Running vs. Racing … Don’t be a dummy!

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Yesterday was the first 10K race I’ve ever entered.  Sure, I’ve run that distance (6.2 miles), or even more, during training runs.  But running six miles and racing six miles are two different animals.

Usually when I set out on a run I do have some type of goal in mind:  complete a certain number of miles, maybe a certain average pace, but many times it’s not even that concrete.  When it comes down to a race,  however, it’s about one goal:  the time on the clock when you finish.

Previously I’ve only run races at a 5K distance (3.1 miles), and there is certainly strategy involved.  But it is a shorter race that many experienced runners can pound through at a pretty steady clip.  It’s hard and fast, and then it’s over.  (Ok, maybe I can’t pound through the entire distance at a hard pace, but I’m not exactly a great runner!)

Moving up to a 10K stretches the race out over a greater distance, meaning you are much more likely to have variations in elevation.  (Translation:  Hills!)   We mortals are looking at somewhere in the range of at least a 50-60 minute race time, so it’s not really possible to push a fast pace for the entire time.  And that’s where strategy comes in, or as I like to call it, not racing like a dummy.

I felt that yesterday’s race started off with me being a dummy, but thankfully I got a little smarter after that.  Here’s a rundown of the ups and downs (some literal) of my first 10K!

Before my first 10K - Medina Twin Sizzler - 7/4/11

Dummy Moves:

Not training in warmer weather  – When you sign up for a July 4 race, you can pretty much expect it to be a hot day.  While I have been doing a lot of running outside, most of it is early morning when the temperature is still around 60-65 degrees and not terribly humid.  This race was scheduled to start at 9:00 am, which means by the end it was pushing 75 degrees.  I should be thankful that it wasn’t actually warmer than that, because I would’ve been in BIG trouble.

* Not investigating race details in advance  – I didn’t bother finding out where parking would be, how many water stops there would be, or how the course was laid out.  Had I done so, I would’ve added more serious hill training to my workouts.  Knowledge is power, when it comes to racing, and I feel better at the starting line if the race morning is stress-free and I know what I’m getting into.

Smart Moves:

* Packing heat – Ok, not that kind of heat.  What I mean is some type of hydration and nutrition to use as necessary.  It may seem like overkill to some racers, but a pick-me-up packet of sport jelly beans and a swig of Gatorade was exactly what I needed about halfway through when fatigue was starting to set in.

* Pacing, part 1Not going out too fast – It is so easy at the beginning of a race to be all pumped up, find yourself running with some strong runners, and really push the pace right off the bat.  I think that one of my strengths is the ability to avoid this, and start off at a strong-but-not-too-strong pace.  My husband, who has battled this tendency in the past, stuck with me this time and was very grateful once the later miles rolled around!

* Pacing, part 2 … Kick it up a notch when you can – The fourth and fifth mile of this course were mostly flat or even downhill, so it was time to pick up the pace.  (Thank you to the guy shouting from the sidelines that let us know we were entering the “easier” miles, otherwise this dummy would’ve been clueless!)  I knew that I could push it a little harder.  And it was a lot of fun to pass several runners in that last mile.

After - The best tasting popsicle ever!

In the end, I finished at just over 59 minutes.  Considering my goal at the beginning of the year was to run a sub-30 5K, and now I’ve done the same thing at twice that distance, I’m quite happy.

And the best part of racing a new distance?  An automatic PR!

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