Sunday, August 21, 2011

Race report: 2011 Dirty Sock 10K

Third time's the charm
Today's run (Babylon Village Classic - Dirty Sock 10K): 6.2 miles (net time 58:26)

Sometimes we anticipate a difficult race experience and hope that we're overestimating the challenge. We do everything we can to mitigate the pain and enhance our performance. That doesn't necessarily make the experience any easier, but in the end the pain is usually forgotten. Not entirely, but enough to make you decide to do it all again.

Today's Dirty Sock 10K was exactly like that for me. It was my third consecutive time running this race and for the third time I wondered, in the end, if I will ever do it again. The course is straightforward, an out-and-back 6.2 mile run, mostly on dirt trails. The heat and humidity determine the level of difficulty and the last mile (for me) is always the hardest part.

Team Emerging Runner arrived a little later than usual but I had plenty of time to collect my race bib, along with my race tee (an attractive faded blue this year) and the requisite pair of socks. When we walked into the registration area I saw a rock band on the stage and that made me and my daughter smile. It was a nice moment and we felt we were at an event. I caught up with Dave who was there with his wife and we all hung out until we were called to the line around 10 minutes before the start.

By now I recognize many people who compete in local races and it's a nicely familiar experience when we congregate behind the faster runners. The trails are wide, but with about 500 people at the start, the runners are pretty crammed together. Soon the horn sounded (oddly it sounded like a ship's whistle) and we moved en masse, somewhat slowly, until the crowd began to break up.

I ran the first mile in 8:46, which was good, considering my initial slow start due to congestion. I knew I couldn't sustain that pace and it was obvious that I was running with a faster crowd when they began to gain ground on me. My buddy Dave, who did very well today, had moved ahead and I soon lost sight of him. I tried to use the runners ahead of me as pacers but, by mile two, I began to feel like I was going to have some trouble getting through the entire distance at a competitive pace.

Dave (left) and me post race
Usually I see the winning runner coming back in the other direction around the 2.75 mile mark, but not today. I'd hoped that meant that I was running better than prior years, because that meant the eventual winner would still be circling the lake. Soon I was on the path around Belmont Lake and it felt hard. I was frustrated by the number of people who had passed me, but I knew I was leaving nothing on the course.

Psychologically, I was pleased by how quickly I lapped the lake and passing under the bridge meant that I had less than halfway to go. I continued to get passed and wondered whether I'd finish last. After the race Dave pointed out that we'd started somewhat close to the line so it made sense that faster runners would make their way past me. For the record, I finished where I usually do, right in the middle of the pack.

I did begin to pass some runners as I made my way between miles 4 and 5 and I took water every time it was offered. I also took sips from my hand bottle that was filled with electrolyte mix. Mile 5 finally came and I prepared for the worst and maintained the best pace that I could. Soon we were following the path along Southards Pond. When we turned right I knew we were about a kilometer from the end, perhaps the longest thousand meters I run every year.

Dave and I ran this course last weekend, so I was familiar with some of the features on this section of trail. When I saw the first foot bridge I knew I'd soon see the clearing and then the finish line. I came around the corner and gave my final push, crossing the line over a minute faster than last year. The race announcer even pronounced my last name correctly.

Team Emerging Runner was waiting for me at the finish line and I grabbed some water and drank the rest of my electrolyte mix. I saw Dave and his wife and found out that he finished about a minute and a half before me. He had told me that he planned to go faster than in 2010 and he was right!

Me with Beth and Paul, after the race
I found Paul, who I had met at the NHP 8K race, and his wife Beth. They both ran today's race and did well. Paul's very fast, he came in more than 10 minutes ahead of me. I mentioned to both Dave and Paul that I didn't think I was going to run Cow Harbor but I was overruled. The pain of today's run has faded to the point where I'm prepared to sign up for the race.

Well another Dirty Sock is on the books and I'm happy to have bettered my previous times. More importantly, I fought off fatigue and pain but I still maintained my targeted race pace. I guess I'd better get started on my Cow Harbor training. Preparation will be the key and I'll try not to think about the pain.


  1. It was great seeing you and your team at the race. My wife enjoyed meeting you and your family. Thanks for the great picture. Glad you are going to do the cow harbor.Every Wednesday night there is a training run on the actual course so you might want to check it out. There are different pace groups to accommodate everybody. Congrats on your new PR for this race. Tough course and weather today!

  2. Hey Paul - congrats to you on an excellent race. I'm thinking about your training advice and I agree that long slow distance is the key to building endurance. I heard about the Cow Harbor training runs but it's hard for me to get to Northport on a weekday night. I'll try to run the course at least once on a weekend morning before the race. I need to re-acquaint myself with the James Street hill!

  3. Congrats on your race, I ran my first 10K yesterday - I had mostly stuck with 5Ks up until this point - so I was a little nervous about what to expect, especially in the 2nd half of the race when 6.2 miles really starts to feel LONG. Anyway, I finished with exactly the time I wanted (43:13)and I was definitely feeling what you felt at the end thinking, "do I really want to do this again, EVER?"

    I think it's cool that no matter how fast you run a given race, no matter the age difference, and no matter how long you've been a runner, there are similar feelings we all share - I think that is what's great about running.

  4. Adam, well said. First congratulations on a most impressive 10K debut. I'm pleased to run that time for an 8K. 6.2 miles feels very different on a recreational run versus an all out effort in field of other runners. It's a great distance because it forces a balance between conservation and speed. I've had 10K's that seemed easy and other that seemed...endless.

    You're right about the experience transcending age and other factors. The paces may be different but the challenges are the same.


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