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Monday, March 25, 2013

Azalea Trail 10k: team NOTC!

This weekend I trucked over to Mobile to run the Azalea Trail 10k with the NOTC team. I arrived Friday night just in time for a team dinner, and I got to meet my teammates then. I honestly didn't know anyone else on the team except for Jennifer, who works for the New Orleans Track Club. We ended up going out for pizza, and I got to meet the other runners. Most of the names were already familiar to me, especially the guys, since they win most of the local races, and it was good to put a personality to a name. As I predicted, we had an enjoyable time and it wasn't uncomfortable at all. A group of runners will always have something to talk about. I was a little surprised by the girls' team, though. For one thing, I was on it. That's a bad sign. For another, it was not made up of the women I thought were on it (which I surmised by reading their email addresses from group emails, guessing at first names). I don't want to sound rude or snarky here, and I am not trying to be a jerk, because all of these women are faster than I am, but it just wasn't the fastest team in the world. Last year NOTC had girls running 35's and 37's, and this year none of us ran under 41 minutes. I don't know why that happened, but I'll be honest: I felt a little less like an imposter than I would have rooming with three girls running under 38 minutes.
Our NOTC singlets. 
Anyway, we had a collective sleepless night in the world's hardest beds (although I slept better than everyone else, since I'm a heavy sleeper) and woke up in time for a warm-up at 7:15. I made sure I started out with this coffee first, obviously made for runners:
It got me going.
We did 20 minutes warm up, then ran back to the hotel for a quick bathroom break before the start. We easily found the guys at the start in our matching NOTC singlets, and by the time we wormed into the crowd the race was starting.

I was a little unsure how to run this race. I've only actually raced one 10k before, and it was a disaster (last year - mid long run - included an urgent bathroom break). I talked to Andrew Lilly, who coaches our track group for Varsity Sports, and asked for advice earlier in the week. Since neither of us knew how fast I could race (given my low mileage, nagging injury, and general out-of-shapeness), he told me to start a little faster than half-marathon pace and divide the race into 10-minute segments with different goals. I followed his advice.
Segment one: Goal was to not go out too fast or too slow. I let the other girls go at first and ran easily. My pace at 10 minutes was right at 6:40.
Segment two: Goal was to choose and settle into a pace. I felt fine, so I stayed where I was. I caught up with Jennifer on my team and left Lauren a little behind. I stayed about 10 seconds behind Jennifer for the majority of the race. Pace? Still 6:40.
Segment three: Goal was to assess place and "race" this part (passing people, speeding up if possible). I didn't do any of this. I kept Jennifer exactly 10 seconds ahead. I am queen of saving energy for later miles...even when there will not be any later miles. Marathoner at heart! Also I will go on the record saying I do not like passing people. Pace...6:40.
Segment four: Goal is hang on and don't die. I hung on. I didn't die. I got a side cramp, but it went away. I enjoyed the smooth, easy, fast course and suddenly I was at 6 miles! Pace: Yeah, 6:40.
End of race: Then I finished, just seconds behind Jennifer. I felt good, a little leg pain and a little sore but not very tired. My time was 41:30, which is like 6:41 pace, but Garmin overall pace was 6:40 and every mile split was 6:40, which I think is hilarious.

The Azalea Trail race is an insanely fast course: I am positive it is all downhill (although it's almost a loop, so that can't be), but still, I didn't feel like I put very much effort into this race. So I think I can take some time off for next week's Crescent City Classic unless I just don't recover well this week (read: hamstring becomes a monster again). The team did well: the top three (Liz, Jennifer, and I) finished within 25 seconds of each other and we scored for some kind of team placement (um, this race is kind of a cluster and I think they scored all the teams wrong...I believe we were second but the director insisted we were first and sent us home with an award). The guys easily took first, once the scoring was corrected (yup, theirs was wrong, too). I absolutely loved running with a team, and I realized that this was the first time I "played" for a team since soccer when I was four!
Next up is the Crescent City Classic, and I welcome any tips for 10ks before that race. I liked Lilly's advice and I think it's smart, but I can use all the help I can get and need your advice, too!


  1. Congrats on a great return to the race scene! You are so NOT an imposter...totally belong on that team. I'm glad yo enjoyed it.

  2. Awesome! Way to go! Glad your team trip was a good experience. You're so right...get runners together and they'll have plenty to talk about!

  3. It sounds like you raced this one perfectly. Consistent splits and finished feeling strong and positive about it. And I remember reading about your last 10K- bathroom break and all. lol!! SO glad you didn't have to stop this time!

    It's funny you mention that you don't like to pass people. It is always a bit intimidating to pass someone because you never want them to pass you back. When I pass I like to surge for a bit just so they think I'm feeling great and ready to pick it up but mentally I tell myself it is just temporary. Sometimes I end up being able to keep it up but other times I can't. either way, it usually works in the world of passing women. Passing men is a whole different game though because their pride gets in the way a lot more. :-)

    I like the team aspect of this. We have several running teams around me and a few have contacted me about joining their team. I wouldn't train with them but I guess my points from local races would go towards their team? I'm still new at that sort of thing so we'll see. I guess it could be fun. Reading this sort of makes me want to try it out anyway!

  4. GREAT JOB super-stud, as always! You are one of the speedy ones that I love following. I have to work my butt off just to be a little above average, and you waltz out there with a nagging hammie and plunk down a 41:30 - impressive! As far as advice, I've only ran 2 or 3 10K's, and so far I've found it to be one of the tougher distances from a strategy standpoint. I've yet to figure it out, my PR is not really that great. But I'm sure you'll fly next weekend. Great job again!

  5. WOW you're consistent, I couldn't do that if I tried!! Nice work Gracie, you never cease to amaze me with your talent, especially despite all your angry injuries.

  6. Wow, you kept a really consistent pace! That's really good, especially since you are used to saving yourself for the later miles.

  7. Glad you had fun with the other speedsters. You deserve to be there! They aren't just recruiting Olympians I'm sure. Hope the hammy is doing ok.

  8. Congratulations on a great race! Sounds like a lot of fun. I really like the pacing strategy you used, breaking up the race into 10 minute segments. I ran a 10K trail race the same weekend. I was familiar with the course, having run the same race last year. My strategy was built around what I knew about the course. I had to go out fast because there is a wet/gravel spot that you have to run through unless you are in the front and can get onto the single track dirt around it! And then I knew miles 3 and 4 were going to be HILLY. So I went out fast, recovered for the hills. Ran the hills as best I could, and then allowed myself to run fast for the flat miles 5 and 6.