This afternoon I had my second race of the season, another 10km run before my triathlon races begin next month with an Olympic-distance race in Lindau am Bodensee. The race today took place in a pleasant town north of Heidelberg called Hemsbach. This was a smaller affair than the Sandhofen race I did last month, with only 224 people running the race rather than over 600, which made for a much less crowded experience as we ran five laps of a course through the Hemsbach Altstadt.
The race began just outside the Hemsbach Rathaus, pictured above in a photo taken in much better weather than we had for the race today (courtesy of Rudolf Stricker). I didn’t have my phone or camera with me today to take pictures, as I was at the race by myself and was nervous about leaving such things unattended while I ran (as it turned out, they had organized a ‘Taschendepot’, where I could leave my bag, but the weather would have made for miserable photos anyway). The day’s weather for the most part alternated between a downpour and light showers/cloud cover. I took the train up to Hemsbach and when I arrived at the race headquarters to pick up my start number, the skies opened up, sadly at the very moment that the youngest kids were running – as soaked and often miserable-looking children crossed the finish-line, parents ran with warm blankets and clothes in a concerted effort not to turn their children off running for the rest of their lives.
The rain backed off and then finally stopped before the start of the 10km-race at 15:45, but the damp made the purported 14 degrees Celsius feel a lot colder. One of the highlights of this race (in my humble opinion) was the presence of an oompah band dressed in shiny purple and green costumes that I think were supposed to imitate some sort of amphibious creature. As I was warming up before the race they started playing Sloop John B by the Beach Boys, which prominently features the lyrics (although they were not actually singing them) “I want to go home”….the thought, I’ll admit, had already crossed my mind before that point.
I didn’t expect a whole lot going into this race. Immediately on the heels of our trip to Ireland, KT, NP, and I set off to Venice this past Tuesday (more on this in another post coming soon) and didn’t get back until 10:00 p.m. last night. The trip was for work, with a day at the beginning for pleasure, and after two days of a conference and the trip home I was feeling pretty tired as I crawled into bed yesterday. In the end I slept really well last night, but with the cold and rain I wasn’t really sure how my body would react today as I stood on the start line (warmed up in my legs, but unable to feel my hands).
It turned out to be a pretty good race. That kind of temperature, while cold when standing around, was perfect for racing, and for the most part the rain held off. On the whole, this race, although small, was very well organized. One great thing was that they had a chip timing system that gave individual net-times over the start/finish-line and a very visible clock displaying the gross-time from the gun. The Burgermeister himself fired the gun to set us off. The course was pretty flat, with only a few hundred metres of light incline just after the start line.
I found it much easier to judge my time and pace in this race than in the last one, as I now have a Garmin GPS watch that gives me my splits and heart-rate (on this, more in another post soon). I didn’t start too fast according to my perceived effort and settled in behind a triathlete (easily judged by his gear) running about the same speed, but when I looked at my watch I realized that I was running about a 3:50/km pace. Going into the race, my plan was to run sub-43:00 and to keep an average pace of 4:15/km. However, as the 3:50 pace felt pretty reasonable a half-kilometer in, I decided that I’d see if I could give sub-40:00 a shot.
My first km-split was 3:49, the second 3:55 and I was feeling pretty good. The third and fourth kms were also at a good pace, both just a bit slower at 4:02. From that point I could have maintained that speed a bit longer, but was starting to work harder and wasn’t sure I could for the full 10km, so backed off a bit (it was around the 4km-mark that my heart-rate went above 175). Kms 5-7 were pretty evenly paced at 4:09, 4:09, 4:11. Kms 8-9 were a bit slower at 4:14 and 4:15, but it was through those splits that a downpour came with some pretty strong winds. I actually felt pretty good at the end (a lot better than in Sandhofen) and went back down to an avg. 4:03/km pace for the last km (or so).
Having kept track of my splits on my watch, I was pretty surprised to see the official clock still below 40:00 when I crossed the finish line. My official finishing time was 39:40 and I placed 33rd out of 224 (13th in my age category). But the momentary elation of thinking that I had somehow miscalculated and actually run under 40:00 was soon erased by the fact that my watch informed me the course was in fact only 9.75kms. This kind of variation from the 10km distance is pretty common in small races where the course begins and ends at the same place, whether that variation is below or above the official distance (I would, frankly, prefer over). So, I unfortunately, despite the official time, haven’t yet achieved a sub-40:00 10km-result. That said, this was still a really good run for me and shows me that I’m making a lot of progress in my new training programme with my coach Katja Schumacher. Based upon my watch, my full 10km pace would have been somewhere between 40:40 and 40:50, and I really felt like I had a lot left in my legs at the end. In any case this result is without doubt over 3 full minutes quicker than my race in Sandhofen and to run sub 41:00 gives me confidence that I can get below 40:00.
I was pretty wet when I finished the race and so, after a quick cool-down, I went straight to collect my things and get changed in a warm garage. As I left the garage to head down to the train station, the rain stopped, the clouds parted, and the sun actually came out! This made me feel instantly a lot warmer and left me with a very pleasant image of Hemsbach as the train pulled away from the station towards Heidelberg.