This year’s Expo was the first 10k distance in 2 years since the 2006 Expo 10k. I don’t remember why I didn’t run last year, perhaps a look in the archive would shed light on the details (oh yeah, pleural rub!). I was coming to this race fairly confident that I would have a good showing and although I would not reach a PR time (48:06 10-07-2000) I would feel that the speed work that I had been doing this spring would finally pay off. However, that did not happen and although I would really like to just put this in my History annals and move on, I am obliged to write a race report while it’s still fresh. I can’t see it right now, but there are clues to my running in this race that I won’t be able to see until sometime later, so I need the details to be fresh as possible.
Like most of my KTC races, I volunteer for pre-race duties, usually whatever is available. In the winter months, registration is desirable to have some shelter from the elements. This race, I was to help setting up the vendor and food tables. I showed up just after 6am (race start 8am) to help with tables. I ended up cutting oranges, cleaning tables, filling ice buckets, and hanging signs. Nothing too taxing, and I even did a little pre race warm up as I was running from place to place. However, I noticed that my legs felt heavy.
With 10 minutes to race start, I headed over to the starting line, hanging out off to the side by myself so that I could gage how people were lining up. Since I was here by myself, I was looking for racers that I knew by face and performance on the ideal place to line up. The start on Gay Street was narrow for the number of people, but the 0.75 straight away really allowed the runners to separate without running over each other.
After the National Anthem, the Wheelchair racers started and a about 2 minutes later, the runners. Like I mentioned, the congestion at the start wasn’t that bad. Sure there were plenty of people who were too far ahead than their pace would suggest, but I found a running lane on the right side of Gay Street and tucked in behind another runner to get through the crowd.
At the first mile, I realized that something was wrong. Although I had found my pace that day, it seemed somewhat labored. I had planned on running between 52-53 minutes and to keep that time goal, I was going to have to keep this pace… somehow. By mile 2, I had actually sped up by about 15 seconds, not sure how I did it but I did. Perhaps it was the almost flat course the first 4.7 miles follows before a decent hill at mile 5.
The Expo course shares some of the same roads as the Knoxville Marathon and the Run for the Deaf. I’ve run both, so I knew what to expect. However, just after the mile 3 mark, I was going to experience something I had never done in a road race before. My split time at mile 3 told me I was slowing down. I was now much slower than my first mile and keeping pace was getting difficult, although not impossible.
We ran past the Tennessee School for the Deaf and headed down to the Island Home Airport for the turnaround point. I must have been daydreaming about something other than running because as soon as I started around the cone, I slipped. I fell straight down onto my belly, my hands catching me as I fell.
I couldn’t believe that I slipped and fell! I had slipped a few times during trail runs, but that’s part of trail running, if you aren’t slipping and falling, you aren’t doing it right, but this was a road race. I have mentioned before, something with my Aspergian mind can detect force vectors while I am moving. This is why I always had great body awareness when I was playing soccer, but couldn’t miss the wall walking down the hallway. The millisecond that my foot started to slip, my mind was already communicating to my legs to layout straight and hands to catch my fall. The next command, half way down to the ground was to start churning my legs as soon as they hit to start to propel me forward. I fell in such away that I landed prone, but with a quick flip of my legs, I was in a sprinter’s stance ready to move forward, so I did.
The volunteer called out to me if I was okay and I muttered a reassurance that I was indeed fine, although I hadn’t done a full body scan yet to make sure that I was indeed intact. Sure enough, I seemed okay. I was most surprised that I wasn’t winded from landing on my stomach. Neither was I winded NOR did I have any abrasions from the road. I had only lost maybe 1-2 seconds of time, but I knew that it would catch up to me in my already ailing race performance.
Thankfully, there was a water stop close by as well as the long straight roadway out of Island Home. The nice thing about Island Home is their support from the running community. There were tons of people outside of their home cheering the runners on. However, I needed much more than cheering for me to race. Somehow, I proceed to continue.
I started to get a second wind around 3.5 mile mark when I attempted to do a submission for The Extra Mile Podcast. That was an utter failure and caused me to conserve all energy. I had nothing to share at this point. I was in a survival mode that was unfamiliar to me. Typically in my marathons, it’s fatigue in my legs that prompts me to switch from Running to Survival. Today, my legs felt fine, it was my cardio levels that wouldn’t cooperate, and I was at a loss.
I physically stopped at the next water stop to catch my breath and to regain my composure. I wanted to know WHY I was running as poorly as I was and try to fix it… I did have a hill at mile 5 that’s not too runner friendly… and after all I eat hills for breakfast and I didn’t want the tide to turn.
I had a good mile to think about possible causes on my predicament. My hypothesis is that I was too worn down from my workouts this week. I had run a 7 miler on Tuesday at a good 8:30-9 minute pace. It had felt good, but left my legs pretty sore. So instead of running on Thursday, I decided to work the soreness out swimming 800 meters, but my split times for the swimming were faster than my previous swim times. So in an effort to rejuvenate my legs for the race, I did but at the cost of sabotaging my cardio levels. It made sense why I felt like crap, but my legs felt fine. After another couple of days of thinking about the race, I think that volunteering disrupted my pre-race eating/drinking routine and that I need to rethink when I eat on days that I volunteer because I will ALWAYS volunteer when I can.
I shifted to a slower gear while running up the hill. This allowed my legs to do the work and my lungs to not work as hard. In the last mile, I started to think about the finish line and my kick at the end. Just because I was having a crappy race, doesn’t mean that I stop thinking about strategy during the race. With 0.5 mile to go, I determined that indeed I had enough for a kick at the very end, but I wasn’t sure how big that burst of speed was going to be and how long I could sustain it.
Knowing the course, the last 0.2 is a straightaway shot to the finish line. Typically, when I see the timer clock is when I go into “Finisher’s Mode” and begin my shift from running to final kick. Judging my energy level, I was going to have to be much closer to the finish line before I started my kick. Another change I had to make was instead of looking at target runners to overtake before the end of the race, I was just thinking of making the kick near the end, if I passed people great, if not, no big deal.
Just inside 0.1 of a mile is when I began my kick, I did manage to pick off one runner before I made it to the chute, but I was hurting. I could barely breathe, but in effort to not be a nuisance to the Finish Line Crew, I had ripped off my bib tag and held in the air as I desperately gasped for air. I finished in 55:50. The clock ticking away closer to 56 minutes was enough motivation to keep my kick alive. This was my slowest 10k to date, but not by much, my 2006 Expo 10k were I was under trained and took off too fast was a 55:21, so this wasn’t “terrible”… maybe Expo just isn’t my race.