A race report the day of the actual race? Unheard of! And did I mention that I’m still flossing daily, too?
Today was the Frankfurt Silvesterlauf, the annual New Year’s Eve run through the forest by the sports stadium. Let me tell you about the swag for this race. There is none. You pay 10 Euros for the privilege of running 10 km with about 1,900 other runners and there is no tech shirt, no medal, no beer mug, or belt buckle at the end. If you are the fastest man or woman, you get a free airline ticket to wherever you want in Europe. That’s it. Which is actually, well, it’s fine. We don’t really need any more tech shirts, we’ve got two drawers devoted to them as it is, medals would just get added to the ever growing piles of them and if I manage to miraculously chop 15 minutes off my time (note sarcastic eye-roll here. The written word is hard to convey nuanced emoting sometimes) the free airline ticket would be nice.
I did get an excellent year-end swag from this race, though. Another PR! And a big one, too. I haven’t been particularly conscientious about racing 10k’s or remembering how fast I ran them. According to the internet, the fastest 10k I previously ran was in 2009 the week after my first half marathon and was an incredibly muddy trail run in the rain. I did that one in 56:26. The second fastest stand alone 10k I ever ran was this spring the day after an iron injection while I was both anemic and nauseous from the iron. That was 56:32. Last summer, I posted my fastest timed 10k time at the end of an Olympic distance triathlon and that was 54:13. So, with that setup, it would have been almost impossible for me not to PR today and I am happy to report that I was gloriously, statistically unremarkable today.
Race day started as it usually does with me getting the runs and needing to poop several times before leaving the house. And needing to pee four times after arriving at the race start. What was unusual was that we were 7 minutes early for our train and didn’t have to run a single step before the actual race if we didn’t want to. We chatted with a lovely bi-national couple (he was from Scotland, she was German) on the train, which is also completely not unusual for me. I have one of those faces or something. Strangers always talk to me. Like the Swede at the marathon this year. Or the random guy who started quizzing me on bike locks and where to get them the other day at the farmers’ market. When you spend time with me, you just get used to talking with lots of strangers. It’s a perk, really.
It rained like crazy most of the night last night and on and off all morning, so I was a bit worried about what to wear for the race and especially what to wear on my feet. While I have 4 or 5 pairs of running shoes (ok, 6) in current rotation, none of them are particularly useful for cold, wet races that are partially on paved trails and partially on dirt trails. I’ve only got one pair of actual trail runners and they’re so big and bulky that it’s like running with combat boots on. And since I’ve started running mostly in my Pure Flows, the heel rise on my trail runners makes them feel like wearing a pair of Jimmy Choo’s or something. So they were out. My usual race shoes, K-Swiss Blade Light Runs have drainage holes in the bottoms which are great for triathlons in summer, but for muddy trails, not so much. I ended up going with the Pure Flows because they’re my most comfortable shoe at the moment, even if they are rather oddly colored. There was another woman in the changing room who had the exact same shoes on. She was German. Or a lesbian, sometimes it’s hard to tell. Anyway, she looked fast and serious. I passed her in the first kilometer /glee!
OK, on to the reporting of the actual race. I knew that we were too far back in the 50:00 to 1 hour corral, but there were almost 2000 runners and it was truly impossible to make our way any farther forward. This race is annoying in that in about 700 meters, the relatively wide, paved road it starts on narrows to a running trail through the woods where it’s really difficult to pass people. So, my first mile and a half was significantly slower than intended. I learned my lesson last year at the half marathon which starts from the same place and where I left my whole race in that first mile frantically trying to pass people in order to hit my pace. I just stayed left, stayed relaxed, and hoped I would be able to make it up later when the traffic jam cleared. Spoiler alert! I did!
Times for miles one and two: 8:43, 8:26. My goal was to run just under 8:30 miles and come in around 52 or 53 minutes, so I was a bit worried that I had some time to make up.
The next two miles were gently sloping down hills and I spent them chasing down other runners and passing them. When I got to the point where there were fewer women around me, I started concentrating more on them. The weather was perfect, cool and not raining. It was almost sunny once or twice. I was wearing the squirrel shirt, arm warmers, capri length tights, and my calf compression sleeves. Most of the folks around me were wearing considerably more. I was a bit cold at the start, but I know that I’ll be ultimately happier when I’m not overheating at the end and I was warm by mile 3 and had my arm warmers pushed down by mile 4. Seriously, I don’t know how all those people in jackets and hats survived without heat stroke. Anyway, I passed a lot of other people, both women and men, and didn’t get passed my a single woman from the start to mile 5 or so.
Miles three and four were 7:57 and 7:59, respectively. Note the sub-8 minute miles that I ran like a boss right in the middle of a 10 k race without freaking out or worrying or anything. I got to the 5km timing mat in 26:15, so exactly on course for a 52:30, right where I wanted to be.
Mile five was the second of the three hills (the first was unremarkable and happened in mile 2) and I slowed down a bit to 8:24. I was on pace for an 8:08 mile until that hill, but it was a fun hill. Right after it was when I started to feel tired in the legs and regret slightly those fast miles in the middle. This was also where I got passed by Inga with the blond braids. Really, I have no idea what her name was, but she was strong, had amazing calf muscles (I know, I got to watch them from behind for the rest of the race, but they got kind of far away towards the end).
Mile 6 was 8:06 and still passing people. The third hill is at the end of mile 6 and it was also a fun hill. According to the wife, that is because I am a masochist. I sprinted the last 0.26 mile (my tangents weren’t too bad today!) at a pace of 7:38 and finished the whole shebang in 51:31, which is a whopping big PR! Merry New Year to me! Running is significantly more fun when I’m healthy and uninjured at the same time. I highly recommend it as a race strategy. I finished 118 out of 533 women (there were over 1300 men running, yet another instance of the weird German/European bias against women in road races and triathlons. This race in Washington, DC would have had about an even split between men and women) and 22 out of 90 in my age category.
Just as I finished, an older guy that I’d been running with and pacing for a few kilometers started talking to me. He wants me to join his running club and gave me a banana. He also congratulated me on my PR and I barely escaped his conversation in time to see the Wife finish in around 57 minutes as she said she would. Actually, I failed utterly to see the Wife finish as she as usual overestimated her finishing time and underestimated herself. But just when I was starting to worry that something happened to her, she came up from behind me, tea already in hand. She finished in 56:15, not a PR (Her 10k PR comes from a net downhill course on a perfect running day and was until today faster than my 10k PR) but a course PR of over a minute. She was also happy, ran negative splits, and basically ran a great race. Other than missing her at the finish, it was a great day all around.
In conclusion, running is fun when I’ve trained properly, am fit, and don’t let my brain wreck a perfectly good race. Also, my favorite squirrel shirt has been upgraded to my lucky squirrel shirt. I’ve worn it for my last three races and PR’d at all of them! Skvörl! I’m thinking of getting a more permanent version with the German pronunciation key on it for me and all my cheer-me-on team for Ironman Frankfurt this year. So there you go. Swag for you if you come to Frankfurt on July 7th and give me moral support! And you don’t even have to run a race to get it.