I hope Dominic can forgive me for taking weeks to post this Q&A. I recently moved cross-country from Portland, OR to Asheville, NC with two Rottweilers, a cat, and my husband. We caravanned through Joshua Tree and Saguaro National Park, and all the way across Texas on I-10. Between driving, selling a house, buying a new house, and catching up with family in North Carolina, I’m afraid I’ve been neglecting this little blog.
Dominic has been covering most of his miles by bike in recent months, but he was kind enough to reminisce about his first 10K in Chattanooga, TN.
Almost DFL’d at: 2016 The Lookout Mountain 50 Mile and 10K. I did the 10K.
Official Time: Time 1:31:04 (Place 101)
Race director/organizer: Wild Trails
How did you choose this race?
If I’m being honest, I chose this race because I really wanted to get a trail race in before the end of the year. I didn’t put much thought into the difficulty or that it took place in late December. I didn’t care, I just wanted a 10k before the end of the year. I had trouble finding races that late in the year, so it was that or nothing.
How did you train for it?
July of 2016 is when I finally got serious about training. Like everyone, I started with walking. My wife had recently got a Garmin watch. Obviously, I stole it. It kept me honest and motivated. I walked or ran everyday after work. I still couldn’t run for more than a few minutes without walking, but I was making progress.
Around this same time I also decided to ride my bike to give my knees a rest. I have arthritis in both knees. By late August I was putting in a total of 5k at a time with a combination of walking and running. I was also doing longer rides on the bike. One of my friends was doing a 50k trail run, so I decided I could at least do that on the bike in his honor on the same day. When I hit 50k that day I realized that I could do more. I thought to myself that I could do that again. I signed up for a 100k ride a few days later.
Talking about it at work after I signed up, #myidiotcoworker bragged about how he could beat me in a race because of his “superior lung capacity”. I quickly searched for a 5k and impulsively signed up right then. I then challenged him to do the same. He bet me $100 that he would beat me. My training intensity kicked up. I still had a lot of weight to lose. When I started training my weight was about 256lbs. Once I was able to run a 5k on the treadmill, I upgraded to the asphalt track at the park. By September, my training included runs during the week and a four or five hour ride on the weekend. I would give myself one or two days off, but I still liked to get some walking in to meet my step goal.
September was also the month that I decided to do 10k before the year was out. October was the month of my 100k, and I had gotten my weight down to about 229lbs. That race is a whole other story, but it was 5+ hours of suffering. What that bike race did for me though, was put my mind at ease. Four days later, I signed up for the 10k. My 5k race was in November, and it went well. I beat #myidiotcoworker by 6 minutes, and was $100 richer.
The only trouble I had in that race was a steep climb midway through the race. I had to power-walk that for a few seconds. I kept up the training, but scaled back a little bit. Work was getting in the way some. I managed to get a 15k hike/run with my dog, also another story, and felt I could handle the upcoming 10k…
What surprised you about this race?
I didn’t know this, but only hard core runners drive to the top of a mountain in late December, in the rain and fog, to do a trail race. Huddling around a fire trying to stay warm and dry the glove that we will not speak of, I realized I was out of place. The main attraction of the day was a 50 mile run.
I got into the middle of the pack on the starting line. The race got off to a quick start, at least for me. The pace was about 5:24/km. Like a stubborn moron, I kept pace with the group instead of running my own race. This plan worked up until about the 3km mark. The first big hill drained me. I didn’t pace it well. I started getting passed. Around the 5k mark I accepted that I was in the back of the pack. I could still hear a few people behind me, and that kept me moving.
I did stop once because I had to pee like never before. I went way off the trail for that. I felt way better after my pitstop. I tried to make up some time on the 20% downhill. I managed to pass a couple of people on the way down. Once down the mountain, I saw an older guy that looked like he was doing a pace I could match. I decided to stay with him, but I gave him space. It was a good fit. Even though we didn’t talk, he knew I was right behind him. The rain, large rocks, and mud, kept my pace at around 8:15/km.
I was not prepared for the climbs at the end. On the way up there was a 27.7% grade to get up. I remember using my hands at one point. This walk/run cycle continued until the last major climb. I was still behind my pacer. I was feeding off of him. On the climb we came up to a couple in trouble. The woman was crying and it seemed like a possibility that the three of us might have to carry her. My pacer and I hung back and let her lead. I don’t remember much conversation, but there was a nonverbal bond between everyone. Once we hit the flat section, we all started running again together. There was a photographer at the exit of the woods and we couldn’t be caught walking. We kept a comfortable pace of 7:28/km the rest of the course, and all crossed together.
I really enjoyed finishing the 10k in a small group of at the back of the pack. I think my experience wouldn’t have been as positive had I crossed the finish alone.
What inspired you to keep going?
The only way home was back up the mountain because that was where my car was parked. Yes, I could have just walked, but I didn’t want to be last. What really kept me going was the guy in front of me.
How are cycling and running races different? Do you prefer one over the other?
They are different, but mostly due to length. The cycling I do is about endurance. Food and hydration play a major role. The atmosphere is similar, but the mood is different after 5 hours. None of my runs included SAG (support and gear), and that’s where I meet a lot of people. I think I prefer cycling because I am better at it; I get consistent results. The thing I do like more about running is you get a medal. In cycling events you go home Chewbacca style.
What are you training for now?
I’m currently training for two 100k cycling events, one of which is probably too difficult for me. They are 5 weeks apart from each other. I’m putting in about 8.5 hours of training a week. I expect this to go up with the warmer weather. I fully plan on adding some 5ks to my calendar. I hate running before I run, but I always feel great afterwards. I just have to try and remember that.
My quads hurt just thinking about those hills Dominic described and looking at that elevation map! If you want to geek out about cycling, idiot co-workers, or Star Wars, look for him at races in the Atlanta, GA area this summer.