This post will be mostly about Victory 10K but, full disclosure, it's also a lot of me having an existential running crisis, because these are the times we live in & it's semi-semi-semi-relevant. You've been warned.
(Also: Apparently there were no photos taken of me running so please enjoy the many, many incredibly thoughtful animated gifs with which I have accented this post. #yourewelcome)
(UPDATE: Turns out you get one real photo. Enjoy!)
The Victory races are a fairly new addition to Brazen Racing’s portfolio, just in their second year, I think. Brazen is well known in the Bay Area for fun, reasonably affordable, and extremely well-organized events; most of them are trail races (including some real doozies!), but they host a few flat, paved events as well (including Hellyer in the South Bay and the Bay Breeze/Summer Breeze races at the San Leandro Marina).
Back in the fall when I was plotting my post-CIM exploits, I had this idea that I would take the month of December more or less off, then spend the first part of 2017 working on speed to see what else I could do with the monster aerobic base that I’d built up during marathon training. I signed up for Shamrock’n Half on March 12 and figured I’d run a nice, flat 10K sometime in February to get a sense of where I was.
Alas, in terms of running, 2017 didn’t get off to the start I’d had in mind. I was sick for the first week or so of the year, but even once I got over that, I never really stopped feeling tired and lazy. Running felt like a chore, something I had to force myself to do almost every day. Every little niggle I’ve ever had related to running (most of which had remained blessedly silent during CIM training) suddenly decided to rear its ugly head. And to be fair to myself, I've also been swamped with work and renovation stuff, which means just that many more days when I legitimately don't have time for more than a handful of miles (unless I'm going to cut into my 7-8 hours of shut-eye, which is where I try super hard to draw the line).
The more I thought about it, though, the more I felt like part of my trouble was that I don't have any super inspiring goals right now. I mean. Obviously, I will take a PR any day. But the times when I've been really fired up and motivated to work extra hard have always been in pursuit of something specific, like a sub-1:40 half or a BQ. After CIM, I just didn't have anything like that revving my engines.
Originally I'd wanted to run a February 10K to check my progress, but as January came to an end I just could not bring myself to care. In fact I got so sour on lacing up that I decided to just take a full week off and do literally anything else. I felt a lot better when I went back to running on Valentine's Day, but still not particularly inspired. I'd skipped Bay Breeze 10K on 2/11 to go skiing, so my other option was Victory on 2/25. And oh man, was there a lot of waffling.
- "Eh, you should just do it to see where you are."
- "But why, when I basically haven't trained?"
- "It can't hurt! If nothing else you'll get a solid workout in."
- "But also, getting up at the butt crack of before dawn & paying the late registration fee."
- "Eh, you like racing. You should just do it for fun!"
- "Sometimes we have really different ideas about fun."
In the end I decided to do it, not because I felt like I was in incredible shape to destroy a 10K, but because maybe it would be a kick in the pants & whatever happened, good or bad, would finally light a fire under me and get me off the couch and back on the roads more than 30 miles a week.
It turns out there IS an upside of racing at the last minute, and that's the lack of stakes. At CIM I had several goals that I cared about a lot and had 18 weeks of my life invested in, so I raced pretty conservatively--basically just hard enough to be 100% certain I met them all. There was just no way I was going to risk those things on the off chance that I might be fit enough to blow the whole thing out of the water. This weekend? No such qualms!
LIGHT 'ER UP BITCHES
In 10Ks, my usual pattern is to go out at a fast-but-comfortable pace, try to pick it up in the middle miles, & run the last 1.5 miles or so as fast as I can manage, & I think that's pretty much how I've run my fastest 10K's (ie, 44:20-44:40ish). In the grand scheme of things I don't think this is a bad strategy, but a lot of times it's resulted in running my last mile 20-30 seconds faster than the first, which in a race that short probably indicates going out a bit too conservatively. Since I had nothing to lose this time, I decided to try to break that pattern by running the first miles pretty close to my PR pace of 7:09, then see how hard it felt to hold onto that.
For a warm-up, I jogged the first 1.5 miles of the course and back, and I was glad I did as there were a few spots that weren't totally clear and it also gave me a chance to think about the tangents. A couple parts of the course were also on boardwalk rather than pavement, and since it had rained recently, the footing was a bit slippery, which was good to know. After that I hit the port-a-potties one more time, dropped off my jacket and phone, & headed back to the starting area for some quick drills while the half marathon was getting started. Then it was into the corral and we were off!
Several women leapt ahead at a pace that I was certainly not going to try to match, but after a few minutes I settled in with a small group of men who seemed to be running at about my pace, about 7:08-7:12 according to my watch. I felt like I was working and definitely running harder than I usually like to early in a 10K, but since that was part of today's goal, I tried to just relax into it. Imagine my shock when we hit the first mile marker in 6:58!
Friends, that is an end-of-10K split for me, NOT a mile 1 split! In a goal race I might have panicked a bit (also, WTF, GPS?), but since there were no stakes here and I didn't feel awful yet, I kind of took it as permission to back off just a touch if I felt like. Mostly I just tried to keep up the same effort level & stay in pretty close contact with the couple of dudes in front of me. Any time it started to feel hard I tried to tell myself, "Imagine you're training to run a half at this pace. TOTALLY DOABLE, RIGHT?" #traininglies
Mile 2 ticked off in 7:05. Slightly less scary than sub-7, but still a faster pace than I have ever run a 10K before in my life, even when I was training specifically for 10Ks. Of course when you're in the midst of racing you aren't always at your most logical and there was definitely a part of me going "THIS IS FINE BECAUSE OBVIOUSLY SOME KIND OF MAGIC HAS HAPPENED AND I AM TOTALLY GOING TO RUN A PR 10K AFTER FOUR MONTHS OF MARATHON TRAINING AND THREE MONTHS OF DICKING AROUND BECAUSE THAT 100% MAKES SENSE."
After that I basically hitched my wagon to the dude in front of me &, for better or worse, used him as a rabbit.
Things started to feel hard as we approached the halfway point. Mile three was 7:13, which meant my rabbit was definitely slowing down--a good thing for me. At this point I also started trying to remember how I usually feel halfway through a 10K & if it's supposed to feel this hard. Just don't chicken out and slow down just because it's getting harder, I thought. I could have sworn in mile 4 that we were slowing down significantly, but that mile was 7:13 as well, so apparently not.
The last two miles were HARD. It was then that I really started to experience the cost of having gone out so fast (for the record, 15-20 seconds faster than usual) and I wanted so badly to say "Ehhh fine, we tried that and it sucked" and ease up and phone it in, so every time the thought occurred to me I started repeating to myself "Don't be a weenie, don't be a weenie, don't be a weenie," and tried instead to speed up juuuust a touch. (And failed, obviously, as my watch showed me 7:16 for the 5th split.)
However, my rabbit was starting to fade too at this point, and somewhere around then I pulled even with him (or, more accurately, he dropped back to me), and I passed him. With one mile to go I tried to muster every ounce of resolve I had and ratchet down the pace; I really could have sworn I was doing it, too, as I started passing quite a few people and my legs were on fire. Unfortunately my watch did not agree and I blanched a little when I hit mile 6 in 7:27. (
For the record, that may be the slowest mile I've EVER run in a 10K. UPDATE No it's not, I checked & I ran a 7:40 mile a year ago at Bay Breeze 2016.) Not sure what happened there but I did manage to crank out the last .2(5?) in 1:44, so 6:58-7:10 pace, depending on whether you trust GPS or the course measurements more.
In the end I juuuust managed to squeak in under the 45:00 mark with an official time of 44:59 (7:15 pace), 39 seconds off my PR. Also I found it kind of hilarious that after running a near-perfect negative split marathon in December, I'd managed to run near-perfect positive 10K splits (6:58, 7:05, 7:13, 7:13, 7:16, 7:27).
- Overall: 18/330
Podiums & medals are fun & all, but I really did not go into this race expecting any and honestly I didn't feel especially excited about how I ran. A 45:00 10K for me is not terrible and not great, so really more or less what you'd probably expect having gotten into pretty good marathon shape but then kind of doing only the bare minimum in terms of real 10K prep over the last 7-8 weeks. When I got home, I plugged in my CIM time into a few race time predictor calculators out of curiosity, & they basically all predicted 10K times of around 46 minutes, so I guess I can't be too bothered by a (barely) sub-45. If nothing else, it was a good refresher on what it feels like to actually race hard.
Other Random Thoughts During & After the Race:
- You only think a 10K is a "short" race when you're not in the middle of running one. 40-50 minutes is a LONG ASS TIME to run hard! ("OMG there's no way I can do this for another mile." Better figure out, then, 'cause there's three more left!)
- WOW, it's been a long time since I ran a 10K in flats. My calf muscles were hamburger meat for a solid two days.
- I'm getting pretty tired of looking at 10K finish times that start with '44' so maybe we can do something about that in the near future. New exciting non-process goal???
Heyyyyy look I found one! ca. mile 1 so not feeling awful yet.
Location: Craneway Pavilion, Richmond, CA
Date: Late February (2/25 this year)
Price: For 5K/10K/Half:
- Until 1/07: $44/$51/$67
- Until 2/04: $49/$56/$72
- After 2/04: $54/$61/$77
Deadline / Sellout Factor: I believe there was race day registration at all distances this year. Some Brazen races sell out ahead of time, especially the shorter distances, but since this is one of their newer races I suspect it's not as popular yet.
Parking: Volunteers were directing traffic to two different parking lots, both free & within easy walking distance of the start/finish.
The start/finish was set up right at the end of the road, with a row of race logistic/sponsor tents along one side and a row of port-a-potties (of which there were plenty) a little further down past the farther of the two parking lots.
As with the other Brazen races, you have the option of local pre-race packet pickup on Thursday and Friday or race morning pick up. As always, the pick-up & t-shirt tables were well-labeled, well-organized, and efficient. I was able to do race day registration by credit card, which I appreciated. Free sweat check close to the start, though I parked close enough that I didn't need it. These days they just set the sample bags out for runners to take if they want instead of handing them out with the T-shirts, which seems less wasteful to me.
Volunteer photographers are stationed along the course & upload their pics for runners to download for free (love), not to mention awesome, enthusiastic, & hard-working volunteers all around.
All three courses were *sort of* out-and-back, mostly along the water in Richmond, which I have to admit was pretty gorgeous.
The 10K was a kind of lollypop with a dogleg:
I think it's fair to call at least the 5K and 10K courses flat and fast, & paved with the exception of the short boardwalk sections I mentioned earlier. I can't speak for the rest of the half marathon course, which covered the 10K course but kept going past the 10K dogleg turnaround. The stretches of boardwalk were mostly fine for me, though I was glad I got out there and warmed up on it because it was a bit wet and potentially slippery. (I didn't have any trouble with it during the race.)
- I think if you signed up online you got your choice of a cotton T for no extra charge or a logo T for a few extra dollars. Since I signed up on race morning I got the cotton shirt, which I actually DID take for once because it was kind of cool-looking:
As with other Brazen races, there was an option to take a few dollars off your registration & go sans-shirt if you registered early.
- Hefty finisher medals for all distances; age group medals awarded three deep in each age/gender group in five year increments (less for the kiddies)
- Bags of free samples
- Fantastic post-race spread (water, sports drink, bagels, fruit, granola, cake, candy, etc.)
All in all, if you're looking for something flat, fast, well-organized, & not outrageously expensive (if you register early), Victory is definitely a solid option.