2001, Freedom Fest 10k

Short version: Nah...

Well, I finally found a flat and fast 10k to run to test my fitness. I'd heard about this race for the last few years but have always opted to run my clubs 4 mile race instead. This year, I wanted to do a flat 10k so I finally found the information on Monday and arraigned to go to the race with 4 other friends, two of whom are always faster than I am.

The race is held on base at Ft. Lewis and starts at 9:00 am. We were hopeful this morning as there was a low haze obscuring the sun and keeping the temperatures from being too warm. I drove out with my friends and we warmed up for about 10 minutes then I did a few strides and got lined up at the start. It is a relatively small race, maybe 200 folks. Many of them have the haircut and trim physiques of active duty solders. Unfortunately, the haze burned off about a 1/2 hour before the race and we were sweating just standing waiting for the start.

The course is flat. There is a hint of a small rise at one point, but only a hint. The course has a few sharp turns but not too many. In short, this should be a stinkin fast course.

My goal was to try hit 40:00. This would be a 37 second improvement over my 10k track time trial in May. I thought that this would be a very aggressive goal, but maybe just possible. As far as a 10k race PR, it would be 3:15 faster than my best 10k race time.

The race started at the end of a track in a very nice stadium on base. After 15 meters we hit 10 meters of grass then hopped the curb to the road. Other than a half mile at the beginning where the course runs through officer's quarters, the course is in the sun, on open pavement the entire way. Not a scenic course. My friend Bill was going to run with me. Bill is a HS XC coach and he is always faster than I am (other than last years 4 on the 4th race when he had a very bad day) and has been running with his XC guys three days/week. Bill however quickly fell in behind me and then I never saw him again.

I kept looking for mile markers and never saw them. After 7 1/2 minutes I finally decided that there weren't going to be any and I then started to rely on my Heart Rate Monitor, trying to keep it around 93%. The field quickly spread out leaving me with only a few guys to hang on to. One was another big guy who appeared to be in my AG that was running fast and strong. Then there were two kids that looked like HS runners. I ended up trying to keep right behind these guys using them to break the hot wind that was blowing in our faces. Unfortunately, these guys were running a little too fast for me. I kept with them for three miles but my Heart Rate at some points was hitting 96% Max Heart Rate Reserve.

I knew I was pushing too hard, but didn't want to loose these guys. Finally I saw a three mile mark. I past it in 17:59. Dang! I knew it felt too hard. Even I could do the math. I was hoping to run 6:25 miles, and here I was running a 6:00 pace. Stupid, stupid, stupid. No wonder my Heart Rate was so stinkin high!

I backed off a touch and tried to keep my Heart Rate down to 93%. I was really feeling the heat and even the breeze wasn't helping cool me off much. I had past the water station at around 2.5 miles and was wondering if that had been such a good idea. The course has very long straights and I could still see the leaders way out ahead. I was too tired to turn around and look behind me, but apparently Bill was about 20 meters back at the three mile mark.

I had gone out way too fast and was paying for it now. I was too hot, too tired, and just wanted the race to be done with. One of the HS kids that was ahead of me had to stop and puke at the side of the road, ridding himself of the water he had taken at the water stations. I was almost caught up to him when he was back on his feet and taking off. A young woman passed me at about 4 miles just flying by. Shortly after a short guy in his 50s went trucking by me. I'm not used to getting passed late in a race, but I just couldn't keep up. There was another water station at about 4.5 miles and I caught one of the HS kids. He had taken water and slowed down. He called me "sir" and said I was looking strong. I told him I was done for and that he should catch the old short guy that was now about 30 yards ahead of us. He dug in and started to chase him, eventually catching him.

There was a 5 mile mark that I passed at 30:26. I couldn't do the math but I knew I had slowed down a lot. I also knew that I could cruise on in and still break 40:00. I wanted to run the best race I could however and tried to refocus myself. An attractive woman in her late thirties blew by me in that last mile. She ran a smart race, picking the pace up and finishing strong. After that, I was alone. No one was near enough to pull me and I turned to look behind and no one was near enough to push me. I didn't know where I was on the course and it seemed to go on for an eternity. I kept hoping for a turn that would then show me I was almost at the finish, and it never seemed to come.

Finally, we made a turn and I could see the stadium. I tried to push the pace but didn't have much. I kicked for the last 100 meters, but it was pretty pathetic. I crossed the line at 39:19.

I chatted with some of the runners, waited for my friends to finish, and then we took off. They had to be home for a neighborhood July 4th parade that was starting at around 10:30 so we didn't have much time. I thought I may have been about 15th OA and may have even placed in my age gropu but couldn't stick around to see. I ended up calling the race director a few days later to find out the results. It turns out that by some miracle I placed first in my age group and missed a very nice medal.

I'm very pleased with my time. I'm not pleased with running a stupid race. I am questioning the course length however. During pre-start instructions, the RD made a point of telling us how accurate the course was. He even said you could take a measuring wheel to the course and "you would find that it is about exactly 6.3 miles". I remember thinking that was weird at the time but I'm wondering when I look at the splits that I did get.

3 miles 6:00 pace
2 miles 6:14 pace
1.2 miles 7:23 pace ??? I don't think so.

I can believe the first 3 miles, I know I was going way too fast. The 3 mile mark may have been a little short, but not too much. The next two miles are more like it. The last 1.2 miles just doesn't make any sense at all. So either both the 3 mile and 5 mile marks were way short, or the course was long. If the last bit was 1.3 miles, that would have been a 6:49 pace. I don't think I was running that slow, even at that point in the race but it is possible. I suppose that an average pace of 6:20 is possible and that is just what I'm going to have to accept for now.

In the past I've always considered those folks that can run under 40:00 in the 10k as being "fast". Well, I've done it and I know I'm not "fast". Using my 5% rule (fast is anyone that can run 5% faster than I am), I'm going to have to run a sub 38:00 before I'm "fast".


David S. Hays, O.D.,dhays@davidhays.net