Monday, May 6, 2013

Race Report: Broad Street Run

I believe in the taper. I do. I feel as if it's a magical thing.

In fact, I think it's THE most important element of a training cycle. Workouts can help project and predict the time you're going to run, but the taper is mysterious and, if done right, It truly enables one's body to get the most bang as a result of all the hard work one has put in over the past x weeks or x months. So, I was relying on both the taper when I laced up the flats for yesterday's Broad Street Run.

The week started out with a two miler at 5k race pace (9:45) on the towpath. I took Tuesday off and then ran a pedestrian 7 miles in Cabin John on my birthday, Wednesday, May 1. I saw a barred owl mom and a barred owl chick. No big deal.

Sometime around Tuesday I started to develop the beginning symptoms of a cold. It's always difficult to know whether those early symptoms ever amount to anything, but it was something I had to keep an eye on nonetheless.

I ran a paltry 4 miles on Thursday morning with Catherine. I had gone out on Wednesday (per my birthday) and Thursday morning came soon - too soon. My head was pounding and I felt terrible all day. Pathetic. I'm 33 years old now...and I can tell all you youngins that "drinking (on special occasions that is) don't come easy no more..." In addition, it appeared I was, indeed, coming down with a head cold. I decided to lay low. On Friday I ran just 5 miles and took Saturday off. That morning, circa dawn, I awoke and bee-lined it 4-hours north on I-95 to Chatham, NJ for Outlaw's wedding. I was a "good boy" (per the Sunday morning race) and left the reception around 4:00pm without vice on breath and without dance in legs for a 2-hour drive back south to Philly. 

I spent the night in a bed and breakfast with a cat named Queen Bess, among others, and woke up at 5:40am for the big race. I arrived at the start, which was 3 miles from the B&B, around 6:50, easily grabbed a parking space and proceeded to pass the time. I got a 2-mile warm-up in and then meandered my way to the start. It's a very well organized race, but the massive number of people - 40,000 runners - makes getting ANYwhere a hell of an ordeal.

My goal was to go out aggressive, but not stupid. At Pike's Peek, I had let Outlaw and Wiggy get away from me. Maybe it was for the best, since I ended up setting a PR, however, I wanted to be a bit more aggressive and rely on the magical taper. If that meant going out in 4:55 to join a pack, so be it. The goal time was 50:30-50:40. That said, I had no idea how I would feel given the fact I had a cold/was coming down with a cold/was in the final stages of a very short-lived cold.

I started out just fine and felt very relaxed running through the first mile in 5:01. In fact, I was hardly breathing. The cold was non-existent. Good. I settled into a nice pack and together we hit mile 2 just south of 10:00 (4:58). Our pace then slowed somewhat so I strided ahead (again, I was going to be aggressive). My split at mile 3 (5:05) confirmed my suspicion. For the next two miles I ran alone trying to chase down a line of runners stretched out ahead of me. I sat in 15-20th place. I felt good, but longed for company. I stopped looking at my watch and ran by feel, though each mile marker had a clock so I wasn't running completely blind. 

I was slipping -- ever -- so -- slightly off of that easy-to-grasp 5:00/mile pace, but all was good...for now. City Hall, the symbolic half-way point in the race, drew closer and closer. In actuality, the skyscrapers in question, were actually about 5.5 miles in, which bodes well for head games. I passed 5 miles in 25:19, faster than I had ever split in a 10-mile race before. It was on. I was right on pace, but, in reality, I was really slowing down...and I knew it.

I passed a couple of runners just prior to the half way point, but just before I reached City Hall, I got passed by a Pre-look-alike who was storming ahead at a pace suggesting he had started the race late. He went by me so fast it was hard to lock into his rhythm, so I simply watched him thunder on ahead.  

I hit the 10k a few ticks over 31:30, but shortly after that my wheels began to come off. Although I didn't look at my watch, I knew it was happening and there was nothing I could do about it. I weighed the decision to grind, or relax and grind later. A runner went by me around this time and I told myself I'd stay with him regardless. I stayed with him for awhile, but, in the end, I could not hang. I watched as he caught "Pre" and I watched as they slowly extended the real estate between their heals and the tips of my toes.

This begs the question - why were my wheels coming off? I could understand if this were happening at 8.5 or 9, but not at mile 6. After all, I had run a 10k in 30:52 just two weeks earlier so surely I could run 5:05 pace for at least 8 miles? This was a flat, fast course with long uphills and long downhills...and there was even a slight tailwind (at times - in fact, it was mostly coming in from the east or my left) a la Pike's Peek, but alas, my performance thus far wasn't matching my performance from 2 weeks ago. Again, why?

My left quad started to hurt and my breathing began to get more vocal. I was dying a slow death, but I still had 15+ minutes to run. There were a few instances in which I thought I was going to throw up and began to think that if I did that that might be the one saving grace from this race - I have never thrown up in a race before so if I did today, it would at least underscore the fact I was going for it. The going got so tough that I considered dropping out (to be honest I ALWAYS think about dropping out), but I quickly slapped that idea out of my head. By the time I hit mile 8, my legs had rested some, so again I attempted to pick up the pace and get back on schedule. My "surge" would last for maybe a minute, or two, but no more than that. Each time I tried to get out of my rut I would find myself in another one, sometimes it was worse. It felt as if my 10-mile pace had slowed to marathon pace. Part of me didn't want to know what my splits; I just wanted to get back in it and get to the finish line as fast as I could (my GPS watch later indicated that these 3 "rough" miles were covered at 5:20 pace).

Finally, mile 9. A bystander indicated I was in 17th place. About a half mile later, another runner stormed by me. I wasn't going to be passed by someone in the last mile so I did my best to stay with him, but that effort truly exhausted me. I could keep trucking ahead, but I couldn't move any faster than the pace I was running. I had no kick and slinked my way to the finish line - 51:41. 

A few stats:

I covered my last 5 miles in 26:20 - 5:16 pace. Ugly.

It was my best ten miler since coming back from injury, but I should have run at least 30-seconds faster. 

It was 44-seconds faster than my performance at Cherry Blossom, but CB was windy (30-seconds slow by my unscientific calculation).

Interestingly, the McMillan calculator (and at least one other) suggest my time from Pike's Peek "equals" my performance at Broad Street. 

I still don't know why I died so quickly once I hit mile 7. My mileage has been pretty sparse as of late, but I'm also feeling quite fresh. 

Despite the result, I am happy I "went for it" and wouldn't have run the race any other way...well, maybe I would have...maybe. In all honesty I was content in my execution despite that fact things didn't go as planned.

I'd like to think the cold and heavy travel day prior to the race didn't impact my performance (and I honestly don't think it did), but there was nothing I could really do about that anyway. It's always hard to balance running alongside life things.


1. 5:01
2. 4:58
3. 5:05
4. 5:07
5. 5:08
6. 5:08
7. 5:21
8. 5:21
9. 5:18
10. 5:09

The spring season is over.


RM said...

I just wrote an incredibly insightful (and very long) comment.

And blogger didn't save it.

So I'll email you instead.

KLIM said...

McGrath - I'm always interested in reading your insightful comments. Send away...