Race Report: Celtic Fest 10K

Every September, Bethlehem hosts Celtic Fest and there’s always a race (a 5K and 10K) that kicks off the festivities on Saturday morning. I don’t usually run it (I’ve done the 5K a few times in the past), but this year it fit pretty nicely into my training. I knew a little about the 10K course and was aware it wasn’t a PR type of course, so my main goal was to run hard and try to be somewhere in between 10K and half marathon pace. Ideally, I would love to break 40 minutes in a 10K and I think I can do it (my PR is 40:36) so if I was feeling it on Saturday, I was going to go for it and throw everything else out the window. Well, this ended up being the slowest 10K I’ve run in about a year and a half, but I was fine with that based how it all went down.

The race is only about 10 minutes from my house, so I was up at a reasonable hour for coffee and a plain bagel with almond butter. I headed out, but I didn’t feel much like racing. I was still fighting this stupid cold/allergies/whatever and just wanted to go back to bed. I got to the start, grabbed my packet and found a few of my friends. We chatted until it was time to start. I lined up at the front at the last minute, next to a girl who looked pretty intense. I found out later that she’s won the race for the past few years.

The race began, and we were off. The girl from the start was on my heels in the first mile but I told myself to run my own race and not to go out too quickly, since that’s been working for me lately. I didn’t speed up to pass her and held my pace, but I dropped her before the half mile mark. I was running with a pack of guys at this point and was the lead female. I didn’t want to be faster than a 6:30 for the first mile, and I hit that in 6:31. Perfect. Except then the road race turned cross country race – and I am certainly not a cross country runner. I’d looked at the map before the race, but it was really confusing. I was aware that some of the race wasn’t on the road, but I didn’t realize four out of the six miles of it would be cross country style. Some of it was a cinder trail (one that I’ve never run on because it’s not always in the best shape), but a large chunk of the race was also run on grass and was quite hilly. The second mile wasn’t too crazy but it was on the cinder/rocky trail. It opened up to a field next to an area known as Burnside Plantation, and we began running on the grass. It slowed me down a little and I hit that mile in 6:46. Besides the unfamiliar terrain, I felt decent, considering the cold and the allergies. Miles 1 & 2 – 6:31, 6:46.

Miles three and four were the most difficult of the race based on the terrain. We were literally running up and down a grassy hill near a local golf course. It’s part of the high school cross country districts course in our area. Those miles were not so pretty and more about me not tripping and falling on my face. I didn’t feel bad, I just don’t usually do the cross country thing. I told myself to work hard enough to keep my lead and to worry about pace on the way back. I knew there were two miles that headed back to the finish where I could potentially make up some time. I also wished for a pair of cross country spikes. I was relieved towards the end of mile 4, where the course dumped us out onto a road – but we began to run through Monocasy park. It’s a very short park and there’s a bridge at the end to cross a creek. The course took us up and down a flight of stairs to cross the creek, and then up another flight of stairs to exit the park – it was really strange. Miles 3 & 4 – 7:13, 6:55.

Miles three and four were a bit more intense than I’d anticipated, but now we were on our way back. I felt really good at this point and had plenty of energy and was prepared to RUN. This is where the drama began. The course was very well marked on the way out. I even remember thinking how great it was that there were arrows spray painted all over the grass to mark where to go so there was no chance of me getting lost. But on the way back, things got sketchy in the second half of mile five. The arrows were spray painted on the grass to mark the way OUT, but not the way BACK. The course was kind of like a lollipop, so it wasn’t a problem until the last mile – I also knew the first mile and the last mile were different.

Somewhere in mile five, I could still see the three lead guys up ahead of me – two were further away, one was pretty close. We turned a corner on the cinder trail and I couldn’t see the two leaders anymore. I passed the guy in front of me, but we were both slowing down at this point and looking around – were we going the right way? We were passing some oncoming walkers that were just nearing the 1.5 mile mark – were we still on course to head towards the finish? We were both confused and slowed to sort of a jog at this point. Neither of us were really sure about what was going on.

The trail dumps you out on a road, and across the road the trail continues and there was a water stop that we hit in the beginning of the race. I crossed the road, grabbed water and kept running but something felt wrong – I knew that we weren’t supposed to go back the way we began. I also knew if I went back this way, I had well over a mile left and I was already at 5.1. I turned and jogged back to the water stop and noticed the guy I was running with sort of running in place, not sure what to do. I stopped and said to a woman working the water stop – “Which way for the 10K?” She points towards the direction we had just come from and said, “That way, you have to go out towards the golf course” (where we just came from). I replied, “No, I was there already. Where do I go now?” She points again and I said, “No, you don’t understand – I’m looking for the finish – I’ve already run over 5 miles. Which way to the finish?”

My favorite line of the day. She looks at me, completely confused, and said, “Oh…hmmm, I don’t actually know.”

What? What? WHAT? At this point I just laughed – I mean, I wasn’t having the race of my life anyway and it really was kind of funny. Luckily, a cop directing traffic overheard the last part of our conversation and he jumped in saying, “Ohhhh!! This way! This way! You are the first female!” (UMM, where were you when you let me cross the street to begin with?!?!) Instead of continuing straight on the trail, I was supposed to turn left on the road. Once he pointed me in the right direction, I knew exactly where to go from there (most of my runs are in downtown Bethlehem) so I took off. A few minutes later, I knew I was going the right way because I began to catch the tail end of the 5K. Back on course.

If I had to estimate how long I lost with slowing down in the 5th mile, running back to the water stop and stopping to ask for directions, I would guess somewhere around 60 seconds. I did whatever I could to finish mile 5 strong, and mile 6 was my fastest of the whole race. Mile 5 & 6: 7:03, 6:28. Last .2: 5:47 pace. My legs felt totally fine at the end. I wanted a redo. I did, however, come in as the first female!!


The course map:

celticmapYou can see where miles three and four just go around and around – that was the hilly/grassy section. Only the first and last miles were on the road. I finished in something like 42:13 according to the chip timing. I feel like 41:13 would be pretty close to what I would have run considering most of my 10Ks are in the 41 minute range, and my PR for this distance was just in August and I definitely feel stronger now. The other reason I believe I lost about 60 seconds was based on when the first and second males finished. I was the 1st female but the 3rd overall runner to finish: the two lead males brought it home in just under 41 minutes. That also confirmed my suspicion that I would probably be closer to 41 minutes because I could see them for the whole race until the section where we turned and the course got confusing.

Even though it certainly was not my best race of the season, I was happy with the end result. I didn’t know much about the course before going into this one, but I knew it wasn’t going to be like a traditional road race. This is not a type of race I am comfortable with, but I would do it again because it took me out of my comfort zone. Especially now that I know the course 🙂 Usually, I find that the experiences that are unfamiliar and uncomfortable are the ones that don’t necessarily come with a PR but are the most beneficial in the “long run”. They challenge you mentally and physically, and they help become more comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’s why I periodically do things like random trail races or the occasional triathlon in the summer months – it’s challenging and exciting to do something different, and you never know what you will get out of it.

Have you ever run a cross-country style race? Have you ever gotten lost while running a race?

50 Replies to “Race Report: Celtic Fest 10K”

  1. Well, this is the second blog post I’ve read this week about a lead female runner getting lost in a race, and I can say that’s one benefit to being a mid packer — there’s always folks to follow 😉

    But seriously, I’m sorry that happened to you. It must be really terrible to have that confusion in the middle of a race and mess up your rhythm. But congrats on the win!

  2. Fabulous race speedy! I haven’t run cross-country since high school but it is definitely far more challenging on our legs. It just requires the use of more muscles for overall balance and stability. Congrats on the win 🙂

  3. They make you “more comfortable with being uncomfortable.” <— that's the magic right there. This is something I have only learned in the last year! I have been running comfortably my whole life, even though I ran a lot, it was always at a comfy pace. But the biggest improvements for me have come from the track work and tempo runs…the uncomfortable ones.

    1. Yes! I mean think about it – at least in terms of a marathon. The last 10K is not usually comfortable, even when you are feeling “on”. It’s not like the best feeling in the world. Neither are any of the things you mentioned – tempo, track, etc. This cross country race. None of that feels good, but mentally knowing you can grind it out when it hurts – like you said – magic 🙂

  4. I ran my 1st 10K and 1st Trail Run back in August in Pottstown that was like actually in a mountain. I had no idea what to expect but it was a neat experience. I was definitely out of my comfort zone and I was actually wishing for it to be over by the end but I was glad I did it!

  5. Way to pull out a win even after getting lost! I laughed out loud when I read the water stop lady’s response, I probably would have lost it on her. I haven’t got lost running a race yet, but I don’t think it’s going to be too hard for me to reach that goal. 🙂

    1. Haha! It was really funny. At that point, the race was almost over and it wasn’t my best day ever so I just laughed and went with it 🙂 I hope you don’t get lost…although it does make for a funny story!

  6. Nice win! How frustrating with the course. My friend Kyle is always in the lead and almost always gets lost. We call him, “Extra Mile Kyle.” And he usually wins anyway. But he has a terrible sense of direction and can’t blame it on a confusing course.

  7. Congrats on first female! Cross country style races sound both intimidating and fun. I’ve never gotten lost in a race before, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it happened to me someday. I think there is benefit to getting lost or having an unexpected change in terrain – it teaches the mind to adapt quickly without stressing out and wrecking your pace.

    1. Thank you! It was definitely intimidating and fun – not sure I am going to seek those kinds of races out but it was nice to try something different! This was the second race I did recently that wasn’t on the kind of terrain I expected but I think it really helps. Like you said, the mind learns to adapt quickly! It was still a fun morning!

  8. Congrats on the win! At least you won’t have to worry about that in Hartford. The course is well marked. The Clarence De Mar marathon was well marked. I just had lung issues from a remnant cold. And a 32 degree temp at the start was unexpected. When all was said and done, the guy I was trying to pace ended up with a BQ (3:22) and so did I (3:27). It was a wonderful weekend.

    1. Thank you!! So glad to hear that you had a good day at CDM! My friend also had a great day there – she was the second female and set a huge PR – ran a 3:03! It is a gorgeous course and I do remember the start being cold last year. What are you shooting for in Hartford? I am getting excited!

      1. Yeah, it was a good day. Then BAA sent me a rejection letter yesterday. My 3:27:49 didn’t meet the AG revised requirement of 3:27:32. Missed it by 17 seconds! That’s the time it took to stop and kiss my wife before crossing the finish line in Atlantic City. Should I blame her?

  9. Congratulations on your win and on a great time, staying calm despite the circumstances (weird course + getting lost). I just read another blog post about a runner who had to ask for directions in a race because a sign was turned wrong. What is up with that? But at least you won it and you got a good training run in. I am sure that if you ran a road 10K you’d be under 41 if not faster. I’m more of a mid-packer and even in the super small races I’ve won (like 50-100 people) I was always able to see a guy! Good luck with the taper and downhill of your marathon training for Hartford, too.

    1. Thank you! It was so weird because I actually remember thinking that the whole way out was so well marked or I would totally get lost since I never ran that trail/grassy area before…and then as soon as I turned to go back, it went from being super easy to navigate to really confusing! I am itching to run another 10K now for sure!! I’ve definitely been enjoying the taper!

  10. Congrats on the win, but I’m sorry to hear how the race went otherwise. I can totally see myself getting lost during a race. I’m actually pretty concerned about that for Ragnar this weekend. One of my legs said to bring your phone in case you get lost. If someone is going to get lost, it’ll be me. I’m hoping for the best.

  11. Getting lost in a race is always a fear of mine. Luckily I’m never lead female so I just follow lol Great race despite the quick turnaround! You are still so fast!! I remember being thrilled to finally just hit 44 in the 10k distance this past July. With fall temps and more speed work under my belt now I’m curious to see what I could pull off now…I’ve never ran a cross country type of race but I have run that type of terrain before. It’s easier on my joints but I still prefer the road.

    1. Thank you so much – I am also so excited for fall weather and speed work! You should definitely race another 10K, speedy lady! Your new blog looks GREAT, I was just checking it out! How I wasn’t following it yet is beyond me!!! I blame it on the new school year kicking my butt.

  12. Two years ago I did the Color Run in Hershey, which was advertised as a flat, macadam course. The day of the run came and we discovered that the race directors switched it to a PIAA cross country course, erected on an old golf course. At that point, I had never run on grass. In addition to runners, you had walkers pushing strollers (uphill & downhill). To make matters worse, at different points, there were race marshals hosing the runners to cool us off, making the grass more slippery. The “happiest ” 5k became a nightmare. I vowed never to run another Color Run. However, a few months later, I did do he one in Allentown, which went through Cedar Crest college campus and I loved it. After reading your blog, I’m tempted to try the Hershey run next year. I’m a little more experienced an I do have a local park that basically has grass trails to train on.

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