Somewhere during this process I fell head-over-heels giddy in love with this track, which in short order became Angela's Official Theme Song for Race to the End of Summer 10K 2016:
Seriously. So great.
Now. In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that my main reason for creating said pump up playlist was that I had felt utterly exhausted since the previous Wednesday. 18 miles on Sunday? No problem! 8.75 mile cut-back track workout on Tuesday? Easy! But Wednesday? Sweet baby Jesus.
God, I felt awful. I had 8 easy miles on the schedule, but even just 1 mile from home, I felt like I could barely stay upright. It was like simultaneously being sleep deprived and also low blood sugar. I managed to drag myself out two miles & then headed back home, & by the time I finished I was barely shuffling along at a 12:00 pace. This did not bode well for my 10K.
Thursday's easy 8 was better (I did the whole thing) but not great, and Saturday's 2 mile shakeout run was again just awful--10:30 pace felt practically like a tempo run. It freaked me out a little because this exact pattern of events had happened last March the week before Oakland Half--great long run on Sunday, great track session on Tuesday, crash & burn Wednesday, then feel like garbage for the rest of the week. I felt like I had some decent training under my belt & should have had a pretty solid race, but instead I ran the worst half marathon of my life.
So, I'd been trying to rest up & sleep a lot in the days leading up to this race & hoped it would help, but also felt like some quality pump up jams would not go amiss.
The race was in San Jose at 8:00 (with a half marathon at 7:00) & since I'd never run it before, my timeline was get up at 5:00, leave by 6:00, arrive around 7:00, scope things out, start warming up at 7:20, finish warming up at 7:50, & be in the corral by 7:55. I was pretty efficient getting out the door & the drive & parking were super easy, so I actually arrived around 6:40.
I skulked for a while & watched the half marathon start, took some pictures, then cued up the aforementioned playlist & warmed up by jogging the first 1.5 miles of the course & back. I was actually really glad I did this--it got the first few turns & tangents in my head, and I made note of a few things on the trail (most noticeably a bit of chewed up footing as you transition from the road to the trail around mile 1, and a couple of dramatic dips that come up suddenly on an otherwise super flat path.)
I have to say, though--this warm-up felt good for about three minutes and then I was back to feeling like I was wearing lead shoes. 10:30 pace? *Mostly* okay. 10:00 pace? Ehhhh... 9:30 pace? I think I'm about to die. It felt as if my legs were absolutely not capable of moving one whit faster than that and no exhortation to do so would do a lick of good.
Photographers were already out on the course catching the half marathoners while I was warming up, so please enjoy these ridiculous shots of me feeling terrible about myself.
At this point as I neared the end of my warm-up, I was feeling pretty demoralized & part of me had already started thinking things like, "Eh, I'll just do it as a tempo run," "No point in changing shoes," etc., but then something happened to jolt me out of my pity party. I realized as I approached the staging area that either I had started my warm-up later than I thought or it had taken longer than I thought or something because the 5K/10K corrals were full & the race clock said only four minutes until the start!
So, yeah. This is how my 3 mile warm up became a very harried 3.3 miles after which I frantically tore off my warm-ups, pulled my hair up, made a split-second shoe decision, & didn't even have time to bother with sunscreen or Body Glide. As I sprinted back to the corral (that counts as pre-race strides, right?), it was as if a giant weight had been lifted off of me--out of nowhere I felt light and quick and like there *might* be a chance in Hades of not phoning it in. I jumped in at what seemed like the appropriate spot literally as they started the 10 second countdown, and off we went.
Even pre-week-of-exhaustion, I'd never had what you'd call a real "plan" for this race. Almost always in a 10K I just try to go out in the 7:15-7:20 range and see how I feel. I wanted to run a hard race, but I also knew I was not in prime 10K shape (ummmmm hello three weeks of speed work) so I knew I certainly should not be seeing paces any faster than that in mile 1-2.
And, at least according to my Garmin, I was kind of eerily consistent for those early miles--I swear every time I looked at my watch, it said 7:20 or 7:21. I wish I could say that was due to careful intention on my part but the truth is that from the very first mile I kind of locked into a certain gear & just held it, with almost no effort at all. I mean, I would sometimes have a general perception that this was a hard pace and it would be interesting to see for how long I could actually hold onto it, but then I would ask myself, "Really, though, is it actually physically hard/painful?" And the answer for a very long time was actually no; it was work, but the work was more the mental effort of holding the accelerator down and not getting freaked out by the thought of keeping it down for xx more minutes.
I have no idea what part of the race any of these pictures came from so let's just all pretend they come from the part you're currently reading about.
Pacing seems to be a challenge for a lot of people at small local 10Ks, so, as usually happens, I spent basically the entire race passing people (in fact, I don't think I was passed once), mostly people breathing way too hard in mile 1/2. I didn't know how many women were in front of me, but almost everyone I passed were men; finally maybe around the end of mile 2 I could see two women up in front of me, one maybe a quarter mile ahead and one much farther, and from then on tracking/catching/passing them became my primary motivation for holding onto my pace.
- Mile 1: 7:20
Mile 2: 7:20
Mile 3ish? Eh, let's go with that.
I spent mile 3 slowly closing in on one woman and eventually passed her. The other woman was still *way* ahead and actually looked like she was pulling away as we approached the turnaround. I could still see her though, so part of my brain sort of went, "Right, well, you have 3 miles to catch her, which means you only have to run sliiiiightly faster than her." Again the pace still felt hard, but in kind of an abstract, distant way that felt more about the patience involved in terms of how much time was left than actual physical discomfort. Honestly, I have never in my life felt so much like a machine in a race, as if my legs had some kind of set-it-and-forget-it magic in them that someone had forgotten to tell me about. Mile 3 was a little slower by my watch, but mile 4 was faster, and the whole time I kept thinking, "Maaaaaybe I'm catching her a little? Maybe?"
I was glad I had people in front of me to chase because otherwise I spent long stretches of this race completely alone.
- Mile 3: 7:29
Mile 4: 7:13
I passed several more dudes in those miles but really didn't care about anyone but the woman in front of me. At the start of mile 5 I think she was maybe a quarter mile ahead, and at that point I knew I could probably do it. I don't know if she was slowing down or not, but my pace was strong and I felt like I could absolutely push it a little harder in the last two miles. Mile 5 became about pushing just the tiniest bit faster, just enough to slowly reel her in; I didn't want to kick too soon & run out of juice in the last mile, nor did I want to put myself in the defensive position too early. I don't remember exactly but I think it was maybe right as we were coming to the end of the trail head that I finally passed her, just a bit before mile marker 5.
A bit of #painface for you!
- Mile 5: 7:14
In that last 1.2 miles, I was so, so glad I'd jogged them on my warm up; I knew exactly what to expect, that it would feel slightly uphill, where the best tangents were, etc. It's possible that it was completely psychological, but in that last mile when things finally did feel truly hard & painful, I felt like it made such a difference that I knew what to expect as I headed back toward the finish. I'd convinced myself that the woman I'd passed had immediately rallied & was right behind me, which I'm sure had a lot to do with how fast I was able to run that last mile.
- Mile 6: 6:59
Honestly I had been so focused in the second half of the race on running by feel and catching and passing the other women that I'd barely looked at my pace at all & really didn't know what kind of finish time to expect. I was stunned and ecstatic to see the 44:xx on the race clock come into view.
- Mile 6.2: 1:00 (6:17 pace)
The woman I'd been chasing was only 30 seconds behind me, and after she finished, we chatted briefly about how both of us had motivated the other to run harder than we probably would have otherwise, and she'd actually PR'd! (Related, in the first thing Strava has ever done to impress me, she was listed in my "flybys" for this race, and we are now following each other. So that was actually kind of cool. :) )
- Official: 44:38 / 6.2 miles / 7:12 pace
You guys. I can't tell you what a big deal this was for me. I have not run a 10K this fast since March 2013 (44:30), and my PR is only 44:21. I absolutely, 100% did not see a time like this happening on this day or any other in the near future, and I seriously almost sat down on the curb and cried. It was good enough for 1st in my age group & 2nd female, which was just beyond anything I was even remotely expecting. (Yes, it was a small field, but still. STILL.)
Posing like I do this every weekend, nbd.
- Overall: 5/131
(Fun fact: The female winner was 57 and she is now my spirit animal. Sadly I could not find her to stalk on Strava.)
Seriously, though. Over the moon.
Location: San Jose, CA
Date: Early September (Sept 4, 2016 this year)
Price: In the modern world of race fees, I count this one as pretty reasonable if you get in early. From the website:
Deadlines/sellout factor: This is a tiny local race so not really an issue. You can still sign up or change distances at packet pickup (Friday or Saturday), but there is no race day registration (or packet pickup).
Field Size: Finishers:
- Half Marathon - 149 finishers
- 10K - 131 finishers
- 5K - 159 finishers
The start & finish for all three races was on Embedded Way, which dead ends right between NexTest & the Silver Creek Sports Complex. Most of the staging was set up towards the dead end. This was a pretty tiny local race, so staging consisted of the start/finish line, a handful of sponsor tents, & maybe half a dozen port-a-potties (which was plenty).
This was right after the half marathon started at 7:00. Both fields were small & an hour apart--I think a lot of people didn't arrive for the 5K/10K until 7:30ish, so it was pretty dead once the half marathoners went off.
No gear check but parking is just a few minutes' walk away so it wasn't really needed. (I wanted to bring my bag so I just dropped it by the pile of bags that belonged to I think the people working the sports massage tent & it was totally fine.) Speaking of parking, there was loads of it available at both NextTest and SnapOn, neither of which were very far from the start/finish. (I was also grateful that they had volunteers standing out in front of the driveway waving flags because I might have missed it otherwise.)
Note well, though--there was no race day bib/shirt pickup. You had to get it either in Sunnyvale on Friday or Saturday in San Jose. I don't know whether there was a special reason for this or just to avoid dealing with more logistics on race day, but I found it frustrating as nearly all other races I've run of this size have had race day pickup at least as an option. Living in San Francisco, this meant I had to make an additional 80+ mile round trip.
All three courses began the same way--heading south on Hellyer, then right on Fontanoso (which kind of curves south and then east again), then another right to head west on Silver Creek Road, then jump onto Coyote Creek Trail just past the 1-mile mark. From there, the 5K & 10K were both out-and-backs along the trail/roads. The half course did something very windy & convoluted, going out & back on the trail for a while & then a whole bunch of other places (?) before heading back to Embedded Way.
I can't speak for the half course, but I thought this was a pretty solid 5K/10K course. The local roads we ran on were closed to cars, wide, very nearly flat, and very smoothly paved. There wasn't much shade on that part, but it was only the 1st & last miles so I didn't mind it much. Coyote Creek Trail is fairly narrow, but after a mile of running, people were pretty spread out so it was never an issue, even with people coming back in the other direction. There were a couple of little dips & short inclines, but I would still call this course pretty flat. The paving was smooth and, best of all, the trail was almost completely shaded, which makes SUCH a difference when it's full sun. The only iffy part of the whole thing was the spot where you jump on to the trail head from Silver Creek Road; the ground was a bit chewed up & rocky there so I'm glad I knew about it ahead of time because you really do have to watch your feet if you're moving quickly. (It was maybe 10 yards total.) I didn't use them but there were aid stations maybe every 1.5 miles or so with photographers & cheering volunteers.
A logo cotton blend T & pretty nice spinner medal. (The website said tech T, so not sure what happened there. Not that I care either way as I have an entire bag of old race shirts in my basement that are getting turned into rags or donated.)
Line up the two pieces of the spinner & you have a bottle opener!
There were prizes for 1st, 2nd, & 3rd male & female at each distance (I got a $25 gift certificate to Sports Basement, and I think the 1st place winners also got something extra, but no idea if the amounts were different.) Also I noticed while writing this that the website said 1st place winners in each age group were also supposed to get some kind of prize, but I didn't know that at the race so whatever it was, I missed it. Oops.
If you decide to run:
- It's San Jose in the summer. The races start early enough & there's enough shade on the course that it might be totally comfortable, but there is always the potential for a warmish race.
- No race day packet pickup. This is a complete mystery to me given how tiny the race was, and if you live 50+ miles from the closest pickup site, it's inconvenient.
- They are serious about those start times! Don't get carried away on your warm-up/pity party.
I picked this race because I wanted to run a 10K and a half leading up CIM, and I especially liked the idea of running a short race early-on to get a sense of where my fitness is so that I'm running the right paces in my speed/tempo workouts. I went with this one because a) it fell in the right time frame, b) it was (relatively) close, and c) it was pretty flat with few turns.
You never know what you're going to get with small local races, particularly charity races, but I thought this event was very well organized and well run, and the 5K/10K courses were quite nice (with the exception of the one little chewed-up rocky place). Probably not *the* fastest courses in the history of ever, but plenty reasonable for running a good, solid time, and reasonably priced considering what has happened to road race prices in the last 10 years. (And if you're into medals, there is a really nice one for all three distances.) I had a great time and would certainly recommend this event to a local looking for either a fun run or a solid fitness gauge.