This morning was the Sandy Classic 10K. Driving 90 miles each way just to run for half an hour is always a bit risky, but I was optimistic it would pay off for me. I knew that the Sandy Classic field tends not to be very deep, so it was a prime opportunity to grab a fist-full of LDR Circuit points. That, and money went three deep - $200, $150, $100. If I could pull out at least 3rd and/or beat all of the other LDR runners, it would be worth the drive.
Got up at 4:20AM, scarfed some oatmeal, and started the drive to Sandy. Arrived at 6:15, an hour before the race. It's a good thing I had extra time, because they had not received my registration and had no record of me. Fortunately, the volunteers worked with me and got me into the race.
Found Sasha and did a short warmup. Then put on my racing flats and did some strides. Legs were feeling decent, but I wouldn't really know the impact of the trail marathon I did 4 days ago until Mile 2 or so...
During warmup I was able to scope all of the competition. Most people were in the 5K, and only about 100-120 runners in the 10K. 1st place immediately looked very doubtful when I spotted Hobie Call. Also, Nick McCombs (former BYU runner) was in the field. I wasn't sure exactly how fast Nick was, just that he's a good runner, but Sasha seemed to think I could stay with him if I had a good day. I was eager to race against Nick, and even Hobie, to see how I stacked up against some runners I've heard a lot about but haven't really raced.
The 5K and 10K are the same loop course. The 10K runners do two loops. They started the 5K, and then the 10K started 10 minutes later (early of all things). Immediately, Hobie took it out hard; he had no intentions of running with anyone and we had no intentions of going out at that pace. I was in 2nd for the first half mile or so, and then Nick caught up to me and we started running together. First mile in 5:00, despite rolling hills and net uphill. That could be trouble later on; I think the Hobie vortex sucked us all out hard.
Nick and I stayed together for the second mile. I was feeling okay, but not great. The pace felt very hard, and I wasn't feeling up to running 4 more miles like that. There was some more uphill on Mile 2, and also a good downhill. I was surprised to see 5:03 for my split. 10:03 for 2 miles, no wonder it felt hard! At this point it felt safe to say I had recovered from the trail race.
After 2 miles, Nick separated from me and slowly put on a gap. I didn't have the initiative or inertia to go after him. Mile 3 was very rolling, with a series of short climbs and descents. In addition, we had caught the 5K runners, and not just the walkers and stragglers! We were weaving through and passing hordes of runners. My tangents were terrible, but I didn't want to get cut off by anyone. Nick, on the other hand, was shooting through people and running perfect tangents. Mile split was 5:16. Estimated 5K split was 15:52. My time goal on the course was to break 33:00, and I was on pace for sub-32:00...but I was pretty sure I couldn't duplicate my first half effort.
At the halfway point Nick was maybe 10-15 seconds ahead of me, and Hobie 20 seconds ahead of him. I could see Hobie once in while, but he was usually around the next curve. Based on crowd feedback, there wasn't anyone close behind me. At this point I knew that if I could run a solid second half, I would meet my goals by finishing Top 3 ($$$), and also I would be the top LDR point scorer, as Hobie and Nick are not in the Circuit.
Mile 4 was difficult due to the hills, but I worked through them and managed a 5:18. At this point, I was pretty happy to be under 5:20 pace.
Mile 5 had the downhill section, and I managed a 5:13. Nick was still slowly pulling away, and I wasn't feeling a miracle finish coming on. At this point, we were passing the slower 10K runners who were still on their first lap. Again, my tangents were nasty bad, and I couldn't seem to focus on running smart.
By Mile 6, I was feeling pretty gassed and unmotivated. Still running bad tangents. Mile split was 5:25. I kicked it in a bit to finish strong, then got a little confused about the finish chutes (5K on the right, 10K on the left), which cost me a few second. Averaged 5:03/mile pace for the last little bit, which was 0.35 miles, according to my Garmin. This would mean that I ran about 200m extra. The course was certified, and I think I can account for all of the extra distance due to bad tangents. It just goes to show how all of the corners add up.
My watch time was 33:05, but I think I might have stopped it late, so I'm saying 33:03 until I see official results. (update: official results say 33:01). That comes out to 5:12/mile (using my Garmin distance), which I'm pretty happy with. Hobie won with a time around 31:30 (amazing on that course). Nick was second with something like 32:25. Vance Twitchell (former USU XC/track runner) was 4th, slightly less than a minute behind me. Sasha was 5th, around 35:00.
I'm pretty happy with my physical performance today. It wasn't stellar, but was solid. I'd give it a "B+". What cost me, though, was my head. I didn't focus well enough to run good tangents, or to push myself really hard during the last mile. I'll give my head a "C".
The awards were informal, just people clustering around a table. The race director handed out hundred-dollar bills on the spot. Salt Lake City Marathon should take notes on this. I enjoyed the course layout. It was challenging, but not overbearing, and you could still find a good rhythm. What I didn't like was fighting against the crowds of 5K runners and lapped 10K runners...but whatever, it was fine.
Jogged around a bit for a cooldown, and then drove home. When I got home, I grabbed a brisk 4 miles on the Planet Walk to work the drive out of me and finish off my day. 6:34/mile average pace.
(1120: 23 miles)
Oh, one more note. It was inspiring talking to Hobie. The guy trains like an animal. He said he was doing 125 miles/week in preparation for Salt Lake City Marathon. The hard work is very evident, not just at Salt Lake, but also today on a course that required strength and speed. He is planning on running Top of Utah as his Olympic Trials Qualifer. Best of luck.
It's time for me to get my mileage back up in the 90's and to start doing some hard training myself. I think running this race and getting my butt kicked so bad by a guy who runs almost double the mileage I do was a good motivator for me. I've also been reading "Running with the Buffaloes" a book that chronicles the 1998 CU cross country season. The book is excellent so far, and also very motivational. Those guys gave it their all and trained like maniacs, all for the team. Nick, if you are reading this, you must read this book!