It’s been more than 25 years since I’ve run a 10k (heck, I was still in seventh grade, I think). So while I have a lot of rituals for half marathons and marathons, I don’t really have any for a 10k. So I did all kinds of things different for this race since it’s so short (and I took it far less seriously than a longer race): no night before carb-loading, had a beer with dinner while dining with the family on the rooftop of a local pub, didn’t exactly relax the day before (hey, when the yard looks like a jungle, it’s time to mow), skipped my normal race-day morning shower, passed on my normal bagel with peanut butter and banana slices (opted for cereal), and even had a Diet Coke on the drive.
Alarm went off at 4:50 am. Second race in a row where I’ve had a great night of sleep. That was a good sign. Was on the road by 5:10 for the 1.5 hour drive to Rockford. Got a little nervous when the on-ramp said there was construction for the next 36 miles, but fortunately there weren’t many people on the road at that hour on a Sunday morning.
Becky and I have made the trip up to this race for the half marathon the past two years and left the boys with relatives. So it was a bit lonely going solo this year. I’ve only gone to one other race solo, but that one was just ten minutes from home so it wasn’t as bad. I know I’m normally pretty giddy and obnoxious from pre-race jitters, so I’m sure Becky was glad to still be sleeping instead of dealing with my mood swings for the long drive.
The full marathon and half marathon were scheduled to go off at 7 and the 10k starts at 7:15. So I knew I had plenty of time, but would also have to park farther out than in previous years. It’s great that they have race-day packet pickup, otherwise I couldn’t do this race. And the parking wasn’t bad at all. Four blocks away instead of one or two!
Headed back to the car with my swag and to lather on the sunscreen as there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it was expected to be hot. The website had a road sign theme going on this year, and they continued that theme on the participant shirts and medals.
The visual theme from the race’s website.
The website theme played out on the participant shirts. Tech fabric, and a perfect fit. I’ll be training this summer in this one.
A great benefit of this race: indoor facilities near the start/finish line. I milled around a bit waiting for all of the half and marathon participants to head to the start line so I didn’t have to wait in line. Worked like a charm. And still had plenty of time to get some water and jog up and down the block a couple of times to warm up my muscles. That was another change of routine for me. I don’t warm up for the longer races (and poke fun at the people sprinting back and forth just prior to a full), but figured I’d be running pretty hard for this one and shouldn’t start with cold muscles.
I decided it’s only a 10k so I wouldn’t carry any gels with me. Probably a bit of a mistake since I was definitely gassed at the end but oh well. Also remembered my headphones this time, too. The funniest part was seeing 203 people trying to figure out how to line up. The signs were still up from the marathon pace markers, so a lot of people were waiting at the back of the start area near their relevant time. Nobody seemed to want to go up close to the start line, so the organizers had to keep signaling everyone to move up.
I had checked out the previous year’s results and knew that my pace would probably put me in the top 25-30 runners. I figured that meant I’d still be a couple rows back. Turns out that it meant I’d be starting in the second row…I felt so elite.
When the gun went off, about ten people shot forward and were pretty much out of sight by the time I hit the first mile marker. There was a clock at the first marker, but I didn’t have to worry about having more than a 1-2 second difference between gun time and chip time. To reach my stretch goal of breaking 45 minutes, I knew I’d need to average 7:15 min/miles. I knew I was a couple seconds behind at mile 1 and sped up a little for mile 2. But I just couldn’t hold it. I know I slowed a bit through the water stations even though I wasn’t walking. Then the turnaround point really broke my stride. And then I got hot and sweaty and the sunscreen started burning my eyes (note to self: billions of dollars await if you can solve that problem).
And I was damn lonely. Fans of half and full runners weren’t anywhere near where we were on the course. From the halfway point on, the closest person in front of me was about 2-3 blocks ahead (and finished 2 minutes in front of me). So in terms of spectators or even a shred of humanity, there was really only the random person or two that happened to be on the river path that morning. It felt like a training run, not a race.
I knew I was bleeding a bit of time but was still doing a lot better than I thought I would. When the course exited the beautiful riverside path that we were on for miles 4 and 5, we got to the 1-mile stretch of perfectly straight-ahead uphill climb. I tried to pick up the pace a bit for the last mile (despite the uphill) and was marginally successful. When I finally hit the top of the hill where we make a right-hand turn, run down a huge hill, and cross the bridge to the finish, I started to sprint. Finally there were some people clustered at the finish area! I got a jolt from the crowd. The sprint seemed to work as that final 0.2 was blazing fast for me (I didn’t know I could even run that fast).
Pushed as hard as I could go. And that extended downhill at the finish makes that last 0.2 look spectacular!
I’ll take a nice flat course like this any day. Even the hill at the end is good because you get a great downhill sprint to the finish line. Cumulative elevation gain was 86 feet.
The finisher’s medals picked up the same highway sign theme from the website and shirts.
I grabbed some Gatorade and a banana before sitting on the curb for a few minutes to catch my breath and untie my shoes. I had been breaking in my newest pair of shoes over the last couple of weeks, but with pretty low mileage, they aren’t really race ready yet.
Then it was time to change clothes, hop in the car, and make the trek home. It was only 6.2 miles, but I was soaked from head to toe from sweat. It was 75 or so when I finished, and the temps climbed steadily the rest of the morning. I felt horrible for the half’ers and marathoners that would still be out there on the course. It got into the 80′s.
By early afternoon, the official times were posted and I was pleasantly surprised to see that I had finished second in my age group. I won’t get anything special for the placement since they only have age group awards for the full and half, but I can still say I finished second in a race. And placing 15th overall out of 203 (which puts me as the last name on the first page of results!) feels pretty good too.
My official time was a 45:39 for an average pace of 7:21 min/mile. I crushed my first two goals, but still have some work to do to break 45. I’m still pleased with the day. I’m so glad I ended up just running the 10k instead of trying to gut out an uninspired half marathon performance–or bail on the race entirely which is where my mind was when I went online to drop out…only to learn that the 10k was an option. My biggest frustration is that I can’t really remember what my fastest 10k time was from when I did a lot of running and 10k’s in grade school. I’d love to know how this compares.
Official results. Made the first page of finishers, and placed second in my age group. (Check out the 12-year old in tenth place…wow.)
Not really sure when I’ll end up doing another 10k, but this one was fun.