The Newton 10k is my local race. It starts barely a mile from my house and the course covers all the roads I train on. I’ve raced it every year since I found out about it 4 years ago, which was an accident. I went out for a Sunday morning run and the race had already finished. A year later, having forgotten about the race, I headed out for another Sunday morning run — earlier this time — and made it to the start line.
The 2012 edition had a bit of twist. It was part of the USATF New England Grand Prix series which meant that it was a target for all the fast guys and big clubs. I didn’t fully realized this until I showed up and saw hordes of runners from BAA and Somerville Roadrunners. My plan to run a good time, place in my age group as I’d done in past years and go home with a nice little something quickly evaporated.
My strategy for the race was the reverse of what I usually do: go out conservatively, work my way up to steady high heart rate and leave something in the tank for the last mile or two. That worked well. My early splits were slower than what I was used to (6:03, 6:05, 6:10) on a hilly course. I was working hard. It was getting hot. But I felt comfortable.
After a few miles of this, I was ready to bring my heart rate up from the low 170s to about 178. This hurt notably more. And my splits only came down a few seconds. But I was starting to pick up a runner or two. I kicked it hard coming into the finish to make sure I didn’t get pipped on the line like last year and to see if I could get a more accurate max heart rate value. That I did: 185 bpm. I paid for it, too; nearly pissed my shorts.
I ran 37:28. Not my fastest time, but perhaps my most consistent and comfortable Newton 10k.
I find that I can suffer a little…or I can suffer a lot. Speed is proportional to suffering, and it’s an exponential build. When I go my hardest, I get into a zone where I lose perception and control. My vision tunnels so I can only see a pinhole focus area. My memory evaporates and details of the effort are lost for days or weeks. Synapses misfire, my limbs and muscles disconnect from my nervous system. The pounding of blood in my ears washes out the normal range of sounds so all I can hear are dogs howling, police sirens and kids crying.
It gets a little harder each time to put myself into this zone. When I can get there…and come back from it, it is euphoria.