Today Katie and I set new 10k PRs at the Capitol 10k in Austin, the largest 10k in Texas. Katie and I drove up yesterday and had our pre-race dinner at Mother’s Cafe and Garden. Mother’s offers great vegetarian fare and most of their produce is grown there onsite. We ate there last year before the Cap 10k and we both PR’ed so we figured that we shouldn’t mess with what seemed to work! Katie had the vegetables ranchero and I had the BBQ tofu sandwich. We had dinner with an Italian IMD friend of mine and we all shared some chocolate cake at the end. Stuffed, we repaired back to our hotel (With 23,000+ runners we decided to avoid logistical uncertainties this year and booked a hotel near the race start/finish.) for an early night.
My morning began at 6 AM with a breakfast of 900 calories worth of granola, almond milk, avocado, and fresh fruit. I stretched a bit, listened to Texas rock n’ roll, and went over my race strategy: start strong, ease up a bit on the uphills, fly down the downhills, and finish strong. Last year I made great time on the downhill stretches by really striding it out. The only problem was that the long strides meant a heel-toe foot strike, which is not how one is supposed to run when barefoot (or in Vibram FiveFingers, as I run). This year I intended to bend my knees and take short, high-RPM strides with ball-of-the-foot strikes – the consensus “best practice” – on the downslopes. My “base” pace would be 4:38/km with 4:46 for the uphill kms and 4:24 on the long downhill kms. If I could stick to this plan, I would finish with a new PR of 45:37.
At 8 AM I went down to warm up a bit, which was a good idea. The weather was overcast and ~62 degrees F (16 C) and was expected to remain so throughout the race. A healthy dose of wind made it pretty chilly before the race for a shirtless runner like me. I knew that, once I was surrounded by 23,000+ runners and once I was running hard, I would warm up significantly.
The Cap 10k does an excellent job of lining up runners based on pace. At the very front are the elite runners, who must show proof of having finished races under pre-defined threshold times (38:00 for men, 41:00 for women). The next section is for timed runners under some other threshold, the section after that for timed runners under another threshold, etc. etc. until, at the very back, are untimed walkers. The end result is a much smoother start, even with 23,000+ participants. I was assigned to the first section after the elite runners; Katie was two sections back.
At 9:00 AM the starting gun went off. Five seconds later I was across the starting line and hurtling across the Congress Ave bridge toward the capitol. Last year I finished the first km in 4:38 with an average heart rate of 160 BPM. This year I was aiming for a more aggressive start, though, so, despite the gentle upslope (~5%), my goal was 4:29. I finished the first km in 4:16 with an average heart rate of 162 BPM – 13 seconds ahead of pace.
My goal for the 2nd km, which featured a much steeper slope up and around the capitol building, was 4:46 (Last year I did it in 4:37 at 172 BPM). However, the course had changed slightly since last year such that now there was a steep downslope section as well. I tried out my new short, rapid stride technique on the downhill section and it worked like a champ. I finished in 4:20 with an average heart rate of 175 – 39 seconds ahead of pace. If I could just run the rest of my race plan, I would accomplish my 2011 goal of running a 10k under 45 minutes.
The 3rd km started with a steep uphill segment but was followed by a good downhill stretch. Last year I completed it in 4:32 at 173 BPM but this year I wanted to stay on my base pace of 4:38. The downhills were really working for me, though, and I finished in 4:27 with an average heart rate of 177 – 50 seconds ahead of pace. My heart rate was high but I felt good.
The 4th km also seemed to have a downhill and then uphill segment so, again, I was shooting for base pace (Last year I completed it in 4:40 at 176 BPM.). However, due to the change in race course, this km had much more uphill than downhill and I finished it very slowly: 4:49 with an average heart rate of 180 – now only 39 seconds ahead of pace but still on track to beat the 45 minute barrier.
Last year I finished the 5th km in 4:46 (175 BPM) but this year was shooting for base pace. However, the gentle downward slope made this km easier than anticipated and I finished it in 4:22 with an average heart rate of 178. The first half of the race had taken me 22:14, a personal best. I was 59s ahead of last year’s run and 55s ahead of this year’s pace. My heart rate was high but the hardest part of the race was behind me and my form was holding up well.
The 6th and 7th kms were race makers for me last year, featuring long downhill slopes. Last year I finished them in 4:25 (177 BPM) and 4:24 (178 BPM) respectively and I was shooting for 4:24 for each of them this year. I finished the 6th in 4:22 with an average heart rate of 178 BPM and the 7th (despite a course change) in 4:24 with an average heart rate of 179 BPM – 57s ahead of pace.
The 8th km was quite flat and last year I finished it in 4:41 (176 BPM). This year, shooting for base pace, I came in at 4:37 with an average heart rate of 177 BPM. Last year the uphill of the 9th km killed me, slowing me to 4:51 (176 BPM). This year I resolved to stay below 4:46 and succeeded, finishing in 4:42 with an average heart rate of 177 BPM – 62s ahead of pace. Heading into the final km I felt pretty good and actually noted that this was the most lucid and clear-headed I recalled feeling at this point in any 10k race to date.
My goal for the final km was 650m in 3:00, kick it up for 260m in 60s, and then the final 90m in 14s. I hit the 650m mark at 2:58 (178 BPM) then the next 260m in 1:01 (182 BPM). I then kicked it all the way up but it took me 23s (186 BPM) to cross the finish line. According to my GPS that was 160m, not 90m, so who knows exactly where the discrepancy arose. Final time: 44:41, a new PR by more than a minute! I finished #563 of 10,165 timed runners (94th percentile), #494 of 5,147 male runners (90th percentile), and #87 of 734 male 30-34 runners (88th percentile).
I was pleased with this result. My heart rate spiked up quickly but it stayed in the appropriate range for the rest of the race so I think my body is figuring out how to maintain higher levels of performance longer. In previous races I have consistently shown an inability to keep up my pace in the second half of the race but not so today. Good progress!
Just as with my last 10k, there were no dry heaves at the end, so I think there is something to this big pre-race breakfast idea. After I finished, I ate, drank, stretched, and cheered on Katie as she came in, breaking her PR as well. We cleaned up, checked out of our hotel, and then met several Rice friends at Shady Grove for brunch. Katie had a garden burger while I opted for the tortilla-fried catfish – great recovery food! A local beer would have been perfect but we needed to head back on the road to Houston immediately so it wasn’t meant to be.
It was a very brief trip to Austin but we saw several friends and beat both of our 10k records – not a bad trip, all-in-all!