Tuesday, December 10, 2013

FAST Pace 10k - October 2013

FAST Pace 10k - Cumming, GA - October 2013

My new BFF, Bill Rodgers!
I took the midnight train to Georgia for a 10k race on this weekend.  Actually, it was an airplane.  And it left around 4:00 p.m, not midnight.  And the race wasn't really the primary reason for the trip.

My college, Syracuse University, joined the ACC this year for athletics, which meant that they now would be playing against my wife's school - Georgia Tech - in football (and other sports).  We are both big football fans, so when we saw this game on the schedule, we just HAD to go to Atlanta to see it!  We both have family and friends there too, so it is always a fun trip.  We planned the trip much earlier, but I realized that, according to my training plan, I was supposed to run an 8k-10k tune-up race this weekend too.  After a little research, I found an interesting 10k in Cumming, GA, which is not too far from Atlanta.  We would fly to Atlanta on Friday afternoon, get some dinner, run the race on Saturday morning, shower, and head to the game. 

This was my third consecutive weekend running a race.  Two weeks earlier, I had run a 5k in 18:18.  And just 6 days earlier, I had set a new half marathon PR of 1:23:56.  This looked like a fast, downhill course, and I would be shooting for a 10k PR, but my legs definitely were not as well-rested as I would have liked.  My PR was 37:33 (6:02/mile pace), which I set at the Pike's Peek 10k back in April.  I wanted to average about 6:00/mile (or slightly faster) pace in this race.

Pushing hard through the rain to the finish line

One interesting thing about this race (besides the fast course) was that Bill Rodgers was the race spokesman!  Rodgers is probably the greatest American distance runner of all time.  He won the Boston and New York City Marathons 4 times in a row back in the 1970s, in addition to numerous other achievements.  The FAST Pace Race was held to raise money for prostate cancer research.  Rodgers decided to become a spokesman for this race because he is a prostate cancer survivor.  And because it was not a huge race, we actually got a chance to really talk to him! 
My wife and  I approached him before the race, and were worried he might be annoyed.  But he could not have possibly been more friendly.  He took pictures with us and told us about the time he won the Boston Marathon even though he had to stop and tie his shoes.  He even asked about our upcoming races, and when I mentioned the Philadelphia Marathon, he said that he would be there too.  I was really excited to get to meet him!

The race start is a little over a mile (uphill) from the finish line and parking, so after warming up, we got in line for a shuttle to the start line.  Once I got in line, Bill Rodgers came walking out and got in line behind me! We got to sit next to him and chat some more on the bus to the start.

FAST Pace 10k elevation map
We got off the shuttle and headed over to the start line.  As you can see from the elevation map, the race does have some very nice downhills.  What I was not expecting, though, were the uphills.  Some of the smaller uphills along the way really wore me out!  This course was actually much more challenging than the Pike's Peek 10k, which is almost entirely downhill.  Also, my legs were pretty beat from races the past couple weekends, including a half-marathon PR just 6 days earlier.  Not to mention that we had just gotten into town on a flight the night before.  And it was also raining on race morning.  But enough excuses! Onto the race...

Bill Rodgers gave me my age-group award!!
The first mile goes steeply downhill, and my time showed it with a 5:38.  Even though it was downhill, this was too fast of a start for me for a 10k.  I slowed down to a more reasonable 5:59 on the second mile.  If I could just stay around 6:00 pace for the rest of the race, I would have a PR!  I did run a 6:04 third mile, but I was noticing some of the small uphills, and I was really starting to struggle.  The rain started to pick up here too.  A lot of the 4th mile was uphill, and I slowed down to a 6:23.  I tried to make up time during the 5th mile, but could only manage a 6:13.  I stayed consistent in the 6th mile with a 6:16, and averaged a 5:27/mile pace in the final 0.2 stretch, which was down a very steep hill.  I crossed the finish line in 38:01 (6:07/mile pace), taking 6th place overall and 2nd place in my age group.  (Race ResultsI got to see Bill Rodgers one more time at the awards ceremony, as he was the one giving out the medals for age group awards!  He congratulated me and wished me luck in the Philadelphia Marathon.  I was shocked that he remembered and actually took the time to say something.  What a great guy!  He remembered my wife, too, when he gave her an age group award for her 5k.

2nd place age group medal
56-0!!  Poor, poor Syracuse :(
 I was hoping to run faster in this race, but it just didn't happen.  I think if I had gone in to the race better-rested, I would have run a faster time.  Also, now that I know the course, I would run it more strategically if I were to do it again.  It is not just straight downhill the whole way.  You can't just go out with reckless abandon.  5:38 first mile, anyone?  If you know where the uphills and downhills are coming, you can figure out where to save yourself, and where to go for it and make up time. Maybe I will do the race again in two years when Syracuse comes back to Atlanta for a rematch with Georgia Tech!  And, oh boy, does Syracuse ever need a rematch - they lost 56-0!!  As the wise Homer Simpson would say, "D'oh!"

Heritage Half Marathon - October 2013

Heritage Half Marathon - Haymarket, VA - October 2013

Heritage Half Marathon race shirt
This race was my "backup" plan after the Wilson Bridge Half Marathon was postponed due to the government shutdown.  It was only one week later, so luckily it didn't throw my training plan off too much.

I was already scheduled to do an 18 mile run with 14 miles at marathon pace on this day.  So, I figured that this would be a good substitute.  A couple of miles for a warm up and a couple of miles for a cool down, with a half marathon in the middle.  The only difference is that I was planning on running this race faster than my marathon pace, which is only around 7:00/mile.  I set my half marathon PR of 1:25:33 (6:31/mile pace) last October at the Wilson Bridge Half, so I would be attempting to beat that time.  I was hoping to hold a steady 6:25/mile pace, and finish in the 1:24s, or maybe 1:23s if it was a good day.

Heritage Half Marathon finisher medal
Well, it was not a good day - at least not weather-wise.  It was POURING rain all weekend, including the morning of and during the race.  Race morning it was right around 60 degrees, windy, and humid in addition to the rain. Not ideal.  The race started at Battlefield High School in lovely Loudoun County.  It was a beautiful school with an impressive football stadium in which the race started and finished.  The lights were on inside the stadium, which was helpful, because it was pretty dark between the rain and the early race start. The race finished with a lap on the track inside the lit up stadium.  I enjoy races like this because it makes you feel like a celebrity when you come into the stadium to finish with everyone cheering you on.

I wore a trash bag over my body to stay dry until the race started.  It was really pouring! Finally the race began, and 410 half marathoners set out in a driving rain.  I knew that I wanted to average a 6:25 mile pace, but this course had some hills, so I would have to be strategic about it.  There would be some places where I would lose time, and some places where I could make it up.  (See elevation map below)
Heritage Half Marathon - elevation map

Age group award - plaque
I started off pretty fast with a downhill 6:15 mile,  but then evened it out with an uphill 6:34 second mile.  Miles 3 and 4 were fast again with a 6:11 and 6:13, before I settled down to where I wanted to be for miles 5-8 with 6:28, 6:20, 6:23, and 6:27 respectively.  At this point, I knew that I was going to get my PR, even if I really slowed down a lot - as long as I didn't totally crash.  So, I went more conservative for miles 9-12 with a 6:43, 6:41, 6:36, and 6:44.  These miles had a lot of hills too, which slowed me down anyway.  I also had probably used too much energy early on by going out so fast.  But I did have just enough energy left to really push it on my final 1.1 miles, averaging a blazing 6:14 mile pace!

Finally, clothes drenched in rain, I entered the brightly lit Battlefield High School stadium, took a lap around the track, and crossed the finish line 10th place overall and 2nd place in my age group with a time of 1:23:56 (6:24/mile pace).  (Race Results)  This beat the PR I set last year by almost 2 minutes! 
A rainy day with a happy ending!

Despite the terrible weather, this race ended up working out really well for me.  I set a new PR, won an age group award, and felt really confident about my chances of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.  According to MacMillan's Pace Calculator, my half marathon time of 1:23:56 translates to a 2:56 marathon - and all I need is 3:10 to qualify for Boston.

I would strongly recommend this race if you are looking for a cheap (only $40) half marathon that is easy to get to, with ample parking, where you don't have to get there too early, deal with big crowds, corrals, and general race hoopla.  You get a really nice long sleeve technical shirt and medal, in addition to abundant age group awards.  There is also a 5k, if you don't feel like going 13.1.