Then I learned about a 10 mile race in my area very close to where the half marathon is, and you never saw anyone register for a race so fast.
Where my fitness is right now
Everyday running: 12 minute per mile pace, in preparation for my half I've been running 30ish miles a week for the past five months.
5k: ~10 minutes per mile.
10k: ~11 minutes per mile BUT my last two 10ks had unforeseen circumstances (slow runners and a crowded course here and a difficult course here) and I feel that I'm capable of more in the 10k. The million dollar question is what will my pace be for a longer distance?
Endurance wise, I've done a number of 10 and 12 mile runs. My strategy is to go into a very zen place and keep putting one foot in front of the other. For the past six months, I've experimented with taking water and running gels during long runs. These runs take a lot out of my body and get hard toward the end, but I get through them. The million dollar question here is will some magic happen on race day or will it be just like any other long run?
To prepare for the 10 miler, I cut back on running this week, kind of a mini taper. I made two of my runs a mile shorter than usual and didn't run the day before the race. My body really wanted those extra miles and was gung ho to start running on Saturday morning.
Things I did right, things I did wrong, and what I learned by doing a 10 mile race as a practice for a half marathon
- Um, I don't have a good prerace morning plan. On race day morning I got up at 5 AM to scramble with water bottles, fuel, running clothes, figure out where the race was (besides an hour away from home in an area that I'm not familiar with), and a million other details and oh yeah eat breakfast. Takeaway for race day: lay all of this stuff out the night before and plan on getting up even earlier since the half is earlier.
- It was a large race and I wanted to get there at least an hour before the start. Even with my badly planned scramble to get out the door I got there an hour early which ended up being perfect. I didn't plan this, but I ended up being able to park right near the start line.
- I took a ridiculous amount of water with me. In hindsight, I did exactly right: 24 oz water bottle to drink on the way, 24 oz water bottle with UCAN/Nuun to start drinking once I got there, 16 oz running water bottle, and another 24 oz bottle to drink on the way home. Everyone is different, so I will give you the context that I drink a lot of water all the time and even more when running.
- Look, this is a food blog so I hesitate to talk about the other end of things, but runners gotta know. With the amount of water that I drank, I made three bathroom visits in the hour between the time I got to the race site and the race start and expected no less. Every race day inevitably includes some GI drama. I am still learning my race day body but only one of the bathroom visits was, um, dramatic which is an improvement over all of my races last year. My last bathroom visit was 15 minutes before race start and everything was perfect after that. No more bathroom needs or thoughts until after the race, which is typical for my body.
- Hello, the weather an hour away from home is different than the weather at home. The temp at home was low 40s and calm. The temp at the start line was low 40s with wind chill and bitingly cold winds. Nothing wrong with those conditions once we started running but while standing around at the start line it was brutal. I was full on shivering and my feet were numb. I grabbed my running coat only as a random afterthought when I was getting ready and oh thank heaven that I did. I wore the coat for the first two miles of the race and tied it around my waist after that. The finish line was a mile away from the start and the coat came back on pretty quickly on the walk balk to the car.
- It didn't occur to me to wear sunscreen or bring a visor. The area where I live is known for gray skies and vitamin D deficiencies. Yesterday was an exception and that was a long time to be out in the sun.
- I made an odd last minute decision not to take my running water bottle with me for the race. My logic was that there were water stops every two miles, and this is a major race with a good reputation, so I trusted that the water stops would be there. They were, but not exactly at the mile markers. The 4 mile stop was about 4.25 miles and the 8 mile stop was actually two water stops at 7.5 and 8.5 miles.
- In all of my scrambling around, I plumb forgot to do my preruning routine of leg swings/walking lunges/etc. It ended up being fine, but takeaway for the half is to make sure that I get these in.
- For a 10k, I don't drink water or take fuel during the race, so one of the major reasons for doing the 10 mile race was to practice for half marathon day. Taking water and fuel breaks while running is a skill in itself that I've been practicing for the last 6 months.
- I have never taken a gel without water and wasn't about to try it during the race to see what would happen. Because I didn't bring my own water, I could only take gels at water stops. Going into the race, my tentative plan was to take gel ~mile 4 or 5 and at mile 8. I had my planned gel at mile 4 and decided not to bother with the mile 8 gel.
- It's 10 times harder to rip the tab off a gel on a race course than on a normal run.
- I don't have the skill of being able to drink or swallow while running, so I walked my water and gel breaks. I surprised myself by taking water at the mile 6 and mile 7.5 water stops. Lesson learned, my body needs more water for longer races.
- My takeaway is that using just one gel in a 10 mile race is fine, but for the half I will need two. You better believe that I will have my water bottle with me on half day and I'm certain that I will use the course water stops in addition.
- TMI takeaway: the extra water did not result in needing extra bathroom stops.
- Pacing strategy:
- Plan before the race: I was going to check my pace on my Garmin at each mile, try and keep everything just under an 11 minute pace, and try to go faster in the later miles.
- Right before the race: hey, it's a major race...they have pacers! I instantly shifted my plan to be BFF's with the 11 minute pacer.
- What actually happened during the race: sticking with the 11 minute pacer was smart, smart, smart. I got ahead of her right before the first mile and had the 10:45 pacer in my sights. I figured that if things went well I would catch up to him and if they didn't I would meet back up with the 11 minute pacer and that's exactly what happened. As time went on, I got further behind the pacer and started a game of racing the other runners around me (without them knowing). I couldn't catch the girl in a pink tutu, but I beat the Siberian Husky and I'm proud of that.
- Energy wise, everything was great up to mile 7.5ish and after that I was somewhat aware that 10 miles is kinda long. I never hit the wall but I did question my sanity at times.
- High fiving spectators is the greatest energy booster known to man. Yes it's cheesy and yes it works.
- The only thing I wish I would have done differently: put more effort into the final mile. Yes I was tired but come on, it was the final mile.
- Takeaway for the half: stick with the 11 minute pacer like white on rice (backup plan: check in with my garmin if I can't find the pacer). Expect lags in energy in the later miles but don't lose faith. Put some energy into the last 1.1 miles.
- Vindication for my pace and my training: my 10 mile pace is the same(ish) as my 10k pace! Official finish time 1:51:20/11:08 pace. Yeah yeah a four second difference on the Garmin/8 second difference according to official race time would be huge to an elite runner but I'm calling it the same thing for everyday folks like me. Sure it got hard toward the end but not devastating hard. Also, I'm glad that the course was long according to my Garmin. Mentally I can say it was a 10.1 mile race and I only have to run 3 more miles for the half.
- As a preview for the half, I don't think it's realistic to expect to hold an 11 minute pace for 13.1 miles, but it's a huge confidence boost to know that I can hold it for 10 miles. Jack Daniels's VDOT calculator says 11:17 pace/2:27:53 finish for the half. The calculator doesn't have a 10 mile predictor but the 15k (9.3 mile) prediction based on my last 10k was a 11:15 and 11:29 for the half.
- Random funny thing: the course went past the parking lot four times. Talk about temptation. I could have bailed at any time.
- If leaving my running water bottle behind was the dumbest thing I did this race, the smartest thing I did was to grab a carton of chocolate milk from the Finisher's Festival. I'm not a milk drinker and it was a total impulse move. I knew that there was some distance between the finish line and my car but didn't know that it was a full mile and believe me I needed the fuel.
- Oh boy was I glad that I had a full bottle of water and a protein bar for the drive home. I don't think it's too extreme to plan on bringing more water and more food for the drive home from the half.
- Oh boy was I glad that I also brought my R8 to roll my legs out after the race. I've had the R8 for two months now. I really need to give it and the R3 their own post but the short version is if you do any amount of running this thing is a godsend. At a minimum I would recommend taking a foam roller with you on race day. I drive stick so I need both my legs to be in working order to drive.
- Physically, my body is aware that I did something more than the typical Saturday long run yesterday but it's not too bad. I plan to take a day or so off running early next week (based on recommendations for recovery after a half marathon and Alexis's observations on what her running was like the week after her 10 miler). Overall I feel good and I credit that to fueling before/during/after the race, the walk back to the car, and using the R8 right after and again when I got home. If I could only chose one of the three things I would pick fueling.
As someone who hasn't run a half marathon yet, my gut feeling is that running a 10 mile race beforehand is a really, really, really smart thing to do. I have a better sense of what my pace will be and the things that I need to do for a successful race and oh yes, the confidence that I can actually do it. Tune in toward the end of May after I've run my half and I'll give you my final thoughts on that.
It's not lost on me that my learning points are all about clothes and food and very few of them are about running. I'll take that as a win. Running is hard, clothes and food are easy.
Everything about this particular race was awesome. It was well organized and on a beautiful course. I will be back.
And finally, I've been a distance snob. I was all about 5k, 10k, half marathon, and marathon. I never saw the point of 4 milers, 5 milers, 15ks, 10 milers...etc. Now that I've run a 10 miler, I get it. It's a worthy distance in its own right. TBD if I will run a second half marathon, but I can tell you for a fact that there will be many more 10 milers in my racing future. I don't like to tell anyone else what to do, but I'd say that if you like races and haven't run a 10 miler yet, you're missing out.