As with many of my races lately, I didn't have any grand plans for the Zooma Cape Cod 10K this past weekend. I knew I wanted to go for it and really race, but I didn't know what that was going to mean in terms of my finishing time.
The fact that this was only my second 10K ever, combined with my sort-of-ambivalent summer, put me in a position of making some very vague estimates about how fast I'd be able to run, but my best guess was somewhere in the range of a 7:20 to 7:35 pace. I felt fairly confident I'd be able to pull that off, and I planned to start at a 7:40 pace and then gradually work my way down.
This is a smaller race (just over 250 participants in the 10K), so lining up was very easy, and I actually found myself right at the front of the line, which felt kind of odd. But I also knew (having been at this race two other years) that it's not a really competitive field, so being right out in front was probably ok. And as it turned out, I was right.
The gun sounded, and we were off, and of course I was a little too fast right off the line, but I reeled myself in quickly. There was a guy running out in front (found out later that he was a pacer), which seemed odd, because the event is billed as an all-women's race - guys aren't forbidden, but not too many show up.
Behind him was a woman in a bright pink tank top, and I was behind her. In second place. Yes, it was only half a mile into the race, but it was still pretty cool to be running right up there behind the pace car.
My first mile came in at 7:25, and I didn't really give it too much thought, even though it was clearly faster than I had thought I'd start out. I felt good, and I've had a lot of tempo runs in that range, so I thought I'd be ok.
Shortly after that, I heard someone coming up behind me, and I gave her a shout of encouragement as she passed me, but she had headphones on, so I don't think she heard. I didn't look behind me at all, but for the rest of the race, I heard no other footsteps in back of me, so I got the sense that it was now the three of us out in front, and the rest of the pack a fair distance behind.
The course had started along the ocean and gone through a neighborhood, and then we took a left turn and crossed over a bike path. And about 300 yards after the bike path, we came to another intersection, but there was nobody there to tell us which way to go.
The woman in first place had taken off around mile 1.5, and after she turned left at the intersection, I couldn't see her anymore - but I figured that we should be able to see her down one of the roads leading off from this intersection, but she was nowhere to be found - and neither was the pace car.
The second place woman and I turned around, utterly confused, and then a woman who had been behind us and had now caught up to us was yelling to us that we were supposed to have turned onto the bike path.
More than a little annoyed, we made our way back up to the bike path and turned onto it, and sure enough, I could see the lead woman way out ahead of us.
I was mad, and frustrated, but knew I needed to shake it off and move on. Getting off-course like that - even for a short distance - really messes with your head, and with your pace, and I knew that it would be really easy to let that derail my whole race, but I also knew that despite that mishap, I was still feeling like I was running pretty strong, and I wanted to find out how long I could keep it up.
Luckily at this point we were on a lovely stretch of bike path that made it really easy to settle down and get into a good rhythm. It wasn't completely pancake flat, but the inclines that were there were so gently graded that they were barely noticeable, and I settled in very quickly and got back to feeling pretty great.
Mile 2, even with the wrong turn, came in at 7:15, and mile 3 was the same. Mile 4, most (or all) of which was still on the bike path, was 7:12.
Those miles just felt to me like my body was on autopilot. I was working hard, but not struggling. It was the best I've felt in a race in a long, long time. The miles were just clicking by so much faster than I had imagined they would, and I felt very confident that I could hold the pace, so I kept at it.
The weather, I should mention, was absolutely perfect. I had worn arm warmers for my 2 warmup miles pre-race, but taken them off just before the race start, and my outfit of singlet and shorts was ideal. It was cool and dry and sunny, and absolutely glorious, and I know the conditions were definitely working in my favor.
Mile 5 took us off the bike path and back onto the road, where we encountered a few hills. Nothing major, but as I was now into the final 2 miles, I was getting tired, and the hills hurt a little. But I still managed a 6:59 for mile 5 - woohoo!
The lead woman was nowhere in sight by this point - she had pulled way, way ahead. But I had managed to close in a bit on the second place woman on the hills. I didn't think I'd actually be able to pass her, but I stayed right on her heels, and definitely closed the gap quite a bit in the final mile.
I didn't quite negative split, as mile 6 was a 7:05, but I picked it up a bit for the final .2, running into the chute at a 6:54 pace. Wasn't able to pass 2nd place, but I was very happy to be third!
My official finish time was 47:30, which is listed as a 7:39 pace - but since I ran 6.63 miles due to being misdirected on the course, I actually ran a 7:10 pace - so much better than I thought I'd be able to do!
And having now looked at my only other 10K finish, which was two years ago (when I was running some of my fastest times ever), I found that I ran a 7:07 pace for that race. I am absolutely thrilled to have come so close to that 2013 time., and there is a part of me that is still shaking my head in disbelief, and wondering if my Garmin malfunctioned or something, because I really didn't think I had that in me at this point.
But apparently, I did, and being able to run that pace for that distance has given me such an enormous boost of confidence. I'm practically jumping out of my skin just waiting to get out there and race again.
I feel like I've finally come full circle after the Mystic Half in May. Having a good experience at Surftown definitely lifted my spirits and put me back on the right track, but running this 10K and feeling so strong and confident and fast the entire race has completely turned things around.
I feel like myself again - the self that doesn't shy away from challenges, and that's ready to put in the hard work and overcome the obstacles. The self that's going to put her head down, focus, work hard, and chase down a marathon PR in Boston this year (got notice last week that I'm officially in!).
That's not to say that the doubts won't be there, because they will - they always are. But I'm ready for them, and I know how to silence them.
Yes, it was fun to place third overall in a race, and I won a lovely bracelet, and I'm proud of my finish - but even if it had been a super competitive field and I had placed 20th instead of 3rd, I'd still be proud. I ran smart, strong, and steady, and I accomplished something I never thought I'd accomplish on that day - and that is what makes me the happiest.
What made the weekend even more fun is that I had spent the night before the race at the Another Mother Runner table at the expo, and right after the race, I took a quick shower and changed up for some more AMR time at the post-race party. I worked the expo for this race last year as well, and it was one of the most fun things I've ever done, so I was really happy to be able to go back and do it again, with two other fantastic mother runners.
The staycation race concept is a great one, and Falmouth in September is a great location and time for it, and I'm glad I was able to take part. I hope it becomes an annual event on my race calendar.
Final numbers -
47:30 (for 6.63 miles, due to wrong turn on course); 7:10 pace
3rd of 257 overall
1st of 38 in age group