Nov. 18, 2016
Race recap: Eyal 15K, 1:04:12 (PR) -- 4:16/K
The Eyal Run, this year in its 15th edition, is a peculiar event. It's not an IAA-sanctioned race, the centerpiece 15K run is a weird hybrid distance between the traditional 10K and half marathon, and yet it generates tremendous buzz on running websites and on social media. It also brands itself as a family event, yet it attracts lots of familiar faces, some of which are among the country's elite runners.
This morning was my third year straight in the Eyal Run. I registered because it's become a tradition, it's a ten-minute drive from my Mom's place, there aren't any other races on my radar around this time, and it's a good B-race to get some feedback on my fitness level as I begin working towards a January 10K PR. Also, I thought it'd be nice to end 2016 with an improved result over last year's Eyal Run, which was my best 15K.
Preparation went okay, i.e. I didn't overeat the night before and was in bed more than eight hours before my alarm was to go off. I did wake up about an hour early, but I felt rested so just took my time getting ready and that was fine. At 5:30 I was out the door and was one of the first cars in the parking lot whence I walked to pick up the race kit. Bowel movements, warmup, early to the corral...7:45, the horn sounded and we were off.
My goal for the run was to keep the splits between 4:15 and 4:20/K. I figured if I could do that it'd both get me sub-1:05:00 and indicate I could run sub-41:00 at the January 10K with solid training. But the Eyal course is tricky because it starts with a stretch of 3 kilometers downhill, then levels off as the course meanders through fields mostly along dirt roads, and then at 12K it's the same 3 kilometers back but of course now they're uphill. Negative-splitting isn't a practical strategy, nor is a steady evenly-paced run. You have to go positive split. But then there's the uncertainty of how hard to push going out so you don't bonk on the climb back but still put some minutes in the bank because you know the hills'll slow you down at the end.
All I could do really was make sure I didn't get stuck in traffic going down early, which would have been a waste of time and gravity, and try to pace myself by feel. Going out was actually okay -- there was lots of weaving going on all around and I couldn't quite develop a rhythm, but I was doing decent time and felt energetic overall and happy to be racing again.
4:16, 4:12, 4:04. Uh-oh. 4:04/K? Do I really want to be running that fast? By then, though, I was falling into step with some other runners, my strides and breaths were in sync, and I told myself that at the bottom of the hill I'd ease off the gas. Sure enough, 4:12, 4:11, 4:14 -- not in the 4:15-4:20 range I had planned, but I was tucked into a pack of a bunch of guys from a running club in Tel Aviv and one of them was cheering the group on so it felt good, and knowing the halfway mark was near was a mental boost. 4:17, 4:16, 4:14, 4:16 (42:17 for 10K) -- now I was starting to feel the cumulative effects of the early going, and in addition concern was growing inside me that the return hill would do me in, especially considering that my 10K time was not that far off from my PR. Then came the hill: 4:26, 4:25, 4:34, 4:25. Ugh. Brutal, brutal stuff. The Tel Aviv pack had long since fallen apart, and though I had stayed a few steps behind their leader, now our distance was growing. I felt like I was sloshing through mud, like my quads were swollen and filled with thick plasma or something. Thoughts of ducking off to the side and walking were being seriously considered. I tried to find runners to go shoulder-to-shoulder with, but they would keep falling behind me. I was grimacing. Families on the side of the road were clapping and cheering, but I was enveloped in my own misery and scanning the road ahead desperate to spot even a short patch of level ground for momentary respite. Then came the turn into the last kilometer. It started off flat, and I could feel my strides lengthening and my resolve strengthening as I knew 1:05:00 was in reach if I just kept fighting for a few minutes longer. I gave everything I had, it felt like even more than that -- 4:10. I got my medal, stumbled over to some shade and collapsed on the ground.
I'd gotten used to races where from about the halfway mark the focus is on overtaking the guy in front of you who peaked too early and is slowing, using other runners as stepping stones to finish strong. This was not one of those races at all. When the going really got tough, I didn't even know what was going on around me. I don't know whom I passed, or if anyone passed me. The hill coming back was so soul-crushing, I don't know if I ever want to run the Eyal 15K again. But of course I will. Because runners are insane.
74/516 M3039; 202/2134 M0099 (10%); 217/2944 overall
1:06:51 (14 Nov 2015)