Wednesday, March 01, 2006

My first 8k...

8k? What? Who runs an 8k? 4.96 miles? Why not a 5-miler!? We're IN the U.S. of A! Use MILES!

I sought out this little 8k race as a potential qualifier for the San Francisco Bay To Breakers 12k the third Sunday in May, a race I've run 2-3 times before, quite possibly the craziest and largest road race in the world with around 70-80 THOUSAND athletes who sign up, and another 15-40 THOUSAND who do it unofficially. This year is the 95th running of the B2B 12k, and the 100-year anniversary of the 1906 Great San Francisco Earthquake, the event that inspired the race. SEE the article - Bay to Breakers: Out of the ashes a famous race is born.

So, for this race (8k) I need to run a 29:30 (or faster) for what pretty much amounts to 5-miles. A 5:55 per mile pace. The ONLY time I've run 4+ miles FASTER than 6-min miles in my entire life was my best 10k time ever, this past November, at the Puente Hills Turkey Trot, at which I averaged 5:58 per mile on a completely FLAT as a pancake course. I wondered about my ability to do sub-6's for 5-miles (okay, 4.96 miles) not being in PEAK shape for this distance. Not only that, I started to feel sick on Saturday after 5 consecutive days of 5 hours of sleep. Saturday evening, I crashed HARD around 5pm, slept for 3-4 hours, woke up, ate dinner, showered, cleaned up, and went back to bed. Felt okay Sunday morning, slightly below average, and made up my mind to give it a go. Woke up at 5:30am to eat an early breakfast. Instead of my normal routine of pre-race caffeine (a LARGE cup of Peet's Coffee), I drank my herbal "witch-doctor's tea", a blend of freshly squeezed organic lemon juice, Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE), freshly grated ginger-root, and a healthy amount of powered Cayenne pepper, with hot water for a pungent tea that will tame the worst of colds and coughs. I drank it all morning and it soothed my throat tremendously. I was as ready as I was going to be.

No matter WHAT time I ran, it would be my personal best time for this distance, as it was the first ever 8k I'd raced! I desperately wanted my 29:30 though, as that was the entire reason I sought out this race. I had run the pre-requisite qualifying times for both the 5k and 10k, but neither of those courses were "USATF Certified" so those times were useless for B2B sub-seeded qualification. After a 2-mile jogging warm-up, it was GAMETIME. Hitting the starting line, I noticed a disproportionate number of "fast looking" runners. Youthful and speedy. This was a GOOD sign, as fast people LOVE fast courses and flock to the races where they have the best chance for their best time. 5:55's. I planned on trying to HIT 5:55 in Mile 1 which was mostly flat, dropping back to 6:10 to 6:20 for Miles 2 & 3 which both had about a quarter mile of "incline". Miles 4 & 4.96 the strategy was to gut it out and FLY downhill, as you came back down from the 2 miles of climbing with two solid quarter mile descents in both Miles 4 & 4.96. I knew I'd have to make up time and negative split to have the best chance of success. As if I pushed too hard in Mile 1, or tried to HIT PACE in the hilly miles, my legs would "flash" full of lactic acid, and I'd slow to a relative crawl in the last mile or two. A Brea High Schooler began to sing the national anthem and the time was now...


We were OFF. Damn people were running fast. I estimate that in the first 100-yards, I got sucked into about a 5:00 (flat) per mile pace. YIKES. I relaxed a little bit and let a bunch of people pass me. Patience, grasshopper. It was a BEAUTIFL sunny day, with crisp air around 55-60 degrees and very little wind. It was going to be a GOOD day. A little downhill, then uphill, then downhill, then uphill again and we were approaching a turn and the 1-mile mark. MILE 1 - 5:45. Excellent. Not too fast (10-seconds per mile fast), and I was in a good rhythm. I looked up ahead and stared at the first hill of consequence, which started around Mile 1.75 and continued to Mile 2. Rhythm, Jimmy, get in a breathing rhythm. At about 1.25 miles I felt it. Gurgle, gurgle. My stomach was BURNING. This is a very common sensation in a 5k-10k, but I didn't expect it this soon, and it felt a little different than before... OH NO! The pre-race beverage with CAYANNE PEPPER! NOOOOOOO! My stomach was KILLING ME, and I had nearly 4 miles remaining. I had to think of something else. I stared into the hill. Please hill, hit ME hard. lol I need 6:10-6:20, I must stay strong but relaxd on the hill. I did. MILE 2 - 6:08! Woohoo. Stomach still burning, I told myself this was just a "toughness workout". Mile 2 to 3 wrapped through some residential streets, past a high school and a high school band, and then started to CLIMB. From Mile 2.5 to 2.75 was the most significant hill on the course. Instinctually, I started to push it up the hill, sensing that I was nearing the end of my final climb of the day with ONLY downhill and flat to the finish. I started passing quite a few people. I crested the hill and opened up my stride to PUSH the downhill. I had quite a bit of time to make up! MILE 3 - 6:18. I now had about 32 seconds overall to make up (or 16 seconds PER MILE) which meant running the last two miles (tired) in faster than 5:40 (avg). Mile 4 was both blissful and brutal. I flew downhill, relentlessly pushed the pace. Passed a bunch more people and had two guys and one girl chomping on my heels. They passed me. Had to try to stay with them. STAY STRONG! MILE 4 - 5:38! Woooohooo! I had 0.96 miles left, I know that I am a strong finisher, and I was IN POSITION to do this. At Mile 4, I had ONE final sweeping downhill for about a quarter mile, and I really pushed the pace going down, as I knew about 3/4's of a mile of flat remained and I needed every second. It leveled out and I worked on getting relaxed while still PUSHING my last mile. I worked hard to stay with the pack in front of me. I could see about a half mile ahead, which sucked on one hand, and on the other hand, the 2nd to last turn on the course was near. I rounded the final corner and saw the clock... 29:10, 29:11... it was going to be CLOSE. I had to sprint ALL OUT to make it.... I crossed the line in 29:27! PHEW! Made it! BARELY. But I made it.

Bay To Breakers 2006 - Sub-Seeded Qualification, baby! Wooohoooo!

I was thrilled! 5:55 per mile, EXACTLY, the first time I've held THAT pace for more than 3.1 miles. Next stop, Boston...

AFTER running the race, Kate and I joined my mom (in town from Northern Cali) for breakfast and then went to see "Ashes and Snow", an incredible nomadic art exhibit with photography, film and architecture. Go see it. Amazing!

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