Reston X Miler (10 Miles)

Day 240 / Long post

I better get to it before I don’t want to write about it any more. My usual practice is to only journal about my big runs, and this 10 miler is not what I considered a big race. Still it was pretty awesome of overcoming hurdles to get to the finish line, just like other marathons I have done.

I was very excited to run in the Reston X Miler race because it was a local race hosted by Potomac Running (shoes store), so it is one of the PR races that I do all the time. They were the first people, I came to know about running and running competitively (hmm as recreational competition). I grew up in a family with little money to spare — basically we wereat or even below the proverty line (that is another story or blog post in itself), so joining a running club or sport was out of my mind when I was young (in fact it felt normal not to do the sport as most kids think of sports – we still played outside of course but not where we have to pay to play) and paying someone money so that I could run was completely an insane idea, even until recently in my family. It is a running joke within our family, that I should pay them instead and they would watch me run and do whatever a race would do like taking my picture or jotting down my time and posting them online. Their point is why pay when you can do it on your own for free. It seemed very silly to ‘starve’ myself so I can pay to run in a race. $40-50 is a significant chunk of mulla for a weekend ‘fun’.

But I have come to embrace racing near and far and have probably done close to hundred of them by now. I lost count. Say 20 races a year, and I am in my fourth year, or so about 80 races with some quick math. Most of my results are posted on Athlink if it ever gets there.

As I said, I don’t usually write about the smaller races but only marathons and ultras, which I have done about 20 of those.

But the Reston 10 Miler has become a tradition for me, having done it every year. However this year, money is very tight. Normally I paid for all the local races (from PR Races) by purchasing a race pass (or more) at the beginning of the year and use the pass(es) to redeem the race when they come. This year, I have no money for race p/asses. I was broke and still am.

My lucky break came when I got a tax refund from the government. Everyone was telling me to save the money. Ya, sure. The first thing I did was signing up the Pot of Gold (took place the previous weekend on March 1, which I blogged about it), and this one, Reston X. I felt since it was almost no chance of running it, and finally the chance came, I should memorialized it here.

Races are not too expensive that I can’t afford them but they were enough to make me pause. Is it worth it to throw down $100 for these two races (Pot of Gold and Reston X)? That could have been my two weeks worth of food money! I am to the point of counting pennies! So I didn’t sign up until the last moment when the extra money showed up. I know, this is not the wisest way to manage money. But but, I really like to run in them. I admit, I’m an addict runner.

See, the background story is more interesting than the race itself! I will get to the race soon.

I showed up bright and early. The race was at 8AM. I woke up around 5 – 5:30. Really, I take racing seriously and religiously. I went to bed really early too, making sure I have my full 8-hr of pilot rest. My friends kind of joke about I couldn’t wake up for church for the 11 AM service each Sunday, but if there is a race, you bet, I will be bright eyes bushy tail at the zero dark hour. I don’t even need to set an alarm. My body just wakes up on it own. Ha!

Time change was this Sunday. Yes the Day Light Saving kicked in. Not complaining about lacking an hour of sleep. It didn’t mess me up. It was just still dark when I left for the race and very cold (relatively speaking), but I was ready. A bit sleepy for sure, but no one was on the road at that hour.

I grabbed a quick bite. Warmed up the Instant Oat. Our microwave broke, so it was not heating up. Fidgeted around the machine. It was humming along but no heat and the light was off. What give? I didn’t whack it but really wanted to. No avail. So I ate it cold.

I have been ready the night before, laying out the clothes I would be wearing. A lot of thoughts go into this. I had a long sleeves underneath, with a short sleeves (T-shirt) on top. For the pants, I wore long. No need for long johns but I was not as brave as the day before to be in shorts. I felt I gave everything the previous day, and today I just wanted to be comfortable today. As a runner, you know to plan for 10 degrees warmer. What this mean is say the temperature is going to reach 40 deg (F), so you should dress if it were 50 deg, because that will be how your body would feel by the middle of the run. To do that, you must be willing to stand the cold of the first few minutes before it reaches the right temperature. Not on this day though. I know it would get warm later in the race but no way would I ditch my get up. I then put on a coat and headed out. I was toasty warm. That how I like it.

Since I wasn’t able to pick up the race bib the day before, I had to get there a little early. The place opened at 6:45, I believed I was there around 7.

I already checked the course the night before (map check), visualizing the run before I slept. There were bit of details I was not familar with, but the course was basically a normal 5K + 10K, plus an extra mile in the beginning. I ran 5k’s and 10k’s at the location too many times and know those routes by heart.

Unlike other races, I was a bit tired having done a 32 mile run the day before. So there was very little warm up I wanted to do. Instead I stayed hunker down in the school cafeteria (the race staging ground) until close to the time of starting. The only warm up I did was a few jumping jacks with the whole crowd. PR races usually have someone to lead a warm up for few minutes. Those were the extend of my warm up for the race.

Normally speaking, the weather was very good for running. I believed it was 26 when I woke up, but by the time the race started, it was probably around 32-35. It would continue to climb to the 40s and reach 60s by end of the day. It was relatively calm without wind, unlike the day before. However, I just felt cold. I know it was a mental thing. I felt I had nothing left in me to fight the cold since I left everything on the course the day prior in another race.

I knew this race would be a hard one. So I tried to tell myself that ten miles shouldn’t be too bad for me because I normally can do it in my sleep. I kept reassuring myself, it is just a 10K plus another 5K. Easy. I would finish in 1.5 hrs at most.

Things were not good at the start. I could feel the pain on the back of my right heel with every single step. I tried to do it as gentle as possible, shifting my leg, moving my ankle, just trying to find the best position that it would hurt less.

Over time the pain became dull and later disappeared completely, to my joy! I could run. My left ankle, the one I rolled, was not an issue. I could pound as hard on that one without a problem.

However, pain on my right foot was not the only issue. I had problem breathing. I felt I couldn’t take in deep breath. The left of my left shoulder blade would hurt if I did. I knew this condition. It happened once before last year, when I had like three races over a weekend, and on my last one the pain came when I tried to breath. So I knew, there was no point in trying to run fast. I can only run as a pace my body could take at the moment. I will have to do a google search if other runners experience this kind of breathing problem.

I slowly picked up the pace as my body allowed me. Seeing the first mile, then the second mile sign and the third. I skipped the first water station. No need to take water now.

By the way, many people passed me during the first few miles. Note, I didn’t line up to the front of the line but at what I felt was appropriate for my condition (10-12 min group).

Still many people passed me. I wasn’t bothered by this. I was too busy monitoring my foot and lung. It was just an observation that those people I normally left them in the dust, now I couldn’t even keep up with.

At no point did I panic. I ran enough marathons and I know this was not one. I was always afraid of being disqualified for not running fast enough. I did the math in my head, with two hours to run, I would not be disqualified. Only thing is to press on. One step after another.

My goal then was to reach mile marker 6, since that would basically ensure that I would finish. I also know the neighborhood, so I had in my mind every turn that was about to come. I know almost every hill there and when to press hard and when to ease up. Familarity with the course really helped.

I don’t remember when I started feeling better, whether it was mile 5 or even before that. By mile six I was flying. Those people who passed me earlier, now I was chasing them down. I saw everyone I passed was exhausted. They were out of breath and they could barely maintain their pace. I was on the other hand fresh. As fresh as I can be.

I had a new goal then, to be the top 100 finishers. I really felt I could do it. I looked staight ahead and saw bunch of runners after runners. In my mind I started counting off. 30 runners here and over there 20. I could do it. I could pass them. I pressed hard. The more people I’d pass the higher the likelihood I would be able to reach it.

Miles were flying by. There 4 more to go, then 3 more and 2 and last mile. There were probably 10 more people I saw that I felt I could over take them. But it was hard! I was staying with them, passing some still but it was slow going. I was running out of time here because the race wad about to end. I did not exactly know where the turn would be to the finish line, but I knew it was about to be there in a few more minutes. I only could keep trying in closing the gap at it.

Funny though as I was passing people, I think going back at mile 7-ish, there was a black guy, passing me on my left. I looked over. The dude was young and he had on a sweater, not a runner outfit but he seemed enjoying and not sweating at all. He passed me with ease just as easily as I was passing other ‘slower’ people to my right. In no time he disappeared out of my line of vision. The point was he was not even trying. He was as if just a warm up run. Dude, you know if he was running for real, he be gone. It reminded me to some people say running at a 7 min pace is like for me running at a 12 min pace. Instead, he seemed just like he was fast walking and he was passing me by. I was amazed. People on my right ignored him like they were ignoring me. They were too focused on their breathing and maintaining their pace to see the guy. I was floored.

The finish line came in sight. There was a lady I was trying to pass as there were about 200 meter left. I passed still some more people maybe 4-5 more, but there was this lady who wouldn’t yield. She had what is known as the kick. I do too, but she out kicked me and blazed to the finish line. I know it was rather stupid try to win the last few seconds because we were chip-timed and not gun-timed. To be able to finish just one second or half a second ahead doesn’t mean you have bested the other person. It could be the other person started way later than you, so though you beat the person to the finish line, but that person might have ran the race in a shorter time still according to the RFID chip, so would beat you when the result is announced instead of who crosses the finish line first.

It seemed I am a bit competive. Actually, I don’t really care. It was all about running the hardest. Other people only serve as a reference point for me. They do make me run my hardest (I don’t run like that in training).

As I crossed the finish line I saw the time on the clock, it was not a ‘fast’ time. I know in my mind my fastest time for a 10 miler was 1:20. The clock was showing no where near that. I had 1:32 for this race. After looking back from the last few years’ results, this was in fact my slowest 10 miler.

Sad it may seem, I did not get rank into the top 100 finishers. However, I was thrilled of having a blast as I was trying to over take people. It really seems silly to do so because by the time I picked up my pace, the people I passed were not at my level – so it felt more like competing with the easy crowd (I felt like taking candies from little kids). In the end it is all individual effort. Running is really an individualized sport. It is always me and the clock and no one else.

I mentioned about timing. Most runners do not care about it. In a sense, true. Clock only matters to the first couple finishers. The rest of us were just participants. We ran not to win because that is an unrealistic goal. But clock does mean something. I ran in a ‘race’ where the clock was not even on, and that was a downer for me.

I am still young. There are still chances that I would be able to improve on my time. I could imagine maybe in another 10 years, where no matter how hard I train, my result just won’t show. Age will be a factor. That would be interest to see what motivation do I still have to get myself onto the course. I suspect it would be still almost the same. It’d be seeking the thrill of running ‘fast’. Yes, fast is relative.

I just love maps, so here it is
I think I had a reverse split!! Not as dramatic how I described it in the blog, but yes, I was picking up the pace with each mile
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