Tag Archives: Races

How to run a fast 10K (I have no idea)

I’ve been running 10Ks since 2002, when I made my first attempt at “distance running” — at least as I saw it at the time — at the Oxford Day 10K while I was living in Easton, Md.

I was running 30 minutes or so a few times a week, in addition to other workouts, but didn’t train, per se, and felt like death the whole second half of the race. I don’t even remember my time, which is probably a blessing.

Now, even with two marathons and a bunch of half-marathons and 10-milers on my running resume, the 10K continues to stump me. I’m faster and smarter now, but still, I have a sneaking suspicion I should be turning out faster 10Ks than I have been.

A typical 10K time is about 52 minutes for me. I say “typical” because that’s how fast I ran my last two. Sure, they were hilly courses, and yes, one of them was sullied by some stomach issues. Still, 52 minutes and change is pretty far from what the McMillan Running Pace Calculator predicts I should run for a 10K — a 49:08, or slightly faster than 8-minute miles, which truly seems to make sense given my other race times. I understand why my marathon times don’t line up with the rest of my PRs — 26.2 miles is so long, any number of factors can change the course of the race. But a 10K? If I can run a decent 5K and a good half-marathon, why can’t I figure out this strange little middleman?

I don’t think I’m being unnecessarily hard on myself — 52 minutes means I’m running at a pace that’s slower than my best half-marathon, and also slower than my 5- to 6-mile training runs, which are usually right around 8-minute miles.

So what am I doing wrong?

I have played around with the pace at which I start a 10K without any definitive results. I’ve had a few races where I’ve started around 7:30-minute-mile pace, only to slow down the second half. But when I start slower … well, I just sort of stay slow. I just have a hard time wrapping my brain around how much I should hurt if I’m running the race right. I understand that during a 5K, I basically will feel like I’m running hard the whole time. I understand that during a half-marathon, I want to constantly remind myself to push the pace any time I feel too comfortable. I guess I don’t understand how I should feel in a 10K, and waver between going too hard and going too easy.

I’m had planned to run the Jingle All the Way 10K on Sunday morning, but scheduling conflicts intervened. But I’m thinking a fast 10K might be my next short-term running goal.

So who knows how to race a 10K rather than just run it clumsily and unevenly? Tips would be much appreciated!

In other news, I’ve started experimenting with new pre-run breakfasts, the first frontier in figuring out how to manage my stomach while running. This morning, before a rather intense lifting and core workout, I tried my typical slow-cooking Quaker oatmeal with banana slices rather than pumpkin mixed in. Delicious, and didn’t bug me a bit while working out! Trying something that worked made me feel like I learned something about how my body works — part of why I love running to begin with.

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We eat hills for breakfast: Bethesda-Chevy Chase Turkey Chase 10K

Everyone warned me about the hills.

Somehow, the constant rise and swell of the YMCA Bethesda-Chevy Chase Turkey Trot 10K course still took me by surprise. Spectators even held signs saying: “Love those hills!”

Steve and I decided ahead of time we’d be running this race to have a good time, not to run one. My recently adopted chilled-out approach led to a surprisingly good 5K a couple weeks ago — could it lead to a speedy 10K on Thanksgiving morning?

I passed each of the first two mile markers in 7:50 minutes — on pace for a PR and feeling surprisingly great despite the hills. Buoyed by the knowledge that as recently as Tuesday, I’d held a solid 8:10-minute-mile pace in the hills with my running group, I pushed on.

I may have slowed down a bit by mile 3, but it wasn’t until the 4-mile marker that I felt like my muscles literally slammed on the brakes. Soon, my stupid sensitive stomach joined the party by reminding me that I’d spent the day yesterday munching on the Thanksgiving goodies I was prepping rather than carefully monitoring my pre-race diet.It became clear my chilled-out approach wasn’t going to lead to my running a great time this time around.

But it was a turkey trot, for goodness sake — is there any better time to chill out and not worry about one’s time? I was having a terrible race, but I could still have an awesome run. I didn’t stop trying, per se, but I definitely threw a nice, comfortable 9-minute mile in there. I was going slow enough to take in the throngs of students home for the holidays proudly wearing their college sweatshirts and fleeces. I watched dads coaching their tweenage sons to hold a steady pace, and moms tackling the killer hills with double baby joggers. The whole experience gave me a sense of contentment no PR could have, and when I crossed the finish line in 52:46, I couldn’t stop talking about how much fun I’d had.

For a more detailed course and race review, check out my Examiner.com post here.

Steve seconded my easygoing approach, and even one-upped me. When I asked what his time was, he shrugged, and told me he hadn’t even bothered to start his watch.

Easy pace notwithstanding, those hills made sure we still got an awesome workout. And after eating hills for breakfast, our Thanksgiving feast that afternoon tasted even better.

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Race report: 2-Mile Chris Greene Lake Cable Swim

Can I be honest and tell you that I was a little disappointed I didn’t leave the 2-mile Chris Greene Lake Cable Swim in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday with a medal?

I’m still scolding myself for being such a baby about this even as I type it, but this blog is supposed to provide an honest perspective on training. So. I’m being honest, and telling you I was initially a little disappointed. And, as you’re about to read, a little pathetic.

I was so confused and troubled by my poor age-group finish (six out of seven among 25-29-year-old women), I decided to result-stalk the women ahead of me. Yes, that’s right — I Googled ’em.The sense of entitlement was based on age-group finishes at the only other open-water swims I’ve done, the 1-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge Swim and the 2.5-mile Swim Marathon in Jacksonville, Fla.

I learned: That the women who beat me are all former college swimmers. That one, a 28-year-old woman, won the swim around Key West a few years ago, completing the 12-mile distance in a little more than five hours. That another, a 26-year-old, still holds a Virginia swimming record for the 100 free (56.03).

I also learned that I should never do that again. First, I didn’t feel much better (although I did realize my disappointment is kind of like being upset about not placing in the Boston Marathon based on getting a medal at a local 5K). I only felt silly about wasting so much time.

Plus, getting uber-competitive about other swimmers flies in the face of the reason I swim now: For a sense of personal achievement, for an endorphin rush that I believe combats all ills, to physically exorcise life’s heartaches and stresses. And to see what kind of person I am: One who can dig deeper than she ever imagined when she needs to most, one who’s scrappy and tough. One who signs up for races that scare her a little to motivate her to train. Not one who spends an hour Googling random swimmers.

Now that I’ve confessed that sin, let me tell you about my beautiful dip in the lake yesterday morning. I couldn’t have asked for better weather or water conditions, with bright blue skies and the lake temperature just chilly enough to feel good once you’re swimming.This was my first time at a lake swim, with my previous open-water experience — plus a few disasters forced on me by a high-school swim coach — and the lack of current and waves almost made it feel like swimming in a pool.

Organizers started swimmers in waves of ten, based on seed times. I didn’t put in a seed time (the last time I swam a 1,650 in a meet was, um, 1997), so I was seeded third-to-last, the 97th swimmer to start. It was nerve-wracking watching dozens of other swimmers start while I hung out in the background, but it was nice not having to scratch, claw, kick and grasp for position, like one does in the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Swim.

The swim consisted of four laps around a course marked by a cable stretched tautly between two wooden pylons. I wasn’t exactly sure how to pace the 2-mile swim, so I treated it as I would a timed 1,650 in the pool: I like to start at a moderate, steady pace, and step it up as the swim goes on. In retrospect, I could have maybe pushed harder on the second and third laps. But then again, I swam my heart out on the fourth one (I may or may not have grunted in the water), and finished feeling like I’d just done 900 tricep dips at the gym.

My time: 56:15. And though my age-group finish was a little disappointing, I was thrilled that I came in 29th overall out of the roughly 100 swimmers.

Even better: Charlottesville is close to Shenandoah National Park, so Steve and I made a quick side-trip to try out my beautiful, new suspension-frame backpack! The trip included about 9 miles of hiking (split up over two days) through a cool, green river valley next to the most scenic waterfalls you’ve ever seen, plus TWO black-bear sightings! In the second instance, we saw two cubs scamper up a tree with a speed that left our jaws hanging. When we saw a giant, black blob in the distance, we picked up our jaws and booked it out of the park — if the babies were that fast, we didn’t want to find out how quick mama was.

Next up, swimming wise: The possibility of the 5K Smith Mountain Open-Water Lake Swim Sept. 26. It’s another US Masters Swimming event, which means it would be the same uber-competitive field. Still, with the right attitude, I think it could be a lot of fun. I’ll think about this one, along with another in Wilmington, N.C. I’ll keep you posted.

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The joy of picking a race lineup

Is there anything more fun than picking out your next few races?

Paging through a race report, or through fliers you get in some other race’s goody bag, you feel full of possibility. Could the 5K with the flat, fast course be your next PR? Could daydreams about a great-sounding post-race party carry you through your next couple long, hot runs?

Here’s a glimpse of what I’ve got ahead. Race schedule subject to change at racer’s discretion.

The Crystal City Twilighter 5K in Crystal City July 25.

Blue Crab Bolt 10K Trail Running Series: first race on Aug. 1 is held at Seneca Creek State Park in Gaithersburg, Md., second is Aug. 15, in Little Bennett Regional Park in Clarksburg, Md.

I’m also planning on a good half-marathon to run as a pre-MCM tune-up. Something flat, fast and fun to massage my ego before the marathon. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in Virginia Beach on Sept. 6 is the current front-runner (ha), and the Philadelphia Distance Run on Sept. 20 is trailing just behind.

And to keep me honest in the pool, I’m looking at:

Chris Greene Lake Cable Swim, Charlottesville, July 11. I’d do the two-miler.

Wildwood September Splash, Sept. 26. A fun-sounding 1-miler.

Any other suggestions for open-water swims in the Washington area this summer? If so, suggest ’em below!

Looking for more great summer races in the Washington area? Check out my Examiner post on that very topic.


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Fear of committment, conquered

I’m finding inspiration today in my next race, which I signed up for without logo_annapolishesitation over the weekend.

Regular blog readers will know that this is quite an accomplishment for me. I like to slink into races at the last minute, afraid that if I sign up for things too early, I’ll injure myself and be unable to run. Or, worse, that I’ll ruin everything by taking myself too seriously and failing to meet unattainable goals I’ve set for myself.

Yeah, I know. Kinda messed up. Which is why I just make the plunge and signed up for the ZOOMA Annapolis 10K on May 31 without thinking about it too much. It’s a women’s only race that promises free wine tastings and spa treatments post-race.

Better yet, I’ve roped my two best friends, Jen and Alexis, into running it with me. Jen is my high-school cross-country buddy. Lex surprised Jen and I both by first agreeing to walk the race, then casually mentioning that she finished four miles of walk-running in 42 minutes as a pre-race test. We are still gushing at her about how awesome this is, and are trying to keep the running peer-pressure to a minimum.

Also inspiring me today is Chito Peppler’s fun and exciting story. Peppler ran to almost 30 EU embassies Saturday for European Union Open House Day, in which EU member states open their embassies to the public, offering music and cuisine specific to each country.

He met three new friends who found him through a DC Running Examiner post I wrote last week. The three of them ran 12 miles through the city, seeing new neighborhoods, meeting new people, and experiencing unexpected things (Steven Spielberg posed for a photo with them in Georgetown).

It struck me while writing about this unique experience that it’s not unlike any long run, in which you gain a new appreciation for where you live, make new friends you might have never encountered otherwise and encounter some surprises that remind you why it’s fun to be alive.

Read Peppler’s running blog for more details, and follow his Tweets for updates about his exciting plans for next year’s event.

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Looking for a good pre-MCM half

I know it’s far away, but with the weather getting ready to heat up around here, I’m starting to focus my distance-running attention to the fall, when I’m running the Marine Corps Marathon on Oct. 25.

I’m looking for a good half-marathon to run as a pre-marathon tune-up. Something flat, fast and fun (read: ego-boosting) would be ideal. In the running (ha!) right now: The Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in Virginia Beach on Sept. 6 and the Philadelphia Distance Run on Sept. 20. I’d been set on the race in Philly after reading in Running Times that it’s one of the fastest halves in the country. But after participating in the 10-mile Broad Street Run on Sunday, which felt like a party at which I just happened to be running, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half is starting to sound pretty good.

Any thoughts on either one? Any other suggestions? Help me decide by posting a comment below!

If you’re looking for a half to run sooner than September, check out the Pacers Running Festival this Sunday. It’s been on my race calendar for a while, but I think I’m going to skip — partially because I can’t afford the $55 registration fee, partially because running a 10-mile race or longer three weekends in a row is a little much even for me.

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Musings on Broad Street from a reluctant runner

Steve is such a good sport.

For those who don’t know me personally, Steve is my husband, who I frequently drag to road races as my pace team and cheerleader, and sometimes peer-pressure into running himself. He’s fast, posting a time of 1:12 for the ten-mile Broad Street Run on Sunday, and will run a 5K at the drop of a hat, but just doesn’t get excited about long-distance running the way I do.

Our different attitudes about running make for interesting discussions over post-race dinners, as we inevitably have different takes on the race. Two gems of advice from Steve, as heard over post-race pizza last night:

On the fact that this was a fast course, leading both of us to post quicker times than we expected to: “We still had to run. I mean, we weren’t on roller skates or anything.”

On his attitude when he’s passed by a runner who clearly has to pick up the pace to pass him early in a race: “He can pass me now. But he’s going to pay for it later.”

In other post-race news, I was shocked and somewhat amused this morning to discover my post-race sore  spots: shinsplints! I haven’t gotten shinsplints for years, when I was forcing myself back into harder running after a few years of casual jogs. Must’ve been the downhill course. I’ve decided to consider the slight pain a small price to pay for an ego-boosting time.

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