I waited until pretty late to register for this race. I wasn't sure I was feeling up to a 10 mile race but figured it was probably good practice for the marathon and gave me a "break" from doing a longer run that weekend. The day started out a bit drizzly and fairly cool so that is perfect weather for a race. I drove over to meet Sarah and Mia at their house and we rode together from there. Right when we arrived at the race it began to rain a lot harder, so my one dry sweatshirt I brought for after the race was now soaked. Not the best planning I guess. We headed over to pick up our chips as it started to pour. We had picked up our race numbers and t-shirts, which were very cool ones by the way, the day before. And of course my first stop on the way over to get the timing chip was the port-a-potty. I noted nervously that there were very few of them which stressed me out because the lines would just get longer and I knew I'd have to visit them a few more times before the race started.
While near the potty line I spotted a young kid who I'd seen at the Run for the Oaks in March. It was pretty much rainy weather for that race too but much colder, so I teased him that every time I raced with him it rained! He said he remembered me from that race since I asked him how he had done while we waited for the results of that race. He had placed in his age group (he's 12 and placed 2nd I think) which was awesome. I was around his age when I started running so that brought back memories of my sister and I always winning medals or trophies in our age group. He mentioned that he was happy that the 15 yr old who had won that race in March had now turned 16! I told him I was looking forward to the same, to moving up an age group since the competition in mine was pretty strong.
I am not usually a big fan of warming up before the race. I always think I may be wasting some energy that I might need! But I did jog around a bit with Sarah and Tom, who we spotted in the parking lot and who I'd met once at a race earlier in the year (also an RTR member). And of course I used that warm up as an opportunity to scope out a more secluded area to use instead of the port-a-potty (gotta do what you gotta do) since the line was crazy long at that point.
As we got ready to line up for the start I spotted a few other running friends which was great. I remember last year I ran a few races and didn't know anyone at all. It was really cool to see probably at least 10 people at this race that I know from different groups or races or even Facebook! In fact I finally met Cindy for the first time who I only had known from her FB page Running Shoes Required, which was the first local FB running page I joined. It was great to finally meet her and her friend and running partner Bill. We spotted Jorge, another RTR member who decided to register for the race that weekend (first race in 20 yrs and he decided a 10 miler would be the one...very ambitious!). And Pauline and Pamela who I know from a women's running group Pauline leads spotted me and we got to wave good luck before the race start.
The start was late and everyone was getting anxious. It was kind of amusing to watch as they tried to inflate the starting/finish line banner, which kept falling over. But mostly we just wanted to get going. Then everyone started moving up in a jog and for a minute we thought we'd missed the gun go off so started running, only to realize it was just everyone moving up to the starting line. Whew! Then we heard right after the "ready, set, go".
So off we ran. Sarah and I talked a bit before the race about running together and what pace we'd run. I was aiming for 7:15 pace, but kind of hoped to run faster and at the very least hoped for 7:30 if I couldn't make 7:15. We started off pretty fast but it didn't feel all that fast. Tom of course took off and we lost sight of him pretty early on (came in 2nd in our age group for the men!). I set my Garmin to look at lap pace so I could see the current average pace and it would reset for each lap which is a good way to do it for a long race like this because average overall pace isn't as good to show you if you are starting to slip off your goal pace. We were doing under 6:30 initially but then slowed to 6:45 and got closer to 7:00 by the end of the first mile, which was good. We passed and waved to the 12 yo who I talked to before the race (who ended up coming in first in his age group!) and tried from there to keep a fairly steady pace around 7:15.
The course was pretty hilly, more than I'd expected though I'll admit I didn't spend much time looking into it since I'd registered later than I usually do. It was a lot of long up and down hills. So given that I was pretty happy with the pace we were able to maintain, since that was kind of the goal pace for a relatively flat course, not a hilly one. The slowest miles were 6 and 9, which were the hilliest, besides mile 1 which was also partly hilly. The course itself was a good one, not boring since it had some variety with all the hills. It went through parts of RTP that I was familiar with since I worked there for the first 2 yrs I lived in NC. However, the traffic was only partially blocked in most spots, so the space coned off for runners at most places was only able to allow for 2 runners side by side. So if someone wanted to pass, they'd often have to go outside the cones which felt a bit dangerous at times when traffic picked up which it did after the first few miles into the race.
I am always appreciative of volunteers at races and the ones at this race did a great job, were very supportive and very cheerful despite the wet weather. There was some confusion though at the water stops. It wasn't really clear who had water and who had HEED (which I hate to say tasted AWEFUL! but then again I have a weird aversion to orangey flavored drinks and this tasted a bit like St. Joseph's baby aspirin mixed with water...yucky). Of course that is the risk you take when you don't bring your own stuff and use something for the first time provided by the race. HEED was available at mile 4 and 6 (I had been told before the race it was going to be 6 and 8 so that caused some confusion at mile 4 when I got HEED expecting water) but I totally missed it at mile 6 because I couldn't figure out who had it and didn't want to completely stop to figure it out. I was really worried about that because my biggest problem in long runs has been not having enough Gatorade (replacing electrolytes) and I took the risk to use what was provided instead of wearing my annoying but useful fuel belt. I was glad that I brought a Hammer Gel but that doesn't have any electrolytes. Still it was good to have it since I did miss the HEED at mile 6 and they actually didn't have it at mile 8. I used the gel at mile 6 and I think it definitely helped.
I didn't really begin to feel tired until miles 8 and 9. Prior to that I felt like the race was taking forever but that was because I missed the 5 mile mark and somehow thought that we hadn't even reached the halfway point when in fact we were nearly at the 6 mile mark. That was a relief! Mile 8 and 9 were tough because I realized there was no HEED (not that I liked it but still though perhaps I could use it) and because I was starting to just feel sore and worried whether I could continue maintaining the pace.
Sarah and I ran the whole way through mile 9 together which I have never done in a race before. I am always impressed with how fast Sarah runs and always trying to keep up with her so it was good to run together for this race. By the time we reached mile 9, I was feeling ready to be done but felt pretty good for only one mile to go so was able to pick up the pace to 6:37 which is pretty fast for me even for mile 1 of a 5K. The finish was the same location as the start so this time we were going up hill, but for some reason it wasn't so bad because I could see the inflatable finish line in the distance. I also saw there were no other women in sight up ahead so there wasn't any pressure to catch anyone. I did give it as much as I could though, so it's no surprise that the pictures heading to the finish line (which I didn't even realize they would be taking) were horrible! I will certainly not be purchasing them....yikes!
I ended up beating my set goal of 7:15 pace with a official chip time of 1:11:44, 7:11 pace. Came in 57 of 379 overall, 12 of 200 women, and 3 of 49 in the 35 to 39 age group. It was a PR since it was my first 10 mile race but the pace was actually better than my 15K PR and was pretty close to my 10K PR pace of 7:07. Not bad, I was pretty pleased. Sarah also PR'd as did quite a few other folks from what I heard.
After the race I got to chat a bit with some more running friends and even met some new folks. Talked with Ryan (who's son goes to school with and plays soccer with my son Owen), Pauline and Pamela and met their husbands, and Cindy. Said hi to Laura who usually comes in first in our age group every race, she's way fast! I met up with Jorge, Tom, Sarah and Mia and we stayed for the awards ceremony which was later than originally planned. By that time the sun was shining. We also got to chat a bit with Pam, the first place masters woman, who was running nearly the entire race at the same pace as Sarah and I. We'll both be joining her in the Masters category next spring!
All in all, a great time with good friends and a good race to raise money for downs syndrome. I was glad I ran it and have now registered for the next race in the Second Empire Series, Triangle Run/Walk for Autism, on Oct 1oth. Maybe I'll see some of you there!