Sunday, September 29, 2013

Race Recap: The Lungstrong 15k

I'm not sure how to begin this recap of today's Lungstrong 15k. If I start by saying my goal was to break 60 minutes and I didn't make it, it sounds like I'm not happy about my race. And, of course, in some ways, that would be right. I was really hoping I'd be able to run a sub-60-minute 15k. There's something poetic about that -- it's a milestone to break 20 minutes in the 5k, to break 40 minutes in a 10k, so why not try to break 60 minutes in a 15k? It's the same pace, after all.

But of course, it's harder to do a 40-minute 10k than a 20-minute 5k, and harder still to do a 60-minute 15k.

I could also say that my goal was to do better than a 6:26 pace for the race, since a 6:26 pace is what you need to achieve all those things. In that case, if you look at my Garmin reading of the results, I succeeded: My average pace according to my Garmin was 6:25. If you look at the Garmin output for the first time I broke 40 in a 10k, my average pace was actually only 6:26. The difference, of course, is that Garmin measured Lungstrong a bit long, while it measured the LKN Rotary 10k a bit short.

I even came pretty close to my goal paces from my race preview post: I was shooting for a 6:35 pace on the ups and a 6:05 on the downs, and, depending on how you calculate it, I actually ran about 6:31 on the ups and 6:11 on the downs -- pretty close, if you ask me!

In the end I completed the race in 1:00:37, finishing second in my age group in a very large field. On the other hand I thought I had a pretty good plan to finish in under an hour. Where did it go wrong?

At the start of the race everything seemed to be going as planned. My friend Chas and I were going to stay together and try to keep our pace as close as possible to 6:20 per mile. this would give us a little wiggle room in case the course measured a little long. As I mention in my preview post, I was going to take splits at the top and bottom of each hill instead of at the mile markers; the goal was to go 6:35 on the ups and 6:05 on the downs.

The first half-mile or so was a gradual uphill and we were pretty close to our target pace at 6:24. Next was about 3/4 a mile of downhill and we didn't quite hit our 6:05 target, running closer to 6:10. This was a theme of the first half of the race -- running the ups a little faster than planned, and the downs a little slower. But overall, that should even out in the end, right? Not quite -- my Garmin was showing an average pace of just over our planned 6:20 per mile after about 5 miles -- 6:23 instead of 6:20. This was still below the target pace of 6:26 but our margin for error was beginning to shrink. About this point I also started to notice that Chas was really beginning to labor on the uphills. I'd try to maintain the planned pace and he'd drop back, grunting and gasping for breath.

But soon after this we began to see some familiar faces. Roberta, Jenn, and Lisa were at one intersection pointing the way, and Matt was at another, pointing and taking pictures. He caught a pretty good one of me:

Look, I'm going so fast, I'm blurry!

This part of the course was a little flatter than the previous section, so I decided to just try for a straight-up 6:20 pace rather than mess with the uphill / downhill thing. It worked okay, but Chas kept dropping further behind. I yelled back that we were only doing 6:22, and he told me to just take off. Unfortunately, I didn't have a whole lot of wind left in me, but I did what I could. There were two runners about 30 yards ahead of me so I keyed on them and tried to maintain pace.

In Mile 7, however, we faced some of the toughest hills of the race. I handled the first one okay, at about a 6:35 pace, but the second one was the only time my pace was slower than 7 minutes per mile. I began to wonder if it was possible to do this after all. But the two runners ahead of me were continuing on at about the same distance ahead, so it seemed that everyone was struggling. I wondered if either of them was in my age group. I didn't think so -- they both seemed younger.

My pace for the whole race was now slower than 6:24 per mile, and given the fact that my Garmin seemed to be measuring the course long, finishing in under an hour felt less and less assured.

I did manage to pick things up again as we finally started downhill, getting my average pace for the race back down to 6:23, but then things got ugly. Mile 8 ended in a massive hill, and again I could only manage a 6:35. For Mile 9, even maintaining a 6:30 pace on the downhill sections was difficult. I didn't pass the mile marker until my Garmin read 9.14, and with a third of a mile left, I had less than a minute and a half remaining. Unless I could pull off a 4:30 pace (ha!), there was no way I could finish under 60 minutes. As a small consolation, I took a split when my Garmin read 9.3 miles, 59:39. Huzzah! A sub-60 Garmin 15k. Too bad it doesn't count!

I finally crossed the line in 1:00:37, at a 6:25 pace according to Garmin, but a 6:31 where it counted.

That was good for second in my age group (thank goodness for Master's awards). As it turned out, one of the two guys who stayed stubbornly 30 yards ahead of me was indeed in my age group, so if I could have summoned the will to pass him, I might still not have finished under 60 minutes, but I would have gotten a first AG.

Chas managed to keep up the pace fairly well and ended up with a 1:01:32, a PR for him, second in AG, but still disappointing as he had the same sub-60 goal as me.

Some other DARTers did better than us. Here's a post-awards-photo:

Chas and I didn't do as well as Allyson Biasucci, who finished first in her AG

And here we are at the finish line with Kristen Feldman, 5th overall woman

The full results of the race are here. My Garmin plot is below.

More geekery with the stats will probably be forthcoming later in the week.

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