I’m just going to lead with this:
I ran this race in 2014 and wanted to come back ever since. Despite the hills, this is such an awesome run in a gorgeous setting. Last year, I was plagued with a bum Achilles and was certainly not going to test it out on this hilly course. I read my old review before running this race again and it reminded me that I was in for some serious climbs.
Hansons doesn’t really recommend racing during your training season. But those tempo runs get long and grueling, especially towards the last six weeks of training. I am fortunate that around the time I need of 9-10 miles at marathon pace, there are two ten mile road races in my area (this one and another one coming up on 4/2). I know I have a better shot at hitting my tempo paces if I do them as part of a race. I also know I run the risk of running harder than I need to.
Besides the fact that I simply enjoy racing, this also gave me a chance to simply “practice” racing before Boston. This race was a good fit: the start time was 9 am, only an hour earlier than I’ll start Boston. I carb loaded with some pizza the night before (pizza, pasta, or sushi are my staple pre-race foods), and got a good night’s sleep. I woke up and ate what I plan to eat for breakfast before Boston (a Thomas Mini Bagel, Chocolate PB2, a banana and Lemon Tea Nuun). The weather was great: sunny and a bit chilly, so I wore tights, a thin long sleeved top, a lightweight headband, and gloves.
The other reasons for me running this race were that I love the 10 mile distance, and it happened to fall on my birthday! I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate turning 33.
I always go into races with a loose game plan and several goals to keep myself mentally engaged during the race, even if I’m not having a great day. My goals were as follows:
- Goal A: 1:06 – 6:36 pace, and what Hansons lists on the race equivalency chart for a 3:05 marathon.
- Goal B: 1:07 – about a 6:45 pace and what Hansons lists on the race equivalency chart for a 3:10 marathon.
- Goal C: Sub 1:09:28, which was my 10 mile PR set in November 2014.
- Goal D: Maintain marathon pace (7:03/mile), which was technically the purpose for this run.
- Goal E: Finish.
Goal A was my “all the stars are aligned and I’m having the day of my life” goal. I knew a 6:36 was completely unreasonable to expect because I didn’t even hold that at the Superbowl Sunday 10K just a month ago. I considered that I was in better shape now and had a nice recovery week going into this race, so I thought I had a good shot at Goal B or C.
I knew the overall pace I needed to maintain but I didn’t want to stress out and get caught up with the numbers because that’s how I usually blow my races. I took the “average pace” field off of my main screen for my Garmin and simply had lap pace so I could really just focus on taking it one mile at a time. I wanted to run this race on effort. Regardless of what happened in mile 1 (I know I always go out fast), I wanted to keep my pace in check until around mile 5.
Back to how it all went down. I arrived early, around 7:45 am. My husband tagged along since it was my birthday! The race started and ended at an elementary school in Quakertown, only about 20 minutes from my house. There were indoor bathrooms and we had use of the school’s gym and cafeteria, meaning we could stay warm before and after the race. I got my bib and headed out for an easy two mile warm up. After all, this was ultimately a tempo run, as much as I wanted to stay warm and cozy in my car. I noticed that my legs felt good and running felt effortless, but I didn’t want to get too excited.
After my warm up, I headed back inside the school and found my friends just in time to head back out to line up at the starting line. I saw a local speedy female, Kristen K., at the front of the pack. We are generally close in pace, but I knew she was a bit faster than me. I thought she might be a good person to pace off of if I could keep her in my sights, so I lined up next to her.
Before I knew it, we were off. As usual, I went out too fast but I told myself not to look at my watch and to run on effort. I found myself positioned as the first female from the first mile of the race, which I knew wouldn’t last. My legs felt light, my breathing was controlled and I had a ton of energy. My Garmin beeped at mile 1 and showed a 6:27. I told myself to reign it in and slow down or I would have a long day ahead of me. 6:27 was faster than I needed for Goal A, so I needed to back off or I’d be screwed later.
The hills are spread throughout the entire course, but the majority of the climbing happens in the first half of the race. I was still the first female as I headed into mile 2, and I refused to look at my watch. I just kept telling myself to run comfortably. Calm down. Enjoy the race and the weather and just run.
As my watched beeped at mile 2, I saw two guys cheering on the side of the road. It was my husband, and Ashley’s boyfriend! I saw them several times during the race, which was amazing and unexpected. From miles 2-4, I was amused by a young guy that I was “running” with. He looked to be high school aged. I wasn’t “racing” him, but as I approached him and began to pass him, he would pick up his pace. I would pass him on the inclines, and then on the declines he would come mowing past me – heavy footsteps, heavy breathing and working way to hard for mile 2 of a 10 mile race. By mile 4, I passed him and never saw him again.
I still saw no other females until the climb at mile 4.5. Kristen started to pass me on a climb and I realized I wasn’t alone. I told her, “nice job!” as we both huffed up the hill. As we crested the hill, I took my GU and passed her without increasing my effort too much. She stayed on my heels, and when my watch beeped at mile 5, I knew the race for first place was on. Miles 2-4: 6:46, 6:41, 6:47, 6:39.
I kept about a 10-15 second lead on Kristen over the next 4.25 miles. Around mile 6, we were basically running together and hauling ass up one of the many huge hills. I looked at her and said, “this course is definitely as hard as I remember it!” and she grunted back, “oh yes!”. I think I had a bit more energy than her at that point because we crested the hill and I felt good. For some reason, I kept repeating a quote over and over in my head as I ran: “If it’s hurting me, it’s killing them”. I have no idea where heard that or why it was stuck in my head, but it seemed fitting. I knew I was working hard and running a bit faster than I should, but I’ve been training hard too. I picked up the pace significantly during this mile in hopes that I could wear her out. At one point, we came around a turn and I thought I lost her altogether. I still didn’t feel confident that I would win the race and knew she was an extremely strong competitor, but I was still in the lead at mile 9. Miles 6-9: 6:25, 6:12, 6:31, 6:20
I wasn’t hurting, but I couldn’t go any faster. At mile 9.25, Kristen passed me and in that moment that I knew she had me. I knew the last mile was mostly uphill. I knew for sure that the last quarter mile was completely uphill. I also knew that I was running a huge PR in that moment, and I was content. I smiled and watched her pass me, told her she looked great and kept moving. Maybe I gave up, but my legs couldn’t move any faster. I ran my slowest mile of the race. I don’t know if it was because I stopped fighting for it, or because I was really tired. I think it was a bit of both. Mile 10: 6:50. Even though it was slower than the rest, this was the first time I’ve ever run a 10 miler with every single mile being sub-7!
I crossed the finish line 16 seconds behind Kristen…in 1:05:31, 6:33/mile, 2nd overall female. I knew in my last mile that I was going to break 1:06 and I was over the moon ecstatic. During the later miles of the race, I remember thinking about my 1:06 goal and thinking that was the stuff that dreams were made of…but I was 29 seconds faster than my dream goal. I never, ever thought I could run that fast in my life.
When I ran this course in 2014, it was short by .05. There was this whole ordeal about some chick that was supposed to show up this year and break the American record for the 10 miler (you can read the whole debate here – it’s rather comical). In anticipation of this, the main sponsor paid the $500 to have the course certified and moved the finish line .05 to make it exactly 10 miles.
My husband knows that any runner that crosses the finish line with a PR wants the clock in the picture:
In other news, my new Garmin told me that I ran two other (unofficial) PRs that day during the race: a 19:21 5K (current official PR is 19:25 from 2014) and a 40:15 10K (just a month ago, I ran a 41:30 as my current 10K PR).
This race was a huge confidence booster. Even factoring in the last mile, I ran a negative split that day. The first half of my race was slower than the second, which I am super excited about. I reigned it in after that first mile, which I knew I would take out too fast but I didn’t let it set the tone for the rest of the race.
It was good to have someone chasing me to push me. I wouldn’t have had the confidence to run that fast had I been running alone. I’m 100% honest when I say that I am not disappointed that I didn’t win – sure, it would have been icing on the cake, but I would MUCH rather having a strong competitor to chase because it helped me knock four whole minutes off of my previous 10 mile PR. I don’t know if I would have pushed myself like that if I didn’t have anyone to chase. I’ve hung consistently in that 1:09 range for the past three years. Breaking that barrier was a really big deal for me.
I ran this race too hard for the middle of a training cycle and harder than I needed to run my tempo run. I knew that I wanted to race this race when I signed up for it, and I need to be cautious in the following days to pay attention to how my legs feel and adjust my workouts accordingly (read: not be too hard on myself when I feel tired on Track Tuesday and Tempo Thursday).
I am my own worst enemy. I knew Kristen was fast when we lined up at the starting line. Even when I was in first place at mile 9, I doubted that I could win. Could I have won? Did I just give up, knowing I already did what I came there to do? Why did I just let her go when I stayed ahead of her for the whole race? Whether I could have won or not, I need to work on my confidence moving forward. I am always hesitant to be more confident.
Part of the problem is that there is such a fine line between confident and cocky. I do NOT want to be cocky. Running, at any pace, is a privilege. Not everyone knows the joy of being able to go out and log miles and see the world that way. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to run this race and run as well as I did. I am grateful that I have made it this far with the Hansons program. I consider each and every mile, every race, and each day of training to be a blessing. Running is not something I am entitled to because I ran x number of miles at x:xx pace. I want to continue my momentum, and build my confidence – NOT my ego. But most of all, I just want to keep feeling good while running.
Back to the race. I crossed the finish line and went right up to Kristen and gave her a huge hug, congratulated her and thanked her. I told her I ran a four minute PR and I owed it to her. I watched Ashley cross the finish line as the 4th female and also run a big PR, and waited for the rest of our crew to finish. Ashley, Mark A. and I headed out for a super easy two mile cool down, giving me 14 miles for the day. I’m telling you – reducing post race soreness is allllll about the cool down! It’s a magical thing that I used to hate and skip every single time. Another valuable lesson learned through Hansons.
The awards were held inside, so we changed our clothes, got some food and received our awards.
Getting my award:
I am still loving how this has my birthday on it!
I couldn’t have asked for a better day way to spend my birthday. Of course we went out for drinks post race (my stomach wasn’t having any of it, but I didn’t care) and a nice dinner later that night, but the PR and fun day at the race with my husband and my friends was more than enough for me.
Would you rather win a race overall, or have a strong competitor to push you to a PR you thought you were incapable of?