It was unbelievable to me when I actually did the math, but according to the calendar, it's been FOUR YEARS (!) since I last ran (and PR'd at) this race. I'd run it three times before and it's always been one of my favorite local 10Ks, so I was super excited to be part of it again. But WOW, I cannot believe that was four freaking years ago.
It's been a tough couple of years of (not) racing for me, so really, truly, just finishing in an even vaguely respectable time should have been more than enough, and don't think I'm not grateful for every day that I wake up healthy and non-injured and confident enough to run even 5 or 10K in a row. Still, I couldn't help agreeing with what Paula Radcliffe said in an interview before her final marathon--"I guarantee you I'll be pissed off about the time." In my three previous starts on this course, I've run 44:49, 44:42, and 44:21, so even though it's completely illogical, part of my brain still feels like that's what I'm "supposed" to do.
Knowing that wouldn't happen this time for so many reasons, I'd been trying to get myself used to the idea that this would probably be my slowest 10K ever in order to soften the blow a bit. However, there's a fine line between having realistic expectations for yourself based on your training/fitness and setting yourself up to settle for less than your best effort. I think one advantage I have as a runner is that I do tend to set ridiculously, unreasonable high expectations for myself, because it often helps me push myself harder than I would if I set more reasonable, easily achievable goals; the downside of that, though, is almost never being *truly* happy with a race. Regardless of the time, I wanted to finish knowing I'd given my best effort and left it all out there.
I must be honest, though. After Tuesday's magical track workout, I had kind of secretly hoped that maybe, maybe, maybe I could pull out a sub-45, if everything went perfectly. After all, my December 5K predicted a 45:36 10K, so maybe six weeks of training is enough to shave off 37 seconds on a perfect day? Then again, that would mean almost equaling my Bay Breeze 2012 time, which occurred after a good year and a half of consistent, reasonably solid training and a week of tapering. (I didn't taper for this race.)
There was also the question of which legs I would show up with Saturday morning: the ones that ran that magically easy, unreasonably fast interval work out last Tuesday, or the ones that ran those miserable mile repeats the week before.
It's not an exaggeration to say I was dreading this race for two days prior. I knew I wanted to race hard and run my best possible time, but every time I thought about the other times I'd run it, all I could think about was how awful the last 1.5-2 miles inevitably were and how hard it was to keep going and how at least a few times I thought I might actually die before I reached the finish line. GOD, I was not looking forward to that. I couldn't sleep the night before and was sick to my stomach with nerves all morning.
Me, glancing at my watch/the car clock: "Welp, only two more hours before I'm in the ninth circle of hell." "Only 90 more minutes until I'm wishing death upon myself." "Only one more hour before I'm debating faking a cardiac event to save myself the shame of quitting."
Yeah. Welcome to my head.
My only plan was to start conservatively, even given my lack of training, and see mile by mile if speeding up was in the cards, so I lined up a bit farther back than usual
and tried not to vomit on anyone. ("Only 30 minutes or so until I'm praying to be smote by a meteorite!") I tried to remind myself how it's always easier in races to hit scary paces, and how I was probably overthinking all this, and one way or another this would all be over in give or take 45 minutes. But I don't think I ever really convinced myself. ("Maybe I can sneak out of the corral after the horn goes off???")
In there somewhere...
And oh, boy. Just a few minutes into mile 1, vacillating between 7:20 and 7:40, I knew which legs I had to work with today. Already I felt like there was no way I could run even that pace for more than half the race. My only consolation in those first couple of miles was that many of the people who'd lined up right around or right in front of me were already huffing and puffing and falling back, and I at least was still breathing comfortably. (Sidenote: I think this is a side-effect of all the elliptical training while I was injured. My cardiovascular system is still sometimes writing checks my legs can't cash.)
Mile 1: 7:29
Mile 2 seemed to last a geologic age. I didn't even let myself look at the distance on my watch because I knew it would just shatter whatever morale I had left at this point, and it was very very early for morale-shattering. I kept thinking "Surely it's been seven and a half-ish minutes by now? Did I miss it??" Then at one point I actually got confused & was thinking that the next mile was the turnaround, which is the road racing equivalent to thinking it's Friday all day when it's actually only Thursday, so you can imagine how I felt when I realized there was still over a mile left to go just to the halfway. I kept telling myself, "Come on, you were running sub-7:10 miles on Tuesday like it was nothing, surely you can pick it up just a few seconds per mile?" But every time I tried I'd start to panic a little & feel like I might actually die. (And then, of course, to add insult to injury, the jerkbrain would snigger, "Lol you used to run half marathons at this pace. LOSER McLOSERSON!")
Mile 2: 7:35
Looking waaaaaay more chill than I felt.
I really started to suffer in mile 3. I don't know if it was a very very slight uphill or mentally the fact that I was working so hard and not even to the halfway yet or what, but there were a couple of times when I saw my pace sneaking up into the 7:50, then 8:00, then 8:15 range and really just felt like that was it, the wheels were off & I might as well just pack it in. (Cue jerkbrain: "Oh, look, you can't even run your goal marathon pace for a 10K! What even is the point of you??")
About halfway through mile 2, we hit the gravel. Of course having run this race three times, I knew there was some gravel near the turnaround, but either the gravel has greatly expanded in the last four years or my memory fails me, because this wasn't just like a couple hundred yards or so approaching the turnaround; it was basically a mile plus, from about 2.5 to 3.7 (ish? I confess I don't remember exactly. But it was significantly more than I remembered from past years).
(A lesson I learned from this experience is to NOT wear the Saucony Fastwitches on gravel ever again--they have very little tread and I spent that entire mile or whatever it was sliding around and unable to get much purchase on the ground. There are a couple of spots where you go over smooth wooden footbridges and on each one the difference in how easy it felt to run was huge.)
Mile 3: 7:22
My first thought at the turnaround: "...And now I get to repeat that enter god-forsaken experience!
If I could have run & grumbled at the same time, I definitely would have been at that point. Grumble grumble slow. Grumble grumble heavy legs. Grumble grumble gravel. Grumble grumble I could have been in bed right now. Grumble grumble people still outbound on a narrow road running three abreast. (rant SERIOUSLY PEOPLE WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL /rant)
And then somewhere in there a light bulb went on and it hit me that I wasn't really suffering; I was just cranky & annoyed &
desperately kind of wanted to not be running anymore. I wasn't pushing through this race like I should have been; I was more kind of just passively (and bitterly) letting it happen to me while I held on and tried not to die (or go skidding across the gravel). It sort of felt like my body had punked me.
("Hahahaha you thought we were actually trying, joke's on you, sucker!")
"Okay, for serious, you little shit," I kind of snarled, extremely pissed, "This is not nearly painful enough so stop being such a lazy bum & effing pick it up!"
Which had exactly no effect whatsoever.
Mile 4: 7:40
This was kind of a cool shot; too bad it's so small/obscured.
Yep. Definitely not working hard enough.
It was in the last two miles that I could really tell I hadn't been working as hard as I could have, in spite of all the psychological melodrama. In my best 10K races (including the first three run on this course), I've usually spent the last couple of miles with my body sort of screaming incoherently ("OH GOD I CAN'T DO THIS I CAN'T I CAN'T LET ME DIIIIEEEE" and my heartless, ice-in-the-veins brain basically responding, "Nobody asked you, shut up and run, bitch." But this time my body was more like, "Yeah, I can do this. Just don't stop. No problem. Yeah." I did push myself to speed up a little, and sure, it was uncomfortable, but I was never really able to push myself all the way to the edge of my comfort zone (and certainly not past it).
Mile 5: 7:22
Mile 6: 7:19
Once I could see the finish line (maybe .3 miles left), I think I can honestly say I pushed hard and sprinted all-out all the way to the finish, which was of course awful. But otherwise, those last two miles really were a lot more comfortable than they should have been.
Last .2: 1:15 (6:15 pace)
I'd really been hoping I'd *at least* manage that 45:36 (7:20 pace) that my December 5K predicted, but alas, I missed even that by a fairly significant margin & clocked 46:01 (7:24 pace). Officially, that ties my 10K PW in terms of pace (Santa Cruz 2011, though that official *time* is faster because it was a short course). OUCH.
On the other hand, at least I got a little hardware out of it!
Those finisher medals have really gone through a growth spurt in the last four years.
Other ways I could tell I definitely did not leave it all out there:
- 4-5 minutes after finishing I felt totally fine.
- For the rest of the day I didn't even feel like I'd raced.
- I ran 8 easy miles on Tuesday, which was longer, faster, & felt easier than any of last week's runs.
Naturally, I have all kinds of post-race analysis running through my head, but this post is already way too long for a 10K as it is, so I'll just leave you with the nuts & bolts & call it good.
Location: San Leandro Marina, San Leandro, CA
Date: Mid February (2/13 this year)
Price: Prices have gone up a bit since I ran this race last. $49 for the 5K, $54 for the 10K, $70 for the half. (You can also skip the shirt & deduct $5 from your registration, which is what I did.)
Deadline / Sellout Factor: Race day registration if space (and it sounded like there was this year). Some Brazen races sell out ahead of time, especially the shorter distances, so it's worth paying attention if you have your eye on something. Though they're often good about sending out email updates about registration for popular races.
Parking: Parking is free on the road leading up to the Marina but limited, so get their early or car pool. I arrived at 7:15 & had a 10 minute walk to the start.
Man, this race has grown in four years! The staging area is a little more elaborate than I remember, with more tents and also big signs directing you where to go.
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. Free sweat check close to the start. (Grab a garbage bag & get in line.) 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.
Flat, fast, & paved with the exception of 80-100 yards of grass at the start/finish & the gravel around the turnaround. (Seriously, I do not remember there being so much gravel!) The trail is a bit on the narrow side, though runners are supposed to stay to the right since it's an out-and-back course & all three distances share the same road. Fine for me EXCEPT after the turnaround when some people insist on running 2/3/4 abreast with their BFFS and sometimes the end where the early 10K runners end up sharing the road with people walking the 5K and, again, walking 2/3/4 abreast with their besties. It's actually a pretty nice little path, mostly along the water and kind of pretty if you have any brain cells available to appreciate it.
- Cotton T-shirt is included in the registration price; $6 gets you a nice tech shirt; skipping the shirt saves you $5.
- Hefty finisher medals for all distances (which, btw, have definitely gotten heftier in the 4 years I've been away); age group medals awarded three deep in each age/gender group in five year increments (less for the kiddies), plus Fleet Feet gift certificates to the overall male & female winners for each distance. (Fun fact: This year the women's winner was a 14 year old who ran a 39:41. CANNOT EVEN.)
- Bags of free samples
- Fantastic post-race spread (water, sports drink, bagels, fruit, granola, cake, candy, etc. Valentine's themed this year!)