Race: Capital City Classic 10K
City: Raleigh, NC Date: 5/7/2011
Distance: 10k/6.2 mi
Weather: Sunny, a bit chilly at start (about 55 degrees), but warmed up very quickly (about 70); mercifully, very little humidity
Course: rolling hills through downtown Raleigh, a usual route for me!
Summary: It was a much more pleasant experience for me this year.
Like the Tarheel 10-Miler, I was pretty anxious about this race because, like the Tarheel 10-miler the year before, it was a very negative experience for me. I didn’t quit this one, but I came close a few times and I had, um, GI issues that (and I’m sorry for being gross) made me feel like I was going to loose my intestines… Remember how I say “dehydration is unpleasant”? Last year’s Capital City Classic and the Virginia Beach Half Marathon were the two races I’m referring to there…
So, given my anxiety about it, I was remarkably calm in the days leading up to the race. I managed to squeeze in 4 great runs and 2 rest days, which I’m pretty proud of. The night before the race, I went to pick up the packet at The Athlete’s Foot in Raleigh. It was a pleasantly uneventful packet pick up – I got there about 30 minutes before it ended so there was no line, I got my bib and shirt (that’s all “packets” really are these days anyway) and I went home. The “chip” system for this race was nice because it was one of those embedded into the back of the bib, though, it is a giant wire square and kind of uncomfortable. I prefer the disposable ones that are small foam blocks on the back of the bib, similar to the ones we had in Tarheel 10-miler or the disposable shoe chips Competitor uses for the Rock and Roll events, but these are still better than the tiny shoe chips you have to wait in line for on race day and secure with those plastic bands that volunteers can’t remove at the end because they don’t have scissors. I am really starting to like this whole trend of “uneventful packet pickup” for events, by the way. They make for a pretty boring blog, but nice on the nerves for someone wound as tightly as I am. I was kind of tired from a long week, so I putzed around on the computer for a bit, ate some rice and went to bed early.
Unlike most other races, I didn’t do a whole lot the night before to prepare other than go to bed early and eat a pretty bland chicken and rice bowl. I didn’t even pick out my outfit until that morning, which is pretty unusual for me (I usually sleep in it the night before). I woke up pretty early and went downstairs to make my coffee and get my clothes out of the dryer. I picked my skirt and shirt and, since I was in there and behind on the task, folded the rest of the laundry load and put them away.
My biggest fear for this race was dehydration, since that was what did me in last year, and I’m always super thirsty in the morning. I’m also a heavy, heavy coffee drinker. I could (and have) drink the stuff all day, but I tend to try to limit myself to only one “cup” (which for me is 16 oz, technically 2 actual “cups”) on race days. I sucked down the coffee, then chased it with 1/2 a liter of Propel Zero, which I then followed by about 30 oz of plain water. Yes, I was going to the bathroom every 5 minutes, but my lips weren’t dry and I didn’t feel thirsty like I usually do in the morning by then. I wasn’t really hungry yet (I had a huge bowl of rice and chicken the night before) so I packed an ‘after the race bag’ of clothes to change into, grabbed a Clif Bar and 2 bottles of Zico Natural Coconut Water and was on my way. I didn’t double or triple check my things like I usually do (as a result, I almost left my Garmin 405 at home – yikes!).
The race was through downtown Raleigh, about 20 minutes from my house, and started about 3 blocks from my office building (near the studios for WTVD ABC 11, a local news station here). In the car, I ate my Clif bar and poured one of the bottles of Zico into my 20 oz sports bottle that once contained plain water – I have decided that I will most likely always carry coconut water on longer races and runs from now on. I had a good 45 minutes until start, so I gathered my things and thought I would make one more potty trip and just walk around for a bit to warm up.
My office building is attached to a hotel, which apparently, was used as a staging area for the race, and so I thought I’d use the facilities there. As someone who participates in events like this at least once a month, I consider it a treat to use a “real” potty instead of what my 6-year old refers to as a “pertle” (Port-a-John). [side note about that – after this race, he informed me that the ‘loved pertles’ because he ‘didn’t have to wash’ his hands – that’s the kind of information that makes Mommies around the world grab their Purell wipes and maybe gag a little.] I went to the bathroom on the lower level – a onesie at that – and there was nobody in there!! ha! Imagine the luck! I used it and walked out to a line of 4 when I finished. Good timing on my part – and I considered that pretty lucky. Maybe a good sign?? I went up to the second level to check out the VIP room (which wasn’t much of anything, just a cove with coffee and Balega Socks). Upon emerging from the “VIP” lounge that I wasn’t supposed to be in anyway (I wondered in there out of curiosity – it wasn’t blocked off or anything), I ended up running into a couple who told me they were running the event because I mentioned it when I met them a few weeks ago at the Tarheel 10-Miler! Aww! (they are friends of my Running Buddy #2 that ran the Tarheel 10-miler with me). I chatted with them a while and then went to the potty one last time before the start of the race. This time, I decided to use the upper level rest room (more stalls) and ended up having to wait for a little bit of time… we even had someone poke her head in and say “ugh… a line!” we all joked “…yeah… well, this is a women’s bathroom at a running event… so… what did you expect??” I did my business and headed out – ran into the couple again and wished them luck. I was amazed at how calm I still felt – I could feel a little anxiety building, but nothing like I expected given how I felt about the race from the year before.
We lined up to listen to the announcements as made by (I think) the sports caster for ABC-11. There are a few of things that, to me, made this a pretty remarkable (and enjoyable) race: (1) it is a pretty small event. Maybe a couple hundred?? (there were 193 finishers in 2010). I remember looking behind me and saying “I swear, the Nog Run Club has more attendees in any given day than this” (and they had a lot of folks from the club wearing their shirts!) (2) it is a USATF NC qualifier so there were a lot of young kids in it, but amazingly, a lot of masters, too. I’m curious about my age group now because I’m in neither category (yet… though, I’m approaching Masters faster than I’d like) (3) I was running with former Olympians… or should I say, running behind former Olympians – haha. After the introduction to those folks, we were asked to move up to the starting line where I made observation number (4) no starting mat, so, even though you have a chip, it is all gun time (grrrrr) (5) they actually have a starting GUN. whoah. This, I think, is the only event that I’ve been in with an actual gun that I can remember right now.
The gun went off and I started my watch. I couldn’t really decide on whether to use music or not, but eventually my scattered mind chose to use music so I turned it on and set out on my run. I was shooting for an overall pace of 8:30 – I thought I could handle that for 6 miles, and that would give me what I thought might be a pretty solid PR from my last 10k (unfortunately, I had forgotten about the Old Reliable Run back in November, and as it turns out, and I didn’t PR this race). The first 5k of this race was pretty uneventful and I felt great – my split times were all hovering around 8mm – I even, at one point, decided to slow down a little so I didn’t go out too fast. My 5k time was about 25:50, which was pretty close to where I wanted to be (though, I would have preferred it to be closer to 25:30).
It was around the 2.5 mile mark I got my pacer magnet, as I called him. He came up from behind and paced with me for a little over a mile, but we ended up trading leads throughout the race – he comes up again at the end of this post. It was nice – kind of like running with one of my other usual running buddies – only, with music (he and I both had our own music) – he was around the same pace as they are which is just a smidge faster than me – so, without trying, he ended up pushing me a little faster than I would have otherwise gone. He split off a little after 3.5 miles, but I soon forgot about him because it was around this point in the course that I fell apart the year before and I was focused on that. I could feel my anxiety growing a little as I rounded the corner onto Western Blvd and faced that hill. Looking at the elevation for it, I can see why it was such a challenge to me last year.
Let me say this: having gone through the Tarheel 10-miler now and the Laurel Hill that was at the end of that race, this hill did seem a lot less daunting to me this year than it did last year (I’m sorry to keep bringing it up, but I’m probably always going to compare hills to that one from now on since Laurel Hill is my new benchmark of a ‘nasty hill’). At least I could see the top of this hill and at least I had the knowledge (probably from running it so often) that it did get flatter. I shifted into a lower gear and (thought) I slowed down a bit. There were a few times when I looked at my watch to see my pace and noticed that I was over 9mm, but overall, I was still under the 9mm mark, albeit slower, but steady. I had banked enough close-to-8-mm splits at the start to still manage an overall average of 8:30.
In spite of my own wins, however, my heart broke at this point in the race because I saw a few things that painfully reminded me of the previous year… 1. a girl threw up. I actually stopped to check on her – I don’t know if she just didn’t hear me or if she was ignoring me, but she didn’t answer when I asked if she was OK. She seemed to be hating it, but OK, so I resumed (I did see her after she finished and she didn’t look all that good, but appeared to finish running it) and 2. a few folks who ran with or passed me were now walking (including my pacer). I would pass him, he’d start running, catch up, pass me, then stop to walk again. He did this the entire last 2 miles, just like I did last year. I could tell he was frustrated, and I wanted to say something to comfort or encourage him, but wasn’t sure what to say exactly.
As I rounded the corner onto Wilmington Street, I knew I was in the home stretch and was still feeling well. I was taking a few swigs of the coconut water every 3/4 of a mile or so, which I think really helped me (that’s a lot more frequently than I usually do it). The last 2 miles of the race were actually most of the great 4.5 mile run I had with Running Buddy #1 on Thursday, and I actually thought about maybe doing the same sprint up that hill for those 2 blocks… I didn’t because I was worried about my IT on my left (it was starting to hurt) and I didn’t want to fall so I kept it steady. I rounded the corner on Morgan back to Fayetteville and could see the finish line and I could feel ‘race instinct’ kick in (my time shows it, too – sub-8 split for the last .35 mi) and I crossed the finish line. The guy from ABC 11 who was emceeing the event was announcing each bib number as we crossed the line and giving each of us a high five (it really was that small of an event). I got my “chip” scanned and I walked through the chute, took out the “chip wire” from my bib and walked around a bit so my IT didn’t cramp up, only to realize I forgot to stop my watch for at least 15 seconds or so. My time was about 52:30-ish gun time – not sure about actual time yet, though. Also, due to my propensity for my precision, as I have discussed before, I ended up with a distance of 6.29, which might have impacted my average time observation from whatever my “official” time ends up being – yes, I did run to the end of a street and cross at an intersection and might have been the only one that did.
Anxiety is a crazy beast and can get the better of me at any given time. I’m not sure how I got over it, but I need to figure that out so I can learn to apply it in other areas of my life because it was a pretty significant win for me today. I almost always get nervous before a race, but some I’m able to overcome better than others. Even if I blew it with my time and this was the worst time I’ve recorded in a 10k, I would have still been on cloud 9 because I overcame my fear of this race – and this course – today.
My heart rate monitor didn’t work today for some reason, but I’m pretty sure it was high between miles 3 and 4. I didn’t seem to sweat too much the first half nor did I the last 2 miles, but that one mile, I did. If I had to venture a guess, I’d say it was at about an average of 86% for the first 3 miles, over 95% for that one mile, and hovering around 90% (give or take) for the last 2. Still a little high, but I felt good, even at higher speeds.
I won’t say my hydration issue is fully resolved, but I think I’m headed on the right path for now. This summer will be a true test. Overall, I need to be more disciplined about drinking water (I noticed I didn’t drink much today after the race, which is concerning to me).
Overall, this was a successful race for me, and I’m glad I did it again!