The Run Lake Lowell race day was one of surprises for me. After having dreamed of not finding the starting line, then continuing to waffle about whether or not to wear my Moc3’s or go barefooted, I walked along the road from the parking area to the starting line. Every few feet, I reached down and pressed my fingers on the asphalt, only to confirm that it was very rocky and rough. I finally made the hard decision to give up the goal of my first bare foot 10K to avoid being in agony for 6.2 miles. My feet just aren’t ready for that yet. So….
The next question was “what was my goal now?” We had discovered just that morning that there were only 29 entries in the 10K distance, the half-marathon being 4 times as popular. That meant there was more of a chance at placing. Still, I knew that I needed to pace myself well and stay relaxed. I chose a position in the starting mob, which included 3 race distances of about 170 people, that was only a few rows back from the starting line and waited for the fog horn starting gun.
And we were off! We funneled through the chip activating strip, and then had to remain in a strung out formation in order to make it through the very narrow sidewalk exit from the park. I concentrated on keeping resilience in my step and deciding how and when to pass what was mostly half-marathon runners. I couldn’t worry about other 10K runners’ starting paces, because if they were really fast I would never catch them, but if they were moderately faster there was the possibility I would pass them later. I settled on the goal of finishing my first complete 10K within my training limits. When the 10Kers split off, I found myself running up to pass one woman, then I was alone on a long stretch, some group leading out in front, barely visible.
But somewhere in the 2nd mile, this young woman came up along side me. She stayed there a couple of moments, then glided about 8 feet ahead of me. I instantly came up with a strategy. I would test her pace, see if I could stay close enough that there was a chance of passing in the final stages. I have a history of being able to get some kick going in the final stretch. I found her pace manageable, my breathing settled in, and the race was on!
Occasionally she would pull ahead a bit more and I would force myself to simply concentrate on my form and rhythm. Sooner or later, I would notice the distance decrease again. I had no idea who was ahead of us at this point. I didn’t hear anyone behind me or see shadows, so I didn’t waste any energy looking. We turned onto Middleton Road and found it busy with traffic. However, the drivers were polite and did not interfere with our running. I think they sensed the contest.
Somehow, I wasn’t seeing the mile markers for the race distance, but I used my time to gauge my distance. We turned onto Iowa. The hills were steeper than I had remembered, and the head wind was oppressive. Again, I directed myself to think of form and how a slight lean would help me up the hills. To my surprise, I gained, then finally passed my “rival.” As I gained the top of the last main hill and eased over, I expected her to take me again on the downhill, but I never glanced back. I kept thinking the finish was just around the bend, so I held my pace strong. Finally, the finish WAS in sight.
Due to the shadows of trees after running in the sun with sunglasses, I almost didn’t see the thick steel wire fence strung at hip height around the grass section at the beginning of the finish chute! With just a couple of feet to spare, I swerved sharply to the left, avoiding tragedy. Knowing that many a person has been passed this close to the finish line, I gave it what kick I had left, which wasn’t much. Greg always says that I haven’t tried hard enough if I can pick up my pace drastically compared to how I’ve run the rest of the race. This time, I must have given more. I crossed the finish line unopposed. Then, I stumbled as they removed my timing chip and read out my time and placing. I was second of all women and 6th overall! Woot! Time: 51:57. (10K results) And no one else crossed the line for a couple of minutes. The one lady who beat me was 29 years old. I’m 51. Not too bad!!
The wind was chilly enough that I soon needed all my warm gear again. Then I settled in to watch for Greg and Natalie to finish the half-marathon. Both of their finishes were dazzlingly impressive, but I don’t want to steal their stories, so you’ll have to ask them about it. 🙂 (half-marathon results)
I had one more surprise to come. Greg did the math for my race and told me what my average pace was. I made him do the math several times, because I couldn’t believe I had done that well for a 10K. Then, Carlie obliged by using her calculator as well. My average pace was a 8:24 mile. And so begins the summer of the 10K races. I have 3 more on the calendar and I’m feeling encouraged.