Dominican Army 10K – Ah, the first race of the season. I ended 2016 at the Army Ten Miler back in early October after 14 months of non-stop intensity. Having worked my way back into shape after taking two months off after Ironman Texas in 2015 and moving to Santo Domingo, I was mentally in need of a break. Now, almost three months later it was time for my first test of fitness.
When I say I took time off, I don’t mean to imply that I did not train at all for the eight weeks of my “off season” time. In fact, I still maintained almost ten hours of training per week, but none of it, save the Saturday morning suckfest riding the ODZ ride on Zwift, was at high intensity. I also limited my longer rides to no more than two hours. After a visit from some friends and my parents and two visits to the resort in Casa de Campo, I was ready to get back to work. My mind was clear, and my body was fresh. I immediately set out on a training pace that would lead to a bit of stupidity.
See, I had plans to travel to Santiago, Chile, with the wife to visit family and friends over Christmas and New Years. I knew that I would not be able to swim or bike for those two weeks, so I wanted to get in some good quality work before heading off on vacation. I probably got a little aggressive with my training plan, as I had not taken into account the hectic pace of work leading up to the holiday break. Apparently, high training volume and little sleep is a disastrous combination. I ended up overtaxing the system and got sick. My stupidity cost me about a week of lost time. Oh well, live and learn.
By the time I arrived in Chile, I was coming back around, so I was ready to get back at it. For the first week, I kept most runs fairly light, logging about 35 miles of lower heart rate work while testing out my new Stryd Power Meter. By the end of the week, my congestion had cleared up, the legs felt strong, and I had figured out, more or less, what power numbers correlated to perceived effort zones. Oh, it turns out that getting lots of sleep, both at night and naps during the day, is wildly helpful in recovering from being sick. Yeah, I slept for about 10 hours per day that first week. Copious amounts of Pisco Sours may have contributed to the improvement, as well (probably as a sleep inducer!). After a day off on 1 January, I was ready to start the new year with gusto. Six days later, I had clipped off over 110 kilometers for the week. Surprisingly, despite a little fatigue I had very little stiffness and felt great. Upon returning home, I couldn’t believe that I really did not have much fatigue. As soon as I got home on Monday afternoon after the overnight flight, I got right after it. A Zwift ride and run with one of my TeamODZ teammates got the week off started right. The next four days were a blur of work and training. While I viewed the 10K as a race where I wanted to do well, I was definitely training through it. In fact, the night before the race, I knocked out a 6-mile run to get a little more volume.
Race day morning came quickly. It was a coole morning by Dominican standards, about ten degrees cooler than the year before. After arriving at the race venue, I coordinated with the rest of my group to meet back up at the van 15 minutes before the race and set off to warm up on the course. I did three laps on the finishing circuit practicing the finishing hill to make sure I knew where I could hit the gas if I was with a group at the end. I was ready. The legs felt good, and I made my way to the start line.
Finally, the gun went off, and my season began. I knew that I would not be with the leaders at the end, but I did want to get out a little faster than planned pace to escape the throngs of runners that would blow up after the first kilometer. Immediately, the jostling began. I expected that, remembering it from last year, but I also figured it would be done by the first or second turn. It wasn’t. Throughout the first 800 meters, there was a good amount of bumping and pushing. Most of the strong runners moved around the group into an unspoken, yet clearly defined pecking order. The inexperienced dreamers did not quite understand the damage that the pace we were running would inflict, and they started to fight for positions well beyond where they should be. About 1 Km into the race, we hit the first of many uphill sections, and those who were lacking were shown to be so. I looked at my watch to see a sub-5:30 per mile pace and over 315 Watts. Way too much for this early in the race.
By this time, the field had sorted out. The eventual winners had started to move up the road, and the wannabes had begun their spectacular implosion that would soon turn to a death march to the finish line. I backed my pace down to a more sustainable sub-6:00 per mile and 275 Watts. It hurt a little, but I was pretty sure I could hold it. Over the next five kilometers some of the front runners faded, and I picked them off one by one. However, I soon found myself in a stasis where I was not pulling anyone else back, and nobody was gaining on me. I really only had one goal for the race, beating a friend of mine, and that was going well. Yes, I know that sounds bad, but it’s a friendly rivalry. After kilometer three, I steadily gained ground, eventually finishing a minute ahead of him.
The course is very technical in the second half with lots of turns and short hills. The turns proved useful, as I was able to constantly gauge my advantage over those behind me. Eventually, I gained enough ground that I made it through turns and disappeared through the next one before my pursuers could enter the first turn. Out of sight, out of mind. Once this began happening, I could feeel the chase ease off, as those behind me seemed more preoccupied with holding off their own chasers than catching me. I, likewise, soon began giving up the idea that I could pull back the two runners ahead of me who seemed to keep a 30-second advantage regardless of how hard or easy I went. I was in the dreaded no-man’s land.
I hate no-man’s land. I like racing. I like trying to break my opponents. My opponents were either too far ahead or too far back for me to have an effect unless I slowed just to race someone. That wasn’t going to happen. I won’t say that my motivation waned, but I will say that I didn’t have much incentive to dig deep into the depths of agony. I was already on pace for a solid time, and I was pretty sure that I was winning my age group. Finally, I made the decision to push the pace to try to keep my Watts as high as I could sustain and try to break 37 minutes. At least it gave me a target. As I crested the last hill, the finish line came into view, and I cruised the downhill into the finishing chute. I crossed the finish line in under 36:48 and felt good. I was a little tired from the effort, but I was not trashed. I grabbed a bottle of water, waited for a friend from work to cross the finish line, and took off on a cool-down run to cheer on the remaining runners from our group.
All in all, I was very satisfied with the race. While it wasn’t spectacular from a brilliant tactical execution, but I ran it as well as I could hope. Hell, it was a one minute improvement over the previous year, and I was a lot fresher at the end of the race. There was no fade. There was no death sprawl after clearing the finish line. I simply felt good.
After two more workouts on Saturday and a long ride and run on Sunday, my week ended. It was a tough one with a Training Stress Score of approximately 1100. For those of you who don’t know about the infamous TSS, that’s a pretty big week for someone who has a day job. While the race did not have a spectacular end to it, the Dominican Army 10K was a fantastic opening to the season and gives me high hopes for what is to come. Now, it’s time to go examine the data and continue the march toward Ironman St. Croix 70.3 on May 7. Before that, I have a number of Zwift events and the Punta Cana Half Marathon. Stay tuned for more from my training and racing world and maybe a little from my daily life and travels!