This was my 3rd race, but my first 10K, having run two half-marathons previously. I found that I went into the race with quite a different attitude than I'm used to, being 100% confident that I could complete it (barring injury, emergency, etc.) and focusing more on my time. In the week leading up to the race, I had become almost obsessed with finishing under 54:23. This, of course, led to the usual pre-race anxiety...but for a different reason. This time I wasn't nervous about the distance, but about letting myself down by failing to achieve my goal time. Let's be honest...it's much easier to say all that matters is finishing the race! than it is to believe it. As much as I love to run and run for the fun of it, I have a competitive nature and each race is a competition, even if I'm only competing against myself.
The Sporting Life 10K is a huge event in downtown Toronto with about 10000 participants, starting with a beautiful run down "Canada's most famous street" (Yonge Street) and finishing in front of the city's boldest landmarks, the Sky Dome and CN Tower. The route is notoriously downhill and therefore one of Canada's fastest 10K events. The race was well organized and executed and the whole process was quite smooth - as smooth as possible with so many runners involved.
I briefly summarized the morning yesterday, from waking up at 4:45 AM, heading downtown and hanging around the starting area for over an hour. It was much colder than I expected (about 8C and windy) and I felt underdressed in capris and a sleeveless top, so I was eager to get moving.
The gun went off promtly at 8:00 AM. I started in the 50-55 minute corral and crossed the start line in less than a minute and 30 seconds.
There were several elite athletes competing, with 15 finishing under 35 minutes.
Anyway, enough details! You want to hear about my run, right?!
There is such a different dynamic to the 10K as opposed to a half marathon. I'm used to starting out conservatively to make sure I don't run out of steam in the first half of the race. This time, I knew I could afford to start out stronger since the distance was not nearly as great. I had planned to pace my first 5K at 5:15 to 5:30, and allow myself to slow down or speed up depending on how I felt. Not surprisingly, I got caught up in the crowd and excitement and ran the first 5 much faster than expected: 4:47, 4:52, 4:56, 4:35 and 4:58 respectively. Reaching the half way mark and realizing I had just run my fastest 5K was both exciting and nerve-wracking. For a second I thought, "Uh-oh...what's going to happen in the next 5K?"
I was going strong for the 6th KM at 4:56, but slowed down for the 7th, clocking 5:59 (this includes a brief walk for a few gulps of water). I made up for it in the 8th KM, logging 4:50. In the 9th KM, I could feel myself running out of steam. It was by far the most difficult kilometre and I found myself aching for the finish line. To make it worse, this stretch of the route was under the Gardiner Expressway and I had no signal on my Garmin, so I didn't know my pace or how much further I had to run. I concentrated on a runner in front of me, and decided not to allow a gap to grow between us. The strategy worked because I would feel myself slowing down, notice the gap growing, and will my legs to push harder. (I learned later that my 9th KM came in at 5:46).
Before I knew it, we were rounding the final bend. I could hear the crowds and almost SMELL the finish line. Sure enough, there it was, just a few hundred metres ahead. I turned on the gas and gunned it all the way up the chute. There are no words to describe the adrenaline rush I get when catch the first glimpse of the finish line. Nothing could stop me!
The official time on the clock read 50:35 as I crossed and I knew my chip time would be sub 50:00, which shocked the crap out of me. I couldn't stop smiling and probably looked like a big goofy idiot!
Remarkably, I felt great after the race. I stretched while I waited for my friends and didn't stiffen up too much. I woke up this morning with pretty sore quads, but nothing unbearable. I'll give myself a couple days to recover and I should be on the road again.