I haven't posted in quite a while because I have pretty much reserved these blog posts for races and I haven't run one since the end of May. But after I heard about the Great Raleigh Road Race I decided it might be fun to do one more race before the half marathon in NYC in mid August. It was only 4 miles, close by, promised tech t-shirts instead of dreaded cotton, and Keith agreed to watch the kids that morning so I posted it on the RTR (Raleigh Trail Runner) website to see if anyone else was interested in running. We ended up with several people attending from RTR and I saw a few other familiar faces at the race as well.
I picked up my race packet the day before and saw the t-shirt was nice, fit pretty well and was patriotically (is that a word?) colored, so I decided to wear it for the race which I almost never do. The race didn't start until 8am but I planned to get there early to try to find the RTR folks. Parking was a breeze, not much traffic on the road at 7am on a holiday in Raleigh! In fact I wondered how few people would actually attend the race when it didn't look very crowded still at 7:30. Turned out that 350 people finished the race in the end, though it didn't look like nearly that many at the start. Maybe that was because I moved up near the front right away and didn't really look back much! Moving up front was a good call. There was a pretty large and fast group that took off and separated pretty fast from the pack.
I did my best to keep a more than my standard fast pace to get out in front quickly too. I figured there wasn't much sense in "conserving" energy in a 4 mile race. If the first mile was fastest then so be it, at least it helped to reduce my overall time! Maybe not the best strategy but it was the one I decided to go with. I realized after maybe 1/4 to 1/2 mile that there was no way I could sustain the pace I was going (under 6 min mile pace) so I did consciously slow down but not too much. I ended up feeling tired but still ok after mile 1 which I did in a record breaking (for me) 6:37. Mile 1 was straight up Hillsborough, so nothing exciting to speak of.
I didn't consciously slow down after that, I just really couldn't go faster and slowed to an average 6:51 pace for mile 2, which was really ok by me. Mile 2 was a great part of the course. It went into neighborhoods I didn't know existed in Raleigh (maybe the streets were Hawthorne Rd to Park Drive from what I can tell on the map, but not quite sure). Beautiful winding tree lined streets with very nice houses. And the fact that most of this was flat or downhill didn't hurt either! Overall I was still under a 6:45 pace and thought for a moment if I could maintain that it would be awesome. I secretly was hoping sometime soon to run a 6:45 pace for a 5K, but during a 4 mi would be even better.
That, however, was not meant to be, and really I was ok with that too. Once it became painfully clear that mile 3 was pretty hilly (or at least it seemed so but the elevation profile doesn't really look too bad now) and not very shady (the sun is my downfall in running, not the heat), I knew it would take a lot just to keep moving as fast as I could and not be consumed by thinking "wow, I really wish this was a 5K!". Mile 3 (or I guess from the elevation profile, really the end of mile 2 into 3 and the end of mile 3 into 4) was probably the worst part of the race. Mile 3 was the slowest at 7:04. Still not too bad considering my best average 5K pace was 6:59.
I knew once I reached Hillsborough Street again, I'd only have 1 mile to go. It was still a long way to keep going at the pace I was going since I usually would be at this pace or slower and be at the end of a 5K race, not only 3/4 done with a race! It was, however, a straight shot. I could see the finish from at least 1/4 mile or more away. Normally I don't like this because that means it's out in the open, which I always hated in cross country races...running through an open field to finish always seemed to slow me down...uggh! But since this was still a tree and business lined street, for some reason it wasn't so bad. I just kept up the pace and took advantage of the down hill that comes just prior to the uphill finish. This time there really weren't any women in sight so there was no pressure to pass anyone or stress of being passed (though I really don't recall looking back but I didn't hear anyone behind me). I did pass at least one guy as I headed into the last 200 yards or so, and he said "hey, thought I lost you" because I suppose we had been running about the same pace during most of the race. I felt pretty ok to try to speed up and then though I saw 27: 40 or 50 something on the clock so sped up even more since I didn't want to go over 28 minutes, only to realize as I crossed the finish it really said more like 27:36 (bad vision due to sweat in the eyes!).
In the end my chip time was 27:35 and the officially recorded pace was 6:54. That beats my PR pace for a 5K, so for a 4 mile (which isn't a standard distance so really don't have a prior PR for it) I was pretty happy with it. Overall my perception is that it was a pretty fast race field. I was 54th of 350 overall, which is the top 15%. But in other recent races I am pretty sure I've been higher up than that. So perhaps it was that there were a lot more fast runners that came out on a holiday or that the middle and/or back of the pack folks had better things to do (sleep in, rest up for BBQs and fireworks, etc) or a combo of both, not sure. I ended up being 2nd female in my age group and 10th overall female. Again another situation where if I were a bit older (NOT rushing it mind you) I would have placed in the female masters category as 3rd overall. Still again, no rush to join the masters, I'll wait until March!
Before I knew the official race results and when the awards would be given out, I had previously planned to meet some RTR folks at the Morning Times Cafe (unbelieveably hard to find a place that served coffee and breakfast within walking distance of the race that was open on a Saturday, took me quite a while online a few weeks ago). We enjoyed some coffee/breakfast and headed back to our cars near the race just in time to be there for the age group awards. Turns out several of us placed it our age groups so that was nice that we got to have coffee and still get back to get our awards (gift certificates for gracies gear for women, for The Athlete's Foot for men).
All in all a great day...a well run race that was easy to get to and from, no problem getting to a port-a-potty (always a big stress for me!), pretty good weather (not too hot, less sun would have been ok by me!), great company, and a new PR. Not a bad way to start the holiday!