Sunday, March 05, 2017

2017 John Robbins 8k Race Report

Spoiler alert, I did WAY better than I expected!

Today's race was one I've done in the past but don't usually make it a habit of doing just because it's kind of an odd distance and usually not the warmest race. Sure enough, the weather forecast I saw last weekend when I registered was about 30 degrees off. In the wrong direction.

And while I was disappointed with it being so damn cold, I think to a degree (no pun intended) it helped me move a little faster. I know the first mile I was a little afraid to stop and walk because I wasn't warm yet and walking would just prolong things. And I really wanted to feel my fingers. So I kept moving.

That "keep moving" was really the key to today's success I think. It's been years since I've run, without walking, any reasonable distance. As an ultrarunner, you just have to walk at some point. Well, I do. So my body is so used to just walking whenever it feels like it. Little hills. Aid stations. Feeling tired. Whatever excuse works, I just walk when I want to. I'm pretty good about running again soon enough but, well, it's still walking and not running.

Anyway, let me rewind. I got up, threw some clothes on, and headed out the door. I did pour a cup of coffee to enjoy on the way and decided at the last minute to grab some eggs and an English muffin for breakfast. When I run this early in the morning, I usually just down some coffee and go then eat breakfast when I'm done running. But things worked out with my gut so the bread and eggs, and some coffee, seemed to be okay.

Once I got to the event, I chilled in my car. But with the heat on because damn was it cold. I snagged some water to mix up my GenUCAN Hydrate and tried to not drink more coffee. I wanted to run, not get the runs. Speaking of the bathroom, I got into the porta-potty line with about 15 minutes until the start.

Timing worked out pretty good and I only had to stand at the Start line a few minutes before they sent us on our way. As usual, I started way, way in the back with only a handful of people behind me. I trotted along, trying to pace myself and go slow and warm up my fingers and breath without coughing too much. After maybe half a mile, I stumbled onto two guys that were keeping a decent pace that roughly matched mine. So I latched on.

One of them slowly dropped back by the first mile marker but I stuck with the other guy, Ralph. Ralph would end up being my hero. We clicked through the first mile, me right on his heels, keeping a steady, and what felt like easy, pace. Until I looked at my watch and nearly freaked out that he was pulling me along at sub-12 pace. Figuring I would blow up soon enough, I kept shadowing him. As I said before, I didn't want to stop for a walking break because I wanted my fingers to warm up and I knew that usually happens around Mile 2.

Ralph and I trooped along and made it across the second mile marker. I checked my time and it was faster than the first! Well, I reasoned to myself, that second mile was a little down hill and I really was close to feeling my fingers, maybe I'll just keep going along behind him. We trudged up the hill and made the turn-around point which was a little less than two and a half miles. I checked my pace and tried to do some fuzzy math in my head and assumed the pace was slowing and I was happy to see that. After all, sub-12 pace is a little fast for me. Even more so since my training had taken me to my first 5 mile run only a few days earlier.

We crossed over the 3 mile mark, I checked my watch, and nearly shit a brick. We didn't slow down, we were right on the same damn sub-12 pace. I was amazed. I pulled up even with Ralph and told him he was my new favorite friend because I had not run this far, without stopping to walk, in at least 5 years. We chatted a bit, trading stories and adventures and previous races. We came up to the aid station, shortly before the Mile 4 marker and I lost him. He stopped for water and a short walk break but I had my bottle so I just kept going.

I was sad to leave him behind but in that half mile or so leading up to the aid station, I had done the math in my head and knew I was close to a PR. I knew my old PR was in the 55 minute range and pretty old. And I knew that sub-12 miles would get me close to a PR. And I knew that, even though this was only a damn training run, I wouldn't have a chance to run this distance anytime soon, let alone be this close to a PR. So in that half mile before the aid station, I knew I was close enough to a PR to take a shot at it. So when I dropped Ralph at the aid station, I felt bad. But kept moving because my focus had changed.

Even though Ralph was behind me, I tried to keep the same pace going. An occasional glance over my shoulder showed me that Ralph was close behind but I had certainly put a small gap on him. So I focused on the people in front of me and tried to either keep them as close as they already were or reel them in. I ended up doing a bit of both.

The fourth mile marker came and I checked my pace and I was still close enough to chase a PR but I had slowed down a little. I managed to pick up another runner keeping a solid pace and we chatted briefly as we ran up the last hill for half a mile or so. He wanted to slow down so I thanked him for his little boost and merrily went towards the finish.

If you don't know what a "kicker" is, you've never seen me cross a finish line. I'm one of those runners that holds a little back just so he can sprint across the finish line. Well, I didn't have much in my tank so when the tall guy passed me with only a few hundred feet to go, I couldn't cover the move. My brain wanted to but I knew if I really pushed it, something would go wrong and I'd miss my PR. So I kept it tame and only sprinted the last few dozen feet.

That last block or so I knew I had the PR in hand and it was just a matter of how big it would be. Turns out I did better than expected. My old PR, from way back on March 13, 2011, was 55:29. My shiny, new PR is 53:28. That's two minutes off a really old PR. But I'm probably just as happy, or maybe even happier, that I ran the entire race. And not to confuse you like I did my wife, I mean I RAN the entire race. I didn't take any walking breaks. None.


Temps were about 25F. Wind was light to moderate. Sun was out with a few clouds.

Fluids and Fuel:
Before the race I had coffee, an English muffin, and two hard boiled eggs. During the run I had GenUCAN Hydrate. Recovery was two bacon/gouda/egg biscuits and more coffee.

Aches and Pains:
Both knees felt tweaky but when I noticed them, I focused on my stride and soon forgot the pain. I'm wondering if it's the shoes or the stride or something else. Everything else felt fine.

Wore thermal top, t-shirt, pants, shorts, BUFF, winter hat, and gloves.

Today's Motivation:
I paid for the race. Otherwise, I probably would have just stayed in bed. Just so damn cold.

Naughty Neil:
Well, I had pizza for dinner last night. And some lemon pie. Not the best choices but at least I kept it to two slices of pizza instead of a whole pizza.

Start - 00:18
Mile 1 - 10:59
Mile 2 - 10:45
Mile 3 - 10:57
Mile 4 - 11:10
Mile 5ish -  9:34
Finish - 53:28 (chip time)


Unknown said...

Nice report. Could I (as the newsletter editor) enter it on my club's newsletter's race report for our members to enjoy and get familiarity with other out-of-their-county DC area races? Thanks.

Neil Richard said...

As long as you give me credit for writing it, you are welcome to use it. It would also be nice if you could send me a digital copy of your newsletter. Thanks!

Unknown said...

Thanks, Neil. I will send the draft also to be sure you are okay with it before I finalize the issue.

Neil Richard said...

Thanks. My email is