Pleasantly Surprised at My Time at a Last Minute 10K Race This Weekend

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 and

Going With the Flow When Things Go Wrong in a Local 5K/10K Race

My very first 5K race was on June 6, 1993 (yes, I know the date because I've updated an Excel spreadsheet of my running mileage and races going back to my first "official" day of running on May 5, 1993) and for years I was pretty serious about most of my races.

If you pay your $30 for a local race, you're usually supporting a local charity or cause, but with that there's some expectation that 1) the course will be accurately measured, 2) your time and place will be accurately reported and 3) there's a reasonable level of logistical effort placed into the race, including adequate course supervision, signage, available fluids, etc.

In the early days of my running, all this stuff was a really big deal. I'd be royally annoyed, particularly if the course was not accurate. Actually, I still get annoyed at that. No one should be hosting a race if they can't measure the course correctly as most of like to compare the time on the course to previous races.

But overall, today it isn't quite as big of a deal for me if something goes wrong at a local 5K/10K race. I'm not as serious about my training and racing, so when things go awry, I don't cry :> Case in point was this morning's 10K at Balboa Park in the San Fernando Valley. A friend of mine asked me this week if I wanted to run the race to support a breast cancer screening facility. My family being out of town, I said sure, knowing full well I'm not well trained to run a fast 10K.

There was a 5K and 10K, with the 5K starting 10 minutes before the 10K. I found it odd that our race bib numbers did not distinguish which distance we were running. It was basically left up to the timekeeping system to track who started the 5K at 8 a.m. and who started the 10K at 8:10 a.m.

Boy it was a hot day today. Low 80s at the start of the race. Today I was running for survival, not for speed. Heat is not my friend. 'Twas a sweatfest indeed out there. But it was fun...finishing! My time was 40:30, about a 6 1/2 minute per mile pace, which is exactly what I expected to run. The course was almost pancake flat but with the high temps I knew breaking under 40 minutes would be a challenge. The last time I ran the 10K distance was over 2 years ago, in just over 39 minutes.

So I was happy with my time, and, surprisingly, I finished 2nd place overall. There were 2 guys in front of me for a long time, but apparently the first place guy took a wrong turn somewhere. Thanks dude! I finished 3 1/2 minutes behind the winner, who lives in Palmdale (heck he must be used to temps in the 90s and 100s!) and is 17 years my junior.

But back to my original point...things can and do go wrong. Sure enough, they posted the results of the 10K and I was nowhere to be found. Others who also knew they placed well were also not on the list. Sure enough, many 10Kers were timed as if we ran the 5K. So instead of a 40 minute 10K, I was on the 5K results with a time of 52 minutes.

Fortunately the timers were receptive to resolving the issue and made sure to make appropriate corrections. But it didn't happen until after the event MC announced the incorrect race results. Knowing that the 10K results were way off, I approached him and very nicely let him know they the results were quite wrong and that the timers were making corrections. He pretty much ignored me and said this (the sheet he was holding) is what was given to him. Would have been nice for him to at least ask someone, but he went on and announced the "winners" and handed out the awards to many of the wrong people.

In my younger days I would have complained and bitched and moaned. Today I just laughed about it. There were others that were kind of annoyed about things, like why they only give medals to the top 3 in each age group (she thought it was top 5), etc. But it was so hot out there that most people moved on to the rest of their day.

Bottom line: Most of us run local races for fun and camaraderie. So when things go a bit wrong, as things quite often do in these local races, stay cool!

Knocking Out the Cobwebs With a 10K Race

Yes, I guess I did run like never before last first 42 minute 10K, 11 seconds slower than the first 10K I ever ran back in July 1993, 2 months after starting running.

But I don't mind. I had been back to running less than a month after 5 1/2 weeks away from running and this was a good way to "work out the kinks." My hamstrings have been sore and stiff and the day after the 10K they seemed to have loosened up. While 42 minutes isn't blazing fast for me in a 10K, the 6:46 pace was much faster than the slowpoke training pace I've been running.

Now I've got a bit of a sore right outer knee, something new for me, but it doesn't seem to be impeding the running too much. My right hamstring has been sore too. Guess I gotta give it a day off or two as I've barely taken a day off since coming back to running.

In any case, my advice is, if you're looking to improve your speed and aren't motivated to run on the track, consider signing up for some local races as training runs. It costs a bit of $$ but usually it goes towards a good cause. Plus, it makes it more enjoyable to run fast when you're running with others.