Friday, October 26, 2012

Perfect 10’s

10 miles is probably my favorite distance to race. I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s because I’ve had some good experiences in the past. Whether it be at the Foxboro Old Fashioned 10m (a traditional Boston tune-up for me), or at the now defunct Run for the Border 10m (where I set a tailwind-aided, never to be duplicated, dream-like PR) I generally seem to do well with this distance. Of course, for every “rule” there is the “exception” and my 10m exception would have to be the Yankee Homecoming race. I NEVER do well there. Too crowded, too hot & too late in the day!
Another reason I like the 10m distance is that it’s long enough that the pace required to maintain even splits throughout is just slow enough to allow me to breathe fairly easily – unlike a 5k or 10k. But, the entire race takes just over an hour which is short enough so that my legs don’t start to feel like concrete cylinders – unlike a Half Marathon. I’m sure there’s some physiology that explains this phenomenon, but for now, I’m content in knowing that, for some reason, the 10 miler is my “sweet spot”.

This month, I ran two very different ten mile races, on two separate continents and both were perfect in their own special way.

Lewes, England
The first race was the Downland 10m in Lewes, England. This was a trail race that I found on-line a couple days after my wife surprised me with plane tickets to visit my son (who’s spending a semester abroad) in London. Lewes is about 1-hour south of London (by train) and is located near the beach-side community of Brighton. The race is part of the Sussex Grand Prix and the course starts in a meadow near the “motor road” and is a mixture of “chalk” and “downland grass tracks”. I had no Idea what any of that meant, but I was excited to find out!

The Course
When I got to the race venue I took a quick look at the course profile. Holy crap! Or, as they say in England - Blimey! This was going to be a hilly one! The profile looked eerily similar to Boston Prep. Miles of up followed by miles of down with almost no level spots. I don’t know why, but for some reason I thought that this race would be fairly flat – being located near the ocean, and all. Of course, I’ve made that mistake before with surprisingly hilly courses on Cape Cod, Cape Ann and in Maine!

The Views
Any concern over the difficulty of the course quickly faded away once I headed out for my pre-race warm-up. The area of land we were to be running through was absolutely spectacular. Field after field of lush green grass – complete with cows and sheep! Rolling English countryside that seemed to never end. And, stunning views in every direction! I finished my warm-up with a slight sweat which sat upon a sea of freshly minted goose-bumps. This was going to be FUN!

The Spectators
The race started on a slight ¼ mile decline before turning 180 degrees and settling in to a “nice” 3 mile climb. At the turn I was in about 30th place and continued to slide back all the way up the hill. The footing varied between cushy grass, rocky cobbles and slippery chalk – with the odd mud puddle, cow patty or sheep pellet pile mixed in for good measure. By the time we topped out at about 3 ½ miles I was in 40th place, give or take. But, I wasn’t too worried since my plan was to take it out slow for the first few miles then pick up some spots on the down hills. Unfortunately, on the first 2 mile section of down I could only manage to reel in one person. This was going to be TOUGH!

The Finish
Surprisingly, where I was able to gain some ground was on the up-hill sections that followed. And when we hit a particularly steep (and muddy) section that most guys chose to walk, I cruised on by. The last 2 miles were a screaming, downhill, crazed run for glory. I gained a few more spots as I really opened it up (or as much as I could, anyway) and crossed the line in 1:10:37 (7:03) and 19th place. My splits told the tale of just how up and down this race really was. 7:14, 6:58, 7:51, 6:49, 6:45 - (35:37 first half) & 7:07, 6:56, 8:56, 5:54, 6:07 – (35:00 second half).

I took a lot of pictures on my cool down and chatted up a few of the local runners. Apparently, this was a race that had a lot of history and drew many of the areas fastest “mixed-terrain” runners. So, I picked the perfect race! And, like back home, most of the people ahead of me were in the 40-49 age group. So, while I did finish 19th overall, I was well back (12th place) amongst “Senior Men”. Oh well, some things never change!

The next race was two weeks later and a whole lot closer! The Granite State 10m in Concord, NH was the final race of the hotly-contested New Hampshire Grand Prix and would be the last race before my upcoming 50 miler. So, the plan was to go hard and give it all I had. And, the pre-race adrenaline was pumping early thanks to a late start out the door. I got to the race venue (The New Hampshire Technical Institute) only about ½ hour before the start. So my warm-up was brief yet frantic.

At the gun the nerves settled down and I fell into a comfortable rhythm. Running alongside Rich Lavers we came through mile one in 6:18. A bit fast, but I knew that there were some hills coming up. So, being slightly under my goal pace of 6:30 was probably a good way to go. We worked our way along the single-file bike path over the river and the neighborhood beyond. Mile two came in 6:34 as we were now starting to climb. More climbing later, through some very pretty back-country and farm land, had us hitting miles 3, 4 & 5 in a fairly consistent 6:43, 6:41 & 6:45 for a halfway split of 33:01.

GCS at GS10
By this point, Rich faded back a bit and I set my sights on a few people ahead of me (including the first female) as we headed back downhill towards the college. Mile 6 went by in 6:31 and Mile 7 in 6:25. That’s more like it! By this point I had caught up to the first female and we ran stride for stride over the next mile, or so. We hit mile 7 in 6:23. After which, I commented that she was totally “killing it” and we promptly set off to catch the guy in front of us – Danny Ferreira. A 6:08 mile 9 brought me into the “red zone” as she and Danny continued to pull away.

Running alone for the last mile I could see that she was still going strong - setting a new course record!. Meanwhile, I started to fade and cruised to the finish in exactly 1:05:00. A 6:32 last mile put me at 31:59 for the second half and right on the nose for the pace I was hoping to run – 6:30! I cooled down on some great XC trails around the college and returned to find that I had finished in 21st place overall and (crap!) 11th in my age group. Damn those 40 somethings are tough! Nevertheless it was still a fun race, my fastest 10 miler in a few years and a perfect way to end my road racing season!

Next Up: The Stone Cat 50 Miler and a journey into the unknown!

No comments:

Post a Comment