Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Texas Ten Series - Katy Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 12; 17th Edition 
168.5 miles run and 8350 meters swam in races in 2018 races
Race: Texas Ten Series - Katy
Place: Katy, TX
Miles from home: 131
Weather: 65 degrees; downpour, windy

It didn't matter the speed as it was going to be a PR.

Somehow, about 20 years into my running career, I haven't run a ten-mile race. I tried at the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler a few years ago but an on-course emergency caused us to have to run a different, shorter route. Three weeks ago I was signed up for another race in this Texas Ten series but a combination of factors had me taking a DNF. So, all I had to do was finish ten miles and I was good to go.

Then it started to pour down rain. While it had rained on and off since the middle of the night, about seven minutes before the start of this race, the skies opened and the wind howled. The race organizers were stuck out in the middle of it, with runners huddled next to the school building which served as the backdrop, start, halfway-point, and finish of this race. I truly wondered if they were going to have the race at all as buckets of water dropped and the wind whipped tents and shirts.

Then, suddenly, the rain slowed to a drizzle, and the race director, who had been monitoring storm
patterns like a decedent of Doppler, hurried all the runners to the start. A national anthem was played while some brave soul held the flag out in the the rain. Then, just ten minutes after we were originally supposed to be running we were off. Then it started to rain again. Good timing!

First Five Mile Loop:

One guy took off and two women followed him. It was beyond clear he was going to win this race and that these women had run under some scholarship somewhere before. They were hauling ass. Good bye, speedsters! (And what irks me is that if I was in racing shape, while there was no way I was going to catch the winner, I would have hung with the two women. Damn it.)

I fell behind two separate groups of about four and was just concentrating on my own pace. In cleaning out my closet recently I came upon a pair of racing flats that had never once been worn.  They also were at least seven years old as I know that was the last time I wore this particular brand of K-Swiss shoe. As I am currently trying out a who slew of brands before I commit to one, I am running a little low on new shoes. I figured I might as well wear these shoes. I had worn the same brand before with no problem, so they should be OK today.

Approaching the first mile, three guys passed me. I didn't give them much chase right now as I just wanted to see how my first mile went. It felt like a solid first effort. My guess was a 6:20 but was hoping for 6:15. When I saw a 6:38 I was crestfallen. I know I have not been doing speed work. I know that because the weather was good in Austin for me for running for the first time in months that I put in a 70-mile week last week. I know all the things that would make me a bit slower than I would like. I just have not yet accepted them as a reality. This mile hurt a bit and felt faster. Yes, there had been a steady headwind as we headed north, and the rain indeed was pretty hard. The footing was far from perfect but I wasn't trying to use these as excuses. All I could do now was keep giving it my best.

Right before the second mile, a shirtless runner passed me. He then proceeded to basically disappear out of sight passing runner after runner. As he was anything but svelte, this was incredible to watch even as he kicked my butt. Without a doubt it shows that all kinds of body types can be fast runners.

My only complaint about the course layout was this one little twenty-yard out-and-back that was built in right before the third mile to make sure we got out official five miles loop. Any turn around a cone always bugs me. I just don't like them. I also don't like how both of these last two miles had been basically around a 6:49. I thought I could run a 1:05 today and it was clear that was not the case.

Near the cone I was awfully close to one guy I had been tracking down for a bit. By the time we entered a long straightway approaching the fourth mile he had put a seemingly impossible amount of space between us. I was no where I am in so many races: no man's land. No one seems in a position where I will be able to catch them and no one is really around me to help push me forward.

As we finished this loop, my goal was to see how much faster I could run the second loop.  I am not particularly fast but when given a looped course, knowing what is in store for me, I can often bear down and do much better. I hit the first half in 34:15. Not what I wanted at all and I was going to try and make up for that.

Second Loop:

Starting this second loop, I had one goal: pass as many people as possible. I dug in as much as I could, trying to at least equal my first mile of the first lop but was about ten seconds slower. The only thing that made me feel good about that was that I had gained tremendously on one runner in front of me. Within another quarter of a mile I had passed him.

I had also started to close the gap on the distance between the runner who had left me behind on the straightaway on the previous loop.  But by the second mile it appeared I wasn't closing enough to make up enough ground.  I was continuing to have to force myself to run harder. As a long-distance runner, even a ten-mile race is out of my normal wheelhouse. My body seems to have a governor on it which keeps it from running too fast thinking, "Whoa, pal. We are doing this for three hours here. Why don't you slow down?" I had to continue to be present, be in the moment, and not zone out as I often do in longer races. Whenever my thoughts lulled, it slowed me down and I had to restart again.

Looping around the cone before the eighth mile, I can say that I never really felt tired in this race. The rain and the wind were tough and I had the foresight to wear a hat, eschewing my normal sunglasses. It was not cold, at roughly 67 degrees, but the cloud cover was actually pretty nice. Nevertheless, my miles were hovering right under seven minutes.

As we turned onto the longest straightaway I could see one runner ahead of me. Interspersed between other race participants he looked like he might be slowing but with only about a mile and half to go, I didn't think I had to real estate left to catch him.  But I was going to try.

Turning right with one mile to go I had cut his lead considerably. I was finally feeling like I had wanted to feel all day. The decision left before me was whether I wanted to put on the effort needed to attempt to pass the last runner in front of me. Doing so was going to require a great deal of effortand even if I did, I wouldn't place high in the standings or even be close to a time I wanted.  But at this moment it started to be much more about racing and wanting to beat everyone in the race than it was about time or place. So I put down my head and began to race. He made another right turn to head toward the finish line with half a mile to go and I began counting. When I made the same turn I was 40 seconds behind him.

Even though I could tell he had picked it up a notch, probably smelling the end of his day as well, I kept going. Up ahead I saw him make his final turn and it was clear I wouldn't catch him. But I had lessened the gap to 33 seconds. I crossed the finish in 1:08:35 which was god enough for 14th place.  My second lap had been just three seconds slower than my first in 34:18. Virtually no one else had these similar set of times so I felt good about that. While it was indeed a PR, a quick look at my races shows I have run 20 marathons and 52 half-marathons at a faster pace than I did this ten-miler. But this was a good start to my attempts to get back to respectability. I haven't raced fast at all this year but this was still the fastest pace race I have run, even beating out the pace I ran for my course PR at the Bix 7 back in July.

Here is where I lavish praise on the organizers of this event who pulled it off very well. The course was wonderfully flat, with a nice running surface, and barring that one little out-and-back, about the best you could hope for. The Texas Ten Series will definitely being seeing more of me, as I plan on heading to to their December race in just a few weeks in Conroe, Texas.

I fully expect to set a new PR.

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