I completed my first race this morning: the Old Agoura 10K. I finished 8th in my age group and 52nd out of 1696 competitors. We need to keep at it and try for sub 7-minute miles next time. That pace would put me at Top 20 overall on a lucky day.

The course goes downhill for the first 2.5 miles, followed by a steady incline of another 2.5 miles, with a fast downhill in the final mile. Elevation gain is approximately 260 feet (80 meters). It’s not much of a gain but for someone who hadn’t run here before, it added a certain degree of fear to the first section: “should I run fast on this descent, or should I conserve energy to reduce the risk of walking later on?”

Why did I sign up?

Being such an active member of the Calabasas-Agoura community, I didn’t have the slightest idea about this magnificent event. It was pointed to me by my (soon-to-be) triathlon friends at work: “it’s only 10K and it’s 10 minutes from your home. See you there.”

I’ve been on say yes to everything mode for the last month, so I signed up. Say no is my default mode, an attempt to maximize productive and enjoyable time on the earth, but saying no has a predictable outcome (if I say no to dinner with friends, I’ll say yes to writing), whereas saying yes to new things opens the door for surprises. So, there we have it… experiment of the season: say yes.

The night and morning before.

I had no trouble sleeping and I can think of a couple of reasons: 1) the distance is not daunting at all (there was zero chance I would not complete the course), 2) I saw the race as just another training session (I wasn’t going for a personal record), 3) years of competitive tennis provided some acclimation.

The morning of the event: 10 minutes of meditation at 5:50am, cold shower, clean shave, breakfast smoothie: whey protein, 1/2 banana, carrots, strawberries, mixed greens, oats, peanut butter.

How was it different than running solo?

There were so many people, each running at a different pace. It was disorienting. If it weren’t for my Garmin watch, it would’ve been impossible to know (to feel) whether I was running at a sustainable rhythm. There was a certain dose of adrenaline that enabled me to keep a faster speed during the first section of the race. Then there was Josh from the office, I kept him in my view as a target. He cannot beat me, I thought, but he was going fast. I caught up and started running side by side, our new pace setters were two girls in yoga pants going at 7-minute miles. Visualize the scene, the physical mantra. They kept us going in perfect meditative state for four miles. We passed them on the last mile.

Could I have done better?

I say yes. Not knowing the course was a disadvantage because it made me take a cautious approach. My average heart rate was 168 bpm. It could’ve gone a tad faster during the first half… well, gotta keep working… do I sign up now for the Superfrog 70.3, or wait a month and see if I have already switched interests by then?