Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Rubbin's Racin'

photo courtesy On The Run Events
A couple of weeks ago I ran the Emerald City 10K where, despite feeling undertrained and lazily dropping to a walk more times than I needed to, mainly out of boredom.. I somehow squeaked out a 1-minute PR.

I have always maintained that a good portion of racing is mental. I am not the sort of person who pushes myself super hard, and I’ll be the first to admit that I often get lazy during a race. I’ve never been particularly good at pacing myself, either. I usually just try to keep up with Wil.

There has been one notable exception to this, however. Last year, at the University of Charleston Half Marathon, I saw a woman cut the course by about two miles. When she came onto the course I was a few 100 yards behind her, with only 2 miles to go. But I started to focus on reeling her in, passing her, and then holding off any challenges. I ended up beater her by about 2 minutes – AND two miles. In the process I ran just over 2:15, a fast race for me.

The other exception, I suppose, was during the Emerald City 10K. Just after crossing the University Bridge I took a little breather with about 3K to go. A woman wearing a Tinker Bell Half Marathon top, who I had passed running up the bridge, passed me on the downhill. I looked at her pace, thought it looked nice and steady, and one I could just hold on to… so I started running about 5 feet behind her.

Here’s the part I wonder about. I essentially ran behind her for the next mile or so, letting her set the pace (and, I suppose, do the windbreaking work). Is that weird? Is that wrong? We didn’t speak. For all I know, she didn’t know I was there. I didn’t run next to her, I just followed her lead.

I know that elites have pacers in both long and short races. I also know that my half marathon PR came from a race where I ran with an official pace group for most of the race. But was it still, somehow wrong to draft off this unknown racer? As we got near Gas Works, I decided to leave nothing in the tank. My legs and lungs felt fine, it wasn’t crowded, so I took off, quickly leaving my pixie pacer behind. I halfway hoped she would pick up her pace, follow my lead, so that we could have raced to the finish line… but maybe she wasn’t feeling as (weirdly) competitive as I was.

I crossed the street and ran into the park at a full sprint, passing at least a dozen runners. Even when I got in the finish chute I kept sprinting, passing a few more folks. It was freakishly satisfying. The PR was just a bonus.

I asked a fast colleague of mine whether what I had done was wrong. He laughed, said, “Rubbin’s racin’” and then reminded me that it’s totally normal to trade leads. What do you think – should I have run next to my pixie pacer? Kept my distance? Does it make a difference that we were mid pack in a small, local 10K? Id love your thoughts.

Oh, and if by some miracle my pixie pacer ever sees this, I want to thank you, sincerely, for setting such a perfect pace. This PR’s for you! Well, above here.

1 comment:

skroman said...

I don't think it's wrong, but what do I know? I think I did this at the RnR San Diego for awhile.