race report

Halloween Haunting 10K Race Report: Working the Witch’s Magic for a 10K Personal Record!

Hocus pocus!
Hocus pocus!

On Sunday I ran my last race of the season, the Halloween Haunting, my third 10K since the spring.  I did this one for the sheer fun of it. They had a kiddy 2K, a 5K, and the 10K. Lots of people from Balance Point Triathlon were taking part.  And with the Halloween theme, people would be in costumes.

I’m not one for dressing up, but at the last minute I took a trip to the Dollar Store and spent $7 on stuff for a witch costume–a red pointy hat, a “sexy witch” dress (that’s all they had), and a spider ring.  That was my gesture toward the theme.

We gathered in Springbank Park for the latest start time I’ve ever had for a race: 10:30 a.m. The 5K was an hour earlier, so by the time I got there, the competitors in that race had either arrived back already or were coming in.

The 10K was just two rounds of the 5K loop.  I ran into Gabbi, the Balance Point coach, and her sister and niece right away when I arrived. They were all dressed up as zombies.  Penny and Esther who I’d done the Kincardine Women’s Triathlon with ran the 5K together, looking groovy, as if they’d just walked in of the set of the play, Hair (they claim not to have coordinated their costumes).

A very stiff north westerly wind threatened to blow my witch hat right off of my head. After a bit of milling around, a last minute trip to the port-0-potty, a quick warm-up  as recommended by Gabbi (because yes, it does usually take me about 2-3K to find my stride), and a few photos, we took our position at the starting line.

I love these local events. The announcer was the leader of my very first “learn-to-run” group (spring 2013!) and it felt good that he remembered me from then.  I ran into a couple of colleagues from the university, a client of Renald’s, and a woman I knew from yoga. Lots of BPT members were there, whether or not they were racing.  It just felt like home.

Whereas for my first 10K I was a bundle of nerves, this time I felt calm and as if nothing was at stake.  And then we were off.

I went out of the gate with the crowd, a bit too fast at about 5:10 per km. Honestly, I’ve never kept up a pace like that in my life.  So I pulled back and settled in at about between 6:15 and 6:30 km for the rest of the race. I decided that this time I was going to push myself in the hopes of achieving a personal best, which meant beating my previous best time of 1:07:46. I’d calculated that if I maintained under 6:30 and hardly took any walk breaks, I could do it.

The people who are fast at 10K are so incredibly fast. The course involved two loops of a 5K, and each loop had a switchback portion so you passed the people ahead of you. Some of the young guys from the Distance Club passed me going in the other direction before I even reached 3K.  These same speedsters passed me again before I got the halfway point. The leader finished his race in just under 31 minutes!  My 5K split was more than that!

But the magic of it all was that when I hit that 5K point, I said to myself, “only 5K to go!”  Now, a year ago, 5K was about all I’d ever run. It might as well have been a marathon.

In any case, I didn’t set out to be a champion, just to break my own personal record.  And break it I did!  I seemed to be racing with a bunch of people who didn’t take walk breaks. That’s the difference between the Runner’s Choice approach and the Running Room approach. Runner’s Choice sponsored this race. Their clinics are geared towards continuous running. The Running Room uses 10-1 run-walk intervals as a fundamental part of the program.

Lots of people encouraged me along the way.  The red witch hat made a difference, gaining me some enthusiastic support.  By the second loop, the felt hat got a bit much and I ended up hanging onto it most of the way. I had my music ready to go, but after about three songs, I opted to shut it off and listen to the sound of my feet hitting the pavement and my breath.

At one point, running alongside the river, a flock of geese flew overhead. Another flock of at least 80 geese were sitting in the river and took off, all noise and splash and flapping wings, as I passed by. That made me think of the Mary Oliver poem, “Wild Geese,” (which is brilliant) and the lines “You don’t have to be good” and “the world offers itself to your imagination / calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting / over and over announcing your place / in the family of things.”

I wasn’t running with anyone else at that point (or really at any point in the race), and something about that moment with the autumn air and the geese taking off from the river, and the changing trees, and knowing I only had 3K left to go, I fell into a rhythm that felt solid and strong. Renald had read something to me in the morning about “effortless success” and those words flowed into my thoughts as I ran.

I’d planned to pick up the pace with 2K today, just after the turnaround. By then, I passed a few people who had passed me early on. I took a very short walk break of about 20 seconds to drink some water, and then I blasted it for all I had left. My Garmin was telling me that if I could just keep up or increase my pace, I would be able to come in under 1:06.

Gabbi was cheering me to the finish line. When I crossed the finish line I hit “Stop” on the Garmin.  Personal record.

Official race time: 1:05:56.

What this says to me is that the goal of a sub-65 minute 10K is actually achievable. Since the beginning of the season, I’ve taken close to 5 minutes off my 10K time.  And I honestly feel as if I’ve not hit my top speed or endurance yet.

So far, each time I’ve run a 10K race I’ve achieved a personal best. I know this can’t continue indefinitely, but I’ve set it as a goal to break 1:05 next time. I think I can do it, even without my witch hat and halloween hocus pocus!