Finally, Some Validation

I ran my first planned race–the Oakley Mini 10k–on Saturday since coming back from injury, and I’m happy to tell you that I killed it!

I miraculously woke up roughly on time on Saturday morning, despite the fact that I stupidly set a “weekday only” alarm on my phone. Thank goodness my bedroom gets a good blast of the rising sun every morning! Still, that set off a little bit of a panic. I scrambled to get ready, very glad that I had laid everything out and packed my bag up the night before. I wouldn’t usually bring a bag to a local race, but I was going to hop on the commuter rail up to Connecticut pretty soon after the race and wouldn’t have time to head home.

Luckily, I still got to Central Park at about 7:20 a.m., which left me plenty of time to check my bag and run a quick warm up mile before finding my friends in the corrals.

The conditions were far from ideal, but not too terrible. It was about 78 degrees with a dew point of 63. I was nervous and already sweating in the corral, but ready to go. It was pretty exciting — I was just a few feet away from Mary Keitany, the reigning NYC Marathon champ, who was up at the front of my corral. (Spoiler alert: she also won the 10K.)

When the gun went off, my focus was on not starting out too fast. That is always a struggle, but even more so in a short race, where I feel like people are less constrained than they would be at the start of a marathon. I was passed a lot in the first mile, but I knew I was doing well and sticking to a good pace. I also knew I’d be able to catch some of those who passed me if I stuck to it.

Serious Race Face
Serious Race Face

That first mile went by in 6:48 (watch time). I was aiming for a 7:00 pace, but I wasn’t too worried about that time. I felt good, and that first mile was flat-ish.

In the middle of the second mile we turned into the pack, saying goodbye to the nice straightaway that was Central Park West. I knew I had to mentally prepare myself for the park, because the park = hills! That second mile was 6:53, still faster than pace, but comfortable.

Mile 3 meant the first part of the infamous Harlem Hill. We were climbing the backside, which meant a climb of about 50 vertical feet at a grade of 3.7% over 0.25 miles. But that was followed by a 84 vertical foot drop over 0.32 miles on the other side of the hill. It might not seem like much, but it can be a killer. I saw an elite runner drop out at this point. Mile 3 clocked in at 6:57.

I crossed the 5K mark shortly after at 21:33.

Mile 4 brought another significant uphill…but without the benefit of a nice downhill on the other side! Pretty much the entire fourth mile was a climb, with us gaining about 90 vertical feet over the course of that mile. After Harlem Hill, I was feeling it, so that was my slowest mile at about 7:08.

By the time I finished the fourth mile, I was feeling it, but I was also determined to cut back on some of the time I lost in that last mile. The best part about this mile–which was largely flat–was a sprinkler that helped cool me down. I knocked this one out in 6:50.

Mile 6 started with the best cheer squad out there. The men from my running team were out there in force. They were so loud that some people thought we were at the finish. Despite the morale boost, the very slight and very short uphill at the beginning of this mile destroyed me and I was just struggling to hold on. My watch clocked this mile in 7:03.

The final 0.25 (on my watch) of the course was brutal, but it also validated all the speed work I’ve been doing. The course had a 800m and 400m to go sign, and I was thinking about what my split would be on the track. I finished that last segment in 1:39 (about a 6:42 pace).

All in, I finished in 43:17 (6:58 min/mi) — 1:13 faster than my prior PR. That was good for 106 overall (out of 7,888) and 44th in my age group.

I’m very happy with that time. I beat my goal by 13 seconds even on a warm, humid day, and if I plug that time into McMillian’s calculator, it projects just a minute off my marathon PR time. Given the weather, I think that means I can assume my fitness is roughly back to where it was in the fall. I obviously still have work to do on my endurance, but now I’m optimistic about the fall season.

Next up, Beer Mile, and then the Pride Run 5 Miler.

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