Despite feeling a little uncertain about my ability to race a 10K, I did just fine this weekend. In fact I did more than fine: I ran a PR, was the first female and came in third overall . (I hope I have the chance to type that sentence again;). I had a GREAT race on what turned out to be a perfect weekend.
The Race: The race was a very small, local 5K/10K that was in its second year. It was a certified course, but the vibe of the race was so…NICE. Relaxed and friendly, volunteers wanted to send us home with extra food and prizes, like we were there for a church supper instead of a race. It was a great place for our family, or any family to spend a Saturday morning. I will definitely be back next year, there aren’t that many 10K left in our area, especially this late in the season and it’s timed perfectly for fall marathon/half marathon training.
The Course: Was a certified out and back that was very well marked: both mile and kilometer makers on the road and volunteers at water stops and at the turn around. We had to cross a major state route twice, but the town police were out there in full force stopping traffic. Most of the course was on a small back road, the leaves are just starting to turn here in NH and it was gorgeous.
The Elevation: The elevation on this course deserves its own section because it was HILLY. Four hill climbs, over 600ft in total elevation gain.
Warming up: For some reason the last couple of warm ups I run, I really feel the nervous jitters in my body: my leg muscles feel depleted and my stomach feels uneasy. I decided a 10min warm up was going to be enough. I usually run a 2 mile warm up for a 5K, but didn’t feel like that long of a warm up was necessary for the 10k. By the end of the 10 minutes I was warm and loose enough to stretch. By the time I was done with my warm up Sophia had made a gaggle of friends and had corralled them into playing “hide and seek” with her (this is what she does wherever we go, she is a social organizer…so opposite from me:).
The Start: there were maybe all of 100 or so people participating in both the 5K and 10K, which started together. We lined up, all sang the national anthem and then the priest of the parish said a prayer. His heartfelt prayer was all about being grateful for the bodies we’ve been given and recognizing that they are a temple. I loved it and it totally reminded me of the privilege it is to run and move. It was the best way to start a race.
Mindset: I went into the race knowing that a time of 42:37 predicted a 1:35 1/2 marathon. A time of 42:37 works out to 6:51 min per mile, which seems scary fast to me. But just this last Monday I ran a super strong tempo workout with four miles in the 6:45-6:53 range. But this was a hilly course I knew it was going to be tough, running 42:37 was probably not realistic. So my game plan going in was to run 7-7:15 on the way “out” and closer to the 7:00 on the way back and try to make that last mile an half down the hill as fast as possible. I didn’t really try to calculate what that worked out to as a finish time, I wanted to focus on each mile. Here’s how it went down:
Mile 1: I didn’t want to get pulled out with all the 5K runners, but I wanted to start strong. I knew that the first 1.5 miles of the run was the biggest hill and I wasn’t sure what to expect of myself for pace. I went out pretty fast down the little hill of the parking lot (more on this “little hill” later). We turned out of the church parking lot and as we did I could hear Mark and Sophia yelling from the hill: “Go Sarah!” and “Go Mommy!” Another runner from my run club ended up coming along side and we chatted for a bit about family and races, he was looking to finish in the 45 min range. We talked for the first half mile or so then I glanced down at my watch and noticed our pace was around an 8min mile. He wished me luck and I headed for the big hill. I kept the pace as strong as possible up the hill and with the 5K turn around in sight the mile beeped by: 7:33. Definitely slower than I wanted, but I figured that that maybe a good thing, I definitely didn’t want to go out to fast.
Mile 2: At the 1.5 mile mark all the 5Ker’s peeled off and turned around. And suddenly I was alone. I heard no one behind me and I couldn’t see anyone in front of me. For a split second I thought: Am I the only one running the 10K?? It was a small enough race to feel that way. But as I came down the hill I saw two guys in the distance who I knew were the leaders. I was in third? What?! I had to smile. I love small races. It gives you a chance to feel like….well, like you’re winning. At that point I realized I was the first female. After that wave of excitement passed I settled in to a nice pace down the hill and was able to pick up some of the time I’d lost on the first mile: 7:03
Mile 3: The third mile was rolling hills, nothing crazy, but enough to keep you working. I felt completely comfortable with the pace, I was in control and as MsFitRunner says “running the miles” instead of letting the miles “run me” . Towards the end of the third mile I started descending down a hill to the turn around, there were a few folks at the ends of their driveway cheering, they called out to me that I was the first female. 7:17
Mile 4: I turned around and immediately had to climb the hill that I’d just run down. But once I got back to the rolling section I felt even stronger than before. I knew I had just one hill left, the “big hill” and then I could fly down the other side to the finish. I cruised through mile 4 in 7:11.
Mile 5: Tackling the hill the second time was rough. I tried to keep the pace steady and strong, but not kill myself so much that I had nothing left for the last mile. There were times when I glanced at my watch and saw a pace of 9:20. I’d try to even my breathing first and then step the pace up a bit. I reached the top of the hill, let myself recover and then totally threw my hands up and yelled, just like Sophia had suggested. I had the biggest smile on my face thinking of her and her sweet advice. And then I started to fly. 7:16 I was pleased and a little surprised to see that pace considering the paces I’d seen on the climb up the hill.
Mile 6: By the time mile five clicked by I was already flying and ready to make mile six my fastest mile. I opened up my stride and just flew down the hill, passing walkers from the 5K as I went. They were all so nice and cheered me on. With about a 1/4 mile I approached the cross over the state road back to the church. I was so worried that the police man wouldn’t see me and I’d have to stop and wait for traffic, but he looked up the hill saw me and stopped traffic and I charged right across the road to the other side. 6:24
(.2) Honestly the last .2 of this race were probably tougher than the whole race. After crossing the road the course continued down the left hand side turned into a small side road and was flat for about a hundred yards before climbing 50ft up the church driveway to the parking lot. Seriously that 50ft. of climbing to the finish KILLED my nice fast pace and I was suddenly working again. I managed .2 in 1:32 (7:40 average) to cross the line in 44:20 (7:07 avg pace). Which was good enough to finish third overall and place as the first female.
That 44:20 gives me a two minute. three second PR from a 10K from 7 years ago! I’m not sure if there’s any scientific truth to it, but the guy from my run club (a real veteran runner) said that you could probably knock off two minutes from the time for a flat course. I’d like to think he is right because if he is that puts me right where I need to be. But I also have to keep in mind that the CHaD Half Marathon is not flat, it has a few hills, but nothing like the big one in this race.
My pace was definitely not even throughout the race, but I think that’s the way you have to run those hilly races, strong and steady on the climb and fly when you can.
The best part of winning the race actually came on Sunday, when I took Sophia to the Nike store and told her we were there to buy her shoes. The look on her face was priceless. Pretty much every pair of shoes she has are hand-me downs or thrift store/eBay finds (since I can’t justify spending more than $10 on a pair of kids shoes. I’ve purchased some pretty nice kids shoes for less than ten bucks: Keen, Saucony, Teva, Clarks, Dr. Marten’s you name it I’ve found them thrifting!). She was pretty pleased to get a totally NEW pair of shoes that came in a BOX. I love to think that I won them for her. I may not be a professional runner but on Saturday my racing put shoes on my kids feet and that’s kinda cool;)
Do you like small races? What is your criteria for choosing a race? Size? Amenities? Proximity? Timing in your training schedule?
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