IBM Uptown Classic Race Report

Posted: October 17, 2010 in Pace and Racing
Tags: , , , ,

Have you ever woken up and known that you were going to have a great day?  Not thinking you were or hoping you were, but really knowing.  Well Sunday was that kind of day for me.  I remember showing up to the starting line of the Pittsburgh Marathon in 2009 with a great deal of confidence.

I had gone through a great training cycle with a singular goal.  3:19:59 and an entry to the most storied Marathon in the world at Boston.  I remember showing up that morning to the starting area, mind you this was only my second marathon, but I knew that I had a Boston time in me.  I had done all the work, had a great race plan and all that was left was for me to go out and execute.

I remember running the final miles that day with time in the bank and a smile on my face.  I was crushing my goal time and would finish at 3:17:43.  Since that day in May 2009, I’ve never had that same race day feeling.  Sure I’ve run well in many of the races since.  I’ve even posted a few PR’s that I was proud of.  But I had never been able to recapture that feeling.

Until today.

I woke up 5 minutes before my alarm clock set for 5:00 a.m., three hours before the starter’s gun.  Instead of rolling over and grabbing those final 5 minutes of sleep, I bounced out of bed and couldn’t wait to get going.

I had laid out my race clothes the night before, the only real question was whether or not I would be running “topless” or with a lightweight singlet, so I decided to pin my bib number to my race shorts.  I made my way to the kitchen, ate a bagel smeared with Peter Pan Peanut Butter and drank a bottle of water.

After stretching on the family room floor, I loaded up the truck, said goodbye to Dawn and made my way over to the IBM campus.  To park close to the start I would have to arrive prior to 6:45 a.m. when the road closures would go into effect.  I got a great spot in the parking garage about one hour and fifteen minutes before race time and relaxed by reading the newspaper online and went over the race course for the seventh or eighth time.

At 7:00 a.m. I was in need of a porta-potty as I had just finished my second bottle of water.  There was already a buzz in the starting area as a lot of runners and volunteers were getting ready for the event.  I decided to leave my asics trainers on my feet to jog up to the starting area and then back to the truck after my pit stop to shake loose.

I said a few “hellos”, took care of business in one of the many porta-potties with no lines (Yay!) and jogged slowly back to change into my race flats.  Due to a pretty significant mileage reduction this week, only running 7, 8 and 2 miles on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday respectively – I felt like I was running on springs.  My legs had a lot of bounce and with the exception of a little bit of tightness in my left hamstring, I felt ….. Perfect.

Race Shoes

At 7:30 a.m. I made my way back to the starting area, took a few strides and ran a relaxed ½ mile warm-up.  Just about that time my friend Mick showed up and we got a chance to visit a bit in the starting area.  Mick was not running on Sunday, but was there to “root home” some of the members of his running group from Georgetown.

A few moments later a fellow runner Tom who had been following Dom’s battle with cancer here on Run for Dom came by to introduce himself.  We chatted a bit and before I knew it we were assembling for the Star Spangled Banner.

I decided to in fact discard my singlet, and Mick graciously took it from me for safe keeping during the race.  The temperature was right around 60 degrees with very little wind.  Perfect.

Dawn, Landry and our friends Sarah and Tedd were going to be at the race, but due to the layout and the nature of the large looping course, I was unsure if they would be able to get to the start/finish area or if they would be out somewhere along the 6.2 mile route.

I knew that the first turn on the course would be to the right, so I found myself in a great spot, just short of the starting line on the right hand side of the corral.  As the National Anthem began I began to have a hard time standing still.  I found myself shifting from left foot to right and back again, nervous energy was starting to build inside of me.

During the last refrain I looked up at a beautiful TX morning sky and thought of Dom. 

In a way that is hard to describe, I felt a calm come over me.  I stopped bouncing and calmly edged up to the start.  I turned on my iPod and kicked off a new Playlist that I put together specifically for this race.   I rubbed my hands together, gave one more nod to the sky and tucked in with the first 20 runners at the start.

There would be approximately 1,200 runners participating in the Uptown Classic 10K, another 1,800 runners participating in the fun run portion of the event.  There was a lot of great energy in the starting area, a lot of young high-school and college runners who would be looking to crush the IBM course.  We of course were looking to “go low”, a new PR was the goal coming in under 40:00.

The last thing I thought of before the gun was an exchange I had with my good friend Steve Spiers from Virginia Beach.  Steve who is an incredible athlete and courageous distance runner has had a truly amazing 2010.  He has been running faster and stronger than at almost any point in his life.  Steve’s message to me on Saturday night was:

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but I honestly think you’re in sub-39:00 shape, and that quite frankly is quite a conservative prediction. I’ve been guilty of selling myself short in the past, and have found that confidence is a wonderful thing. Some of my recent race first mile splits would have scared the life out of the old Steve, but now I just tend to go with the flow and attack the remainder of the race.”

I don’t know if it was the message itself, or the source of that message – but it really struck a chord with me.  I felt like I had a great race inside of me, I just needed to have the confidence to put it out there.  To have the courage to go all-in and see just what I was capable of doing with this gift from above.

Days like this don’t come along very often in life I thought to myself.  Time to go to work.

Just like that we were across the mat and out onto the course.  Although I had never run IBM before, I felt like I knew every twist and turn.  I would be able to manage the corners, knew what side of the road to choose and exactly where the difficult parts of the race would be found.  There would be no surprises for me on Sunday ahead.  No blind turns or doubt about where to go next.  I felt 100% locked in and ready to rock.

Mile 1:  I had planned on going out right around goal pace for the opening mile given the uphill nature of the course.  I quickly dismissed that strategy as I settled in at the top of the first straightaway.  The incline was not slowing my turnover at all.  A 6:26 pace first mile at goal pace would definitely be selling myself short as Steve put it.  I decided to simply let myself go a bit and clip of the first mile at a comfortably hard pace.

A handful of runners were passing me over the first mile, but all were of the “collegiate runner” variety.  It is tough when that happens to not get caught up in “racing” the other runners.  I knew that despite the fact I was losing “track position” I was running strong.  No need to change anything.

I glanced down at my GPS at the 1st mile marker.  5:56 pace over the opening mile.  About :10 seconds short of my opening pace during a 5K.  No need to panic, it was fast, but felt just about perfect. 

Mile 2:  I backed off the pace just a touch over mile number 2.  I knew that this mile as well as mile 3 was very “fair”.  Basically a net elevation change of zero.  This was the part of the course to zero in on pace and stay smooth, consistent and strong.

I decided to grab a splash of water at the water station and was able to grab the cup, pinch the top, take a nice cool sip and even toss the cup directly into one of the waste baskets.  At the beep mile 2 came in at 6:09 pace.  My race plan had called for a second mile of 6:15.  We were off to a great start.

Mile 3:  Little did I know that this was where Dawn, Landry and company had set-up shop.  I had tried to look through a few of the crowds to sneak a peak of them, but I was running with a great sense of purpose and focus.  I was gobbling up the ground pretty quickly, and with my iPod blasting Green Day away at me, I never heard their shouts of encouragement.

Mile 3 came in at 5:59 pace.  Half-way there, just needed to keep it together.

Entering mile 3 on Sunday

Mile 4:  I knew by studying the course on Friday that mile 4 would be the last “easy” mile of the day.  It was the last mile before the climb back uphill over mile 5.  I didn’t want to “go crazy” at this point, but I didn’t want to play it too safe either.

I decided to hold steady with my leg turnover and see how close we could come to our effort over mile 4.  At the beep my GPS showed a split of 6:03.  Four down, two miles to go.

Mile 5:  The climb began just past the water station.  I grabbed a cup, pinched, sipped, swallowed and pitched all in one motion.  I knew upon first driving the course on Friday that this was going to be where the race would come together for me …. or not.

The elevation change turned out to be 84 feet over mile 5 or a little bit more than an 8 story office building.  I was feeling strong heading up hill, but knew that my pace was slipping.  It was still too far from the finish to really put the hammer down, so I decided to rely on all of the hill-repeats we have been doing this summer and fall to keep our form together. 

Just stay smooth and consistent I thought to myself, we are going to give some time back to the clock, the question was only how much.

I glanced down at my watch as I hit the Mile 5 sign on the course, 6:33.  Only :07 seconds slower than goal pace.

Gotta love those hill repeats.

Mile 6:  The early portions of mile 6 served as a bit of a recovery mile from mile 5.  I was feeling pretty good actually when I noticed a runner that I had been “chasing” for some time slowing to the side of the course.

He had just said “Hi” to his wife and child in a stroller on the left of the course which grabbed my attention.  As he slowed to a walk, I came up on him and as I pulled even I realized that it was my friend Andy.

I clapped my hands together quickly and shouted to Andy, “Let’s go, let’s go, you’ve got this” …. Sure enough in the next 2/10 of a mile Andy pulled back alongside me and took his place back ahead.  Andy would finish :03 seconds ahead of me on Sunday. 

8 years my junior, I can live with that – I know he would have done exactly the same thing for me.

Mile 6 came in at 6:13 pace.  I had recovered well from the climb at mile 5, it was time to kick.

Final .20:  As we made the turn onto the final straight away I could see the finishing chute and race clock in the distance.  The clock was still reading time in the 37 minute + range, I was too far away to break the 38:00 minute mark, but I was still flying along at a strong pace.

About 100 Meters from the finish I couldn’t help but smile and spread my arms out wide.

I felt like an airplane coming in for a landing and just as the final 2/10 of a mile at Pittsburgh in 2009 was a celebration, so too was the closing stretch at IBM.

I was hoping to wrap this final portion of the race up in 1:20, but was able to close in 1:15 (5:20 pace).

It’s tough to know how much time the “airplane arms” cost us.  But it really didn’t matter at that point.  A new 10K PR by 3 minutes and 1 second.  Boom.

Official Race time – 38:06, finishing 49th out of approximately 1,200 runners, 5th in our age group.

IBM Marked the end point of our summer race season and the start to Austin Marathon training that starts on Monday morning.  We entered May with a 19:43 minute 5K PR which now sits at 18:12.  I had never raced at the 10K distance before, and now have a PR of less than 39:00 minutes.  Most importantly we leave October a much stronger, faster and more confident runner.

I look forward to enjoying this race today and tomorrow, then getting ready to get back to work on Tuesday from Connecticut as we take our first strides toward the starting line of the Austin Marathon.

One thing I know for sure is that we have more left to give.  I have yet to run my best marathon. 

There are no guarantees in marathoning, that race is a cruel, cruel distance that can test a runner like no other.  But the one thing I can guarantee is that we are going to give our all during this training cycle to toe the starting line with the same confidence in our race preparation as we did this morning.

February 20, 2011 – the 20th running of the Austin Marathon, Boom goes the dynamite.

  1. tbrush3 says:

    What a race Joe! A smart and hard race. Proud of you bud! Congrats on a great PR.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Thanks Trey! You told me awhile back you thought I had this in me – thanks for all the great support and confidence. Feels great to have this one in the book. On to Austin!

  2. steve says:

    Love it when a plan comes together. Huge congrats on a massive PR, Joe!

    Enjoy the moment,


  3. Allie says:

    Congrats, sounds like a great race and a great way to wrap up your summer running. Good luck in your marathon training, you’re going to do amazing!!

    • joerunfordom says:

      Hi Allie! Thanks so much for the visit and the message! Was really a great day out there, nice to have an “end” and a “beginning” with a training cycle. Really helps me compartmentalize things and always, “train with a purpose”.

      Take good care, best to you – J

  4. Jodi Higgins says:

    Outstanding Joe! Great race report. I felt like I was running right along side you (in my mind of course cause there is no way I could turn my legs off at the crazy, impressive speed!). Fantastic work today!

    • joerunfordom says:

      Hi Jodi! Congrats on YOUR PR today at Detroit. Can’t believe that you hit that goal time with a potty break – that is just tremendous. Must have had a good training plan and virtual coach 🙂

      Thanks again, was really a great day today – kicking off Austin Marathon training the right way this week for sure!

  5. David H. says:

    Congrats! I had a feeling you were going to have an awesome day today.

  6. Jodi Higgins says:

    I certainly did have a good training plan and a great virtual coach Joe! In fact, I just thanked you on my blog! As for the “potty break”. I guess I “pee” as fast as I run! LOL

    • joerunfordom says:

      No thanks needed Jodi! Was my pleasure to help you just a bit. You did a great job getting ready for Detroit. Just awesome. I have an amazingly long streak of not having to take a bathroom break at a race ….. hope that continues – I can’t imagine the stress of those seconds ticking away ….

  7. nyflygirl says:

    WOW-just wow!! Congrats on knocking your goal out of the ballpark!! You got plenty more PRs ahead of you and I’m sure you’ll be knocking some of those down en route to Austin! In the meantime, celebrate and enjoy this one! 🙂

    • joerunfordom says:

      Thanks for the “loan” last week as I was training in your neck of the woods – was a great way to start race week in Central Park. Great hearing from you – keep on crushing!

  8. William Webb says:

    Great job Joe! Congratulations!

  9. leslie says:

    Joe, Massive congratulations on smashing your PB!! Really well done! I tried to send you a message on Dailymile after you commented on my long run post on Saturday but it must have got lost in the ether somewhere! It basically went along the lines of “Joe, thanks for your comment, I know I don’t always comment on your Dailymile or blog posts (something I really will try to fix!), but I do follow your training carefully! I’ve watched how your training has progressed and your times have tumbled and have unashamedly copied some of your training into my own running. I just want to thank you for being such an inspiration and I can’t wait to follow your training for the Austin marathon” There was also a bit about how I knew you were going to smash up the IBM course but there’s no need for that now! Well done again buddy!

    • joerunfordom says:

      Leslie- so great to hear from you! Thanks for the message and the kind words.

      I’m firmly becoming a believer in the tempo work, mixed with hill repeats Leslie. I feel like the training is hard, but I still look forward to the workouts and the different muscles it works.

      We’ll see how it translates to the full marathon at Austin, but I’m feeling great!

      Best to you Sir!

  10. onelittlejill says:

    Joe, that is amazing!!! But I totally knew you were going to do great!

    At one point in my 5k Saturday, I was really struggling against the cold wind coming off the river and I started to slow down. But then I thought of Dom and his battle and how hard you were fighting to kick ass for him. At the very same time I was running, I knew you were out giving it your all so I pushed myself through the cold wind. With the recent passing of my friend Rick, I am reminded once again how lucky I am to be running at all. I am pretty sure Dom was with you during your race and pretty sure Rick stopped by at mine.

    Again, job well done Joe!!!

    • joerunfordom says:

      Jill- again I was so sorry to hear about Rick. I know I would have liked him tremendously had I known him.

      You did a great job pushing through when the going got tough out there. Congrats on a great race.

      Best to you from Newark, NJ this morning. Heading to Connecticut later today, looking forward to some Fall running this week!

  11. Andy B says:

    Joe, I really needed that pick me up. I hung in at my goal pace for the first four miles, but mile 5 killed me. Still kinda cranky with my race time, but I’m getting over it. I get another shot in two weeks at the Run for the Water. Congrats on the big PR. Enjoy that one.

    Good luck on your marathon training. Let me know if you want any company for a long run. I’m ramping up my training for Boston after the RftW. Just signed up for Boston today if you need a little bit of motivation : )

    Enjoy the rest day and back to the grind tomorrow.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Andy – ANYTIME my man. I know it wasn’t the race you were hoping for but you are a warrior for finishing strong.

      I am in fact going to do the Distance Challenge to keep the training interesting. See you at Run for the Water!

      Best to you and the family. Your son is getting BIG!

      • Andy B. says:

        Excellent! I’ll see you there. I’ve tweaked my goal for that race a bit. Watch out, it’s mighty hilly. I’m going to go run the course Sunday morning if you’re up for it.

        Graham is already wearing 2T stuff just because that’s all we can get his head through. He’ll be there at the 10-miler cheering on both Mommy & Daddy.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Andy – I will definitely have to take a look at that course, didn’t know it was a hilly monster …. Would love to hook up, but we have Landry’s Christening on Sunday — I think I’d be in BIG trouble with Dawn.

      Let’s plan on hooking up post race however – you thinking something around 6:40 pace for Run for the Water?

  12. GREAT JOB! I am a MUCH slower runner than you are but I did the race yesterday too and really enjoyed it. I took 4:26 off my PR on this race. Mile 5 was ROUGH. Way to go!

  13. When I saw your tweet on Sunday, I knew there was going to be an awesome race report coming our way! CONGRATULATIONS Joe! Your training and dedication have paid off. You earned this and I hope it feels gooooood!

  14. Amanda says:

    Awesome job Joe! Guess all those Hill Repeats were worth it!! Congratulations!

  15. Okay, I am going to ask them to open the fire lane for you at CRBR. You are going to be back in Austin before I cross the starting line!

    Work of art my friend.

    – Richard

    • joerunfordom says:

      Thank you Richard! Going to be a great, great day in April. Really looking forward to racing with you!

      Hope the fitment issues are improving and you are getting dialed in for the Charleston Marathon.

      Best to you! J

  16. Robert Ranzer says:

    wow Joe. You beat your PR by 3 minutes. I lose my breath just reading this. Way to go bud!

    • joerunfordom says:

      Ranz – thanks for the visit and thanks for the props! Truly 6:07 pace was beyond what I was really hoping for at IBM, but I think I’ve been a little too conservative – it’s really making me reconsider some of my goals for Austin in February.

      Maybe there is something to being “smarter” as we get older and how it can off-set some of the losses we have as we age … I’m not sure, but that was a heck of a race!

      Best to you Rob – hope those Phils get their act together.

  17. Bill says:

    awesome race and race report! i can’t remember my prediction after you ran your tune up 10k in 39:40 (think it was 39:00), but i know you blew it away! i’m really happy for you that you hit this extremely tough goal. i’ll be following your progress towards austin. it’s always inspiring!

    • joerunfordom says:

      Hi Bill! Thanks so much for the message and for the kind words – that race really came together wonderfully. I’m hoping that this weekend’s Run for The Water 10-miler follows suit, but the course is definitely a tough one. It is going to feel every bit of those 10 miles …. Best to you! Joe

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