I did it again this year! My 2nd Trot. 10k. Almost 15 thousand people winding their way through downtown San Jose. It's quite a spectacle. And fun!
This year it was a cold morning by San Jose standards. 30 degrees when I got up around 4. It was in the upper 30s the prior year when I went to meet with the others from my employer who gathered for a photo op before the race. Cold does bad things to me, so I was bundled up like an Eskimo (and look pretty silly in the photo). I ran to my car to shed a lot of that just before the race began. This time, knowing ahead of time how frigid it would be, I decided to forgo the pre-race assembly (and photo op) and have my wife drop me off near the starting line a few minutes before the gun. Fortunately, the sky was clear and sunny, the air was still, and the layers I had on were just about right. Then bang! ...we were off.
There were over 4000 participants in the 10k segment of the race. It takes a while for all to get over the starting line, and as time passes the assemblage of runners stretches out like a big accordion with the hares out in front and the tortoises at the rear. I was in the middle, somewhere. The prior year I didn't know some of the tricks one needs to use to run effectively while keeping from wearing oneself out. First, one should not let exuberance or adrenaline make you hurry through your first miles. If you do (outrunning your usual pace), you'll beat yourself up and finish exhausted. Well, I did exactly that. Second, as the body of runners spreads out, you generally find yourself with like-speed runners around you. But as the crowd thinned into ranks like that, I would try to keep pace with a slightly faster set. That, too, wore me out. And thirdly, I'd thought we were to be given water just before the race (I was wrong) so I hadn't come well hydrated. The two water stations along the way helped, but not quite enough. So by the time I got to the finish line, I was really beat and very ready to quit!
This time, I avoided the enthusiasm- and adrenaline-based early push, and eased back my speed throughout to a more manageable rate. As the racers spread out, I'd find another runner just ahead of me who was doing a nice, easy pace and followed them for a while until I naturally started slowly pulling ahead. Than I'd find another, and do the same thing again. That relaxed me a lot, kept me from getting exhausted, and let me actually enjoy all of what was going on around me. I also brought an iPod with some of my favorite music, which helped to energize me. And this time I had a water belt with some Gatorade in its bottle. By the time I got to the finish line, I was hardly tired, and wondered if maybe I should have pushed harder! But I'm still learning how to do this "right."
I plodded across the finish line and sauntered over to the Diridon Station to wait for my wife to pick me up. On the way home I celebrated with a coffee and a biscotti at Starbucks. My overall start-to-finish time was a bit slower this year, but that was to be expected since I intentionally soft-pedaled a bit. But it was definitely a more enjoyable run because of that. And I'm not really in it as a race, but more as a way to support the community (after all, it's a fund raising event!). As that goes, it was a definite success. And you get to feel really good afterwards!