Tuesday, April 28, 2015

2015 George Washington Parkway Classic 10 Miler Race Report

Just eight days after successfully completing my second ultra, the North Face Endurance Challenge 50K I was really hoping that I'd be healed up enough that I could do the Pacers GW Parkway Classic 10-Miler as well.  I felt good very quickly after the 50K. I ran that ultra on a Saturday, and was moving almost completely normally by the following Tuesday(!).


(Honestly, that just shows how easy I took it starting from (roughly) the 20 mile mark of the 50K)

Anyway, this meant I had another decision to make. I'd signed up for The North Face as a last-minute thing, because my other 50K attempts were continually getting flushed or failing. Now that I'd done the 50K, I was faced with this 10-mile race -- one I'd signed up to do a long time ago.

For the second year in a row, I made the decision to give another shot at this 10-miler, often called "The Prettiest Run This Side of the Potomac" (which is a nice nod to the beauty of the Cherry Blossom 10-miler across the river in DC, run a bit earlier in April). 

Unfortunately, ALSO for the second year in a row, I did not React Well to the frost-ridden temperatures that we faced in DC this year:

I now outweigh the entire band, "Los Lobos."
Well, that's KINDA true.  Last year, it was just the cold temperatures.  This year, it was getting sick TWICE in about a 6-week period.  I'd gone almost two-and-a-half years without so much as a cold, so these afflictions were not being handled well by me.


This meant it was the second straight year I wouldn't be able to "race" this race, and would be forced to just run it. History was repeating itself. No chance for a 10-mile PR, or even an almost-PR. Spring races & I don't get along well.


DAMMIT
I kept goals low, just like last year:

1.  Don't die.
2.  Smile in race photos.
3.  Don't let my knee explode (that was a new one)
4.  Drink beers at the race finish festival (that was an old one, I'd learned last year that post-race beers are AH-MAY-ZING).

On race morning, I took my time getting there, since I knew it was going to be an easy day, and last year I'd just waltzed onto a shuttle bus. Not so this year. I'd arrived much later than I should have, and found Disney-esque lines. Around the block.




I'll say this -- Pacers Running are quite efficient, and a fuckton of buses came back kinda all at once, so perhaps I got caught in between waves.  But the panic of missing the start was kinda palpable (along with the initial lack of buses).

Once I finally got on a bus, and learning from last year, I immediately did things differently.  First, instead of sitting in the front of the bus (or even looking out a window), I plopped in a seat towards the middle and just . . . looked down.

LOOK, I SWEAR I'M NOT PROUD OF ME EITHER

I just looked down almost the entire bus ride up to Mount Vernon.  What happened last year was that by riding up front, I just watched us . . . slowly . . . cover the 10+ miles to the start line.  When you SEE the vast distance you're about to run, it really screws with your mind, as opposed to just showing up at the start, when long distances are more abstract.

So, I just stared down from my aisle seat, occasionally putting my head against the seatback of the seat ahead of me.  My seatmate, at the window, did his best to Not Be Creeped Out.

Seatmate:  "Is he praying? I think he's praying. Maybe he's crying. Did he just fart?"

I did this, without talking, for the whole ride.  I just looked straight down, kinda acting like I was interested in whatever Scrabble-esque game I was playing.  But not farting.  I have SOME class, sheesh.

OK FINE JEEZ IT'S JUST A BODILY FUNCTION WHATEVER

Once I'd found myself at Mount Vernon, I immediately noticed the NINE ZILLION PEOPLE ALREADY THERE, all of whom were doing that Thing Runners Do Pre-Race.


It's true.

Having learned enough of a lesson, I thought, "What would the Father of Our Country Do?" and tore off to the woods.  There were SO many guys doing Their Thing (the thing we can do standing up) that it reminded me of "There's Something About Mary" with all the dudes getting busted at the truck stop.


NOBODY LOOK DOWN!

I, um, do not Do Well when it comes to answering nature's call outdoors, assuming there are any other humans near me within a distance equivalent to the diameter of Jupiter.  Let's just say it took a moment.

Ok, I'd take the woods over THIS
I had to find just the right, um, direction (seriously, why the FUCK can we just all agree to face one direction) and did my bit for chivalry (you're welcome, ladies -- it meant less guys in the porta potty line!).

Off to the race.  Just before the start, I ran into my friend Kris, and my pal Teresa, who -- this is true -- had run 10 miles TO the race start, and was about to run the 10 miles back (she was in training for the Green Bay Marathon).

 So much for ME being a badass.

We barely had time to chat before . . . BANG!  Off went the gun, and off we went.  I was waaaaay back in the corrals after my adventures in outdoor wee-wee, but knew from experience that this race clears out very quickly.  I planned to have a lot more room to maneuver after the first mile.

The race itself wasn't anything surprising.

I was super, super conservative and cautious with my knee for the first half, remembering my luck was barely hanging on by a thread (likely a tendon!).  Kris and Teresa let me run the first mile with them, and then I opened up my speed just a touch, being very careful about how I was feeling.

Miles 0 - 5:  10:17, 9:33, 9:51 (Gu), 9:39, 9:35.  

This meant my first half was around a 9:47/mile pace, and when, remembering my own advice from LAST year's race, I reached the stone bridge marking the (roughly) halfway point, I figured, "what the hell," and opened up my pace, just a touch.  

Nothing was hurting, and I was sticking to the left side of the road.  That's kind of an important point, IMHO.  I know some run bloggers have suggested the right side gives shade (or sun, or whatever), but you're going to run this race farther if you bear right.  I was killing my tangents, just really nailing them by watching the turn of the road and preparing for it.  It helped, and for a race like this, which gives you a good chance of speed, it's worth deciding BEFORE the race if you're running for time (left side), or for comfort (right side).

Miles 5 - 9:  9:06, 9:07, 9:03, 9:03

Still not nearly as fast as I used to be for 10-mile races, but my knee was called upon to go faster, and it didn't complain.  This was a good thing!  It wasn't as hard to increase pace by roughly 45 seconds per mile, and I also knew from experience that I was gaining a few more downhill opportunities here:


GW Parkway Classic 10-miler elevation chart


Finally, by mile 9, with one mile to go, I was ready to just increase a TEENSY bit more, and did, finishing that last mile in 8:47, making my last mile the fastest of the 10 that day.  It bought my second half pace down to 9:00/mile flat.  Overall, I finished with one of my worst(!) 10-miler times, just under 94 minutes, or 9:25/mile.

And I was ok with it.

First, I'd worn my 50K shirt from 8 days earlier to run the race, and a volunteer recognized it as she placed a finisher's medal around my neck.  She'd run it too, but was more than a little dumbfounded I'd then run THIS race.

Sorry lady.  Quite damaged here.  Blame my parents.

Nice big medal to drape over my winter bulk.  In April.  Oops.

With the race done, it was time for the best part of this event -- the post-race beer fest!  I quickly found Vishal, aka TopSpin83 on the Twitters!


ZOMG THEY'RE GIVING US BEER NAO

Things to know about Vishal:

1.  He's ridiculously fast.
2.  He's got fun friends (who photobomb)
3.  He didn't kill me when I poured beer down his back.  Twice.

I'm unable to hold my beer.  Literally!  

Ba-dum-bum

Vishal had a funny moment I'd love to recreate with screenshots, and truth be told as I prepare to hit publish, it's one of the things that kept me from finally uploading this drivel:

Vish texted me, saying he was at the beer tent, but I was still at bag check, getting my ID (no ID, no beer garden admittance).  I laughed at how fast he was, but he showed me his phone, which had a conversation with another runner that went something like this:

Vishal:  "I'm done."
Friend:  "Great"
Vishal:  "I'm at the beer tent now, where are you?"
Friend:  "Ummm, I'm at mile 8 you suck."

THAT, folks, is some A-1 trolling right there.



When Kristin, Teresa, and RunnerDave all rallied up together, the beer flowed, and a general good time was had by all.  Beer post race will do that.  I didn't have a ton, and we ended up hanging out for a really long time post-race.  The band finished while most of our little group were still there chatting.

Peg, Kris, Dave, Teresa, Fatass, and Vishal (who probably has more beer down his back)

Finally, after I headed over to a friend's house to watch (this is true) video of their kiddo's Kindergarten play, I headed home, resplendent in mah ultra shirt and 10-miler medal. 



 The race t-shirts were a big improvement this year, IMHO.  A much more cheery blue.


I'd really like to, you know, actually RACE this thing one of these years.  If only I could stop with all the annual winter eating.  And yes, I realize it was LATE APRIL WHEN THIS RACE WAS RUN BUT IT'S STILL WINTER WEIGHT


Remember -- if you're running this race for pure speed, bear in mind the LEFT side of the course, at least to the stone bridge at the halfway point.  My tangents led to a total distance of 10.05 miles for this race, so I was roughly one HALF of one TENTH of a mile off doing the tangents perfectly.

You might choose to do the "mailed packet pickup" option, although it's not cheap -- $25 isn't fun, but your time has to be worth something.  I've gone down to a Pacers each of the two years I've run this race.  This year, I went to the Old Town Alexandria location -- then ate at Five Guys for lunch.

That probably explains my finish line photos:


Race by the numbers:



Overall:  Top 45%
Sex:  Bottom 38% (ouch)
AG:  Bottom 40% (ouch)

Negative split:  Almost 4 full minutes over the last 5 miles (whee!)


Still, a great race for having run 31+ miles of trails 8 days earlier -- and not being able to walk a city block without being in pain a couple of weeks earlier!

Plus, you know, beer garden.

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