1st Place at the Ellicott City 10k: Race Report

I ran 5 miles and I thought I was dying.

This was the case 2 days prior to race day on an afternoon jog in 102* heat.

My last thought after finishing this benign training run was “wow, I’m in severe danger of DNF’ing this 10k”.

The training and original plan

My original goal for this 10k was to use it as a tune up for the DC half I’ll be running in mid September.

With the goal of running the half in sub-1:21 to qualify for the NYC marathon (a 6:10 pace), I wanted to run this 10k in sub 6 pace.

The main problem with this plan, was 2 months ago our second son was born, and consist training went out the window.

Father first, athlete second – I ran when I could. Often pushing our 2.5 year old in the stroller (not exactly a recipe for speed work).

Truth be told, my ‘training’ for this race consisted of about 5 runs in the last month. Hardly what you’d need to break a 6 minute pace.

That, coupled with the forecast of 102 heat index on race day, changed the plan.

The new plan was simple – don’t die, and don’t blow up.

After my Friday jog, both seemed in jeopardy.

Race day

Feels like 70 at 6am. Feels like 85 at 7am, and so it went.

With a 9am race start, the last remaining chance of a ‘cool breeze’ had all but vanished.

We packed up the car with the kids and drove the ~2 miles to the race start (suuuuper convenient local event). I was lucky to have my family there as well as my running buddy Ryan to cheer me on. Sometimes family, friends and small clapping children make all the difference.

Did all the usual check-in things, got my bib, drank some water, absolutely soaked my hat in ice water, kissed everybody and hung out by the start line.

Ready to… do something.

The course

This course was mean. A sub 6 goal was probably insane even if I had trained properly.

2 loops of a 3.1 mile course. The first 1.4 miles being SIGNIFICANTLY downhill, and the next 1.7 being significantly up hill.

The entire race would boil down to the second climb.

Start line

Standing at the start I felt surprisingly good. Which was strange considering the dumpster fire of a training run I had 2 days earlier.

I began to have delusions of running sub 7 minute paces (and as someone who has run marathons sub 6:45, it still felt like ‘hey, this shouldn’t be that hard’) and ended up with this last minute mental concoction of a strategy:

Go out fast and easy. The entire downhill, breathe through your nose. The entire first up hill, look down and chug along – but control your breathing. Rinse and repeat on the second downhill. On the final climb. Find the people ahead of you, and pick them off.

And so we went.

The race

“3, 2, 1, Go!”

We cruised out of the Banneker park entrance down a short hill before an even shorter uphill before the big descent.

My watch out of the park entrance said “Pace: 5:15”

LOL, bad.

With 5-7 people ahead of me, I had the thought that they either were:

  1. Running the 5k and should be going out this hard, but are irrelevant to me
  2. Simply faster than me and who cares, they’ll beat me
  3. They’re going to blow up

So I pulled back, kept to my nasal breathing plan, and still managed to run the first mile way too fast in 6:04.

Oddly enough, the entire first downhill section I ended up chatting with another Josh, making small talk about races, kids, training, etc.

Bottom of the hill was the one aid station on the loop at mile ~1.4.

Grabbed water, and turned up hill.

The uphill is up a local trail called the Trolley Trail. Shaded and paved, it’s easy running and the shade helped stave off the hot sun.

Up the hill, I stuck to the plan, chug along and control my breathing (well, I did have to stop to tie my shoe, but hey, life happens).

Running up hill the entirety of the second 1.7 miles of the loop was not super fun.. but it did give me a great idea of what I’d be up against on lap 2.

We came back into the parking lot to complete our first loop before heading back out on our second.

I got some waves and screams from the family which was just the energy boost needed to rock and roll out of  the park again.

The plan continued as expected, forced nasal breathing on the descent to bring my hear rate down (which had settled in at a super uncomfortable 175bpm), and focus on the last remaining climb.

On the last climb, we passed some of the 5k’ers in the back of the pack, but I had my eyes on the assumed 10k runners.

Had no idea where I was in the standings, but I’d find someone, and pick them off. Rinse and repeat 7 times.

These folks ran a good race, but they ran just too hard on the first 3/4, and I had just enough left to chug right past them.

7 times – ‘on your left!’

Eventually, I ran out of people to pass.

The finish

I crossed the finish line in 43:02, about 5 minutes off of a PR, but a time I was more than happy with given the course and severe lack of training.

After dousing myself with water, I ran into ‘other’ Josh, who then informed me I had come in 1st place in the 30-39 age group, and 4th overall (by about the margin it had taken me to tie my shoes earlier..).

That’s a fun surprise.

So while no, I didn’t run a 5:59 pace (6:58 actually), I managed to harness some old fitness, stick to a race plan, and do something pretty cool.

What’s next?

First things first, our 2 month old is starting to sleep a bit more consistently, so I hope to get back to a normal-ish training schedule in the coming weeks.

With that, all focus will shift to a combo of training. ~75% for the DC half to run a 1:21, and 25% to start to prepare for the Patapsco Valley 50k in late October.

The former could qualify me for NYC, the latter will allow Ryan & I entrance into the Worlds End 100k next June.

With goals like that, there’s only one thing left to do.

Just move forward.