Here’s a race report from Tyler Andrews, who ran a spectacular 10,000m race at altitude just over a week ago and is on the line racing the Boston Marathon today.
I woke up at 6am for the “race” today. Race is in quotes because this is essentially a time-trial for me and I’m not even sure if anyone else will show up, other than the UIO university coach with a stop-watch, who has promised to come. He said he would bring a few guys, but I had no idea what to expect.
I got to watch the sun rise, which is always nice, though I was mildly disappointed to see clear skies, as I knew that meant it’d be hot, hot, hot, even by 9am. Around 7:30am, I headed over to the bus and made the now familiar drive down to Cumbaya in the eastern valley. I jogged from the Supermaxi to the track where I found Antonio and two college-aged kids who he said would be running with me.
We jogged a bit together and they said they wanted to run 5km at about 15’30-40. This was about what Jon and I had talked about running (15’30 was on the quicker end, but not crazy. Remember, this is 7700 feet above sea level still.). Either way, it seemed like I’d be running at least half of this “race” alone. I jogged about 5km total and stopped to do some drills. We gathered briefly and then we were sent on our way.
The goal of today’s run was to get in a very hard aerobic effort by running fast but keep it at altitude so I wouldn’t “feel” the run muscularly as much as running a hard 10k at sea level. We’d looked at tables provided by the NCAA for converting times run at altitude to sea level equivalence (generally used for athletes looking to hit a certain qualifying mark for Nationals or Regionals in college). For an altitude of 7700 ft, this gave about 2’00 of difference. So, thinking I was in about 29’30 shape, we figured about 31’30 would be a good goal.
It was nice running on a mondo track – something I haven’t done much of. Most of my workouts have been on roads or the dirt track in Quito. The track felt nice and springy and I felt light and fast, even wearing my marathon flats.
We started out running pretty consistently, 74.x per lap, and it felt pretty easy. We ran 3’06 and 3’06 for the first 2km (just under 5’00/mile pace) and I sat behind one kid who led. The second moved up at 2k to take the lead for about 200m but slowed down a lot. We ran that km in 3’12. I could feel we were slowing down more and told myself that if this km was slower than the last, I’d go around and try to run solo. It was. We ran 3’20, passing 4km in 12’44.
At that point, I picked up the pace a lot. I had been feeling super relaxed running the last 2km pretty slow, so I was not too surprised to find seemingly easy to run 72.x laps for the time being. I passed 5km in 15’46 (3’02 4th km) and was already thinking about running under 31’00 given how easy it felt to 72s. (As an aside – I think the other two finished around 16′, which is still quite good for 7700ft – 16’00 => 15’08 by NCAA).
I think I had some false confidence in the middle of the race as the next few km were very (probably too) quick, between 3’00 and 3’02 (4’50-55/mile), reaching 8km (5M) in 24’49. I was still feeling pretty good at 8km, and so I was surprised by how quickly I began to feel extremely bad about a lap later (~8400m). My breathing went crazy and I had to actively slow down to kind of catch my breath. I probably ran a lap of ~78s at that point and thought I was done. That km was the slowest of the day in 3’07 (9km 27’55.9).
At that point, I kind of just hoped for the best and kept running and ignoring the splits, hoping I would have something in the last 500m to make up some time. I accelerated with 500m to go and was rigging super hard but moving a lot faster. I felt like I was sprinting but only had the speed to close in about 1’25.x (68.0/400m). The last km was 3’04, so I must have run the penultimate 500m between 9-9.5k very slow (~1’39 or 3’18/km).
Still, it was just enough to sneak under 31’00 and a very hard effort, especially give the brutal last mile or so. I guess if this had been an 8km, I would have crushed it, but running under 3’03 pace so early was probably a mistake in a 10k at this altitude.
For what it’s worth, if I were still in the NCAA 30’59.3 would convert to 29’03.71. I’m not sure I really buy this. I think there’s a big difference (muscularly) between running at 3’06 pace and 2’55 pace that wouldn’t just magically appear by descending to sea level if you haven’t trained it. I think a better “conversion” would be to talk about how long you could maintain the pace you can run at altitude. Say, if you run 3’00/km for 5km at altitude, that would imply you could run 8km or 10km at 3’00 pace at sea level (or something, just making up numbers). I think it’s presumptuous to assume that someone can run a pace that muscularly hasn’t been run. I’d be interested to look at NCAA runners who use altitude conversions as qualifying marks and see how those translate to sea-level performances… It’s also just a bit intimidating to see numbers like that on paper! But anyways, not like it matters. I’m just having fun speculating.
So, what do I think this means? Well, it’s something better than I’ve been able to do in the past. That’s kind of my general bar for myself anyways, so it’s a good sign. Do I think I can run 29’03 if I just went down to sea level? No, not really. But I do think I could maintain 31’ 10k pace for much longer at sea level (30’59 pace for half marathon would be 1’05’22 which sounds about right).
What does it say looking ahead 10 days to the marathon? Not too much that I didn’t already know. I’m in good shape, as good if not better than I’ve ever been. But the marathon is a different beast than a 10k and while I may have lost 10 second by running too fast too early today, I could lose 10 minutes (or more!) by running too fast too early in the marathon.
The big thing is that the fitness is there. Now, it’s just a matter of getting to the start line healthy. I’ve got less than ten days. Time to take it easy, easy, easy…
Tyler will be wearing number bib #115 and rocking the STRIVE singlet. Be sure to cheer on the local kid and current world record holder for the treadmill half marathon! Check out his blog on a regular basis too.