Ever since I started racing, I've believed that the last mile is the most important. If you screw up there, you're done. Those mistakes in the early miles hurt, but you usually have time to regroup. But not that last mile.
Oh, that wicked, wicked last mile.
Saturday was the Davey Tree/United Way of Portage County 10K in Kent, Ohio.
A Brief History
This race was the first race I ever entered, and I have now run it three times, each faster than the last. The course is a deceptively hilly loop course. You run the event's 5K course twice. It is a race that if I knew anything at all about being a race director, I would take it over and redesign the route. Because it sucks. I run the race solely for sentimental reasons, and until recently it was the only 10K around that I knew about. This year I was aiming to break 50 minutes.
A clear morning in the low 70s with very low humidity. You can't ask for better racing weather in July. It was by far the best conditions I've ever had for this race. My dad and Martini were also running. However, participation seems to be dwindling for the 10K, which doesn't bode well for the event, but it's a good thing for slow-pokes like me, aiming to place in their age groups. I felt ready.
I broke one of my own lessons. I forgot that I'm not fast. I went out with the quickness, which was easy because the first mile is mostly downhill. When I heard the woman calling out the first mile splits, all I could think was, Shit!
But I tried to stay positive. A sub-50:00 10K requires that I average at least an 8:03 mile pace. I had 47 seconds in the bank. I ratcheted back. Though perhaps too much.
The second (also the fifth) mile has a short steep hill that you catch both ways, as this mile also is where you turn around. I still had 26 seconds banked, but I needed to get my pace back up.
25:16 - 5K
My 5K split showed a steady drop in pace. I had lost all my banked time, but it wasn't the end of the world. The race volunteer tried to pump me up as I made the turn at the cone. "If you hurry up, you can beat 50 minutes," he shouted. The encouragement helped.
Now, only 10 seconds off my overall goal pace. But again, this was that long downhill of the first mile.
Clearly, I was fading. It would be tough to make up 54 seconds in the final mile, but I was still in good shape to crush my PR of 53:21.
Coup de Grace
The last mile has the worst uphill, a steady burn for close to a half-mile as you approach the finish. I crested the hill not in my happy place, but the end was now in sight. I asked my legs for a little more. I knew I would puke with the effort, but I've always been able to hold it together until after the finish line. Not this day.
About a quarter-mile out, my guts heaved, dry and painfully. I tried to run through it, clutching my side. Another dry heave helped me see the error of my ways. I slowed to a walk. And then one more heave with the slightest bit of bile. I took two more walking steps and started to run again. A strong kick seemed futile at that point, but it was enough for a new PR. Though just barely.
Vanilla, your 10K time is safe. For now.
My final split (1.1 miles) was 11:10 for a 53:10 finish, 11 seconds faster than last year but a far cry from my goal.
After voicing my frustration, my dad, who knows my habits well, said, "Maybe it's what you did last night, all the beer you drank."
But that wasn't it. In fact, I thought I had done everything right for once. I drank water throughout the day, Friday. I ate pretty well. I went to bed early. I drank only one beer that day, and that was during lunch (a delicious half-slab of ribs). One beer on the Fourth? Sacrilege, I know.
"Well, see, there you have it. It was what you didn't do last night," my dad said. Father knows best.
So what happened? Did going out too fast in the first mile spell my doom? Did I push too hard trying to make up time during the last mile? Did I drink too little water during the race? Did Xenia put some vicious Greek hex on me for my comments last week? Was it the lack of boozing the night before?
Maybe it just wasn't my day. My sub-50 White Whale is still out there. I would be more pissed about this race had I not recently found a new (to me) 10K on August 9. Mark it, dude! It will be mine.
My dad, Martini and I went to the closest local pub for breakfast and brews. This was much more difficult than anticipated, as our first two choices decided to be closed on Friday and Saturday. Finally, we found our savior at the good ol' Stowaway.
Labatt Blue goes well with a sausage, tomato and hot pepper cheese omelet. That afternoon, there was also a July 4th festival in Kent, so I met up with another friend and grabbed a couple more Labatts before heading to a cousin's high school graduation party, where I drank the Colorado Kool-Aid and then lived the High Life several times over.
I capped the evening with some Johnnie Walker, falling asleep with the glass of Scotch to end all glasses of Scotch. It ended me first. I added the remnants to my coffee the next morning. Sunday, I also ran 8 miles as punishment for my poor showing at the race.
And finally, on last Wednesday's post, Laura asked to see pictures of the race shirts. Apparently, she actually reads my sidebar, which chastises this race for its ridiculously long name -- with a report of equally ridiculous length -- and history of putrid shirts. Of course, this year it looks like the race organizers decided not to leave the design up to a 3-year-old. The top photo is the front of this year's shirt. Here's the back:
Can we all capitalize on the LiveStrong slogan? Yes, we can! I know it's a fact that small races need to recognize their sponsors, but I hate the walking billboard effect. But these are a vast improvement. Sadly, I threw out the shirts from the previous two years, which were just atrocious. Last year, it was this awful, running stick figure on the front and the usual logo attack on the back.
OK, enough is enough, already. Cheers.