I had agreed before the race to run with Alexis for at least the first 3 miles. She was determined to reach a goal she had set for herself and finish in 56:00 minutes, which would have meant maintaining a 9:03 minute pace or better for the whole 6.2 miles. This was our first 10K race, and her best ever 5K pace is 8:06, and that was set on a pretty flat course. So I volunteered to help her pace herself accordingly to reach her goal.
I don't generally run conservatively. My typical race strategy is to run about as hard as I can until I feel like dying, and then push on to the finish line, nearly collapsing at the end of every race. I'm really not all that fast, but I think that I can endure a fair amount of pain and discomfort. Alexis runs smarter than me, but she also runs slower. We've tried to run together at the beginning of races before, with the intended outcome being that I pace down a little enabling me to finish stronger, and she paces up a little helping her shave time. It hasn't worked yet. In a 5K race (3.1 miles) I just can't let myself start out at an 8:15 pace, there isn't enough distance to make that strategy work in my mind.
But yesterday I had dedicated my first 3 miles to her, deciding not to worry much about my own time. I was going to kick it up hard and see what kind of time I could pull out for myself, hoping that she would be in good shape to finish strong by herself. Finishing strong is one of her strengths as a racer.
As I said before, she had set a goal of 56:00 minutes for herself. Ambitious for someone's first ever 10K maybe, but we'd spent most of the last month training for this. Taking long runs (7-8 miles) with me pushing the kids in a stroller and trying to maintain a 10 minute pace. About a week ago we ran 11 miles at a 10:00 minute pace, so I knew that the distance wasn't going to be a problem for her, but our best training time had been about 57 minutes. She was worried.
I was not worried. I knew that not only could she make her goal of 56 minutes, she could be minutes faster. So we ran together. I decided at the beginning of the race that my goal for the day was to get her to run the 10K in 52 minutes. I knew that she could do it, maybe not without considerable pain. But we don't race to feel comfortable do we?
So we ran. The first mile in 8:25, comfortably within her goal pace, not mine but we were just getting warmed up. Half way in 26:30, we had blown her pace away, but that would mean a 53 minute finish at that pace and she was getting tired. So I pushed her. I encouraged her. I yelled at her. I told her she was not this slow. I pushed her harder. I ran backwards and made fun of her. And she ran faster.
We crossed the finish line at 51:13. I was happy, she was thrilled. Who is the best coach ever? Perhaps I have a future as a motivational speaker or something.
Also, the second half (5K) of the 10K yesterday was run in 24:43. Not only was that 1:47 faster than the first half of the race, it was 20 seconds faster than her fastest 5K time (25:03).
Next year she's going to run it in under 50 minutes.