This was the 34th annual running of the Butte to Butte 10K road race in Eugene, and to the naive, it looked like a beautiful morning for it. Sunny and beautiful. Sunny and beautiful and hellishly hot for 8am. They had a huge turnout — 4300 people, I think they said, and it overwhelmed the line for the porta-potties, which shortly before the beginning of the race seemed to be stretching at least an eighth of a mile. I didn’t need the porta-potty, and everything else went smoothly enough pre-race, so that was OK. Well, it was also irksome that they started 10 or 15 minutes late.
You can see from the elevation profile that the race is pretty simple: straight up for a mile, straight down for a mile and a quarter, then basically flat. It’s a cruel way to start a race. The first three miles already suck since I warm up slowly; do I need this too? Ah well, the Western States 100 starts straight up a ski slope at Squaw Valley; stop yer whinin’.
The road was jam-packed for the first quarter-mile at least, and I walked the very steepest part right before the crest of the hill (a planned walk), so I’m happy enough to have come in at 10:01 for mile one. Turning north and sharply downhill on Fox Hollow Road (I went to Kindergarten at Fox Hollow Elementary nearby) I used my usual kamikaze downhill style to pick up some time. It worked, too: mile two came in at 7:06. There was still a lot of people-dodging going on, though, and somewhere on the hill I rolled my ankle on the edge of a sidewalk. “That’s not good,” I said out loud. It hurt for twenty more steps or so, then the pain went away, but I knew from past experience that it would be back in the hours and days after the race.
By the time we hit the flat, I was really getting fatigued. I glanced at my heart rate for the first time and noticed it was around 95% of my max — not something I could keep up for long. I made an effort to run easier.
The next four miles were a slog through South Eugene in the 70°F heat and full sun. Yeah, I know: 70 doesn’t sound hot. First, apply the 20 degree rule: when running, it feels about 20 degrees warmer out there than it is. Ninety degrees? Feels hot. Then add in the 10° or so my Zoloft seems to add to my internal thermostat, and see where that leaves me. I was carrying my own water, so at both aid stations I grabbed a cup of water and dumped the whole thing over my head. Miles three, four, and five labored by at 7:52, 8:28, and 8:38. (Mile three included a quarter-mile of the downhill, recall.)
Hot. Hot. Not having fun. Hot. That’s kind of the story of the rest of the race. I did manage to pick up the pace a bit for the jaunt through downtown during my 8:24 mile six, and I still had enough left, barely, to sprint the last 50 yards or so to the finish (thankfully, the last 50 yards or so were downhill). They didn’t have chip timing, but I was careful with my stopwatch, so I can confidently report that my tape-to-tape time was 52:28, an 8:26 average pace if you assume that I actually ran 10K, and not the 10.1K reported by my Garmin. Given the heat and the hills, I’m happy with the time. My official time is 54-something — it took a long long time to cross the start line.
I made my way to the nearest empty spot of shade, caught my breath, noted with relief that I was still alive and walking, and called my Mom on the cell phone to locate her and our friend J — who was also kind enough to provide the driving support for my race — in the crowd. I also called my friend M, who had carpooled with me to Eugene to visit a friend of his, and who had said he was going to be there to see me run. He didn’t pick up. Turns out he was there at the finish, but never saw me go by and didn’t hear his phone ring. Huh!
My ankle, as predicted, started to hurt pretty soon after. I’m confident it will heal in two or three days, though; I’ve had this happen before.