Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Plaza 10K: "I'm either going to have a huge PR or a huge blow up"

The short:
When I saw my mile 1 split, the 5K course clock, and my mile 4 split during the Plaza 10K, a thought kept popping into my head:  "I'm either going to have a huge PR or a huge blow up".  God blessed me with the former; I ran a PR of 36:34, nearly a minute under my previous road PR from the 2017 Plaza 10K and even under my track PR of 37:09 (I also broke 18:00 for the 5K for the first time during the process).  I thought races like this only happened to other people, and I may never beat this time, so I am going to ride this post-race high so hard!
Working on my season goal of smiling in my
finishing photos
The long:
I thought I'd worked my PRs down low enough (in relation to my capability) that I'd be lucky anytime I could shave off a few seconds.  It's always blown my mind to see experienced runners with already fast bests drop a lot of time off of a PR, especially when they remark afterwards that they got out there and felt fantastic running faster than they'd expected, so they just kept going and ran a time beyond what they'd dreamed.  I've had some break-through races like this years ago before I was running to my potential (the 2015 Waddell and Reed half was the most memorable one, when I hoped for 1:26:59 and ran 1:24:33), but I thought I was to the point where my margins were slim enough that dropping even 2-3 seconds/mile would be a really good day.  In fact, I went into the Plaza 10K thinking that if I had a really good day I might be able to rival my track PR of 37:09.  I thought if a miracle happened I might hit 36:59 and my big dream goal of breaking 37, but that would be a stretch.

Since I ran this race last year, I knew the course and logistics, which is always helpful.  I also had a planned pace partner, my friend Jessi who I trained with as often as I could while she was running for Missouri State (she now lives in Kansas City).  I seemed to always nail workouts when I ran with her, so I was optimistic that she and I could pull each other through to stronger performances than we'd have alone.  I felt good coming off my performance 6 days previously at the Run for a Child 10K, and I also felt completely recovered from that, despite being in a 73 mile week (I did have 2 short days prior to the race, which helped!).  I knew the women's field as a whole would be very competitive, and when race morning gave us 58 degree temperatures, fast times looked promising.
The start seemed much more crowded than this!
At the gun, a lot of women took out fast, Jessi included.  I quickly realized that she was used to cross-country and track racing where it's important to establish position early.  I wanted to be with her so we could work together as planned, but I knew that it wasn't smart for me to go out any faster than 6:00 (6:05+ was actually my plan - after Run for a Child especially I wasn't afraid of a slow first mile).  I settled into pace hoping that I would reel her back in before too long.  My first mile was still faster than I'd wanted at 5:57, but the effort felt appropriate so I tried to push any worry out of my mind.  I was moving up in position towards the end of the first mile and the beginning of the second, although at no point during the race did I know or care what place I was in.

I pulled up with Jessi towards the end of mile 2, and settled in stride with her.  I didn't look at my second mile split because I felt like I was running exactly as I should be for a 6.2 mile race.  I didn't want to get discouraged if the pace was slower than I wanted, and I didn't want to get scared if it was faster than I'd expected.  Mile 2 was 5:48 so I'm glad I didn't look because I would have been worried I was going too fast too early.  I have learned to trust that I race best when I race by effort, and I've learned to let go of thinking I need to micro-manage every single split, especially when I'm in a competitive field.

Jessi and I said a few words of encouragement to each other and pressed on side-by-side.  Janell was also right in front of us (I mentioned her in my post about Rock the Parkway, where we ran nearly the whole race together before she out-kicked me - she is also training for a 2:45 at CIM and working with the same coach as me!).  We all passed the 5K clock together, and it read 18:08ish, although based on my splits it should have been more like 18:20, which doesn't surprise me because every course mile marker was slightly wrong, mostly coming too soon.  I hadn't looked at my mile 3 Garmin split, and I didn't do the math on our pace, but did tell Jessi, "Well, I just ran a 5K PR".  I felt like I was running within myself, and I felt like I could run that pace for that distance again (often I don't at the 5K mark of a 10K!)....but at the same time I thought, "This is either going to go really well or really poorly!"  I also kept thinking, "58 degrees is like a performance-enhancing drug!"
Jessi & I synchronized running right
behind Janell on the Plaza
Mile 4 has a lot of decline in it, so I expected it would be my fastest mile.  I didn't make any conscious moves at any point during this race, because my goal was to get the best 10K time I could out of myself and not worry about what anyone else was doing, but Jessi and I gapped Janell slightly at some point after the 5K, and I started pulling away from Jessi as I accelerated down the decline.  I encouraged her to stick on me, but we separated at that point.  It was almost like Run for a Child was a preview for this race in regards to how I felt; I felt like I kept gaining momentum as the race progressed and I just felt so good.  I also kept reflecting on how much better I felt at every point on the course than I had in 2017!  I looked at my mile 4 split mainly because I figured it would be a confidence boost with the decline, and it was 5:38.  I felt like I had a solid 2.2 more miles in me, but at the same time kept thinking, "I'm either going to get a huge PR or huge blow up!"  Also I didn't even know I could run a mile in 5:38!
Around mile 4
Mile 5 goes back up most of the elevation that drops in mile 4, so I expected it to be my slowest mile, although it wasn't.  I was pulling in a couple of men so I focused on them and maintaining my turnover.  I looked at my mile 5 split because I wanted to get some gauge on where I was at overall, and it was 5:52, which was a pleasant surprise because I expected over 6:00.  Strava grade-adjusted it to 5:40 on flat ground.  I also realized that I still didn't have a great gauge on where I was since I hadn't looked at my mile 2 and 3 splits and I wasn't smart enough to look at my total elapsed time, but I felt ready to pound it in with all I had and to see what that got me!
It's a nice course, but it's not a track!
Mile 6 also has some uphill before some decline to the finish, and I remembered how very long that mile felt the previous year.  I felt strong this time, but also pretty spent, and in hindsight I may have pushed up the incline in mile 5 a little too much.  However, I was also in no man's land during the final mile - I was not going to catch anyone and no one was going to catch me.  I think if I'd been with someone I could have closed at 5:40-5:45, but I pushed as much as I could solo, which was another 5:52 (I didn't look at that split during the race).

Once I was close enough to read the finishing clock, it read 36:12, and I knew I was going to be way under 37:00.  I kicked it in with all I had left, which gave me a 5:25 pace final 0.28 on my Garmin and a bright shiny new PR of 36:34, chip time!  One of my season goals is to smile for my finishing pictures, but I think I'd have been glowing in this one even without that game plan.  My previous road PR was 37:30, which I ran last year at this same race, and my track PR is 37:09 so I beat that as well.
Finishing with joy
As I walked through the finish chute and then enjoyed an 8 mile cool down with great friends (Jessi, Janell, and Michelle from left to right below), it all felt surreal.  I thought 36:59 would be a big stretch, but I certainly never expected to run in the mid-36's - at this 10K or ever!  I also forgot what it was like to run in 58 degrees after a sweltering summer, but I quickly remembered that I like it!
I love how we can all race each other while supporting each other 100%
This course was certified so it was 6.22 miles, but my watch read 6.28 (at Run for a Child, which is also certified, it said 6.15).  It was more difficult to run the tangents in this one, though, due to a more crowded field.  I've decided if I had to choose I'd rather have a Garmin reading that's a little long than one that's a little short, because I want to know I for sure ran the distance (but right on would still be most preferred).  Can you tell I like data?
Garmin splits
Because when your Garmin says 5:49, you
take a picture!
As a whole, GAP was -2/mile on average pace
per Strava
I am riding the post-PR high for all that it's worth!  Like Run for a Child, this was a really nice checkpoint and confidence boost for me.  I'm running pretty much all of the same races this fall that I ran in 2017, so I can see how my fitness compares, and so far so good on my progress!  Being able to maintain the pace I did in this race really shocked me, because I haven't done any real speed work; my training has been strength-focused (tempos, long runs with some fast finishes/pick ups, and mileage).  Really all that I've run at 5:49 pace has been strides and fartleks (and sometimes not even those!).  So add this to my data indicating that speed work is worthless, haha!  Especially because I also ran a 5K PR during this race, with my fastest 5K coming in at 17:55 on my Garmin.  I won't count it as an official PR, but it shows me that I can do it.  My actual 5K PR is 18:18, and 18:17 + 18:17 = 36:34, so this race was a faster pace as a whole as well.
I will probably never beat this

This would also be my fastest 2 mile
since high school track!
Official results are here.  I was 6th overall female and 1st in age group 35-39.
Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans. - Proverbs 16:3
The more I give my running to God, the better I feel about it.  That doesn't mean I perform any better or see linear progress - and early 2018 is sure proof of that - but that I know I'm going to be just fine no matter how races and workouts go.  I'm sure thankful for this one, and also for the opportunity to continue to pursue my running dreams.  Next up is the Indy Women's Half Marathon on September 29!


  1. Wow!!!! I’m so amazed! Thomas was talking this weekend about how surprised he is that he’s gotten faster in 5ks just by doing long runs with no speed work. I told him about your huge PR!

    1. I will consider Thomas’s progress additional data for my speed work is useless study, hahaha! It really is amazing how much speed comes with mileage and strength-based runs. I am also learning that workouts run on tired legs (during higher mileage) are liars to some degree. I kept comparing workouts I’d run during 50 mile weeks with recent workouts run during 80 miles weeks, but it’s kind of apples and oranges.