Sunday, March 3, 2013

Race Report: Brazen Racing Hellyer 10K

Has this type of shot jumped the shark yet? Be honest. When it gets up
there with aerial views of disembodied legs & feet, somebody
please tell me & I will think up something more creative.

    Garmin: 6.16 miles / 44:30 / 7:13 pace
    Official: 6.2 miles / 44:29 / 7:10 pace

    Overall: 13/277
    Women: 2/163
    A/G: 1/29

The Race:

So, like I said Friday, I haven't been feeling super great this week. I've had any number of leg issues, particularly in my right leg, combined with just feeling physically worn out in spite of coming off of two rest days. I wasn't sure I was going to have the greatest of races Saturday, but I figured I'd already paid for it & really had nothing to lose by driving out to Hellyer & giving it a shot. Worst case the right calf / Achilles was a no-go & I could just DNF without feeling too bad about it.

But then Friday happened. Friday looked like waking up with painful calves & right hip, spending the morning in the chiro's office, then experimenting with a few strides down the hallway & finding that toeing off, at any pace really, made my right calf VERY unhappy. (RoseRunner was recently talking about "ice cream headache" type pains in her foot, which is exactly the perfect way of describing the sensation in my calf.) I was scheduled for two easy shake-out miles that afternoon but decided that no good whatsoever could possibly come from trying to run ANY amount on that leg. I figured I'd see how it felt in the morning & decide then whether to race or not. I mean, I've already paid for it, right?

But then I found out that afternoon that no, I actually hadn't paid for it. I hadn't received any pre-race emails & the check I'd mailed had never been cashed (paper reg & snail mail = no service fees), so I emailed race director Sam to check on it, who had no record of my registration but assured me there was still plenty of space. (I later found the completed registration form folded with the check inside it sitting in a stack of papers on my desk. I'm awesome that way.)

So yeah. I hadn't paid for it. I could totally decide not to run and I actually wouldn't lose anything.

This made it a really, really hard decision when my alarm went off at 5:30 Saturday morning (after 4 hours sleep, no less) re: whether to even bother getting out of bed.

Just go, said a little voice in my head. You'll regret not going more than you'll regret driving an hour, paying the fee, & not finishing.

Yes; I knew that was correct. So I went.

As with Healdsburg back in October, I brought two pairs of shoes--my preferred road 10K shoes (Mizuno Wave Musha 3) & my "marathon" shoes (Brooks Launch), so-called because although they are pretty light, they are substantially squishier & springier & have a little more heel drop than anything else I have. I thought if a miracle had occurred overnight, I might be able to run in the Mizunos, but if not, the Brooks were still totally functional for a short road race. About a mile into my warm up in the Mizunos it was clear that that was just a bad idea all around. My calf didn't feel awful anymore, but still pretty dicey & the hardness & flatness of that shoe were not doing it any favors. As soon as I put the Brooks on, my calf responded to the extra cushion & springiness & started feeling a little better. Better enough that I was willing to actually start the race, at least.

I love the way all the usual suspects are always up in the front of the corral at Brazen events. I always see & say hi to the same people, most of whom I've never actually met. I love how they all stretch & fidget & stomp like racehorses, impatient to charge out of the gate. It raised my spirits a bit, and a minute or two before the horn sounded I managed to actually get back to feeling excited to be at a race.

Our rabbit was an actual rabbit :)

The first half mile or so is always a crapshoot in terms of pace, but after that I locked into what felt like the right gear & double checked my watch to be sure. I was showing 7:20-25ish, which I was fine with all things considered. (If I'd felt like I was really great shape, I probably would've pushed for closer to 7:10-15.) I didn't know what would happen with my pace later on, but it seemed like a pretty reasonable starting point. At that point, my leg felt totally fine. Mile 1 - 7:25.

In mile 2, I started to feel the strain of that pace, which made me a little sad considering my 10K PR pace is 7:05 & I was now running only a few seconds faster than my PR half marathon pace. I checked in with my body to see if it could give just a little more, but as hard as it was already working this early in the race, it wasn't willing to push much harder. Mile 2 - 7:28, and still no calf pain to speak of, and that at least was encouraging.

In mile 3 I found a little more & kept telling myself I wasn't dying yet so everything was fine. (Mile 3 - 7:19) Still, I was REALLY looking forward to that turnaround, and as I passed 3.1 and 3.2 and 3.3 and still no turnaround, I started to get a little panicky. I could still see 10K men coming back the other direction so I knew I hadn't passed it. Finally, at about 3.4 I finally spotted it, grabbed some water as a volunteer called out, "Second woman!", & headed back the other way, a bit demoralized as I really hadn't planned on a 7 mile race. My watch clicked off mile 4 right in line with the course marker, though, so I figured there must just be some difference in the out & back routes that I hadn't noticed on the course map. (It turned out that the return trip went the other, shorter way around the pond as it approached the finish.) Mile 4 - 7:27

On one hand, I was glad that I was keeping a pretty even pace. On the other hand, I'd been feeling like I was in pretty good shape & had hoped I'd start to warm up & pick up a few seconds in the later miles, and it was hard to keep seeing 7:20s when at my last 10K I'd never seen a split above 7:12. On my return trip, I noted that it was a good while before I saw another 10K woman still headed towards the turnaround. At least my finish place is secure, I thought to myself easing up just a little.

"No!!" shouted some other part. "That's not why we're here! Eff places and medals and prizes. This is a fitness gauge & you better run as hard as you goddamn possibly can!!"

Right! I picked it back up immediately, overriding my body's objections a little & making it run harder than it really wanted to. Two miles left. Surely I could run close to my PR pace for two more stinking miles.

And that's when I came upon this guy in blue. I don't know who he was, but as I reached him, I knew I didn't have it in me to pass him yet, and so I just stayed with him, paying attention to my effort level but completely ignoring my watch. When I finally did glance at it occasionally to see sub-7:00 paces, I pretty much ignored that too, because, magically, somehow, I was suddenly feeling fine. (Well--not fine. But about as fine as you can feel in the last 25% of a race.) For the rest of the way I just ran, the blue-clad man & I mutually pushing each other to maintain a just-uncomfortably fast pace.

Almost done
I had no idea what sort of overall time my splits were setting me up for, or how fast I'd run the last 2.2. But I was genuinely surprised when the clock came into view to see that I was going to be under 45:00. I pushed as hard as I could all the way to the mat & came in just as the clock ticked 44:30, making this ill-begun race my second fastest 10K ever. And not a peep from the right calf.

(Side note: One of my favorite things about Brazen races is Sam on the PA announcing people's names & saying "Welcome back!")

I felt horrible for about 20 seconds, then mildly uncomfortable for another minute or two, slightly winded after ~3 minutes, and completely and totally fine after ~5.

Splits for the last 2.2 miles: 7:06, 6:47, & :58.11 (6:03 pace) for the .2. I should point out that that is the fastest I have ever run *any* two(ish)-mile stretch of a 10K. Ever.

If you were my coach, this is where you would put your hand on your hip, cock your head, & narrow your eyes suspiciously at me. I mean really. Who averages 7:25 for the first 4 miles, 6:45 for the last 2.2, then feels totally fine after 5 minutes? I'll tell you who. Someone who did not run as hard or fast as she could have in the first 4 miles.

I have two (completely inexpert) theories about why. First, I suspect didn't quite warm up enough, so the first couple of miles might legitimately have been a little harder for my body than they should have. I jogged an easy mile & a half, but probably should have also done some faster running / strides / etc. to remind my legs how 10K pace works.

Second, I am a complete and total believer in the mind hypnotizing the body into feeling a certain way that is different than it would have otherwise. If I can suddenly jump from a 7:27 pace to a 7:06 pace & hold that & faster for the rest of the race with no problem, then there is no reason fitness-wise why I couldn't have run faster during those first few miles. I'm guessing that between being out of practice at this distance and also freaked out about the physical stuff I've been dealing with lately, my mind just went HOLD IT RIGHT THERE THAT IS PLENTY FAST ENOUGH THANKS and kept telling my body that 7:25 felt really hard even though it probably shouldn't have. Then when I had < 2 miles to go and didn't seem to be in imminent danger of collapsing, it released the brakes & let me run as fast as I wanted.

The fact that I recovered so fast seems to support this -- yes, I ran pretty hard for the last half mile or so, but I just know from experience that an all-out 10K effort leaves me feeling pretty disoriented & wobbly for a good fifteen minutes, and this didn't at all. And that makes me suspect that, while I am pleased as punch to have run just 8 seconds off my PR after a *horrendous* week body-wise, I probably actually was in PR shape Saturday physically, if not necessarily mentally. 8 seconds off those first four miles is really almost nothing.

This makes me really, really, really excited to run another 10K later this year. :)


brazen racing hellyer half / 10K / 5KLocation: San Jose, CA

Date: Late Feb / Early March (Mar 2, 2013 this year).

Price: Because of some extra expenses associated with using this park, Hellyer is slightly pricier than most of Brazen's other races:

  • 5K: $40 until 1/20, $45 until 2/17, $50 after 2/17

  • 10K: $46 until 1/20, $51 until 2/17, $56 after 2/17

  • Half: $65 until 1/20, $70 until 2/17, $75 after 2/17

Deadlines/sellout factor: This year there was race day registration for all distances.

Field Size: ~300 in the half & 10K, ~350 in the 5K

Expo / Packet Pickup: No expo, but there was early packet pickup I think the day before at Sports Basement in Sunnyvale (with store discounts for participants - nice!)

Parking: There is some official parking pretty close to the staging area & some that was a slightly longer walk. Parking in the county park lots was $6.00. I think there was non-official parking available; you just had to walk farther. Carpooling was encouraged.

The Course:

All the courses were basically out-and-back along paved trails in Hellyer County Park / Coyote Creek Parkway (with a slight variation on the return trip near the finish). It was almost flat, with just a few gentle dips here & there. An easy course to follow & nothing to worry about hill- or elevation-wise, so a reasonable choice for a PR course. I'd totally run it again.

I think the 5K got 1 aid station, the 10K got maybe 3 (2 between the start & turnaround so you get to hit them on the way back to, and one at the turnaround) & the half got maybe a couple more than that.

Schwag: The usual cotton tees or tech for an extra $6 (I opted out of the shirt this time, because how many do you really need?) & nice finisher medals / podium medals 3 deep in each age group. In addition to that, there were also gift cards from Sports Basement for the top 3 men / women overall in each distance this time (plus some shoe coupons). Nice!

The rest of the details are pretty much the same as other Brazen races; you can read those race reports here.


  1. Wow, you wonder-runner! Congratulations! Hell-yeah!!!! (Geddit?)

    1. Hahaha!

      (I am ashamed of how long it took me to get that.)

      Thanks! :D

  2. Congrats!! I think your theories are spot-on. The lack of warm-up can really make a difference in 5k/10k races, and the overly conservative initial strategy also makes sense (i.e., I've done the same thing... except at a much, much slower pace). I think it's why I like latching on to people and using them as pacers -- I stop thinking and staring at my Garmin and just focus on whether I can keep up.

    Also, I think it's amazing that you still decided to go, even though you weren't officially registered. I can see how that would've been a really tough decision. Nice job on sticking to your plan!

    1. Thanks!

      Yeah...I am always afraid of going out too fast, but there is some truth in the strategy of going out just a little faster than you want to & seeing if you can hold on.

  3. I love the opening shot, because I'm a swag whore and I like to see what people get medal, and otherwise. :)

    Great job on the race, even if you're realizing you had more to give. Sounds to me like you were playing it safe though, and making sure there wasn't going to be protests from the calf.

  4. Nice job!!! I think that based off of this performance you have a really fast 10K in you. :-)

  5. Whoaaaaaa, what a race! You really do seem to have some bad-dress-rehearsal-run, great-performance magic going on.

  6. Wow! Congratulations on your surprisingly awesome race! Hope the calf is all better. I hate that feeling of "oh, you feel great post-race? Well then obviously you should have run harder!" I do that too!

  7. I'm a Brazen Race convert from Bay Breeze that I ran a few weeks ago and am already excited for Western Pacific on May 4th!! HA.

    Well done on the race -- I think your assessment is spot on. So it will definitely be fun to see how you do on the next one.

    1. Thanks! I just love them. Such great events & great prices!

  8. you always have the best race reports - it's like I'm reading myself going through the race lol. Sounds like it went really well even if you didn't gas it full out during the early part of the race. Though I bet you passed tons of people the last 2 miles - I would be shocked if anyone passed you. It sounded like caution was the better part of valor by holding back since you had a slight injury, sounds like you played your cards right. Next time you are healthy you can warm up and race all out for that PR start to finish.

  9. Nice job! My wife and I were volunteering in the timing booth, Brazen rocks!

  10. That's one hell of a negative split! It sounds like you gained some very good mental fitness in this race: Next time you're pushing hard and nearing death, you can remind yourself about the way you finished this race much faster than you started it.
    Congratulations on placing!