Perfect 10: a ten mile party and more

On Sunday, I ran a race with about a thousand friends. Or so it seemed, anyway. The Perfect 10 Miler was truly an event to remember, as I thought it would be. Here’s how it unfolded….

After an evening that included literally running out of gas in my car, getting stuck in an hour-long traffic jam over the course of four miles, and a bathroom flood, I woke up bright dark and early and couldn’t wait to get this party started. I picked up Steve Ironman, and we headed to the park. I was able to get in a mile warmup, plus some other running around here and there. I felt fine, no complaints. I saw a bunch of women I knew, but hung mostly around the pacers, who were looking pretty awesome:

Some of the pacers pre-race.

Some of the pacers pre-race.

Proof that I did indeed get my lucky #13.

Going into the race, I had no idea what to expect as far as competition was concerned. Jason (coach who organized the pace groups) told me at the expo the day before that Steve was sort of his “just in case” pacer, because he didn’t think many women were going to run seven minute pace. On the other hand, this was a CGI race, and their other races, like the Rutgers Unite Half and the NJ State Triathlon always attract fast runners/triathletes. So, Steve and I could be out there running alone in front, or I could be hanging on to the top twenty or thirty, or something in between. We wouldn’t have a clue until the gun went off. Okay, that’s a lie. We chatted on the start line, like any curious, nervous runner would do. A couple women said something about “6:45s,” so I knew then that I wouldn’t be alone. I still was almost literally toeing the line, my first time at the very front in a race with an actual timing mat! That was pretty exciting. I was just behind the very front though, because again, I didn’t know what to expect.

Ready at the starting line!

One thing I remember feeling that surprises me now is, I wasn’t nervous at all. This might be a first for me. I was just purely excited to see what I could do…and of course, distracted by all the costumes and happy people surrounding me.

When the race started, of course people went out blazing fast. The old me would have gone with them and busted out a 6:30 first mile, to “have something in the bank.” Not this time though: why should I race that way if I’ve ran every single run with a negative split recently and felt great? So, that was the plan. I’d thought 7:00 would get me in a nice, comfortable spot through halfway, maybe even over 7:00 at times in the very beginning. However, I settled into 6:50s really easily, and it felt just that: easy. It felt like 7:30. There was no need to slow down with my heart rate and legs in check like they were, so I didn’t. This meant that I actually ran ahead of Steve the entire race. I could hear him talking behind me though, telling the runners around him they were right on a seven minute pace.

Miles 1-4: 6:53, 6:58, 6:55, 6:46

The best part of the entire race came after the first turn-around, where we crossed onto the other side of 2-lane Paxson Ave. and could see the rest of the runners heading out in the opposite direction. First, it looked pretty sweet because there was a total of 1,432 runners, and the crowd hadn’t thinned out yet, since it was still the first mile. Second, it turns out I have some sort of fan club. All of a sudden, Brennan cheered my name. Then Lisa (and another Lisa). Then Stephanie. Then Anne and Michelle. Then Jody. Then others I can’t even remember now. It got to the point where the woman I was currently running alongside was definitely amused, and I was trying not to laugh (laughing + running = not the best). “I’m not famous, I swear,” I said. All the cheering and waving gave me a mental boost, and I did a good job of saving it instead of letting loose and dropping a too-fast mile so early on. The loop around the West Picnic Area lot was another spot where I saw runners going in the opposite direction. I was in ninth place then, I counted. Steve was still pretty close behind me at that point, but I felt myself pretty quickly gain ground on two women ahead of me. I checked my watch and saw I was running the same pace, so they must have slowed down…so I moved right on past.

Hughes Dr. is a bit of an incline, so the fifth mile started out a little slow. I managed to drop the girl who was running next to me here though. Just as I got onto campus, I passed another girl, who had been in second or third last I checked. It was time for the fun part now; I had done these sections at this pace the week before.

First, let me just say that the first part of the course on the MCCC campus was not anything like the map suggested (and therefore what we ran last week). It’s not important, but for the sake of anyone curious as to what the course actually was, this section looked like this:

So, we still got to blaze straight through the middle, after the little turn-around, where I got to gauge my place again (I was now sixth, and the girl I broke away from wasn’t far behind). There was a rock band playing at mile 5.5 actually, which was pretty cool. At that point I was kind of alone, just chasing one girl, so it felt a little weird. Sorry for not cheering or anything, guys. Hopefully I smiled or something.

Miles 5-8: 6:57, 6:41, 6:39, 6:37

The clock sitting at mile six indicated I was running basically the same average pace as my 10k PR (from last summer). I still felt like I had a couple more gears, one of which I had switched on just as I entered the straight walkway through campus. This was subconsciously my plan (I think). At the turn by the softball field, the girl just ahead of me started to continue straight, so I yelled, “go left!” (I’m too nice to have let her find out when she reached a random grass field and tree line…). We entered earshot of the band again, and ran onto the road leading to the trail that would take us back to the park. The effort was beginning to feel harder at that point, but I had dropped down to 6:35-40 by then, so that made sense. One good thing about the course being different from what we’d thought was that by the time we got off the path and onto Paxson, mile eight was actually done.

Then, THE WIND came. I am not one to complain about the elements; they are race conditions one cannot control. But OH MY GOSH THE WIND DURING MILE 9 WAS HORRIBLE. I guess I never experienced being held back by the wind during a race before. It certainly made up for the course being pancake flat – there might as well have been a big hill on Paxson right there. I was gaining on the girl ahead of me, but I felt like we were running the same exact pace, and the wind was sucking the energy I would’ve used for a two-mile kick out of me. I couldn’t wait to turn right just to get out of the direct headwind (and it was very direct). It got marginally better. There was more of a crowd on that small road, and a couple guys said my name and told me to “go get her”…not sure who you were but thank you, I really did try! I kind of wish I could go back and re-do this ending (and smile for the camera at the finish…I still look like I’m wind-battered) – catch the girl and steal the AG win and the last spot on the “Leaderboard” chart at the top of the results…but it didn’t happen. And I guess it’s okay. I kicked it in as much as I could at that point and finished sixth overall with a time of 1:08:24.2 (miles 9 & 10: 6:55, 6:32). I placed second in my age group (F20-24), missing first by 1.7 seconds…but as I explained, it was one of those instances when more ground would have been needed for me to make up that time; I was significantly farther away from her a mile or two before!

Some official finish pics…

(closer...closer...)

(closer…closer…)

I seriously smiled for the first eight miles...where are those photos?!

I seriously smiled for the first eight miles…where are those photos?! I want to photoshop out my face, ha.

If you were wondering how Steve did with his pacing duties after last weekend‘s speedy course preview tempo, the answer is very well: 1:09:48.1, finishing just three places behind me. He was almost invited onto the podium to receive his first place 25-29 female award, but it was quickly realized he was a.) a pacer, and b.) male. When I went up to receive my AG medal, I learned that the girl I’d been chasing for the whole race, Allison, works at another Running Company (in NYC)! Her mom ended up winning her age group too. So, I would’ve ruined it for them if I’d beaten her in the last mile, right? We’ll just leave it at that.

"Where is third?"

“Where is third?”

I had an awesome time after the race chatting with so many awesome people. It was really great to hear some of them say they were glad I told them about the race at the store, that they read the course preview on my blog, and that they were inspired to see me up near the front at the turn-arounds. I can’t thank the ladies who cheered for me while they were also running enough! Also, major shout-out to Black Girls Run – they had such a huge, supportive, positive team! Great signs, great cheering, great post-race dancing! (Look for a BGR singlet somewhere you least expect it soon…such as on a 120-lb white guy on the Oklahoma River, but I won’t mention names.)

I could go ahead and list the 10 best things about this race, but it can be summed up with this:

It was like a party with a 10 mile PR in the middle. Can it get better than that? Oh wait, yes, I forgot to take a picture of the banana I had dipped in chocolate. And [good] beer. That’s excusable, I think.

Already wrote splits, but just to consolidate….No sevens = success.

What it means…

Aside from the awesomeness of the event as a whole, I believe this was actually my best race to date. Never before has 6:50 felt such like cruising pace, nor has dropping the pace to 6:37 felt so automatic. I know that if not for the insane wind, I would have been able to hold that pace for the ninth mile also. I remember doing tempo runs in college and not being able to average under 7:00 for four or five miles. My first mile would always be the fastest, and I would always get really nervous before the run began. The Perfect 10 felt like a celebration of finally having overcome all of that. I’m finally at the point where I can make goals for myself, respect those goals for what they are, fear them a little bit, and then make sure I obliterate them. It’s time to look forward to the Philadelphia Half Marathon now, and I wanted to use the Perfect 10 as a guide for setting my goal. I was going to run it with Steve and he isn’t able to do it anymore, but our loose plan since the day we registered was always “sub-90.” Translation: that was his plan and I was skeptical I could keep up, but I was planning to try. Now, after Sunday, I am going to officially set it as my goal. A couple more miles at ~6:50 before I pick it up, and I should be at under a 6:52 average for 13.1 without a problem. (My B goal would be to average under 7:00, i.e., under ~1:31:40). A sub-1:30:00 half is definitely no easy task though, and I understand that my 10 mile time doesn’t necessarily correspond to that goal. I think it might be good for me to go ahead and say something scary like that, and see what happens. That being said, don’t let me continue and run 26.2 a month from Thursday. That is off-limits ’til April 21….

Running lately

I have had some noteworthy long runs and workouts lately that I have failed to write about, mainly because I have had other running-related news to share that has been a bit more engaging than writing all about myself! (See: Perfect 10 Miler course preview, Savannah trip…and I guess I thought it was imperative to show you my t-shirts, huh.)

Let me take a step back…

September 22 long run: I ran twelve miles as my long run this week, and had some good company. I mapped a somewhat engaging route, taking us down to the towpath, turning right, and continuing farther than I have been in quite some time. We got off the towpath a couple miles down, taking a road all the way out until it intersected with a common, hilly running route. All if this formed a big loop, with nothing repeated twice. It was a lovely, 64-degree sunny morning, and I could think of nothing else I’d rather be doing. The longest stretch of time during which I wasn’t talking was probably five or ten seconds, making this run certainly classified as “conversational.” It was a notable long run for me because of how the stats compared to this fact.

Sometimes it’s not the races, or the speed workouts or tempos, but the ordinary runs that are the runs that boost us to a new level of confidence. I definitely could run Boston at that pace was the first thought that came to mind. Heck, I was talking the entire time. I wasn’t exactly well-prepared for the run, sleep-wise, or hydration-wise. But it was totally fine, and easy. And I averaged 7:36. So while 7:36 for 12 miles isn’t super fast by my standards, I still think it was my strongest “normal long run” to date given how I felt and the fact that I wasn’t concerned about my pace, and that made me happy. So did the Starbucks protein fruit smoothies we got immediately afterwards, after salivating over the thought of water and/or fruit juice the last two miles (little did I know, this smoothie would become a weekly tradition…).

Note: This was my first run in my new North Face Better Than Naked Singlet, which took me way longer to buy than it should have. New favorite shirt – I’ve been digging TNF lately.

September 24 PI workout: The workout two days after this was one I actually came up with: 2400-1600-1200-400-400 meters on the track. This was a good one because it started with a distance long enough to need to conserve some energy and find a good rhythm, then a “mile” because it’s always nice to have a mile split, a similar interval but a little faster, and then two much-faster laps. I ended up doing a third 400, and I’m not really sure why. I guess I felt I had more in me…and that wasn’t the best feeling post-last-400. I started it with some runners aiming to go slower, as their pacer of sorts, then decided to just speed up, why not. My splits were: 9:36 (6:24 pace), 6:14, 4:38, 1:24, 1:20, 1:23.

This is a pic of the track we've been using for workouts...this was taken during an all-comers meet in June, though...hence all the people and the warm sun....

This is a pic of the track we’ve been using for workouts…this was taken during an all-comers meet in June, though, hence all the people and the warm sun….

October 1 mile repeats: The first PI workout of this month was a bold one: 5 x mile. There was some debate over if it was 5 x 1600m or 5 x mile, so we (my sub-group anyway) ended up doing the first one as a full mile and the rest as 1600m. I was feeling pretty tired going into this due to the insane amount of time I spent in a car the weekend before, plus the draining Monday I had following that. I wasn’t really sure what my goal should be going into it, but I decided I would be happy if a.) I executed the workout better than I did in the spring, and b.) I averaged around 6:17 (ultimate goal 5k pace if I were to race one all-out right now, especially on a track).

The results:

apriloct

Note: 6:23 mile = ~6:21 1600. So, I averaged 6:19 in April and 6:16 in October. A small difference…but I did it in a much better way.

This day for me also included a 1.94-mile warmup and cooldown to and from the track, at about 7:49 average pace, bringing my total mileage to almost 9. This is the kind of Tuesday I would like to have. While the easy miles aren’t necessarily quality miles, it does allow me to get them in, and I think feeling strong in the last mile or so (finished at 7:21 pace) of a cooldown post-hard workout does actually benefit you.

I’ve already shared this past Sunday’s run – it was the course preview for Sunday. I got in seven miles on trails Tuesday instead of the intervals workout (it was hill repeats this week) to get in some more recovery. I’m feeling very confident about the race, and getting more and more excited by the day! To make things even more epic, I checked my bib number the other night and this is what I saw:

bibnoI’m not sure if I can explain how excited I got without sounding crazy. Numbers just really excite me, okay? It doesn’t take much sometimes….13 is my favorite number – it’s my birthday day, when I used to play team sports back in the day I always insisted on being #13, it has been my house number once…AND it’s the year 2013, the race is on the 13th…I could go on and on. It’s like they knew I’d want it. Somebody did point out to me that it would be pretty cool if I was #10, since it’s the “Perfect 10.” But now two of us can feel lucky.  

One last thing – I am now cross-blogging for work on Run.com’s new WordPress site! Chances are my posts on there will be less personal versions of what I write on here (like the course preview post, which is all I’ve done so far), but there will also likely be posts about more local events and running routes that will be useful to you if you are in the NJ area, so check it out from time to time!

Perfect 10 Miler Course Preview: 1 week to go!

The Perfect 10 Miler is next Sunday! With a course like THIS (see below), I thought I would be a responsible runner and check it out as part of my long run a week early. This ended up being a great idea. For all readers who don’t/didn’t have a chance to run the course, or are coming from far away to run next week’s race, I’ll write some details about it for you here! Disclaimer: I used it as a workout so you’ll also have to read allll about how that went. 🙂

I woke up to 100% humidity in both the air and, it seemed, in my head (nose, throat, etc.). Not an ideal combination (I think the roadtrip to GA, plus a busy week and hard running caught up with me). Ten miles of sweat would be a great way to flush it all out, but I was concerned I also wouldn’t be able to breathe. Oh well. It needed to be done. The plan was to run the first four miles at a normal, conversational pace, then bring it down to 7:00 pace (average goal race pace for the first half or so) for the next four miles, then run the last two easy and/or “normal.” And, of course, to learn the course. We had done a packaging-tape-laminating job to a miniature version of the course map to be pocketed during the run and referenced when necessary.

Miles 1-4: 7:28, 7:36, 7:28, 7:30

start

We imagined the start line to be precisely where the dog park parking lot narrows into a road, which leads to the main park road (Paxson Ave.), so that was where we began. The course turned right onto Paxson and did a u-turn onto the other side of the two one-way roads just  before the park sign at the end (close to Old Trenton Rd.). The first mile was just after that. Mile two is on the same stretch, just before the Marina lot entrance.

At the West Picnic Area entrance, the course takes a right. The surface changes here slightly, to rougher pavement, but not enough to make a difference. I just noticed. I usually park in this lot when I come here to run, so it was very familiar territory. There is a grass hill in the center of the parking lot – the lot loops around it. The course follows this loop and heads back out the same road, then makes a right back onto Paxson. The third mile is on the far side of the parking lot, when you are about halfway across it. A note about elevation: this course only fluctuates by about 87 feet, which is nothing. There was a little downhill during mile three, which might get you excited for about ten seconds, until you realize it’s, um, already over.

wpicnicarea

Miles 4-8: (goal: ~7:00) 6:57, 7:00, 6:46, 6:57 (6:55 average)

My watch hit 4.00 miles about 200 meters from Hughes Dr., where the course takes a left. I felt pretty decent for these miles, but I knew they would feel easier come next Sunday if I manage to kick this head cold (and I will).

ontohughes

So, left onto Hughes and then the first (real, don’t turn onto the dirt road) left onto Mercer County College’s campus. Then, the course takes the second right (the first right that makes sense) onto the road that circles the campus and initially borders a parking lot. The fifth mile comes up just before the road veers to the left.

Then, the unexpected happens. The course makes a left…over the grass?! I’m going to call this a grassy knoll, because that’s totally what it is. It’s a very slight (emphasis on very) incline to get up and over the grass, and then you basically roll down the other side, over one walkway, and turn right onto a second, parallel walkway. I’m sure on race day this will all be marked with cones or caution tape. I had no idea there was grass involved, but luckily my trusty pacer leader did (I’m not saying pacer – yet – because he ended up almost running out of my sight during these four faster miles!).

Garmin's path is a little wonky as usual, so look at the white arrows.

Garmin’s path is a little wonky as usual, so look at the white arrows.

Then, you basically blaze through the center of the campus between academic buildings on a wide brick path, which opens up to a wide sidewalk leading to another parking lot. There was apparently a walk for autism this morning, through which we ran through the middle…but they were putting away the clock so it was all good. The course turns left after passing two grass and tree medians and goes through the lot to meet up with another path by the athletic fields.

I started to feel better around this point, as my watch hit 6.00 just before the softball field. This path is fairly narrow and windy, so it’s a good thing it isn’t in the first couple miles of the race. It spits you out right at the side of the Welcome Center, and then you get on the main road almost all the way to where you first entered the campus…but there is a sharp right onto a paved path that leads back to the park. This snuck up on me, and it kind of felt rebellious, like I was recklessly abandoning normalcy and heading for the hills (hey, why not make this description more fun?).

The course just runs along the paved trail north until it intersects with the path that runs parallel to Paxson, where you make a right. That path gradually curves toward Paxson, where it will intersect and the course makes a smooth right again.

In general, the paths were fine; while some of them were windy (read: wind-y, not talking about weather here), I didn’t really feel like it made them “slow.” Footing was just as good as the road except for one small spot as you cross over the powerline overpass in mile six…there was a  bit of sand/dirt (nothing to trip over though). The eighth mile ended on Paxson, so I slowed down to a recovery pace at that point, taking it pretty easy to get myself feeling back to conversational pace, but not stopping.

Miles 9 & 10: 8:08, 7:28

One thing we were unsure of was the turnaround point to head back to the finish, during this little out-and-back that happens in these miles. This right turn is at the same road where the race started, but after you enter it, the course goes on a road to the right (that is, do not turn left; continue). This out-and-back road is arc-shaped, with grass on the right (heading out, that is), and parking lots and basketball courts on the left. We ran all the way to the last side parking lot and did a loop around the grassy median, as the course map suggests:

The finish: We didn’t run into an issue until the very, very end. In fact, not until after we had ran a perfect ten (well okay, 10.06) miles. The issue was, we stopped running at the end of that arc-shaped road, not where we started the ten miles. You can see the tip of the “stop” icon at the top of the above picture (that “9” is on the way down to the turn-around, by the way), and how it isn’t anywhere near the green “start” pin. The official course map groups the start and finish together, like so:

…but if we were to make a right and head back to the spot where we started, it would put us at about 10.22 miles. So…is the course fairly long? Is the finish at the end of that road where we decided to stop? Is it somewhere in between? We’ll find out right away next weekend, when we see the “FINISH” banner positioned in its proper location. Perhaps I can shoot an email to the race director since we’ve met before; it’s a simple question.

Overall run stats: 10.06 miles in 1:13:50, average pace of 7:20

One more note about the conditions…

weather10.6

Yeah, that is 100% humidity. So don’t knock on me for looking like I jumped in Mercer Lake.  I virtually did.

Thoughts on the preview run…I’m very glad I did it. Specifically, I’m glad I didn’t decide not to do the uptempo portion because of feeling congested, or shorten it to three miles, which I could have easily done since I wasn’t sure whether to do three or four in the first place. I was glad I hit those miles in 7:00 or under, feeling like they were more like 7:05-7:10. The fact that the faster miles were also during the entirety of the technical part of the course is also advantageous; I have already ran through those sections at race pace, so next week I’ll know exactly where to go and what to expect next. Even writing this blog post (OMG it’s actually taken longer than any one – besides HTC – to date I think…) has helped me draft some racing/pacing strategies in my head! I was having a rough training week from Wednesday onwards this week (mostly because of feeling sick-ish, not really leg-wise), and since that hasn’t happened in awhile (yay!), I was a bit discouraged about the race heading into this run. I’m learning,though, that I have reached the point where excuses aren’t options: barring rare, extreme unfortunate circumstances for legitimate reasons, I just run the pace I want to run because I said I would, I want to, and that’s that. It’s simple.

Goals…

I always said “sub-70” when anyone asked me about it, and that still stands. What I really meant was “sub-7-minute pace,” so if the course is in fact ten and a quarter miles, those won’t mean the same things. I would like to average sub-7 pace. I would like to negative split in my recent fashion. And I would like to have awesome amounts of fun. I may have another thing in mind too but I’ll just tell you how that worked out afterwards. 😉

Perfect 10’s Perfect Pair Model Search

perfect10modelsearch

I wrote in a previous post that I am running the inaugural CGI Racing Perfect 10 Miler at Mercer County Park on October 13th. It’s going to be an awesome event, and I recently found out that there will be a “Pampering Party and Expo” the day before, in the park’s indoor hockey rink. The goal is to make it not an ordinary expo, with stimulation overload and samples being thrown into your face. Rather, it sounds as if it will be a shopping experience for women, complete with yoga classes and…a fashion show! It will also be open to the public. The event’s Facebook page is currently hosting a “model search” for the show, in which a pair of women who are running the race can submit a photo and a description of why they represent the event’s core values (and thus be a part of the show).

As soon as I heard about it, I got excited and wanted Brennan and me to submit our entry as best running friends! So, I did…you can vote for it here! We’re kind of lagging behind…I’m not doing a very good job spreading the word since I’m not home in NJ, but keep in mind we want to do this for the message behind it, not the clothing! Vote for us! 🙂

56days

…and if you haven’t registered yet, you can do that here.

Don’t worry, I’ll be writing posts with more substance again very shortly….

 

Run the Perfect 10 Miler with me October 13th!

Well, I’ve written enough about me lately to last for awhile! Moving on. A few weeks ago, I heard about an inaugural women’s-only ten mile race at Mercer County Park in October, called the Perfect 10. It’s put on by CGI Racing, which also organizes the Rutgers Unite Half and the New Jersey State Triathlon, among other events. I contacted them about becoming an ambassador, and the deed was done! So, from now until race day (the 13th), I will be promoting the race on my blog and other social media outlets! I think it’s a great idea and a great park to use for it. Until the end of May, it’s $59, which is pretty good compared to half marathons and other area races around that time of year. Also, there will be a chocolate fountain at the finish – how can you say no to that?!

The Perfect 10 race is an event that is not only a running competition but a celebration of our own positive image as women, both inside and out. The organization encourages you to share your inspiring stories of why you are a perfect 10, and those featured monthly will have a chance to receive the Perfect 10 Honor on race weekend. I remember reading a Runner’s World article by Kristin Armstrong once that really stuck in my mind. She wrote, “you are most beautiful when you are doing what you love.” That is a message I hope runners everywhere will understand, especially those who are self-conscious when taking their first strides outside the door.  

So, if you’re in the NJ/NY/PA/DE area and get excited about the prospect of a mid-fall ten mile race, chocolate, or men in tuxedos, please visit the Perfect 10 website to check it out further! Also, follow their Twitter and Facebook pages for the latest information and inspiration!

151 days until race day!