My 2023 Monument 10k Experience
One of the high moments so far this year was my amazing performance at the Shamrock Half Marathon (at least I felt it was amazing…despite a couple of hiccups).
As I mention in that post, it opened my eyes to the possibilities of what I might be capable of in my running journey. Speed and times that I had not achieved since high school felt more than within reach. However, as many pros and commentators often express,
“You still have to show up and do it.”Lots of people…many times
That was the next test…
Can I show up and do “the thing” every time?
Many runners reading this know that is easier said than done. When you toe the start, you never know what you are going to get in a race. Several factors like weather, course conditions, how the body feels, hydration strategy, and even so many “unknown” factors impact your race outcome.
This pretty much defined the story of my experience at the Monument Ave 10k on April 22. It’s not that it was a bad race, but I suffered from a massive amount of unknowns that I had very little preparedness for.
I wondered if maybe the high of Shamrock was playing into my mentality heading into this race. Was I thinking myself too big? Was I putting too much pressure on myself to perform? Was my goal too high?
The thing is, I tried to put those aside and for the most part, did.
I set my goals (my A, B, and C goals):
A: Sub 40:00 (6:26/mi): This would have been a PR and beyond my wildest dreams. We runners like nice round numbers and sub-40 is a mark that many non-elite athletes see as a great accomplishment. For me, it felt more than within my realm of abilities. Based on workouts I knew I had the capabilities on a good day to hit that mark.
B: Between 40:00-41:30: This would give me grace if something was off (okay, maybe like 1 thing), and I could drop to a more comfortably hard pace than the A goal. This felt achievable.
C: Between 41:30-44:00: This felt safest (as most any C goal should be). This was the most assured I felt about a 10k I knew because I had split this in my half marathon about a month or so ago in Shamrock.
The thing about these tiered goals is that they all feel achievable, even on our worst days. Though, sometimes, the very unexpected happens and all goals get thrown out the window. Sometimes you have to take the wins you never knew you needed. Sometimes you have to put life and where you are in life into perspective to see the greatness of what you achieved.
I often say we are at our worst when we try to compare ourselves to others. We are at our best when we reside within our own growth and abilities. I am my best at running when I put all the noise around me out and just run my race. I don’t try to push beyond what I know I can do, and my training is based on my abilities and the growth I hope to achieve.
This was my 8th Monument Ave 10k. The race runs down Monument Ave in Richmond, Va. Yes, the very same Monument Ave in Richmond, Va is the site of arguments over Confederate general statues. All of them have been taken down now, and more than once I’ve heard the jestful comment “Is it still Monument Ave?” Yes, the run had far fewer monuments, but that was a good thing. No longer did I have to run through symbols of our country’s racist past?
However, this is not why I write this article (though now that I think about it, maybe I should comment on how Confederate symbols have and continue to be used to oppress minority communities).
Now back to the race, I have loved this race since the first time I ran it back in 2008. Since then, I have run it 7 times (I missed some years with injuries, other commitments, and seasons of general apathy toward running). However, something has always brought me back to this race…well not just something, it’s the awesome atmosphere, spirit, and support I have always gotten from the River City.
I love the environment of this race. 6.2 miles where you are never alone. You always have someone cheering for you, whether it’s another runner, a band that is lining the course, or any number of spectators lining the entire course. You don’t get a quiet moment until you get back into your car to go home (which is something I love!).
It was a bit on the humid side when the race was kicking off, which made it feel warm. However, I had done some acclimation, and it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. I still got warm, but generally knew I was in an environment to just take the licks and see what I could do. I went through my normal workout progressions, getting in a couple of kilometers and some dynamic exercises and strides to get loose. I chatted with friends and other folks to loosen my mind and take my mind off of the thoughts that might derail me.
This run boasts over 15,000 runners, and doing an event like that takes the coordination of all of those runners. Sportsbackers (the race organizers for this race) break folks into waves based on abilities. The first dozen waves are the “seeded waves.” These are for people with a projected finish time of 63 minutes or less. They are seeded because Sportsbackers require you to submit a recent race result to verify your time. It is a somewhat appreciated endeavor to keep the front of the race clear. The rest of the waves are done based on predictive finishing times, but it is done more of an honor system than the seeded waves. I was in wave B, the second wave (predictive time between 40-43:59). The math checks out on that, most of the time I had run translate to that range, and though I had sub-40 ambitions you can’t force someone to respond to something you have never done. So Wave B it was, and I was happy with it. Tag on with someone else in the wave looking for the same time, and just shut down the brain and drop the splits I needed.
Now I have been talking (writing) long enough so I will make the race part of the recap quick…IT SUCKED. Now you probably want a bit more haha. While I love the course, the environment, and reconnecting with my Richmond-run community (where I reignited my run love), this was not my race. It fell apart pretty quickly. Right before mile 1, I began to feel pain in my quad, and at about the 2km point I stopped to try and stretch it out to see if that would help (it did not). I kept going in the race, trying to hold my ideal pace (actually I took a bit off and dropped to the 40-41 minute finishing range pace).
However, it kept hurting, and about the halfway point the humidity started to get to me, and about midway through mile 3 I did the one thing every runner knows is the death knell for a race…I walked (that is for people who have the intention of running the whole race, for run/walkers or walkers it is a part of their race plan). I walked about 30 meters (but kept moving) trying to massage my quad, but none of it worked. I would walk another time to try and loosen it up, and this is when another runner came up to me and encouraged me to get that work done! I had about 3km left (about 1.8 miles) and set the goal to run the rest of the race (not even worried about hitting my pace, keep it around 7/mi). The crowds in the closing miles made it worth it, and I felt like I finished strong (even while in pain).
I finished with a respectable 44:51
You may be thinking, “Wow that is an awesome time!!!” I know many aspire to times like this in the 10k, but for me, it wasn’t even my C goal, and there was part of me that be myself up for that. However, then I had a thought: When I got back into running seriously in 2019 my goals were very low. I just wanted to have fun, feel healthier, and find joy again. I didn’t want to necessarily beat my younger self (though I knew some times were within reach). I thought back to that time and reminded myself that if you told 2019 Andrew that he would run a sub 45 min 10k, and it would be a bad day I would have laughed.
It made me think that even in what we may tag as failures we can still hold our head high. I mean I still did the thing. I still ran 10k. I still got out there and did what I love to do best. As you know my favorite show right now is Ted Lasso, and in the first season, Ted encourages Sam to be a goldfish, namely don’t let failures stick with you, learn from them, grow from them, and forget about them. This was the reiterating moment of that lesson.
I allowed myself the car ride back to my in-law’s house to sulk (not as much sulk, but reflect). Yes, it was an injury (though I still haven’t tabbed it yet, maybe a small strain), but it was also the mental and emotional ideas I took into the race. It was the weather. It was my hydration and fueling that got upended with a dropped water cup at mile 3.
However, I am proud of my time. I am proud that on a personal bad day, I could still show my growth as a runner. I am proud of a coach that keeps me grounded and reminds me bad results are a part of the game and encourages me to find what I learned. I am proud of both my Richmond and Hampton Road running communities, that in knowing it wasn’t my best result still have seen how hard I’ve worked and given me kudos knowing I tried my hardest.
Things in our lives will blow up, but we remember where we have come from, what we have already accomplished, and the community around us that supports us even in our defeat. We pick up the pieces, sulk (read reflect) for a moment, and then like Ted Lasso says, “be a goldfish.” Let it float away, and move forward.
Was that a race?
In name yes, but it sure didn’t feel like it.
Was that a race?
No, it was a reminder that I am great, strong, and most importantly loved.