Saturday, June 03, 2006

Idyllwild 10K - "No way. Impossible."

Idyllwild 10K. This is a small local race in the artsy mountain community of Idyllwild in the San Jacinto mountains. It's a fun little town to visit with plenty of restaurants and village shops. Idyllwild is well known in SoCal for its arts and music interests. It's a friendly little town with lots of free spirits.

I didn't have personal high expectations for this race because I didn't back off on my training coming into it. I've run hard every other day for 2 weeks now with no breaks. This week alone I ran an 8.6-mile tempo run on Sunday, 20.2 miles on Tuesday, and 5x800m & 5x400m on TM on Thursday and 6-mile easy runs in between. This 10K today (Saturday) gave me 60.0 miles total for the week, my highest weekly mileage in 3 months.

I chose to do this race to test my fitness level on tough hills in thin air (5100'-5600') for my run at the Crater Lake Marathon in August. The only other time I ran this race was 3 years ago when I was prepping for the Pikes Peak Marathon that August. I ran 44:49 then. My only goal today was to finish under that time. I wasn't even sure if I could do that since I didn't taper any coming into this race. My legs felt like jelly when I ran an easy 4-mile recovery run yesterday.

This course is tough. It descends from 5300' to 5100' in the opening 2 miles. Then it climbs non-stop from 5100' to 5600' from the 2 MM to the 5 MM. Then it drops from 5600' to 5300' in the last 1.2 miles. Here's the elevation profile. (Note: the course is 6.21 miles, I didn't trace the route quite correctly.)

I thought about running the 5K race before the 10K in order to make it a longer run in the thin-air and the hills, but I finally decided to run hard just for the 10K.

We had cool (65°) but sunny weather in the mountains. There were plenty of trees to provide shade. The race started promptly on time (7:45am; 30min after the 5K start). As we were running downhill from town, I quickly found myself in 6th place overall.

Mile 1 in 6:11. Ok, that's 13 seconds faster than the opening mile in my 2003 race here, but I don't feel like I'm overdoing it.

Mile 2 in 6:27. Ok, that's more like it. Only 3 seconds faster for that mile than my 2003 race. Still going downhill. I'm now in 3rd place overall. I hope I'm not over doing it, but my HR and breathing are still fine. Turn the corner. Wow, there's the race vehicle and the lead runner up there about 200m. Here comes three miles of non-stop uphill climbs.

Mile 3 in 7:08. That's 29 seconds faster than my 2003 race. Wow, I'm feeling fine. I'm not overexerting myself. I've got 2 more miles of this climb to go. I'm now running side by side with the guy in second place. This is surreal.

Mile 4 in 7:32. That's 29 seconds faster than my 2003 race. These climbs are relentless, but I'm still feeling fine. I'm fully in 2nd place. I'm gapping the third place guy. This is unbelievable. I can see the race leader ahead. I'm gaining on him. He's only 100m ahead. Now he's only 50m ahead. Wow, I'm side by side with him. I say, "Man, these hills are tough. We've still got another half mile of this to go." I gradually pull ahead of him. I'm not sure how close to me he is. I can't hear his breathing or his footsteps. These hills are the steepest of the course, super steep. My quads are starting to ache. Keep pushing. Just a little more to the top. Turn the corner. Start downhill. There's the 5 MM.

Mile 5 in 7:44. Normally, that would be a super-slow split, but that's a good time on the steepest mile of the race. That's 52 seconds faster than that same mile in 2003. Hello downhill!!

As I turned the corner, I realized I've gapped the second place guy by about 50m. Holy freakin' cow, I could possibly win this race! I've never won my age-group in a race, yet alone the whole shootin' match! Surely, this guy is going to overtake me on these downhills. He was faster than me on the opening two miles of downhills. He might have been running conservatively on the uphills to surge at the end. I'd better run like I stole something. I'm on the verge of cramping up. Just keep running. It's not far now.

Mile 6 in 5:43. Holy freaking cow! I just ran a sub-6 mile. I turn the corner which doubles back onto the 10K course. I glance back to see if I spot the guy behind me. A runner in the opposite direction yells, "Just keep running. He's not in sight." Holy freaking cow! I'm going to win! I'm going to win! Are you kidding me? Some runners in the opposite direction cheer me on. I yell back to them, "What do I do? I've never won a race before in my life!" They yell back, "Just follow that truck and keep on running!"

Finish in 42:00. First place overall! I come racing across the line full sprint with a huge smile and my arm in the air whooping and hollering. This is surreal. Surely, I didn't win, did I! (You did, and please stop calling me, "Shirley.")

I cannot believe what I've just done. I wasn't being modest when I set a goal of 44:49. But I felt fine and I was able to push it hard at the end. Wow, this is unreal. Where's a phone? I gotta call my wife!

I call my wife (who was home and under the weather today). I'm talking rapid-fire in the phone, and even though she doesn't feel well, she's so happy for me and just as surprised as I am. She puts our son (7yo) on the phone. I tell him that I won! I explain to him that I won overall, that I came in first place. He's speechless and I hear my wife laughing in the background. Finally, he says, "No way. Impossible." My wife gets on the phone and tells me that his expression was just priceless as he stood there just shocked.

You have to realize that this is the same boy that 3 years ago saw me finish a 5-mile race in Winter Park, Colorado. I ran my heart out and cramped up in the thin air (9000'). I struggled across the line in something like 20th place (I was thrilled) and my son looked very solemn and simply remarked, "I'm sorry, Dad. You lost." I laughed and laughed and laughed because it was one of those priceless moments. He honestly expected me to win which was funny to me because I've never come close to winning a race in my life. I guess I taught him too well that I didn't win races because today he didn't believe me.

I stick around for the awards ceremony and got a nice ceramic medal for first place which has an arts and craft type of look, very characteristic of Idyllwild. I also got a gift certificate to a nice Idyllwild restaurant. My wife and I will enjoy that. And I got a nice glass coffee mug.

What a day. In my wildest dreams, I didn't expect to place in the top 5 or even the top 10. But some days everything just falls into place. Everything.

As you probably realize, with a winning time of 42:00, there weren't many people in this race. I doubt you'll believe me if I told you that there were thousands and I smoked all the Kenyans. I doubt you'll believe me if I said there were hundreds. For the record, there were 58 participants in the 10K. I certainly didn't expect to win because the course record is 36:54. I guess I need to thank all the fast runners in SoCal for sleeping in today or choosing other races so I could have my 15 minutes of fame.

I also should mention that the second place runner actually ran the 5K prior to the 10K. It easily would have been a different race if I had done that or he had not.

The best part of the day was when I got home. My three kids had all made signs and decorated the living room. "Go Daddy" "First Place!" and my favorite "1st Place Wining [sic] Daddy!" (Am I really a whiner? Don't answer that.) My son made a gold medal out of paper to hang around my neck. I took a victory lap around the house with the kids whooping and hollering. What a day.

Of course, now I've gotta go back and run this race next year again. I can't pass up the opportunity to wear Bib #1!