Last Thursday, April 3rd, I decided it would be fun to run the local Aut2Run 10K race hosted by the Autism Society of Ventura County on the campus of CSU Channel Islands.
There were a number of reasons I decided to run the race. My sciatic nerve issue that kept me out of the LA Marathon has subsided and I've been running pretty much pain-free once again. But without any type of race on the horizon, I've been running fairly aimlessly. The race is just miles from my house. And believe it or not I've never seen much of CSU Channel Islands. And of course the Autism Society is a worthy charity to support.
For the last two weeks I've run on the track Tuesday nights with my 11 year old son and some other kids that are part of the local youth track club. My goal was to teach them pacing by running with them, so they could later take that pacing with them when they run 1600/3200 meters in competition. I found it a humbling experience running with these 5th graders as a few were pulling me along with them...until I forced them to hold back a little.
The first night I ran, I was worried about my hamstring issue coming back, but somehow held it together. We were running about 6 min per mile pace, which is still within my comfort zone. Barely. It paid off for my son because he was able to pace himself to a new PR in the 3200 on Saturday and meet the "varsity" standard. His pace was 6:09 per mile.
I was running to help the kids, but on Sunday it was apparent the 400 to 800 meter track intervals I was running with the kids also benefited me as I was able to creep below 38 minutes in the 10K this Sunday in 37:56, good for 3rd place overall. This translates into about a 6:07 pace per mile for 6.2 miles. Damn! Training with these kids apparently helped me!
For no particular reason I don't run a lot of 10Ks. I generally opt for 5Ks. In fact, the last 10K I ran was on August 18, 2012 in 80 degree heat in the San Fernando Valley and before that, sometime in 2010. My 37:56 was faster than both of these. So at age 49, nearly 50, I'm running the 10K distance faster than I was running it at age 45. I guess a little speedwork can pay off...when done in moderation.
The start time of the race was 7:30am, though it was delayed until 7:39am (yes, they announced 7:39, not 7:40, not 7:45, but 7:39). The typical pre-race maneuvering took place. Though I wasn't treating the race like an Olympic Trial or something, I do like to get a decent position at the start so I don't have to worry about maneuvering around people that shouldn't be there at the VERY FRONT. I was standing next to a gal that clearly should not have been at the front of the race, but thankfully she was next to me, not in front of me. I wish everyone would use a bit of common sense at these races. But, time and time again, many do not. They think, cool, I'm at the front. Like being at the front of the grocery store line. Not cool...unless you plan to finish near the front. Which, in this case, this particular woman finished nowhere remotely near the front of the race.
I digress. After the gun went off, I found myself in 2nd place, behind a young man who, for some reason, turned left after the first straightaway. I followed him, in my race mental zone
But several seconds later, I heard yelling, "HEY! HEYYY! OVER HEEERE! THIS WAYYY!" and sure enough, %^&* ^*%^&, 50 yards or so into the race and I've taken a wrong turn. UGGHH. Immediate mental letdown. A split second I'm thinking %^** it. I'm done. Dropping out. But another split second later I opted to ignore those lost ~8 seconds as we backtracked towards the group. I went from 2nd to around 40th but heck, this was just a fun run. Keep going. Get over it. I did.
As the fuming in my brain settled down, I was able to pick off runners like target practice. A mile into the race and I was still back in around 7th position, but I felt decent and it was actually kind of fun gradually reeling in people. I had figured that the lead runner would be out of range, but I could still clearly see him. He was not extending his lead.
If I had any "beef" with this course, I could not recall seeing a single mile marker on the course. Whether or not there were any, Near the 15 minute mark I had pulled back into 2nd place overall, within seconds of the lead runner. But at this point I felt unsure of how much to push this old body, not knowing how it would hold up. So for the next few miles I traded spots with one other runner, until roughly the 4.5 to 5 mile mark of the race.
As I pulled up next to the markedly taller (than me) runner, I said, "We can catch him." He didn't say anything back. I put the gas on a little, but the guy in front had a pretty significant gap on us. I was slowly narrowing it, clearly in 2nd place, but not quite knowing how much further we had to run. This knowledge gap is a problem when you're trying to compete.
Before I know it, an even TALLER guy passes me by, looking strong. It was a DIFFERENT really tall guy, even taller then the other really tall guy. At that point I was not able to respond. I was still pushing the pace, but I didn't trust my body to trail this guy. In hindsight, perhaps I should have tried. But without knowing how much further we were running, and with no recent 10Ks under my belt, I just kept my pace as the gap between us grew.
Minutes later I crossed the finish, feeling fine, about 20 seconds behind the winner, and 19 seconds behind Really Tall Guy. I am about 8 years short of equaling these guys' combined ages, so I felt pretty good keeping them company.
The day before, I volunteered to work the long jump pit at my son's track meet. I tweaked my lower back being one of the sand raker guys. So I gave that up and became one of the measurer guys. Little did I ponder at the time that bending down 200 times to measure long jump distances would make my quads sore the next day. That soreness was there with me on Sunday, but the Advil I popped in that morning seemed to take the edge off. My advice: THINK about what you're doing the day before a race or suffer the consequences.
I'm a happy camper that I can run a sub-38 10K race with the type of low key training I've been doing.
On that note, the Autism Society of VC did an outstanding job, had an amazing turnout, handed out outstanding looking medals and shirts to all, and raised $100,000. Very impressive. All while sharing useful information about autism. To learn more about the race and the organization, visit aut2run.org and www.autismventura.org.