Saturday, March 12, 2011

Silver Comet 10K 3/12/11 (Race Report)

On March 12, 2011, I ran the Silver Comet 10K with a finish time of 50:17. 

The Silver Comet 10K, a popular local event sponsored by Get Fit Atlanta, features the Silver Comet Trail, a Rails-To-Trails project success that has become one of the most prominent fitness attractions in the metro Atlanta area.  This 10K race disperses the runners over 1.5 miles of closed city roads before turning onto the narrow asphalt path of the Silver Comet Trail for the duration of the route.

I normally run only a handful of 10K races each year, because I prefer the longer races that allow me to warm up and ease into a comfortable pace.  All my 10K races in my adult running life, however, have consisted of hilly routes where my speed varies and gradually decreases from one incline to another.  When a couple of friends brought the Silver Comet 10K to my attention, I could not resist the opportunity to test my mettle on a flatter course that demanded a constant fast pace.  My previous 10K record, a 51:36 from the 2008 Peachtree Road Race, taunted me and, when a friend asked me to call out my Silver Comet 10K time goal on Facebook a few days ago, I arbitrarily announced that I would run a sub-50-minute race this weekend.  Immediately after announcing my goal, however, I remembered that my faster 2008 10K times were from days gone by, before I had started exhausting my legs on brutal trail ultramarathons, and I realized that I no longer had the shorter speed fitness necessary for a sub-50-minute 10K time.  Just the same, I woke up on the morning of this 10K with my game face on and I was confident that a new record awaited.

The first mile and half of the course consisted of rolling hills that warmed me up quickly.  I settled into an 8:12 pace on the wide roads and found the speed to my liking.  Since I am a Georgia Tech graduate who takes pride in my attention to detail, I am ashamed to say that my biggest mistake of this 10K was a simple pace calculation error.  I decided, without much thought, that I would be well on track for a sub-50 finish time as long as I maintained an average pace of roughly 8:10.

Early in the race, I had spotted a woman running 20 feet ahead of me at a constant pace and, after ascertaining that she was aiming for a similar finish time, I decided to keep her in sight and use her as a rabbit.  Once we turned onto the Silver Comet Trail and began our long trek on the straight asphalt path that seemed to continue indefinitely into the horizon, I increased my pace as the woman ran faster.

When I saw my average pace go into faster territory at 8:03, I decided to run steadily at this pace to ensure a comfortable degree of freedom with the finish time that I was aiming for.  Without realizing that the 8:03 minute-per-mile pace was the minimum speed necessary to achieve a sub-50 finish, I stayed the course with this average pace with the assumption that I could slightly relax in the fifth mile if I needed to.

Despite my preference for the relaxed pacing opportunities of ultramarathons, I was thoroughly enjoying the novelty of moving along at just over an 8:00 pace.  The long straightaways of the Silver Comet Trail that had intimidated me in the past appeared before me and disappeared behind me in a way that I have not experienced before and this new feeling was a good one.  I soon decided that the 10K distance did not need to be a nemesis.

Fortunately, I did not need to relax my pace in the fifth mile and I made it into the final mile without slowing down.  The Silver Comet Trail appears flat to the eye, but actually progresses in a gradual downward slope as one runs to the south terminus.  Fatigue did not hamper me until the final mile and it was no surprise when I saw the elevation chart later in the day and noticed the gradual incline of that last section.  I sped along as my average pace increased from 8:03 to 8:02 and, finally, to 8:01, but then allowed myself to relax to a more tolerable 8:03 during the final mile when I felt myself start to unravel.

Speedwork has never been a serious part of my training routine and I felt the lack thereof as I choked in the last half mile of this race.  After passing the woman that I was using as a rabbit, I did not have the fortitude to catch her again as she passed me in turn during the final stretch to the finish line.  My disappointment must have showed on my face as I made the final turn to the finish and saw the clock read 50:00 as I approached.

The last 50 feet of this race unfolded like the longest church sermon in history as I watched the seconds add up on the clock in dismay of my inability to reach the finish line faster.  I ran across the finish and shook my head as I turned off my Garmin watch at 50:23.  My official finish time would later be posted at 50:17.

Friends from my local trail running group greeted me at the finish area and I had to laugh at my pace calculation mistake as we all traded stories.  Fortunately, I had beaten my previous 10K record by over a minute and this was a solid victory for me to take home.

My all-time favorite album is The Cure's Seventeen Seconds.  I have always enjoyed listening to the title song and trying to figure out the meaning.  I now realize that The Cure recorded this song in 1980 to preemptively make fun of me for missing my race goal by that exact amount of time.

Right now, hours after the race, I am smiling at my new time record, but a thorough post-game evaluation of my mistakes has paved the way for me to fill the gaps in my training.  After my marathon next weekend, I plan to start a weekly speedwork exercise that should help me in my future races of any distance.  I run for fun and I do not want to over-analyze any pace strategies, but I do need to get my math right if I make spur-of-the-moment decisions to aim for a specific time goal in the future.  Ultimately, though, a new personal record is a new personal record, and all is right in the world.

Thanks to Get Fit Atlanta for sponsoring my favorite 10K race to date.  This Silver Comet 10K was built for speed and I discovered today that it can be fun to test myself for a faster future, especially on a beautiful early spring day.

See you on the trails.



  1. Great job Jason - nice to see you this morning!

  2. A PR is a PR, Diesel!!!! Great job! 10k's can be a lot of fun!

  3. Good job, Jason!!! Very impressive. And that's a cool shirt! I'm getting back out there - ran 3.1 on Friday, which is the most I've run since June 2010. Starting over is no fun, but I'll get there eventually :)

  4. Great job, Jason!!! I like the shirt. Pretty sweet!

  5. Dude. You're faaaast! Nice PR:)))