On Saturday, I ran my first ever ten-mile race. Since I’ve never raced this particular distance before, I knew I was in for an automatic PR. Don’t you love when that happens?
I did have a pretty modest goal for myself nonetheless: I wanted to finish in less than 1:40 (averaging a sub-10:00 pace per mile). Back in the days before I spent so much time dealing with my ongoing hip injury, that goal would have been really easy for me, but these days there’s no guarantee. Especially with a race that has “tough” right there in the name.
I suspect the “tough” in “Tough Ten” comes from the course’s rolling hills:
Let’s face it, though, every single race in my town has similarly hilly terrain. As does my own neighborhood, so, you know. Nothing unexpected there.
I’d done runs of 8-10 miles a few times this fall, so I knew I had the distance part down, and I figured I’d try to challenge myself a little on the pace, but leave myself able to finish feeling strong and not exhausted.
Saturday morning, the weather was in the mid-60s, much cooler than it’s been this fall, and there was a light rain coming down when I left the house. At the last minute, I grabbed a jacket and a hat with a brim, to keep the rain off my face. I wound up being glad for the hat, but could have left the jacket at home as I spent miles 3-10 running with it tied around my waist.
(Aubie at the starting line. Festive!)
About 100 runners took off a little after 7:30 AM, and as the pack started to thin out a bit I realized I was definitely in the back 1/3 of the pack. I never really enjoy that feeling. At some point in the past I got used to being a little faster — in the front half, at least — and I don’t relish feeling slow. There wan’t much to be done about it, though. I was already going a good bit faster than my target pace and I certainly wasn’t going to try to “race” the rest of the pack.
(Do I look mildly terrified above? I don’t know what was going on.)
The splits for my first six miles, in fact, were much quicker than I’d really expected, coming in at 9:27, 9:36, 9:29, 9:44, 9:38, and 9:55. My pace for mile seven was about 9:30-ish until I walked through a water stop at about 6.8 miles in, slowing me down enough to average 10:02 for that mile. Nonetheless, I was pretty psyched that I was able to maintain a sub-10 pace for so long into the race!
The last few miles were tougher, though: they were slightly uphill toward the finish, and my legs were pretty tired by this point. The couple of folks I’d been running near all morning slowly pulled away from me, leaving me running mostly on my own. With a few out-and-backs on the course, I was able to see who was still behind me: mostly walkers. Well then. My pace at this point felt pretty glacial, but I was averaging 10:06, 10:08, and 10:08 for the last three miles.
Even though I felt so slow, I knew I would have no trouble meeting my sub-1:40 goal. I had been quick enough for the first seven miles that there was plenty of time in the bank. This is what I call my excellent “positive splitting” strategy. Other runners: you should totally check this out.
(Yet another in my long history of race photos where it looks like I’m walking. Guess what? Don’t care. Look at that imminent mid-foot strike whydontcha?)
Anyway, I huffed and puffed my way to the finish line, where my fiancé was waiting for me (sweet man that he is, he got up early on a rainy Saturday just to cheer for me) and crossed the line at exactly 1:37. Not too bad! Good enough for 8th place in my age group, too. Out of, ummmm, ten runners. So, like, nevermind.
The next race I’ll probably do is a local 10K in December — maybe I can work up some speed before then and avoid being among the last finishers. I think I’ll try that.