Shifting Gears and Farm Bureau 10K Race Report

I've had a lot of fun this month.  I'm thankful I gave my body and mind a break from marathon and ultra training.  I've run with renewed excitement and determination for the most part on the track at the local college, on roads, on trails, and just tried to adapt to cold-weather running again.

I feel like I've turned a corner.  

The mental burnout is gone.

The chronically tired legs are gone.  

The stuck-in-slow-pace mode is gone.  

I just needed to wake back up.  In hindsight, I see many failings of my training in the past year.  One area that I neglected was speed, especially threshold runs.  I simply did almost no running at my 5K or 10K pace.  Another area I neglected was strength training.  I didn't really train my core, my hips, my glutes, or my hamstrings on a regular basis.  However, I ran two ultramarathons, four marathons, and five half-marathons, so there's that.  :-)  I'm just ready to shift gears now.  

Reading the book (or devouring it is more like it) Run Faster from the 5K to the Marathon: How to Be Your Own Best Coach was so eye-opening!  I see areas in which I am strong (endurance) and areas in which I am weak (strength and speed).  I know what to do in my future training to correct these!  It is THE BEST training book I've ever read.

So, for the past three or four weeks, I've trained differently.  I started doing more strength training.  I ran a 5K time trial on my own in 27:37, which is only 37 seconds off my fastest 5K of three years ago.  I was surprised at that one! I am relieved the leg pain and fatigue when I run are both gone. There were a few weeks between the most recent ultra and the marathon and the half marathon in which runs simply HURT.  

My goal has been to maintain 20 miles per week, and I have. I think that's reasonable.  I can still enter into marathon training for my April marathon with a decent base.  It's just been nice to not stress about the miles.

The one dark spot in an otherwise happy running month has been my left knee.  Patellar tendonitis has flared up.  I used to struggle with it in that knee when I first started running.  I was doing a single-legged squat one day three weeks ago, and a pain just ripped through that knee.  At first it only hurt during single leg squats and lunges.  Then it occasionally hurt during runs.  Then it started  hurting going up and down stairs.  So, I stopped doing squats and lunges.  I'm making sure to warm up well before runs, and I'm aware of it, but the pain is only at maybe a 1.  I'm hoping it just passes as it did before.  I ran through it then, and I'm running through it now. (We runners are like that.)  It got worse for a little while, but now it's holding steady and some days, I don't feel it at all.  When it flares up, I try not to feel disappointed or frustrated, but sometimes I fail and a dark cloud descends on my day. (We runners are like that, too.)  My husband's left knee is weirdly doing the same thing.  Sympathy pains, I guess....

On Saturday, I ran my first 10K race in almost two years.  Since I had run the 3.1 mile time trial at about an 8:54 pace, I figured I would be able to run at or close to a 9:30-9:40 pace.  I also knew that I needed a 9:39 pace or better to come in under one hour.  Running 6.2 miles at a 9:39 pace seemed doable.  

About two weeks before the race, read a couple of articles about the body/brain connection.  They advised that we should run more often without a watch, just listening to the signals our body is sending us, also known as "running naked."  (Regular Google it. Don't Google image it.  Just. Don't.)

Where was I?

Then Coach Jason Fitzgerald from Strength Running sent a "success story" article in which he advised a client to get rid of her watch and run by feel.  Running by feel only, she was able to run faster than ever before and ran a half marathon PR!  The watch had been holding her back.

So, I figured I'd try it in the Farm Bureau Holiday 10K.  I purposefully left my Garmin running watch on the kitchen counter.  I just planned to run hard, but not too hard and see where it got me!

My friend Andrea and I left for Springfield around 8:30 that morning for the 10:00 a.m. start.  We met up with some friends from Clarksville who are also members of the Middle TN Trail Runners club we are a part of.  We dressed festively in honor of the event.  This is my friend Cheryl, Andrea, and me.

Andrea and I did some dynamic warm up stretches (as recommended on Strength Running) and ran about 1/2-3/4 mile warm up.  Without my watch, I have no idea how far it was!  We realized we were only 4 minutes from race time while in the middle of our warm up jog, so we hurried back to the starting line.  Everyone was already lined up!  We found a spot near Cheryl and our friend Jeffrey, and then another runner and I recognized one another from Facebook and introduced ourselves.  It's funny when that happens! 

We started, and I looked down at my empty wrist in an attempt to hit the start button.  Then I smiled.  :-) 

 The start was a downhill.  I tried to hold back and run a pace that felt natural.  I tried to tune into that brain/body connection.  But I'm pretty sure I don't have one.  

Andrea said later that I started out at about a 9:06 pace.  I was aiming for about 9:30-9:40 pace.   But my pace felt right.  My legs felt GREAT. I estimated I was running about a 9:30 pace, 9:15 at the fastest.  Something was wrong with my breathing though.  It was much too rough for a 9:30 pace.  I acknowledged this and tried to slow down.  It was my body sending me a SIGNAL!   But my breathing (and likely my pace) stayed pretty much the same.  

I decided to distract myself.  I picked a lady up ahead who looked like she might be in my age group and made it my goal to pass her.  
In mile two, I ran on her shoulder for a while.  Drafting is not something I'm particularly good at.  We almost tangled up a couple of times trying to run the tangents on the curvy greenway path.  Finally, I dropped her on a hill. ("Oh my gosh, I have just officially won the imaginary race between this lady and me!! And on a HILL!!!")  That made me feel very happy.  I've been doing hill sprints and strength training, and I can actually tell a difference. 

So, I picked out two other ladies to race.  Ummm......
One was younger than me most likely, but one was clearly in that 40-44 age group.  I can spot us!  I was mostly focused on my age competitor. She was shorter than me, sort of muscular, and was running strong and consistently.  I was careful not to let them pull ahead and maintained an even distance behind them.  We got to the 3.1 mile turnaround, and the ladies I was chasing both slowed to walk through the water stop.  Without trying, I zipped past them.  I drank a sip on the go and kept moving. Then almost immediately the shorter lady passed me back!  Oh, it was ON. I ran just behind her through about mile 4, waiting to make my move.  I pulled ahead a bit finally, but she sped up, too! I could hear her crunching leaves behind me, so I couldn't let up.  I kept pushing.  My breathing was more ragged than I would have preferred, but I was having FUN.  Two forty-somethings battling it away on the greenway, no chance of winning the actual race, but an age group place is worth fighting for!

Racing is fun.  Running hard is fun.  My legs felt awesome, it was just the breathing holding me back.  I have simply done way too few threshold runs.  My legs can handle the pace, but my breathing hasn't caught up.  My legs seemed to be on automatic pilot. I could barely feel them.  They were just doing what they've been taught to do.  It was pretty cool.

Finally, at mile 5, that too-fast start and the most likely erratic pacing began to catch up to me.  I really feel like I ran a strong race through mile 5.  I had picked off the three people I wanted to pass.  I wasn't passed by anyone in miles 4-5.  Then it sort of came apart.  Fatigue or lactic acid crept into my legs, and I'm sure I slowed.  Without a Garmin, I didn't know how much.  The good thing is my Garmin pace wasn't there taunting me, shaming me, and making me feel defeated.  (We runners are like that.)  A long uphill segment began.  My legs had begun to tire, so I walked twice on the hill.   At the top of the hill, I had no idea how far was left in the race.  That is definitely a drawback to "running naked."  I didn't know if it was time to leave it all out there yet or if another mile remained.  

The end was a series of turns as we wove our way back to Main Street.  I didn't yet have a visual of the clock.  As I thought about what the clock would say, I didn't know if it would say 56 minutes or 59 minutes or 1:03.  I was definitely hoping for under an hour.  I finally got my visual.  It said 1:00:20.   Can you tell my reaction?



It has been a while since I ran 10K's regularly, but coming in under an hour isn't usually a problem.  

I know it's due to the type of training I've been focused on.  I know what to do differently.  I know how to shift gears.  

But I was still a bit disappointed.  Not terribly, but a bit.  It was a good reality check for me though. Running without a Garmin was a gamble, and it may not have paid off.  If I'd been able to see my pace in that first mile or two, I would have gone slower than the 9:06 pace I apparently started at. But running free like that---- I like it.  I just need to teach my body what different paces feel like with the Garmin, so I can run them better without the Garmin.  

I checked the results that were posted on a wall near the timing tent and saw that the top three women in my age group had all finished between 52-54 minutes.   Wow. Big difference from my finish time. What I didn't know was that I was #4.  My official chip time turned out to be 1:00:14, a 9:42 pace.  That made me feel slightly better.  It wasn't that far off.  

My friends Cheryl and Andrea and I enjoyed a fabulous post-race lunch at a little restaurant called The Depot and then headed for Clarksville.

I'm glad I went.  I'm also very thankful for friends who share adventures like this one with me!  

Sometimes I almost wish I could "just run" and not care about paces or races.  But not really.  I'm too goal oriented.  Too driven.  And I love it too much.  Even when it disappoints me, running is still such a HUGE blessing in my life.