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Sunday, March 24, 2019

Azalea Trail 10k - a stepping stone

A big group of Power Milers traveled over to Mobile for the Azalea Trail 10k this past weekend. I ran this race before with a team, and was excited to run it again, this time with the Power Milers. It's Saturday morning, so I left straight from work Friday night, getting in around 7:30 pm. I went directly to dinner, since it was growing late, before meeting the team at our hotel. Sara had booked us a double queen and Paige, Rachel, and I shared it with her. The location was perfect, and it was very affordable: for two nights we paid $73 each. 
Runners in the courtyard on race morning

Our veranda

 We got up around six and all met downstairs for a warm up at 7:15. We got two miles in before lining up. I realized at the start that, beyond a vague, "I should PR", I had barely thought about race pace or strategy. Not good. I find that I do not race well without a definite plan. Even worse, I have this mental block around the whole concept of 10k - I just can't envision what a 10k feels like. So I can't trust myself to race by feel. I realized all this as the gun went off, and the thought popped into my head, "Run 39". So that became my default goal.

The weather was perfect, the course is flat and fast, and despite my trepidation, I was confident I would PR. My PR going in to the race was 40:59 from another perfect-weather day at the Crescent City Classic. But I was in much better shape now. Unfortunately, as you know, my health has not been perfect, and I keep having issues with intermittent hemorrhaging. Naturally (unnaturally?!), this had started up again on Friday night, accompanied by considerable pain. But I am so used to it by now that honestly, I barely thought about it. During the race I had to remind myself a few times to keep running through the pain and to stand up straight (the pain tends to make me hunch or double over), but otherwise, I am now a pro at ignoring these symptoms. What I mean to say is - I had NO excuse not to PR Saturday! 

The race started FAST. The elites tore off the line, and people were passing me left and right and, in fact, almost knocking me over. I took off, too, and the whole first mile was just stabilizing and settling in. But I started too fast - I ran 6:10 for the first mile (6:06 on my Garmin, which terrified me, but it beeped short, thank goodness. It didn't feel like a 6:06, but that would have probably cooked the rest of my race!). Mile two was more spread out, more chilled out, more zoned out. My problem here was that I started conflating my race goal with 6:20's - the night before the race, Paige had told me that we could possibly get the women's team course record. I asked what I would need to run to achieve that and, based on everyone else's goal time, she said "6:20's". In actuality, to make MY goal, I'd want 6:15ish. Anyway, this is why you need a race plan! I ran 6:18 for mile 2, but after that settled solidly into 6:20's. And I just cruised. 

Because of my too-fast start, I had the uncomfortable experience of being passed by quite a few people around mile four. Not fun at all! My own fault, though. And here's the thing. After running 6:20 for miles 3,4, and 5, I didn't feel bad. I didn't hurt. I wasn't working as hard as I should. But it didn't occur to me that I should speed up, because I am so unfamiliar with 10ks! I should have hurt THE WHOLE TIME. 

In the final mile, the 10k and 5k merge, and that provided some excitement. For some reason I still didn't pick up the pace. Sure, I was tired, but it was 55 degrees, the course was shaded and pancake flat, my New Balance 1400s were perfect for my pace, I wasn't working hard - and I was at the end of a race. But I was holding something back. Suddenly, out of nowhere, an elite Kenyan woman passed me. WHAT?! In that last mile?! And then - another one flew by! I was immediately thrown off. What was going on? Did the course change, and have a final loop now? Impossible! Had I gone the wrong way?! No, people were all around me. What was going on? But I couldn't stop to think - I could see the finish line. I tucked my doubts away and suddenly realized that another women was in front of me - ten yards, maybe 12 - I tried, but I didn't catch her. I crossed the line in 39:05 just as a realized that the lead pack must have been lead the wrong way. 

After the race, I thought: 
  • Wow, huge PR, 1:54 off my PR and 2:40 faster than my last 10k race!
  • I am not nearly tired enough.
  • Huh? Pat and Rich? Tyler behind me? Crap, they went off course too! 
  • Paige WON! Due to elite woman's wrong turn, one of our Power Milers crossed first!
  • Why didn't I sprint...or cut just ONE second off each mile?! Or start slower?! Or finish faster, my last mile was 6:19!
Basically, mayhem reigned for a while. After I caught my breath, I decided that taking 18+ seconds per mile off my 10k PR was enough for now. I was happy with it. Now, I'm more confident in predicting my 10k pace and ability. I definitely need a better sense of 10k race pace and a better race strategy next time, but this race was more about learning the distance. I think I can PR again in the 10k easily - even though this was a perfect-conditions race. I needed one good race to get a grip on the distance and get my mind right about 10ks! I'd had too many bad ones in a row!
Lady Power Milers!
 As far as the elite women, and the Power Milers' fastest guys, yes - they took a wrong turn. The elite men took off so fast that they, and the lead bike, were quickly out of site. Someone took a wrong turn, and everyone followed. After doubling back, the poor runners ended up with 7.2 miles! 

All showered and waiting for awards
But all's well that ends well. Once we scored our teams, the three Power Miler men's teams scored 1-2-3, and the women won! 


  1. Fantastic result, and not unexpected at all! I get your emotions about feeling like you had more to give. But....there will always be another 10K to push a bit harder in - now you have a solid stake in the ground for that distance. And plus, Boston is the big focus this year, right?

  2. Congrats on the huge PR. So crazy that people took a wrong turn and ended up running a mile extra! Yikes!

    Bummer that you were not feeling well, though. Just think what you could do if you were healthy!!!