My first race in 2016, the Cardiff Kook Run 10K. Inclusive in the San Diego Track Club’s training program are 2 races, a 10K scheduled on Superbowl Sunday and a 15K held usually in late Feb/early Mar. Every year since I joined the program back in 2008, we participated in the Super Run 10K that started and finished at South Shores Park near Sea World. However, this year SDTC took part in a different race, the Cardiff Kook 10K, established in 2011 by two locals who ran this route for 15 years. Starting under the famous ‘Encinitas’ sign, it’s a straight out and back course along the coast highway with picturesque ocean views, passing by the Cardiff Kook statue.
This famous statue originally named as the “Magic Carpet Ride” has been criticized by many who do not think it represents the true essence of a surfer. Since 2007 when it was installed, it has taken on many different forms wearing various costumes and even has its own photo gallery website (and a Facebook page of course). After experiencing the race for the first time, I definitely prefer it over the one we’ve ran many times before because of the location and atmosphere: more scenic, zero turns except at the halfway point, and runners in costumes!
Race morning, I woke up with butterflies in my stomach, anxiety building up as this was my first race of the year and I wanted to perform to the best of my ability. After I reviewed last year’s result, I set a goal to beat my time of 48:51 (7:51/mi). My plan was to start with a pace around 7:40/mi for the first couple of miles, then accelerate to at least a 7:30 pace close to the halfway point. I know I can manage a 7:30 pace since I’ve been running faster paces and feeling strong during the track workouts. My bestfriend who I run with during the Saturday long runs lined up next to me and I knew her strength will push me even further to meet my goal.
Mile 1: We positioned ourselves near the start line since I wanted to avoid wasting energy swerving around other runners as I’ve done in prior races. We noticed a runner with an overly excited dog at the front of the pack zigzagging through a pack of runners. We just pointed out his reckless actions when not a minute later, we pass this guy with his dog looking apologetic and another runner (a much older dude) on the ground seemingly in pain. Poor man, I hope he recovered quickly and still able to finish the race. My watch beeped to indicate 1 mile complete, split time 7:27. Yikes too fast, but the pace was effortless, and maybe I underestimated myself a bit. My plan for mile 2 was to try to slow down but run mostly by feel.
Mile 2: It’s difficult to slow down when running downhill so plan was averted and I focused on running with a relaxed form, using the decline to my advantage. The guy with the dog passed us but this time he stayed towards the sidelines where there were less people. Split time 7:12
Mile 3: Another decline. I slowed down to a walk at the water station and quickly downed a cup of water. I’ve never mastered the skill of running and drinking at the same time. I usually either choke or spill most of the water on myself. Several seconds of stopping to drink is more beneficial than feeling horrible later due to dehydration. Around this time, we started to see the elite runners on their way back to the finish. I admired their fluidity of maintaining a fast pace and channeled their energy to take me to the next mile. Split time 7:20
Mile 4: We are past the halfway point and heading back to the finish line. I shifted my focus towards the runners donned in costumes, Elvis’s and Superheroes (and a caveman, but we saw him after the race). One was in a full suit Captain America pushing a stroller! Slight fatigue was setting in with only 2 more miles to go. Split time 7:23
Mile 5: The most difficult mile of the race. It was a gradual incline for the entire mile with a total elevation gain of only 72ft. I know not intimidating at all but when your body is tired, it feels like a struggle. This is when my mental strategy kicked in, reciting mantras in my head “Strong legs, Strong core, Strong arms”. I concentrated swinging my arms at a faster rate to enforce my legs to follow. Split time 7:46
Mile 6.2: Final mile! I looked ahead to see who was in front of me and picked at least one person to chase. Once the Encinitas sign was more apparent, I knew in several minutes it would be over. A burst of energy surged within me and I powered through the final 400m to the FINISH. Split time 7:16
Finish time: 45:59 (7:24/mi)
I was ecstatic to see this result as it was beyond my expectations. I beat my time from last year nearly 3 minutes although I will admit the Super Run 10K is a more difficult course and only 50 seconds away from my PR (I ran a 45:09 back in 2009). Inching closer to meet my PR goals for the year.
Share your race strategies. Better to run by planned pace or run by feel?