Monday, October 02, 2006

The Challenge Has Begun

  • 55 degrees F
  • 6:00 am, 75 degrees F, 88% humidity
  • 163 lactate threshold
  • 31 inches
  • 2500 runners
  • 8:00 am start time
  • 251 m starting elevation
  • 249 m lowest elevation
  • 254 m highest elevation
  • goal 8:57 min/mile pace, 160 bpm heart rate
  • mi 1: 9:02.2 avg=159 end=163
  • mi 2: 9:21.9 avg=162 end=164
  • mi 3: 9:34.3 avg=167 end=168
  • 5k: 28:49.3, 9:14 average mile pace
  • mi 4: 8:38.3 avg=173 end=175
  • mi 5: 9:17.5 avg=176 end=177
  • mi 6: 8:59.5 avg=176 end=178
  • mi 6.2: 1:31.8 avg=180 end=185
  • 2nd 5k: 27:36.1, 8:51 average mile pace
  • 10k: 56:26.0, 9:05 average mile pace
  • 10k: avg=169 max=185 avg=91% of max

Sometimes numbers tell the whole story. Yesterday was the IBM Uptown Classic 10k, the first round of the Austin Distance Challenge, a series of 7 races totalling 101 miles. I was hoping to lower my personal record (PR) in the 10k in the race, but wound up coming nearly a minute short of my goal. Without the above number I might be disappointed, but I can honestly say that I ran a good race and that the combination of conditions and perhaps my own conditioning just didn't allow it.

As an engineer, I'm pretty comfortable with numbers. Part of the reason is that sometimes perceptions are very different than reality and the numbers help realign your perceptions with the real world. The trick is to get the numbers. My old heart rate monitor (hrm) recently gave up the ghost (either that or I suddenly became a heartless monster) so I purchased a new Polar hrm that along with being a stopwatch also records average and maximum heart rate for a workout and average heart rate and ending heart rate for each split in the workout. Let me interpret the numbers for you.

The ideal temperature for running a race is 55 degrees F, but Sunday morning dawned very warm and with very high humidity. Going into the race I knew it would be very tough to PR under those conditions so I resolved to not go out too fast in the first 5k and to limit my heart rate to 160 beats per minute (bpm). My lactacte threshold was measured at 163 bpm last February and exceeding that pace results in lactic acid building up in the muscles so that the muscles burn and you have to slow down. I was hoping to be able to run 9:00 minute mile pace for the first 5k and then pick up the pace and finish strong.

A legacy of a lifetime of lifting weights is that my thighs measure about 31 inches around and rub together when I run. I was wearing running shorts instead of the spandex shorts I normally train in and as I neared the starting location at Northcross mall I suddenly realized that I hadn't brought my Body Glide. Body Glide is a marvelous product that makes body parks slide across each other instead of rubbing themselves into hamburger. As I visualized the bloody, burning mess my inner thighs would become after 10k I spotted a Chevron and pulled in and bought a small jar of petroleum jelly.

I arrived around 7:15 am and the parking lot was already full so I had to park across the street. After carefully coating my inner thighs with a thin layer of petroleum jelly I walked to the starting area and tried to ignore the sticky coating of vaseline now covering the palms of my hands. I jogged slowly for about a mile to get the blood flowing and bring up a sweat, made quick trip to the porta potties, and got into the mass start along with 2500 other eager runners.

The horn sounded at 8:00 am and two minutes later I crossed the red mats at the starting line where the chips fastened to the shoes of each runner caused the timing system to chirp in a cacophony of electronic noise. The course was very flat with a total change in elevation of only 5 meters or about 15 feet. The hills are very gradual which allows the runners to run a very steady pace for the entire 10k. But, running at the limit, even a gentle rise takes its toll and I very definitely noticed the effect in a couple of places on the course.

I started deep in the pack and I had to jump onto the shoulder of the road and then the sidewalk to escape the crush of shuffling runners. Nevertheless, I was right on pace for the first mile. I was surprised that my pace dropped in the second mile despite running a little faster than my target heart rate. So I picked up the intensity some for the third mile so I could have a chance of beating my PR. Despite the higher heart rate, a gentle rise made my split for the third mile even slower than the second, but now only 5k remained and I picked up the intensity again. I figured I'd need to run about 8:40 pace for the second 5k to have a shot at my PR.

My fourth mile was my fastest of the race, but my heart rate was now solidly in the mid 170s which is typical of very intense interval training. Despite the intensity, my time for the fifth mile slipped again and in the sixth mile my legs began to burn and I really wanted to slow down. But I tried to relax and mentally disconnect from the straining machines that were pulling me along the road. As I passed the marker for 6 miles I knew that it wouldn't be much longer and I stepped up the pace again. As the finish line came into sight I transitioned into my kick and for the last 200 meters I ran as fast as my burning legs and lungs would allow and passed a bunch of people. I hit my stopwatch as I crossed the line and slowed to a spent shuffle content that I'd run as hard as I could.

In the end, my average pace was 9:05 minutes per mile which was slightly slower than the 8:57 pace I ran in the same event last year. But my average heart rate for the race was 169 bpm which is 91% of my max heart rate of 185 and over the last 5k I was running at 95% of my maximum heart rate. I simply can't imagine running any harder for that distance so I'm satisfied. I think I'm in better shape than last year, but the conditions were very tough and even the elite runners struggled in the heat and humidity. The ability to sustain a high intensity reflects the endurance I've developed in my long training runs (18 miles the previous Sunday) but in order to run faster I also need to increase my heart capacity (VO2 max) by doing more speedwork. And, of course, losing weight would make the biggest difference.

Anyway, that's how my race went, by the numbers.

Next up: The Girl Scout Scenic 10-miler on October 22.


La said...

Simply amazing. I totally respect that you know your body so well.

Great job! I'm a good cheer-er-on-er. I'd have been yelling my guts out for you...

You had an injury during the summer, didn't you? One of your quads or something? Great job at recovery.

Sister Mary Lisa said...

I'm amazed as well. Even if I were in totally perfect shape, I'd not run, because I've never enjoyed it. I don't do well in the heat either. Not that this is about me. It's about YOU. I'd have cheered very loud for you as well! Great job! I'm so glad you're happy with your race. That is the most important.

Bull said...

I pulled a hamstring a little bit during the summer but it healed up pretty quickly. A bigger concern was that during August I started having severe knee pain after about 10 miles. I think it was sciatic nerve irritation and I've been able to "fix" it by being more disciplined about stretching my hamstrings and hips.

MattMan said...

Wow, that's awesome! My last 5k was 32:30ish, I'm pretty sure I was way over a reasonable bpm intensity, and there's no way in hell I could've gone another 5k on top of that after running at that intensity. Of course I had similar conditions (quite hot & humid), but still, eh, we're both in TX, so we should be used to it, right? ;)

My hat is off to you, sir. :)

La said...

Stretching does wonders, doesn't it? Another thing is (here come the massage therapist in me)cross-fiber friction on the knee tendons. Including hamstring and gastroc tendons.

One of my most favorite things was massaging athletes who just finished a triathalon. But they were kind of stinky, so that was a down side. ;)

Bull said...

I'd never gotten a real massage until last year. They're great. Got a strange reaction when I wanted the entire hour entirely from the waist down, but when I'm running it's my legs and hips that need it.