Sunday, May 20, 2007

Rite Aid 10k Race Report

I am filled with so many emotions and thoughts right now about the Rite Aid 10k I do not know where to begin…..yet as usual and expected I start at the beginning.

I don’t run to many 10k during the year. In fact this 10k is the only local race at this distance available. I had already done two half marathons this spring so I wanted to test my speed with a 10k. I ran Rite Aid in 2005 as I was preparing for a triathlon season of Olympic distance races. I hadn’t run a straight 10k in years so I wanted to see where I was at. In 2005 I went 39:38 reaching my goal of a sub 40 race. I was determined to race even better and strive for something around 38 minutes.

Aimee and her sister, Becky, were running the 10k also. Becky stayed the night at our place so we could all drive down together. Becky is new to running this year and has been having fun at the 10k distance. Here goal was to break 1 hour on a somewhat hilly course. The alarm went off at 4:45AM so we would be ready to start at 7:20AM. Aimee and I are used to getting up at that hour but Becky was fit to be tied getting up to run that early.

We made it to downtown Cleveland with plenty of time to spare. We met some friends at a tent hosted by a local running club. They would watch our clothes during our run. Several members of the Cleveland Tri Club were on hand to race at all three distances, full marathon, half marathon and 10k. Papa Louie(10k) and DaisyDuc (marathon) were ready for action. Even E-Speed decided to run the full marathon and try to keep Daisy company. E-Speed had just completed the Flying Pig Marathon, but she looked ready to tackle another 26.2.

The marathoners, full and half, started at 7:00AM. They would be able to clear the first two miles of the course before the fast 10k runners took over. At mile 2 the courses took different splits in the road.

Coach Angela has sent me a plan for the race. First two miles go Zone 3, steady, holding back for later. Middle two miles push to high Zone 3. Final 2.2 miles red line the heart rate and squeeze it all out in the last mile. I’m not much for following this type of plan. I’m more of a single speed type where I don’t want to rely on getting faster. I’d rather start with my race pace and push to maintain it in the last miles. I was also told to make sure I warm up well with some jogging and wind sprints/turnovers so I would be warm for the start.

I did get in a nice warmup. I ran away from the start area and had the sidewalks to myself so I could get in some surges. I got back to the clothing tent and waited until we were close to go time. I took a Hammer Gel before heading to the start line.

The weather for this year’s race was very nice. The temperature was around 60 with some winds coming in from the west. Earlier there was some spotty rain hitting the area but nothing that was going to last.

I made my way up to the start line and positioned myself about 7 rows back from the front. I figured that I wouldn’t have much traffic to contend with being so far up front. I was in the top 100 finishing the 2005 race so I figured I belonged up front. Unfortunately there are still people that don’t know how to seed themselves for even a 10k. The horn blasted and we were off. For the first half mile I still had to dodge people and slip between slower runners. Fortunately they were left behind quickly. I tucked in behind some people as we turned into the wind and we had a good pace going. I felt great running a fast and easy pace.

The first mile was partially into the wind. I managed to draft behind some other people. As we approached the first mile marker I hit my watch and was surprised to see a 5:45 split. I really didn’t want that fast of a first mile but I felt really good at that point. Just past the mile marker was a water aid station. I grabbed a water and had a quick sip.

Mile two dropped down and around the Cleveland Municipal Stadium, where the Browns play football. On the west side of the stadium is a nice uphill climb that is gradual and long for about a quarter mile. The heart rate started to rise but I didn’t want to relinquish the effort I was putting in. At this point the only rain of the day came down for about two minutes. At the top of the hill a quick right turn and the course continues onto the “Shoreway”, a highway that goes along the shore of Lake Erie. Not as nice as Chicago but the best Cleveland has to offer.

The two mile marker is at the bottom of the on-ramp for the highway. I hit my watch for a 6:28 second mile, which I was happy with considering the hill. So I am sitting at 12:13 for two miles. I liked what I was seeing. If I could hold pace I could definitely get my 38:00 finish.

Now here is where the race report takes a weird twist….and it’s not a good one. The 10k course goes up the on-ramp, over the bridge, a small loop through a neighborhood and back over the bridge. Why was everyone going to the left? We were supposed to go right. One female runner, who was one of five in the lead for females made a move to the right but someone pointed her in the other direction. She continued with the rest of the field.

Like lemmings to the sea I also followed course. I could still see Papa Louie up ahead so maybe things are okay. Down into the Flats along the Cuyahoga River we went. The Flats is an area filled with bars and usually doesn’t see any activity on a Sunday morning. I was trying to figure out where this new route would be taking us for a 10k. Even the guy standing outside Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club was staring at us as we went by. We kept running at race pace following the trail of racers ahead of us. I looked at my watch and was wondering where the 3 mile marker was. We had reached 20 minutes and surely would be at three miles. I was also feeling ill at ease when we approached intersections with no police or course marshalls. Where is the protection? Should I turn around? What if this is the way to go? I was a lemming following the death march to the sea.

I finally started to give in to the fact that we were terribly off course. What the hell happened? How did we get out here? I slowed my pace as I started to give up hope. We climbed a hill and I saw where we were at, the Tremont District. A nice area of Cleveland that has a had an upscale rejuvenation. Some great restaurants and housing has sprung up in this area. But now we had to get back to downtown Cleveland.

I cruised along for a while and we finally hit the down hill back to the roads along the river. I decided it was time to push it home and have at least a good tempo run for the day. I cruised down the hill as I always try to do and recaptured the group I was running with originally which included several of the top female runners. We backtracked to the Flats and then people started taking different hills back towards downtown. I took several people with me to the spot where we went off course. We rejoined the official race course at the same time and several others we were running with.

At this point we were within two miles of the finish. We were still going strong and passing many people as we made our final push to the finish line. I grabbed some water at mile 5 just to wet my whistle. My final 1.2 miles was 7:41, a 6:25/mile pace. I finished my 10k+ in 51:10. I walked around a little stunned about what happened but congratulated one of the female runners I was with for still finishing and chatted with some other friends. I waited around looking for Aimee but it turns out she finished before me by about 2 minutes. I continued to walk around, put on some of my clothes to stay warm and did a cool down run. I found a friend who had been watching the race and he said all of the times were off. The Kenyan runners finished around 33 minutes which should have been closer to 28.

I found Aimee and Becky, talked some more, shared my experience with them and we finally left downtown a little dejected. Once home I mapped out the “course” I ran. Follow the link to the mapped out that elevation at mile 4.

Rite Aid 10k +2 route

I added an additional 2 miles to my 10k. You know what?.....a 8.2 mile run in 51 minutes is still a 6:15/mile pace. I can’t complain about that. My middle 5 miles were run in 31:15, also a 6:15/mile pace. So I guess overall I had a great day. My official goal wasn’t met but I faced the challenge and fought forward, even though weakly at one point.

Further information has revealed that the lead car for the 10k was the cause of the problem. I just don’t understand how something like that could happen in a race that is 30 years old. I just shake my head with disbelief. I estimate that the top 100 – 150 runners went off course. The finishing times, especially the “top” age group times, are indicative of the error. Age group wise, I wound up 39th this year when I was 9th two years ago.

Oh well. Water under the proverbial bridge and it is as muddy as the Cuyahoga River. There have been several times in prior races where I have provided direction during the race, why didn’t I speak up this time. I knew the course was supposed to go right but I went left. Live and learn I suppose. I’ll have to find another 10k later in the summer to redeem myself.

Either way…..Game On.


qcmier said...

Nice job. You're still running pretty darn fast.

E-Speed said...

hey you ran a great time yesterday and at least you kept running and got yourself to the finish. That takes character.

It really is a shame the pace car led so many astray.

hak said...

No matter what happened in regard to adding a few unplanned miles to your race, you are friggin' fast! Outstanding effort!


Papa Louie said...

You ran a great race with a cool head. Maybe the lesson to learn from the mishap is to stick with the course and not be led astray as a lemming to sea. Scarry either way, though. Do you go with the crowds or do you venture out on your own?

DaisyDuc said...

Great summary of the day. It was really quite an amazing result to come away with given the circumstances. Way to forge ahead with the a very respectable attitude!

The Salty One said...

I still can't believe that happened. I bet when you passed the intersection with no cops it was like the realization that your falling out of a plane with no parachute! Yuck!! But man, you and Papa Louie handled it so well (and ran a great time!!)

If your interested, there's a 10k in Willoughby Hills at the end of June: