My first 10 mile race occurred this weekend. I had heard from more than one person that this would be a challenging, hilly course. One person told me that it would be as hard as a half marathon because of those hills. The final three miles were on trails which was an added challenge. Oh, and rain poured down all night – right up until about five minutes before start time actually – so add wet, muddy trails to the list. That’s all a rambling way of saying that this course is not an easy one. I knew it going in so my time goal was simple: finish in less than two hours. That adds 15 minutes to my good 10 mile time so it seemed reasonable. Was it?
Race weather: 40 degrees, 20mph winds, and rain. I actually woke up at 4:30am to the sound of thunder. At that point I pulled my pillow over my head, was thankful the race didn’t start for a few more hours and tried to get some more sleep. Even after the rain stopped it was very damp and chilly. One of those days where you start shivering the instant you stop running.
Race atmosphere: This is a very small race. In fact only 233 runners went out that day. The start line was just a line of chalk drawn in the street. The race director counted down from 10, shot off the pistol and wished us good luck. The volunteers on the course were the friendliest I’ve ever seen – offering to take jackets that people tied around their waist back to the finish line, calling out splits at every mile. It seemed like nearly everyone knew each other and were boosting each other on. I went to the race with two friends. Sarah who has a lot of racing experience (and speed) so she started towards the front of the pack. Erin and I hung out towards the back with the goal of getting each other up & down those hills. And let me say that this race would have seemed interminably long without a friend by my side.
We consciously used the first mile as our warm-up. And as we got our first taste of hills (right away) we were happy with our warm up pace of 10:49. After we were warmed up we kept the pace right around 10:30 (or faster) for every road mile except the one where we walked through the water stop. That’s a solid pace for me and considering the constant hills I am very happy with it. Let me talk about these hills for a minute. The elevation of the race steadily climbed through the first half. That means there were literally more uphills than down. I remember very few (if any) flat segments. Just variations in steep hills or long, long, long inclines. Hills. Hills. Hills. That’s all we ran for seven miles – hills.
At mile seven you come back into the arboretum and hit the trails. Our pace slowed down by a whole minute for these last three miles. Partly because it’s just harder to run in the wet grass and mud. Partly because even on the trails there were hills. As I was running those never-ending hills on the road I told myself that I could push it because the trail run would be relatively flat. I was so very wrong. We ended up walking 3 or 4 hills on the trails because they were so steep and muddy and slick. At that point both of us had sore hips from the hills and I was convinced I’d slip and hurt myself. My legs just didn’t have it in them to climb those trail hills any more. Maybe if they were dry I could have done it. Maybe now that I know the course and could mentally prepare for them I could push a bit harder. But on this day, I needed to walk up those hills – and honestly they were so steep that I’m not sure we sacrificed much time by doing so.
I came up one long hill and our speedy friend was waiting at the top to cheer us on. Erin took off up the hill and I cheered for her to go – I think we only had .25 to go at this point – and when I got to the top I started running and Sarah ran me in. A good friend is one who waits more than 30 minutes in shivering cold weather to run her friends into the finish. There was one more steep hill but she told me it was the last one so up I ran and then pushed hard to the finish.
My time: 1:51:28. (My official time was about a minute slower because it was a gun time start, but I started my Garmin as I crossed the chalk so I’m going with that.)
That means I beat my time goal and I didn’t walk a single one of those damn road hills. All in all, I’m really happy with the way I ran this race. My legs did indeed feel like they ran a half marathon that night and the next day. I don’t get sore muscles from a 10 mile run these days but I was feeling this one the whole day after.
End result: Hard course. Goal accomplished. And since it was my first 10 mile race, it’s a PR too 😉
The moral of this race report? When you run with friends, even cold, miserable, hilly runs can be a total blast.
Bonus moral: It’s great motivation to have a friend willing to drive nearly three hours just to cheer you on and go out to breakfast afterwards. More than once, the thought of Bari’s smiling face and the promise of pancakes kept us going!