Pikes Peek 10k
This will not be a typical Mark race report. It’s 4:30 am and I’m headed down to North Carolina for a week that will involve me traveling across the state in search of the best pork barbecue, pizza, beer, and trail running it has to offer. I’ll probably write a much more in depth post about yesterday’s race when I get back but I want to get at least some thoughts down.
Yesterday I headed down to Rockville for Pikes Peek 10k. The net downhill point-to-point course is known as a PR course and LOTS of fast guys (and gals) show up. I registered for it a while back intending for this to be one of my target races for the Spring (one of my goals was a fast 10k after all and there are none around here better). Unfortunately the last month of training has not gone anywhere near as well as I planned so going into yesterday’s race the only real quality work I’ve done had been a few abbreviated workouts weeks ago and some races.
Fortunately my 10k PR was pretty soft, set last December on a hilly course I did on a whim. My hope was to lower that PR some and hopefully prove to myself that a sub-hour showing at Broad Street in two weeks is realistic. I lucked out with the weather. Low 50s (maybe a bit sunnier than I would’ve liked) and a mostly tailwind (at times it felt like a crosswind but I’m not going to complain at all).
My warm-up consisted of a bit of jogging around, some half-assed strides, some drills, a quick round of dynamic stretches, a sprint back to the car to get my chip, and then a lot of jumping around to stay loose as the start was delayed almost ten minutes. Finally they got the giant balloon arch in place and we were off. There’s a short stretch on the road we start on before making a left and from there it’s just straight down MD 355 (which is also called Rockville Pike, hence the name). Even though the course is net downhill, it is NOT all downhill. There are a few brief inclines mostly when the road went over another.
The first mile felt like it had the most downhill, even with a slight incline thrown in the middle, and I went through in 5:28. I knew that was too fast to sustain but chalked it up to the big start and figured I was settling in now and would try to sustain a slightly slower pace. At this point there were already a few guys who I was running around and would for most of the race. A Falls Road-er in a blue singlet and tights and an older guy in Brooks gear (the ID elite singlet and shorts like me) who was wearing Sauconys. I went through mile two in 11:15 (5:47 mile) with the Falls Road guy and the two of us would stay together for the next few miles, slowly reeling in a group of three ahead of us.
Shortly after two, Brooks guy pulled off to tie his show, but by mile 3 he had caught back up. Damn. Somewhere between two and four there was a long(er) incline that I felt like I was just slogging through. I was glad there were people running with me, at some points I just stared at the back of a jersey and tried to ignore all other stimuli, internal or external. I went through mile three in 16:58 (a 5:43 mile) and passed through 5k in 17:35 which made me chuckle seeing as how I was pretty close to all-out running 17:30 two weeks ago. I thought to myself as I went through the halfway that I was probably not going to negative split this thing but if I could hold on and not drop off too much, a sub 37 clocking was reasonable. Yes, sub-37 was what I had in my head at that point. That represented the higher end of my goal spectrum. My mental math was pretty fuzzy for most of the race.
Somewhere around the halfway point, things got tough. Physically AND mentally. Mentally possibly more so. I just wanted to stop. I wish I could say I was staying positive or something like that but the truth is I was in a pretty bad place for a lot of it. I was constantly fighting off the urge to just stop. Internally, I was extremely whiny and self-loathing. But my body was kind of doing it’s own thing, running pretty evenly. I reached mile four in 22:43 (5:45 mile). Around this point the Falls Road guy ran up ahead and caught up to a red Falls Road singlet. I couldn’t go with him so me and Brooks guy ran together about twenty seconds back. I kept trying to tell myself that I’ve run the distance remaining in tough track workouts. I kept looking at the tall buildings in the distance, trying to not focus on each step I had to keep taking. Hit mile five in 28:32 (5:49 mile) and chuckled that one of my goals for the year was a 28:30. I kept telling myself something along the lines of, “hold your shit together just a little bit more, don’t blow up now!”
Brooks guy started kicking I guess. I gave him a thumbs up because I couldn’t respond. Or so I thought. After about a half mile I felt… better. Not good really, but better. And the prospect of being done was really motivating. So I think my cadence picked up. I passed Brooks guy right after the six mile mark (34:24, a 5:52 mile). From there it was a slight downhill to the finish and I put everything I had into it, covering the remaining distance in 65 seconds! I didn’t realize sub 36 was possible until I saw that 6 mile split. WTF? I passed one more guy who had no response right before the finish line and crossed in 35:29. That’s an almost 3 minute PR! Yes the conditions were easier and near-ideal but still. WHAT?! Craziness.
I’m still sort of wrapping my head around this as I’m not sure where it came from. My training has been less than ideal of late and I’ve done no specific work for the race distance. But hey, I’ll mull it all over on my NC vacation. And hopefully I can have another day like that in Philly in two weeks. In the meantime I’m just gonna be happy with a big PR and what is really probably the best race I’ve ever run.
Til next time, RUN HAPPY everyone!
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