One of the awesome things I realized about a virtual race is that if you're having an off day, it's ok! You can have a do-over and try the race again later. I was going to do the race as my long run last weekend - it was a cutback week, so just 8 - 9 miles; add a mile warm-up and cool-down to the race distance and it'd be perfect.
But I didn't just want to get in the distance, I was hoping to use the opportunity to practice pacing at my half marathon goal pace, and beat my 10k PR. My first attempt was just a ridiculously off day. My legs felt so sluggish; I simply could not get them to move at a reasonable pace. I slogged through the distance, but wanted to do something better - both as a point of pride to submit something better for the race, and the practice of holding my goal pace.
I gave myself a couple days to recover, and headed out for my race on my dinner break from work on Tuesday. This afternoon/early evening time is a peak energy time for me, and I think the effect of drinking caffeine throughout the day on a workday is probably helpful too!
There are two main directions to run in from my work; one is rather hilly (which I've been trying to do more often, for the training benefits), the other is relatively flat, so I picked that one for the race! Basically an out-and-back, with a little extra loop around the block to start out with to get the total mileage. (Yes, I know technically a 10k is a smidge over 6.2 miles. I care more about getting "even" (multiples of 0.05) mile distances than being that accurate.)
I headed out way too fast in the first mile; this felt like a hard pace to maintain - I kept dropping to around 10:00 (5k pace) or slowing down to 12:00 (long run/easy-ish pace). Staying in this middle pace, not that fast but not too slow, was more challenging than I'd expect.
Next couples miles were right on, and felt pretty good - challenging, but not dying. I saw some of the peacocks out. After turning around, it started feeling more challenging. By the end I was definitely wishing for it to be done. Finished in 1:10:26 (11:21 pace), beating my official 10k PR by the tiniest smidge under 5 minutes! That 10k PR was just last summer - and I'm pretty sure the effort level was similar, if not a bit harder, than what I did for this run. I've definitely done more training, rather than mere running, since then, and it seems to be paying off.
I'm glad I took the opportunity to practice goal pace. It was doable, though I'm also doubting whether I can truly hold this for twice the distance. I think I need to do at least one more tempo run longer than my typical 4 miles, to work on sustaining the pace. Perhaps I need another interim step for the half marathon, hitting 2:40-ish before working all the way down to 2:30? I think this establishes that I should definitely be more conservative in the first half of the race, to avoid blowing up, but it might be possible. This practice made me both more sure and more nervous about it.