The Manhattan Beach 10K start line is just a mile away from my house. If I can claim a local race it’s the MB10K, and this year would be my fourth running. My biggest goal of 2016 was to set personal records at every distance from 5k to 26.2m. I PR’d the half and full marathon earlier this year and then aced a 5k in July. That left the MB10K as my final piece of business.
My training peaked when I attempted a 3 x 2 mile workout with each interval at my goal pace of 6:45. While averaging 6:42, I finished closer to 6:50, slightly off pace but leaving me confident of a sub 7:00 finish. That confidence was fleeting as I came down with a flu the weekend before the race. My taper was mostly sleeping in but I dragged myself out to a morning run two days before the race. I felt weak and light-headed all the way up to the night before. Bleh.
While not at my best I still felt the anticipation building up to race day. MB10K is an awesome event. The course winds its way through the neighborhoods and the final 1.25 miles is a flat, fast sprint to the Manhattan Beach Pier. The early going rolls up and down with a nasty little incline before mile five just when you need to start digging for the final push.
I ditched my pre-flu strategy and decided to hold a steady tempo pace hoping my stamina would last all 6.25 miles. Joining me was my son Alex who was running with his cross country team. He’d raced three days earlier and told me the team would stay in a pack and run at less than full speed. I lined up behind them so that they might clear some room for me at the start and help me run steadily.
We started at 7:30 sharp with perfect weather, sunny and 65 degrees. I went out following the team which was quite easy since they wore matching pink shorts. My strategy seemed to work. I was running in the clear and avoided the usual starting crush, my first bit of luck.
As usual I started too fast and as I crossed the first mile a timer shouted out “6:35!” I anticipated my over enthusiastic beginning and dialed back on mile two. I ran a perfect 6:45 and felt loose and strong. The cross country pack was slightly ahead of me and I started to think that my goal pace was a possibility.
Unfortunately, I continued to think about more than my pace. My mind was wandering and a bit loopy, some remnants of my flu. My third mile was 20 seconds too slow and I’d lost sight of the cross country runners. When I saw my split I started to wonder if it was time to relax and just finish the race in one piece? I pulled myself out of the mental haze and decided to give mile four a go. If I could regain my pace I’d be two-thirds done and in position to hang on with whatever was left in my tank.
It was a good decision. I regained my focus and my pace returned. I held steady for most of mile five then lost another 20 seconds on the final hill, but that was part of my plan. As I headed into the home stretch I attempted to ‘kick’ and started running a 6:20-30 pace. Not a great idea as I ran out of steam with just a half mile to go.
This is where I had my racing moment. A half mile seemed like forever but I decided to go for it and use whatever I could to pick up and finish strong. I accelerated from a 7:00 minute pace to 6:00 and when I spied the finish sign I knew I would make it. At the same time I heard Ruby cheering me (and taking these pictures!).
I finished at 42:49, a 6:50 pace, almost two minutes faster than my previous 10K PR. Alex ran a blistering 6:20 and bested his previous 10K by over five minutes. Out of 3355 runners I placed 131st and 10th in my age division. Meanwhile, Alex cracked the top 100, finishing 97th overall and third in his division. It was a great day for both of us.
Recovery began immediately with a spinach, mushroom, and cheese omelette. The next day I ran 4.5 super light miles. I plan to take an easy week as I return to my training routine. When I registered for the MB10K I figured it would be my final race of 2016 but my post race high has me in the mood to race again (and then again?) before the year is out.