For the first benchmark/mini-target race of the spring 2010 season I chose a small DC Roadrunners Club race, one that I’ve done two times before in the past. Its distance, 20 kilometers, seemed just right for some solid tempo training that could benefit me later this year at Boston.
The day’s weather forecast called for nice weather, for a change, but at 9:00 am when the gun was set to go off, the temperatures were still quite chilly, in the mid-30s. Still I told myself to be brave and stripped down to my shorts. Once I did a little warmup jog I felt fine, ready to go.
Just before the starting line I ran into Franco, a frequent training and racing buddy of mine from the club. We chatted a bit and decided to go ahead and team up for this race. Our objectives were basically the same: to get a solid training run in at a hard tempo pace. I suggested we try for a negative split, by running the first 10k at marathon pace and then pick it up for the second half and he agreed with that plan. And so we were soon off.
The first half went by easily as we moved along at comfortably hard pace. In the first few miles lots of runners surged ahead boldly, runners who I knew we’d be seeing again later in the race. But the key for us was to stay patient and stick with the plan, which we did. Each mile fell perfectly within our marathon pace range. The fastest was around 7:08 and the slowest was about 7:16 (thanks to a very large ice patch that was difficult to navigate).
When we hit the turnaround I knew I was ready to step up and it was effortless to do so. Before we knew it we were knocking down 6:50, then 6:45, then 6:40 miles. With about 3 miles to go we even hit a 6:34, which seemed a bit fast, so only then did we dial it back…but not by much as we continued cruising in at low 6:40 pace. I don’t know how many runners we passed in the second half of the race but it was a lot. And nobody passed us the entire second 10k.
We crossed the line together in 1:26:22, which was not only faster than I expected we would go but it was also a 3-minute negative split, and a new PR. A PR? In a race where I deliberately held back early? How did that happen? Not that I’m complaining or anything. 😉
In short, it was a brilliant start on the road to Boston. The next big benchmark is still a while away, a ten miler in Columbia, MD on 2/28. Between now and then are a lot of training miles, and maybe a few short races.