left side of the road and it wasn’t too bad. I knew from experience that I’d end up running a tad over 6.2 miles, and thus, I would need to run an actual pace that was a shade faster than 7:24 minutes/mile in order to have an official time below 46 minutes. As expected, my GPS read 1 mile just before I got to the Mile 1 sign, and I’d probably run a little extra distance bobbing and weaving around the other runners. I ran the first mile in 7:29, which was right on Karen’s plan of 7:30’s for the first three miles. The heart rate was climbing, but I was feeling good.
Mile 2 (7:29)
The second mile of a 10k for me seems to take forever, and this time was no different. You’re beginning to get far enough into the race to start feeling the burn, but you’re not even halfway home. I continued to have Wave C folks run past me, but I didn’t let that discourage me or get me off my pacing strategy. I knew that at least a few of them would get passed on the backside. I stuck to the plan with another 7:29 mile.
Mile 3 (7:27)
By the start of Mile 3 my heart rate had headed north of 180 but I was still feeling pretty good. Its hard to tell, but the “out” portion of the race is a slight upgrade and there was a light wind blowing out of the west, which wasn’t helping. Thankfully, I’d found a lot more daylight as the race progressed, so there was less bobbing and weaving going on. Fatigue was creeping in, but I still felt better than in years past. Once again, I came in very close to my 7:30 minutes/mile goal with a third mile of 7:27. Given the extra distance that I knew I’d be running, I was really right on pace.
Mile 4 (7:19)
The turnaround cone was a welcome sight and I hit the 5k mat in a time of 23:26 for an official pace of 7:32 minutes/mile. That meant that I needed to run the final 5k in 22:33 or less to go sub-46:00 minutes. I’d signed Karen up for text message alerts so she could track my progress on her phone, and I imagined that she was pleased when she saw my 5k split. I was behaving myself this time.
After turning around to head back east I picked up the pace a bit. I was tired, but I still felt like I had a decent amount left in the tank. I was conscious about overdoing it though, so I didn’t speed up too much, not wanting to bonk in the final mile. By the end of Mile 4 I was hurting, but still OK.
Mile 5 (7:18)
Mile 5 of a 10k is kind of like Mile 2 for me. It hurts, but the end is still a ways off. On the upside, I was gradually moving up through the field and was passing people who had run past me in miles 1 and 2. As much as my lungs and legs were burning, it felt pretty good to pick people off one by one, and that became a lot of my motivation.
Mile 6 (7:12)
The last full mile of a 10k hurts so good. My legs and lungs were on fire, but I knew that the end was near so I was able to pick up the pace even more. I passed a lot of people in Mile 6 and it was clear that many people had gone out too fast. I’d done that in both of my prior 10ks, so I was familiar with that feeling of just hanging on.
I looked to me like my sub-46:00 goal was in reach, and by the end of Mile 6 my average pace was reading 7:22/mile on my GPS. That was two seconds below my goal pace, but I knew that my official pace was slower since my GPS was tripping every mile before I was getting to the official mile markers. I needed a time buffer for sure, but I wasn’t sure exactly how much. I knew that it was going to be close.
Mile 6-6.26 (6:15 minutes/mile pace)
You hit that 6 mile marker and you think its over, but that last 2/10ths of a mile seems to go on forever. I began my final kick as soon as I passed the 6 mile marker and kept glancing at my watch as it ticked ever closer to 46 minutes. I could see the finish line up ahead and put everything I had left into the end of the race. As I crossed the timing mat I stopped my GPS and saw that it was reading 45:51 – 9 seconds to spare. I promptly collapsed on a nearby retaining wall to catch my breath, but was then chastised about moving through the finishing chute by a volunteer.
After cooling down a bit, I found a couple of work colleagues and chatted about our races for awhile. I took advantage of the free Chapstick and Whitehouse rolls, and then made my way back to my office where my car was parked. The finishing area was getting pretty full by that point, so it was a good time to bail.
Overall, I was very pleased with my race and I’d executed Karen’s pacing plan pretty much spot on. I PR’d by 1 minute and 19 seconds over my 2007 time, and I beat my 2014 time by more than 3 minutes. All of those cold and dark runs over the winter months had paid off, and I was running faster at age 38 than ever before.
As much as the race had hurt, part of me wondered if I could have gone faster. Karen had originally thought so, but I wasn’t convinced and had told myself that sub-46:00 was the best I could reasonably expect. Perhaps my body was only willing to live up to my mind’s expectations. If I’d have said 45:30 or even 45:00, could I have made it? I don’t know, but maybe I’d have to be a bit more aggressive with my pacing goals in the shorter races moving forward.
Next up for me was the RTC Sprint Triathlon on April 22nd. That race, and particularly the swim, hadn’t treated me very well in 2015 and 2016. Maybe, as they say, the third time would be the charm.