Saturday, January 28, 2012

Dam Run 10k

Which I have renamed the F@#% This 10k. When one is picking a 10k that you are hopeful to PR at, it would be best to not pick one that has a portion of the trail named "The Grind". Don't feel sad for me yet, I did get my 10k PR, barely, and I actually started taking photos along the trail because I was pretty sure I wasn't going to get it, but I did.

I've been feeling under the weather all week, I've been doing my best to stay hydrated and eat healthy in the hopes that come race morning I wouldn't want to curl up into the fetal position. I woke up this morning not feeling stellar but feeling like I could possibly drag my butt through a 10k. That lasted until I got to the race site and saw the words "The Grind" on the map. Whose freaking idea was this anyway? Oh yeah, that would be mine.

On the bright side I was super excited to see my running buddy Mary Sue. We did our first 1/2 Marathon together and we do lots of bay area races together, so it always makes a race more fun when Mary Sue is there!

This is the "what was I thinking face?"
Before we knew it we were off. Having just run the 5k last month I was familiar with the first part of the course and felt pretty decent, besides the fact that most of the 10k field passed me along the way. It wasn't until the first 5k runner passed me that I started to feel like a really slow runner. I was pacing myself for the long haul so I tried to not feel so bad as he passed myself and a great deal of the field since we only had a 5 minute head start on him. As I approached the 5k turn-around it was so tempting to to turn around here, but I had trained for a 10k and this is what I was going to do! It was actually pretty exciting to go through the aid station and be directed onto the trail portion of the 10k course. Obviously dirt is so much more forgiving and my shins would be most thankful for the dirt trail. There seemed to be lots of ups and downs along this portion of the trail, in fact one down section was so steep that I actually walked it so that I wouldn't fall and hurt myself. I reached the meadow section which was signal track and started to encounter the lead 10k runners. That didn't seem too bad, I felt pretty decent at this point. That is, until I got a glimpse of "The Grind". I nearly stopped dead in my tracks when I saw runners way ahead of me and way above me.

I'm not sure that you can really tell from this photo, but below the ridge line there is path with runners. This is precisely the point in the race where I was fairly certain that this would not be a 10k PR for me. I ran to the hill, I even tried to run up the hill which seemed a completely fruitless task. I cursed the people running down the hill who at this point appeared to have not suffered at any point at all and were clearly enjoying the downhill section way to much. The turn around and aid station looked so far away. My legs were burning and did I mention it was freaking hot out here? I basically walked the entire hill. As I approached a flat section, even that became difficult to run, my cardiovascular system was clearly not happy with me. As I approached the aid station I think there were some views that I was supposed to be checking out, but yeah, I just wanted to vomit. I grabbed some water and one of the volunteers had cliff bars (yeah right) and Hammer Gel's. I grabbed a gel and saw that it was Espresso flavor, probably wasn't my first choice, but I've tried Gu's Espresso flavor and it's good. WRONG! Hammer's Espresso flavor was like throwing a bunch of espresso beans in my mouth and chewing. Whatever, my body needed the fuel and there were no garbage cans at this point so I sucked it down because I didn't want to put a full and open gel in my pocket. I washed it down with some water. At this point it's mostly downhill, but before the big Grind there is a small uphill section which I walked and then started running again at the crest. This is the point at which I see Mary Sue. We take a moment to curse ourselves for doing this and wonder why we didn't turn-around at the 5k before we part ways again. And now comes the downhill section of the Grind, at this point I'm so freaking exhausted that even running downhill seems to be consuming a lot of energy. I pass a runner who is walking up the Grind and the sweet man has the energy to cheer me on. As I hit the meadow I look around and realize that he must be the last 10k runner, because I see no one else besides two runners a ways ahead of me. This is when I realize that not only am I not going to get a PR but I'm also nearly last in the field! So I decide that I should at least get some pictures to document the process.

The meadow
As I run through the single track of the meadow and start to enter the tree line I notice that there is still frost on the grass here. So I go from being super hot to really cold again. It was so amazing how quickly the temperature changed. I approach the section with all of the ups and downs and decide it's really pretty and you all need to see a photo of it to really appreciate it.

Best section of the 10k course
It's at this point that I realize I am totally alone out here. There is no one behind me and I can no longer tell how far in front of me the other runners are. I'm getting close to what is the 5k turn around and aid station I can hear someone cheering a runner on. This is the first and only time that I look at my watch. I know that once I hit the aid station I will have 1.5 miles to go, which at this point sounds like pure hell. I look at the time and realize that there might be a small possibility of getting that PR if I maintain a steady pace. I approach the last uphill section of the dirt trail and there are two volunteers yelling at me to dig deep and get my arse up that hill, so I run up the hill and thank them for the encouragement, I grab a cup of cold water at the aid station and then proceed to feel like vomiting. I tell myself with 1.5 miles left I need to find a pace, it doesn't matter what that pace is, just find it and maintain it. I pass the 5 mile marker and I remember this point last month Molly telling me that I was in the home stretch. Find a pace, and I did. I passed a woman who had I been playing leap frog with earlier and that felt good. At this point they opened up the road and folks started heading out. I had plenty of room with no inbound traffic and felt like I could finish without dying. I passed a walker who I remember seeing walking the downhill section of the Grind, I think I heard her mention she got hurt. I could see a gentleman in front of me, and while I knew I couldn't pass him, I knew I had closed the gap. Then I saw my friend Ashley who had done the 5k on her way out and she cheered me on as she drove past. Just as I was about to crest that last little hill and the 6 mile marker a woman drove by and shouted "You're almost there!" Yes I was, and I felt pretty confident that I was close to a PR. Pick up the pace and finish strong. With the finish line in site I was able to get a glimpse of the clock, I indeed was going to get my PR. A 56 second PR, but I'll take it! I was pretty astonished to beat my 10k time since I had to walk so much of this course but I guess the downhill sections on the way back really helped me make up that time.

I quickly downed a bottle of water and an orange slice and some pretzels, dropped my gear off in the car and grabbed my Chocolate-Coconut water as a massive headache was coming on. I went back to the finish line to watch Mary Sue come in.

Looking strong as she sprints to the finish

Glad to be done!

This race sucked! Okay it's really hard to say that now that I'm done. But this was honestly the most difficult race I've ever done. The only time my legs really hurt was "The Grind" and getting to the aid station. It was my lungs and chest that burned through out most of the race. It was really much harder than I had anticipated.Again, don't feel too sorry for me, I'll be celebrating later with a margarita and a burger.

I have two weeks until 1/2 marathon training starts, so I'll spend the next two days resting before I get back into it again.


  1. Looks like a beautiful route! Congrats on your PR.

  2. You PRed! That's awesome!!!! And on a tough course too, so just imagine what you could do on the flats. Now to just work on that mental toughness a bit so you can stay focused and positive in the middle of the race :)