The first few miles were relatively uneventful. The course was pretty crowded, so I tried to keep a steady pace and move around people without expending too much energy. I saw a number of great CAR spectators near the start and then my mother was out on Memorial Bridge and again near mile 4. I felt good in the early miles, but since I hadn't raced in months, I had no idea how it would go later on.
Photo by Cheryl
When I hit mile 5 I was happy to be halfway, but also starting to realize that the second half was going to be pretty painful. I knew there was water somewhere around mile 6, so when I got past five and a half miles I took my Clif shot (chocolate cherry - double caffeine!). I felt an immediate boost and was able to drop the pace a bit as I headed out onto Hains Point. My goal had been to treat those last four miles as a tempo run and incrementally drop the pace/increase my effort each mile. I felt like I was right on track on the way out to the end (miles 6, 7), cruising along comfortably and passing a number of people without too much difficulty.
Unfortunately, when I reached the end and turned around to head back towards the finish, I could feel my energy start to lag. This was eerily similar to what has happened in all three of the tempos I have run since returning to the track. In those workouts, I felt strong for the first mile and a half to two miles and fell apart in the last mile (in two cases I was planning on four miles and stopped at 5k). The worst part about feeling myself slowing a bit was not actually that I was slowing, but that my mind immediately recalled those workouts and I let it get to my head. As people I had passed started going past me, the negative talk in my head just got worse. Instead of trying to push past it, I held back, afraid that I would completely fall apart. Unlike with those workouts, there was no option to stop early. I was afraid to force myself to pick it up when I saw the 8 mile marker and instead waited until I had completed mile 9.
Fortunately I was able to rally and get going again in the last mile and tried to pick people off as I ran up the slight hill that was about a quarter mile from the finish. Despite the fact that I had not looked at my watch the whole time, I had a general idea of how I would finish because I had a hard time ignoring the clocks posted at every mile marker and I had a very rough idea of the time on the clock when I crossed the start line. So I thought I was actually probably going to be pretty close to the PR I ran at Army in the fall, especially if I did a decent job in the last mile. Yet even though I knew this, I crossed the finish line feeling disappointed and angry.
After walking a bit down the chute, I finally changed the screen on my Garmin to see my time and was surprised to see that I hadn't squeaked under my old PR, but actually been almost 90 seconds faster. This should have immediately made me feel much better about the race, but oddly, it didn't. I think I was so focused on ignoring my pace that I could only tie my evaluation of the race to my feelings about how it felt to run. I just didn't feel like I had run a smart race and that bothered me.
For the sake of comparison, here are my splits from the Army 10 miler (my old PR) vs. yesterday's race:
When I ran Army I had my Garmin set on autolap, which is why I ended up with 1:24 of extra time. I hit lap myself for Cherry Blossom, so even though my Garmin distance was a bit long (10.12 miles), the splits are accurate for each mile. If I redistribute the extra time from Army over 10 miles (to make the math easier I just did 8 seconds per mile), the comparison is a bit more relevant.
Looking at this adjusted split comparison is what finally kicked me out of my funk and made me feel a whole lot better about this race. Yes, I didn't do a great job of picking up the pace over the course of the run (I did a better job in October), but my splits for eight of ten miles were faster yesterday. And I was relatively consistent overall, the range isn't that large.
It feels good to know that even on what I considered to be not enough training this spring, I am still ahead of where I was last fall. I was worried that the time off after Goofy and subsequent piriformis issues had set me back pretty far. Fortunately that does not appear to be the case. I said in my goals post that I wanted this race to be an assessment of where I am right now and I think it ended up being a good evaluation of my current fitness level. I'm looking forward to really focusing and working hard in April and then, hopefully, racing a strong half in May.