Sunday, April 25, 2021

Weekly Sweats: The Return of the 10 Mile Race


In this week's edition, I ran 27 miles, got my strength workouts in, and returned to one of my all time favorite races.

I'm linking up with the Weekly Run Down, please head over to Kim and Deborah to check it out.  Special shout out to everyone running Glass City today!

What I normally do for race week is to just shorten the last few runs before race day and take a full rest the day before the race.  My coach started things off with higher-than-normal miles on Monday and then decreasing miles each day.

Monday: 6 miles easy

Tuesday: 5 miles easy, strength in the evening

Wednesday: off!

Thursday: 4 miles easy, strength in the evening.  My body was like "hey I wanna run more".

Friday: If I'm going to run at all, I usually don't run less than 3 miles.  But when my coach loaded up 2 miles easy and then 3 x 30 second strides with one minute recover I was all about it.  I haven't done any fast running for quite a while, so it was fun to really tear it up for the strides.  When it was over my body was super like "c'mon I wanna run more".

Saturday: race day! 

This history of this race is that I first ran it two years ago as a trial run for my first half.  At the time, every race was a PR, and this was a particularly exceptional one.  After that I had one more stellar 5k, and then I ran my first half and began learning the hard lesson that not every race can be a PR.

I knew that the one thing that I could not do was to have any thoughts of the 2019 race, because it was a dangerous comparison trap.  It's 2021 now, and a lot has happened in the two years between these races.  The way to make this happen was to keep my Garmin under my sleeve for the duration of the race and just run.  The only goal that I had was the very vanilla "finish in less than 2 hours".

This is a large Big City race, so the two issues that the race organizers had to deal with were "large" and "Big City".  The "large" part was handled by splitting the race into starting waves, with each wave starting half an hour apart.  The "Big City" issue is that although racing has made something of a comeback in my region, the Big City is an exception.  There is a ban on all large scale public events for the duration of the pandemic,  including races.  The solution was to move the race just outside of city limits.  

The course was on a paved walking path in one of our state parks, which was nice because it was almost completely removed from city streets, and in a very peaceful and serene setting.  5 miles out and 5 miles back.  The course was described as "flat with one hill".  Between friends, we all know that if someone tells you that a race course is flat and you do not have personal knowledge of the course, the correct assumption is that you are being misinformed.  More about that in a minute....

I was in the first wave of the race, which meant a 5:00 alarm and wheels up at 6:00.  I had a pretty clear idea of what I needed to do to get myself out of the house on time, so I didn't lay out Flat Runner the night before.

What I brought

  • Myself in what I believed was the correct outfit for the mid 40 degree, calm weather: capris and a light long sleeved shirt.
  • My backup wardrobe of a heavier long sleeve and running coat just in case the forecast was wrong.
  • Hydration backpack (my newest running obsession and my 2nd time using it). 
    • 2 liters of water
    • Airpods case in the back compartment
    • Two salted caramel Gu's (one more than I planned on) and sunglasses in the front pockets
    • A ziplock with my license, a credit card, and $20 in the zippered front pocket
  • Sun visor
  • Flipbelt and my phone.
  • Race bib and 4 safety pins.
  • Food/water for the car
    • 18 oz water bottle
    • Water bottle with my pre-race UCAN and a NUUN tablet
    • Clif bar for breakfast
    • Cereral bar as a backup
    • Protein bar for after the race
    • Coffee to drink on the way there
  • R8 to roll my legs out with after the race. 

How it played out

Everything went according to plan. The weather was on point as promised: a sunny day in the mid 40's with minimal wind.  I finished my coffee and ate my breakfast of a Clif bar on the drive up.  I got to the race site with plenty of time to spare, and drank my UCAN in between restroom visits.  10 minutes before the start I strapped into my hydration pack and ambled up to the start line.  

I don't want to be a narc but...the start line for this race and the 15k that I ran last month had no special COVID precautions at the start line.  The race site recommended wearing a mask when not running and specifically stated that participants would be spaced out and that there would be markers on the ground so that you were certain to be 6 feet apart from other runners at all times.  The reality was that I'd say about half of the runners were wearing masks but other than that the start line was pure 2019.  On the one was outdoors and at this point a lot of people have been fully vaccinated so I wasn't super concerned, but on the other hand just saying that it's really easy to do a staggered start line.  My real beef with the pre-COVID start line is that with everyone starting at once the first lick of the race was very congested.  I'd forgotten what it's like to start running and have to stop dead in my tracks because a group of three people are walking side by side.

Once the starting herd broke up I spied two women running together, one in a green shirt and the other in a tie-dye.  I got myself at a "social distance" behind them and tucked in.  The first water stop was just before mile 2 and they both stopped, so I went ahead of them, figuring that they would catch up with me.  Sure enough, a few minutes later my rabbits were ahead of me again.

Speaking of water stops, as soon as I passed the first one, I realized the other HUGE advantage of wearing a hydration pack specific to racing.  I don't know about y'all, but normally when I go through a water stop I grab a cup of water and walk for just a second while I drink it with the goal of finishing it before I get to a trash can (in the event that there is no trash can I simply flatten the cup and stick it in my FlipBelt...I never have and never will toss a cup on the ground).  More often than not I'm gulping a full cup of water and getting going again with a big slosh-slosh in my belly.  Well, when you have a hydration pack, you don't have to do the gulp n'go.  You have as much water as you want and not a drop more with every sip.  Another "I was blind and now I see" revelation.

Overall the course was fairly easy except:

  • The hill.  Going out it wasn't that bad since it was a gradual incline with plenty of flat stretches and then a huge downhill.  But on an out and back course it's a "two for the price of one" deal...the return trip wasn't nearly as nice.
  • About half a mile of beveled road so with the "two for the price of one" plan, an annoying amount of bevel.  Elizabeth Clor recently encountered a beveled marathon course, and when I read the recap it sounded pretty difficult...oh let me tell you that even if I never run on another beveled surface in my life I will be good with that.  This is the runner's equivalent to nails on a chalkboard.
  • When I passed the first mile marker my Garmin beeped exactly one second later.  Which each succeeding mile the gap between the marker and the beep widened.  I stayed true to my plan of keeping the Garmin under my sleeve, but I was not surprised to find out that the course was short.

After the turnaround there were a decent amount of runners behind me on the way back, both the back of the packers from my wave and faster runners from the next wave, so there was quite a bit of people watching and cheering for each other.  When I got to the hill I decided there was no point in running, so I walked and started working on my Gu.  Once hilly was in the rear view mirror I got my run on again.

After all of this Green Shirt and Tie Dye were still comfortably in front of me, so I planned to keep the game up and smoke them out at the finish.  Mile 6 was done, then mile 7, and then my rabbits took a walk break.  I passed them and...did not see another human until well into mile 9.  Eh, I took a minute to walk for no particular reason and then got going again.  In 2019 I was pretty tired by that point but was determined to get the final mile under an 11 pace.  2021 me was merely ready to be done and didn't put any particular spunk into the last mile.  I did pick it up a bit at the very end of the race.

I am torn on the results.  While running is feeling better lately, I know the speed isn't there so it was most likely a good move to "just run" and not push it.  Apart from sleeping really well last night I don't have any soreness or anything to recover from.  On the other hand, my pace for the race last month on a difficult course with a lot of wind is the same as my pace on a "not that difficult" course with perfect weather????  Really????

There were no closing ceremonies but the race had plenty of food and swag at the finish line.  I got my medal, a banana for my husband (it's our "thing", whenever I race I bring a banana home with me), and yay chocolate milk!!!!  I walked around the park for a bit sipping the milk, and then I went to my car, rolled out my legs, and headed for home.

Asking for a Friend

Why on earth are race courses ever shorter or longer than the advertised distance? I don't need it to be accurate down to the foot, but why make the course 0.11 miles short?  I can see it if the start line and the finish line are the same, but they weren't for this race.  The setup was the parking lot of a huge park so there should have been plenty of real estate to get the correct distance.  I have an identical observation about the 15k, which was 9.5 miles, so a noticeable gulp too long.  No I'm not saying that my Garmin is 100% accurate but I am saying that it is curious that every posting on Strava falls between 9.87 to 9.92 miles so yes I am saying that I've seen plenty of race courses on the long and the short side.

What's Next

More running!  I have a 10k in late June, which was planned to be virtual since it's in the Big City BUT oh snap they found a location out in the boondocks, so it is currently planned to be a live race.



  1. Congrats on your live race! That's kind of disappointing that the precautions weren't in place as expected. Even though I'm vaccinated the thought of being close to other people still makes me nervous- I think its going to take awhile to get past that after social distancing for so long. I hate when courses are short or long. So frustrating!

  2. My watch is always different from the course. I've been told it is because they measure the race in a straight line down the center of the course. We can't run that way so we usually have more mileage. How fun to have a real race! Congrats to you on feeling good that 's what counts

  3. So, another live race in the works ;-) That's all good! My Garmin, frequently, shows a slightly longer distance that it should (on a race course, that is). My half marathon clocked in at 13.2 last weekend). I think a lot of that is on me...I veer off at the water stands (not much, but enough that it probably accounts for a little extra overall distance after 13 miles), and I'm not especially skilled or obsessive about running the tangents on the turns. As for the courses coming up short...that's not as common for me, so I don't have an answer LOL But, it sounds like the race went well, and you ran it strong, so congrats!! I've been known to bring the banana home for my husband, too (because I don't eat them myself).

  4. I'm trying to figure out what Big City you live near! Interesting that they weren't enforcing Covid protocols- even here in Florida where things have been fairly open, they've been good about enforcing protocols for races. Anyway... like you said it's probably fine, as you were outdoors and a large number of people are vaccinated.
    Yeah, that's frustrating and mysterious about your pace. But it sounds like a fun experience anyway! Running a ten mile race will only make your running better.

  5. The worst difference on my Garmin was the Tokyo marathon. I ended up with over 27 miles, which obviously was not accurate, but with the crowds and the skyscrapers, that's what my Garmin said. That one was tough because my Garmin said I set a PR for 26.2, but it was not my true race time.

    Bummer that the masks were't enforced. That's disappointing. I'm not ready to be in crowds even fully vaccinated. It's not that hard to wear a mask until you're actually running, come on people!

    Awesome job though, and I'm glad you had the opportunity to do this race! Great work.

  6. Hooray for a live race! I haven't done any races with my Apple watch, but my garmin watch was usually off from the race distance, especially during any marathons that I've done. It can definitely be super frustrating!

  7. Congrats on your race! Were you happy with the results? It's a little concerning that the COVID restrictions weren't being observed by everyone. My 10 miler last week measured 10.1 on my Garmin. But I know this race course was USATF certified, so it wasn't the course that was off, lol.

  8. My Garmin never has the exact mileage sometimes under and sometimes over. I try and run the tangents so that explains some of the difference.

    Our races here are very strict with the COVID restrictions at the start - must wear a mask in the corral and must start 6 ft apart. After the start, you can pull your mask down. Also have to finish with one on usually.

    since I have had both vaccines, I'm no longer worried about getting COVID and am much more relaxed about everything.

    I think you did great. And there will be more races. I neve know if I will PR or not. too many variables.

  9. The lack of mask enforcement is part of why I held off on racing to the extent I have. So disappointing.
    Congrats on a solid race even if the results are "it's complicated". Glad the prep, wardrobe worked out well.

  10. I’m glad the race went well, despite your valid complaints. A race should measure long on your Garmin because you can’t run the tangents perfectly. A race should not measure short, unless your Garmin has you cutting corners you didn’t cut (sometimes mine shows me running across a neighbor’s lawn) — did you check your Garmin map? Glad your new hydration vest worked out!

  11. Yay for a live race! That stinks that they didn't enforce COVID protocols. It's not that hard to do. Yes, sure, you're outside, but I don't need anyone all up in my business, vaccinated or not.

    Congratulations on your race!

  12. glad you were able to race again! I wish I knew why race courses were too short or too long but it's really annoying. even at parkrun, where it should not be difficult to map out 5KM and at the finish my Garmin says 4.89... ugh I cannot stand it!! The not following of protocol is exactly why we are likely unable to race here. Inhabitants of Clog-Land are doing whatever the frig they want and race organisers don't want to have to "pay" in case things go wrong at a live event. Don't blame them really.

    Also just because people are vaccinated doesn't mean you can't get/ pass on the virus, therefore, to me it's a simple little thing to stagger the start and runners wear a mask...

    I still think it's a good race time for 2021 you!

  13. Congrats on your race! I thought for sure every race would have the necessary precautions. That is to bad this one didn't. I think I've done one race in which the distance on my watch was the same as the actual race.

  14. Yay for a live race! Kinda freaks me out that the protocols were so lax. RDs have to do better.

    Congrats on your race!

  15. Congratulations on running the live race. I am loving racing this spring too. Maybe rather than the course being short maybe your Garmin is a little off? I think those races are mostly wheel measured and pretty accurate. My Garmin regularly shows a shorter distance than a measured distance, especially if there are a lot of turns in the course.

  16. Sorry you had the dreaded beveled road! That can be so rough on the legs. But wow- a real big city race! It's awesome you got to do this and it's too bad that the Covid precautions weren't enforced fully. BUT - you ran really strong and I love your process thinking. I love that you didn't look at your Garmin and didn't compare to 2019. Overall an amazing day!