A wee bit late on this write-up…
Downtown 10K is one of my favorite races for a few reasons. First, it almost always has good weather (save for 2014, which was a gusty disaster). Second, it’s well organized and results are always accurate and fast. Third, it’s a 10K which are remarkably difficult to find but hugely useful for a half marathon training cycle. Finally, there are cash prizes which can help motivate you when say, you want to give up at mile 4. The organizers were new this year but they kept all of these good things going and besides a really odd start command, everything was smooth.
I’ll get to the odd start momentarily. I came into Sunday feeling really anxious and to be honest, had I not preregistered, I probably wouldn’t have run. On Saturday night, I had a dream that Joe came home from the race and told me that I shouldn’t have skipped the race because no other women showed up and they had no one to give the money to! Needless to say, when I woke up on Sunday, I decided I’d better at least show up.
The weather was perfect at 50 degrees, cloudy and a north wind, which meant a headwind for the first half of the race, not the second. I did an easy warm-up for 2 miles plus some striders and didn’t feel entirely horrible. I handed my watch to Erin and lined up. The race start was hysterical; the new sponsors thanked us for being there and then in the middle of a sentence, the speaker just plainly stated “Go.” Twice. None of us moved. Finally he said with more emphasis “GO!” and we were off. Hopefully someone educates him for next year…
The course has a screaming downhill in the first mile so my only goal was to be controlled and not smash my quads up early. About halfway down the hill, a girl went shooting by me and by the bottom of the hill, she was 20 seconds ahead. I told myself to stick to my race plan and that if she came back to me, she came back to me. While I wasn’t wearing a watch, I would guess I went through the first mile in about 6:30 pace based on where I was off Joe who was wearing his watch. The effort felt super easy, a lot like a steady state run. I kept it here until we hit mile 3 at Leddy, where I clicked my effort up to tempo as planned. I had passed a couple of people at this point but the first woman was still ahead of me by about 20 seconds. Another guy caught me around Leddy and was about halfway between she and I.
As we were coming out of Leddy, the first woman stopped to tie her shoe (what?!) but shot away again as I got closer. The few seconds I was near her, however, I could hear that she was breathing hard while I felt totally in control, which gave me a boost that I might not be out of first. As we turned onto North Avenue and started the rolling hills, I kept my eyes on her and held tempo effort while trying to remain confident. I was pleased, however, that 5K was done and my legs felt totally fine with none of my recent concrete-anemia feelings. As we worked up the hill, I caught the guy who had passed me in Leddy and sat on his shoulder for a few strides then made a hard pass around him which brought me within 10 seconds of the first woman. We crested the hill by the high school and I leaned forward and let the downhill carry me. As we rolled up the next hill just before the cemetery where I’d planned my next gear change, I caught and passed her easily. As we crested that last hill and hit the cemetery gates, she was still hanging on to me.
With 2 miles to go, I clicked down to interval pace and started pressing hard. I could still hear her footfalls, but they weren’t right over my shoulder. As we hammered down North Avenue, my effort was definitely hard but I still felt in control. When we turned into Battery Park, I gave it what I had left and just prayed that it would be enough to get away from her for good. The curve in the park gave me a momentary glance that showed that at the very least, she’d fallen back a bit. In full disclosure, I actually spent most of the race thinking it was a local runner I know who is a miler and thus has a crazy finishing kick so I didn’t want to leave it until the last 200 meters.
Turning onto Church Street, I experienced the oh so fun moment of seeing the finish line but realizing you have almost a minute to go before you’re there. I just kept trying to push as hard as I could and prayed no one was coming up on me. When I passed my friend Will, he just cheered for me, so I knew I was in the clear. As I reached the final block, I saw the clock turn to 38:00 and realized a PR was a possibility. I had tunnel vision but just hoped I’d hold up til I got to the finish line. I did, and squeaked out a 5 second PR!
While I’m happy (thrilled) about the PR, I’m even more happy about the execution of the race. A week before the race, I went out and previewed the course and came up with my race plan. Having a race plan and following it, however, are two different things and I’ve made the mistake of going out too fast at this race in past years. It would have been tempting to do the same thing this year as the initial first woman pulled away from me but sticking to the plan worked out well for me in the long run and gave me a much needed boost of confidence after a hard cycle.