I’ve Been Doubled

Start of the San Jose Double Race
(Ujena Fit Club photo)

The Double Race series sounds like a neat idea. It’s a series of races consisting of a 10k race and then a “half-time” before an 5k race, which starts an hour and forty-five minutes after the 10k start. This half-time sounds like a nice break, but it’s basically a way to rest up so you can really punish your body over the last 5k in a way that can’t be duplicated with a simple 15k.

At least that was my take on things last Saturday in the San Jose Double Race held last Saturday. I’ve down this event before, in early 2014 when I was in a lot better shape than I am now. The first time around, I thought I held back a little too much over the initial 10k to rest up for the 5k, and cost some time pacing myself that way. This time around, I decided to push the 10k about as fast as I could go, rest up, and gut out the 5k. So in the 10k with the field spreading out quickly and running mostly by myself the whole way, I came through in 39:30 feeling pretty spent.

Trudging off to the porta-potties after the 10k, a race official took one look at my weary face and cheered, “You’re two-thirds of the way done!”.

“Yeah, right,” I groaned.

As for my secret recovery plan to show up for the 5k fresh as a daisy, I didn’t have one. Trying to do a little cool down in the parking lot fifteen minutes after crossing the finish line, I could barely lift my knees. After some stretching and working my legs over with a foam roller, I got to the point where could amble around the parking somewhat resembling a run. With twenty minutes to go, I figured I was just going to go on guts and hopefully the rush of the race would provide energy from somewhere. Sometimes in running when you have no idea where you’ll find to the necessary strength, you simply need to have faith you’ll find it in the moment. Besides, if I didn’t feel so good at this point, probably everyone else felt the same way.

Yours truly hanging on for dear life
(Ujena Fit Club photo)

The gun goes off for the 5k and I just go, breathing like a steam locomotive and just trying to hang on with with the pack ahead of me which is steadily leaving me behind. Any hope of finding a rhythm was quickly abandoned. Struggling up the hilly middle section of the 5k course, hearing the sound of heavy breathing behind me indicated I was in danger of losing a valuable place. Somehow, I found another gear on the downhill to pull away and just plowed my way to the finish with very little in the tank, crossing the line in 19:44. Not as fast as I was hoping for, but I ran hard.

Every race is a learning experience. I learned the Double Race is really tiring. I also learned that while my fitness was lacking from where I wanted it to be, I felt pretty good about my effort. Forgive the cliche’ but as long as you keep giving a consistently hard effort, good things eventually happen. Next race up is the Folsom Blue Breakout Half-Marathon on October 18th. It’s time to go to work to prepare for it, but looks like I’ll be up to the task.

Let’s Run Two? Tackling The Double Road Race in San Jose

Baseball great Ernie Banks was well known for saying “Let’s Play Two!” as part of his infectious enthusiasm and love for the game of baseball.  The Double Race series, a brainchild of legendary Runner’s World founder Bob Anderson channels Ernie Banks’s zest for baseball into the road running arena. It involves a 10k run and then a second 5k run the same morning, the two starting times separated by an hour and forty five minutes.  Now what do you suppose Ernie Banks would think about The Double Race?

Before you answer that, I should tell you that odds enough, I actually ran a 10k race with Ernie Banks back when I was a high school freshman.   Banks retired from baseball 10 years earlier and was there to support the charity putting on the 10k fundraiser.   Ernie Bank fleetness on the baseball field had clearly left him by that time, as he slowly lumbered from the starting line after the starting gun went off.  At the finish, Ernie Banks was nowhere to be found, suggesting that when it came to running at age 50, Banks was in no mood to “just run one”.

Chicago Cub Baseball Legend Ernie Banks

I was set to “run two” as I lined up last Saturday morning for the 10k to start at The Double Race event in San Jose.  Never having run this type of event before, I was like a lot of runners, totally unfamiliar with this novel concept and guessing how to best to pace myself.  Should I run the 10k as hard as possible and try to survive the 5k?  Or hold back in the 10k and lose some time on those running it hard, but make up for it in the 5k?    I settled on a strategy of trying to make the first 10k as boring as possible. That meant no big moves or accelerations, very little racing, and to just go out and hold a consistent pace around my estimated anaerobic threshold to keep my legs from getting too worn down and saturated with lactic acid.

The good news is that’s basically what I did.  The  10k course consisted of two 5k loops around a South San Jose industrial park and I hit the first three miles in 6:15 pace coming through the first 5k around 19:15.  The hill on the second mile of the loop course got to me the second time around, and I slowed to something around a 6:40 mile on mile five.  Recovering on the downhill to the finish, I caught a couple people who were huffing and puffing like steam engines, suggesting my even pacing strategy was paying off.  One of those I passed looked like he was a fellow member of one of the old guy age divisions, so I started pushing a little to put some extra distance between us. Coming through the 10k finish in 38:55 was not as fast as I was hoping for, but it was still good for 13th overall at that point.   I was feeling pretty good about how I set myself up for the 5k in a little over an hour.

My GPS watch after the 10k
(GPS watches are known to measure about 2% short)

The Double Race had a Recovery Zone which, in addition to water, fruit and other snacks, was full of massage therapists and physical therapists with various gadgets and do-dads eagerly waiting to knead, compress, and manipulate tired running muscles to get ready for the 5k.  Having other ideas, I grabbed a bottle of water and a banana and got myself out of there.  As good as a massage sounded at the time, it’s not something I normally do to recover, and this didn’t seem like a good time to experiment with recovery aids.  I just kept walking, hydrating myself, stretching and jogging around for the next hour finding way to keep loose, burn off lactic acid and kill time.  Surprisingly, I was feeling pretty good as the 5k start rolled around.

With 10 minutes to go, I started grooving to the Creedence Clearwater Revival songs the band was playing while getting ready mentally ready for the 5k  lactic acid extravaganza. The  increased tension in the air throughout the starting line for the 5k compared to the 10k was palpable, and as the horn sounded releasing the field for the final 5k, everyone charged off the line.   I was gasping for breath trying to hold a six minute mile pace. Virtually all of my training over the past few months, geared towards a half-marathon, had been at a slower pace, so I just tried to hang on and keep the legs moving kept this up until the hill at mile 2 when I really started dragging.

Getting over the hill and pushing hard downhill to the finish, I tried to pull away from this younger looking guy and thought I had him, until he put on this incredible finish over the last 100 meters and crossed the finish line just in front of me, where he promptly collapsed to the ground in exhaustion.  Give the man credit, I worked the last mile hard trying to pull away from him but he just refused to be beaten.  With a 19:08 5k, I again finished 13th overall in the 5k, and the combined time 58:04 was good for 13th overall out of 233 finishers, 1st in the Men’s 45-49 division, and 3rd Men’s Master (over 40).  Afterwards, I did go to the recovery zone and got a really good stretch and even a chiropractic adjustment.  I felt so good, I was almost ready to run a third race after that.  I said almost.

As for The Double Run concept, I liked the change of pace from one continuous long run and the additional pacing and racing strategy and preparation involved with it’s broken into two races.  A sense of familiarity arose between us as we all soldiered through the 10k, recovery and 5k that doesn’t happen with a standard race.   Let’s Run Two?  Why not!

Runners in the Recovery Zone