On Sunday I ran the Broad Street 10 Mile race in Philadelphia. After how well my 10k on the track went a couple of weeks ago, my expectations were high for this one. I haven’t run this race since 2003, but I’ve been down here to spectate the hubs twice in the past four years, both times while pregnant.
I knew this can be a fast race if you get good weather and good competition. Some years Broad Street attracts an incredibly fast field, while other years I could win handily. I had no idea who would show up this year, but I did have a sense I was ready to compete. Based on my workouts and how the track 10k went and felt, I thought 58:20 was a good goal and if it was a perfect day, 58:00 was not out of the question.
The weather was not the worst it could be; rainy and cool the whole time with temps right around 48-50 degrees. During my warm-up it rained the hardest, I think. I was soaked and my hands were a bit chilled, but I put my uniform on and then threw on a throw-away long sleeve t-shirt and a garbage bag. I kept the shirt and garbage bag on until what I thought was the last minute. They ended up starting us a few minutes late, so we stood around in the rain longer than I expected. And it was just enough time to start getting a little cold. Blargh.
When the gun went off, I made it a point not to go out as fast I did thirteen years ago, when I went out like a bat out of hell with a 5:34 first mile. I ran really controlled and within a half-mile grouped up with my friend Alex Bernardi, her running club teammate, Veronica Jackson, and Alex Cadicamo. We went through the mile in 5:46 and it felt like we were jogging.
I felt good about the effort I put out for the first mile, in that I knew I had a lot of room to pick it up later in the race if I just maintained what I ran for that first mile over the next five to six miles. I envisioned holding 5:50s for the first three-quarters of the race and then hopefully ratcheting it down to 5:40s at the end. Maybe I could even drop a final mile in the 5:30s, just like I did in the track 10k.
I tried to ignore that I felt a little stiff during the first mile and chalked it up to the rain and cold. It helped that I felt a little looser over the next mile or two. I sat in our little pack and appreciated that we were running an even effort. Somewhere around mile four, I noticed some heaviness creeping back into my legs, but, I felt very comfortable aerobically, my breathing nice and relaxed.
Just past five miles, Alex B pulled ahead a bit and then our little pack started to string out. I fell back or at least didn’t pick it up like everyone else had. I told myself not to fall asleep just because I lost the pack. It was at this point that we were running by City Hall and making all the turns around it, the only turns on the course. I split a 6:03 here and instantly thought oh crap, get it together woman! From the splits the hubs sent me from the three years he has run this, I knew this would probably be the slowest mile, but it still bothered me. I tried to reengage the best I could, managed to catch back up to Alex C and we ran together over the next mile before she got away from me a little bit. I could also see Veronica up ahead and that Alex B was having a great race as she pulled further and further ahead of us.
I had a GU in my pocket I brought along just in case and decided to take it at mile six and I really think it helped. I reeled Alex C in and then eventually passed her. I caught up to another gal, the woman who eventually finished just ahead of me, Tea’s GTC teammate, Kerry Allen. I told myself to focus on holding 5:50s until I got to eight and then try as hard as I could to speed up. I got to eight and actually felt better than I had the previous few miles, so picked it up a little. I passed Kerry and was quickly closing in on Veronica.
I hit nine at just over 53:00 and had some motivation to pick it up more because if I could just run a 5:40ish last mile I could at least tie the time I ran here back in ‘03, 58:43. So I picked it up some more and just kept trying to turn my legs over. Kerry passed me back and I could never close the gap on Veronica. Crossed the line in 59:01. I was bummed to see I only ran a 5:51 last mile. I thought for sure it would be under 5:50. I felt so deflated when I crossed the line; I didn’t hit my goal time, and I barely missed breaking 59. I think I would have felt ten-times better if I could have managed to run just two seconds faster.
As I walked back to the tents to find my husband and get my bag, I realized that I felt pretty darn good, like I had just done a tempo workout and not a race. For whatever reason, my body did not want to run faster than 5:50s. It’s frustrating because I know I have it in me to run faster than 59:01 for ten miles. Maybe I struggled because I’ve run three races over the past two weeks or maybe I can chalk it up to good old womanly hormones. If I ran this same race in a week or two from now, there is a strong possibility I would feel much better with peppier legs.
But hey, whaddyagonnnado? I’m trying not to be greedy because 5:54 average for ten miles is still decent and if a so-so day is 5:50-something, then perhaps that means a great day will be 5:40-something in the near future. I am heartened by this sentiment from Des Linden in Salty’s US Half Champs recap: “For her, a bad day doesn’t mean she didn’t put in the work or that she’s lost fitness, just that her work will pay off later.”
On that note, I try to find positives in all my races, regardless of how they go, and focus on those. This is something that age has taught me, to appreciate the good in every performance. It’s not worth dwelling on what went wrong because not every race can be perfect. So, my positive take-aways from the race are these:
1. While I did not run as fast I had hoped, I still ran a pretty decent time, for me. And I didn’t go backwards throughout the race. I held onto consistent 5:55s-ish.
2. I got to run the first half of the race with a some familiar faces, including my pal Alex, which was a nice treat. Plus, she had an awesome race!
3. While my mom initially made me feel kind of bad by pointing out I was the oldest one in the top ten, I pointed out to myself that it’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’m still holding my own with the younger runners.
4. I didn’t mentally throw in the towel when it was clear my legs weren’t having the fastest day. I’m glad I kept my head in it and kept the negative thoughts to a minimum during the race.
Poppy’s 2016 Broad Street 10 Mile Splits
5:46 (very downhill mile), 5:51, 5:52, 5:57, 5:49, 6:03 (oy!), 5:55, 5:58, 5:52, 5:51
Have you ever felt like you just couldn’t go in a race? How do you handle race day disappointment?