Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Lukewarm Improbable at Miles for Migraines

This barren, foreboding gravel trail in the Shoreline Amphitheater
parking lot greeted the runners at the start of the Miles for Migraines 10k
Now that I started incorporating "Cool Impossible" author Eric Orton's  Eric Orton's strength and form exercises into my training, would it take my running to the "Cool Impossible" heights Orton describes that previously  I could only dream about?  I was about to find out in the Miles for Migraines 10k.

Since running the Santa Cruz Half-Marathon last April, I started focusing more on strength and speed training while lowering my mileage slightly.  In addition adding Orton's exercises into my regimen, I started doing weekly track workouts Tuesday mornings.  They were pretty standard workouts of 2-3 miles through a combination of 800's and 1600's on a nearby track.   Six weeks after the San Cruz Half-Marathon, it was time to toe the line for the Miles to Migraine 10k and put that training to the test.

The race started in a dusty parking lot next to The Shoreline Amphitheater, with pleasant breezes from nearby San Francisco Bay keeping things cool.  The field was small, maybe a couple hundred people, and we quickly spread out into small groups on the gravel road before reaching the Steven's Creek Trail at the other end of the vast parking lot.  Looking down at my Garmin watch half-way through this section, I was pleased to see my watch indicating I was running at a 6:10 per mile pace.  All indications from the last six weeks of training indicated my fitness level was in the 6:00-6:15 range for 10k, so I was right on pace.

Five minutes into the race, it was clear the winner was going to be either a tall athletic looking, 20-something with closely cropped blond hair, or believe it or not, myself running just behind him.  We came through the first mile in 5:58 as we ran along the bay front bike trail in Shoreline Park.

Runner finishing at the Miles to Migraine race
(photo from Miles to Migraine Facebook page)
All I could think to do was hang on, and we came through the second mile in 5:54, which felt pretty manageable.  And then, I noticed his breathing sounded shorter, as he was noticeably taking more gasping breaths.  It sounded like he was in trouble.  I was feeling fine and began wondering, "Could I actually win this thing?" I pushed to the lead, pulling away and he continued to gasp away, coming through mile 3 at a 5:44 mile.   "That wasn't so bad," I was thinking, "Just keep at it and pull away from this guy."

Of course, you might be thinking running three miles well under my target pace would come back to bite me.  And you'd be right.   It soon became clear I was the guy in trouble and the guy behind me, gasping or no gasping, was doing just fine.  He quickly reeled me back in while I labored the next mile at 6:25.  Then he literally dusted me on a dirt trail section of the course on the and I fell further and further behind.  Miles 5 and 6 were both around 6:25 pace, and a finished in 2nd place in a time of 38:31.  According to my Garmin watch, the course was actually 6.28 miles, equivalent to a 38:05 10k effort.  Easily my fastest 10k in over 3 years.

Runners milling around after the race
(Photo from Mile to Migraine Facebook page)
I'd have to say this race proved my fitness was a lot better than my decision making.   Sub-six minute pace never felt so easy in a long time, but there was no reason to push the pace so early in the race.  More patience, and I probably could have hung on for another couple miles around 6:00 pace.  Sure, the leader sounded like he was in trouble, but if he was in trouble in mile 3, he would be in even more trouble at mile 4 or 5 if I had just patiently waited until then to make a decisive move.  Lesson learned.

So while this race turned out not to be some dreamy "Coo lImpossible" accomplishment, I'd say all that hard work in the last six weeks paid off.   And hey, for finishing in 2nd place, I won a bottle of wine.  Almost as good as a beer.