Last month, when I was doing a little research for an article on running in the '70s, I discovered that the Getting into Gear 10K was Minnesota's first "megarace". Bruce Brothers wrote, "at a time when 600 runners was a massive field, nearly 4,000 turned out" for the first annual event, which has since been renamed to the Get in Gear 10K. Now in it's 33rd year, it's still considered an "annual rite of spring" for many runners.
With a month or so of solid training under my belt and a nice little cutback week leading up to the race, I thought I had a great chance of improving upon last year's time of 39:15, which is 6:18 pace.
I mentioned that I've been reading Born to Run recently. At one point the authors talks with an ultra marathoning gal and she mentions the joys of really getting in-tune with her body. I think that's one thing that's been missing from my running and racing. After all these years it's just so easy to go through the motions. You pay your $30, run a warm-up, start your watch when the gun goes off, take your splits along the way, stop your watch when you cross the line, cool-down, write a race report, and never think of the race again. The whole process can be done over and over without any goals - even though I always seem to be worried about my time. And the whole process can be done without really tuning into myself and what I am doing. I'm talking about simple things like monitoring my breathing, footstrike and arm carriage, asking myself if I can go faster, challenging myself to actually work to catch someone. You know, little things that can add up over the course of a race and potentially turn a good race into a great race.
So, I've been trying to do a better job during my workouts of visualizing myself at different points of this race and thinking about what I want to think about on race day. I don't know why I don't do this more often because I definitely think it helps. When you're at a certain point in a race, like going up a hill or heading across the Ford Bridge towards the finish, it definitely helps when you already have a few key things in mind to think about - rather than leaving the mind to wander aimlessly.
With all that said, I'm happy to report that my race unfolded as well as I had planned. The first 2 miles were all about being patient and not going out too fast. I ended up running those miles in 6:14 and 6:16.
The third mile crosses the river into St. Paul. I know I'm not a strong uphill runner because I tend to maintain the same effort, while others around seem to want to maintain the same pace. One thing about skiing is that you can't maintain the same effort. Because of the hills there's a constant change in one's breathing patterns. So I decided I would try to push the hills more than usual, knowing that I could recover at the top, like in skiing. Even with the increased effort, that mile passed in 6:25. That would turn out to be my slowest of the day.
I was tempted to sneak a peek at the halfway clock, but I knew if I saw any numbers at all, they'd totally mess with my head. I'd immediately double the time and then compare it to last year's time. Then I'd worry about whether or not I could actually run even or negative splits. So it was best to not even glance towards the clock.
Just after the halfway point, the road turns left and heads up to St. Thomas. If you've run TCM, you probably know this hill very well, which is just after the 21 mile mark. Again, I push the effort knowing that there's a nice downhill afterwards. At this point, I'm feeling really good about how the race is playing out. That's a 6:18 mile.
I'm not much of a kicker and I usually wilt in the final mile whenever someone goes by me. So my plan is to pick up the pace at mile 4. There are a couple of guys near me and that helps me stay focused. I'm trying to think about staying relaxed and calm as possible, as well as having a light, quick turnover. It must work as I run a 6:14. I can't help but look at my elapsed time. I see 31:27 and think two things; 1) that's about 31:17 for 8K or 14 seconds faster than my Human Race time - and I still have 2K to go and 2) those last 2K are going to take about 7:30, so I will be very close to 39-flat.
My breathing is really picking up now. I'm still trying to tune-in, but obviously that's more difficult the later in the race you are. Probably the worst part about this course is having to cross over the Ford Bridge. Luckily, it's not too windy this year and that stretch goes by fairly quickly. As I approach the finish line I can see the clock at 38:45 and I still have 100+ meters to go.
As I stop my watch I see 39:01. It's one of those results that kind of bums you out for just missing getting into the next minute. However, I'm happy with how the race played out. Not only beating last year's time (along with setting a post-40 PR), but also how I was able to internally tune-in more than usual. It almost makes me want to do more shorter races.