I wanted to run this race so badly last year, but was unable to due to my injury, and I was quite literally heartbroken about it. I know it sounds silly to be heartbroken about not being able to run a race, but this is one of the most popular races around here, and is as much a social event as it is a race. And several of my friends were running it for the first time, which made it even tougher.
But, missing the race last year made me appreciate it that much more this year!
I went into the race thinking I had a good shot at finishing in an hour and 20 minutes. I ran a 7:40 pace at the 7-mile race a few weeks ago, so I figured I could pretty easily manage 8-minute miles for 10 miles. In the back of my mind, I hoped I could even get closer to a 7:50 pace, but the heat and humidity are always a factor in this race, given that it's the end of July, so 1:20 was the goal I focused on.
The weather, as it turned out, was not nearly as bad as it could have been. The week before the race was literally the hottest day we've had all summer - 95 degrees, with high humidity. It was hot even at the beaches that day, and I was feeling rather nervous that we'd be contending with those conditions on race day. Luckily, we did not!
The entire day was cloudy, and very humid, but the temperature stayed relatively low - in the mid- to upper-70s. That was still the case as race time neared. The air was very thick, and very uncomfortable, but without the sun heating things up, it didn't feel too horrible.
I left the house around 4:30, and parked down near the beach (the race starts at a local high school, and finishes at the beach, about a mile away from the start), and had no problem getting a spot, since it wasn't a great day for going to the beach.
There were shuttles available to take people to the start, but I figured I had plenty of time, and that walking over would serve as a good warmup, and would allow me to work off some of my nervous energy. I was right on both counts : )
Since I had picked up my race number the previous weekend, there wasn't much to do once I got there, besides head for the porta-potties, of course. Only problem is that there were approximately a dozen porta-potties, for approximately 3,000 runners. Someone made a serious miscalculation there, don't ya think?
The lines were ridiculous. I expect to wait in line for the bathroom at a race, but the length of these lines was way beyond anything I've ever seen at any race. So I did what pretty much everyone who wasn't waiting in line decided to do - headed for the surrounding woods.
As an indication of how bad the actual bathroom lines were - there were actually areas of the woods that had become designated "ladies" and "mens" rooms - the women were waiting in line outside of one small clearing, and the men were waiting outside of another. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do, right?
With that taken care of, I made my way over to our designated meeting spot for a photo with some friends who were running the race - many of them for the first time ever - and we got a couple of nice group shots. It was fun to wish them all well - so exciting to see people start tackling these longer distances!
I found a few other friends in the crowd and talked with them for a few minutes, and then made my way toward the starting line, as it seemed like people were slowly shifting out into the street to line up. I got up pretty close to the front of the pack, and found a few more friends - it was nice to have someone to talk to in those last few minutes before the gun.
Despite my plan to start out conservatively, I did what I always do and started out too fast. Mile 1 - 7:33. When. Will. I. Learn??????
That first mile was fabulous, though. I was just so thrilled to be out there taking part in this race again. The crowds during the first mile are huge, and it's such a rush to run past and see and hear all those people cheering you on. So amazing. The crowd support is one of the things that makes this race so great.
The course is the other. The first few miles run along the aptly-named "Ocean Road." You don't actually see the ocean for a few miles, but the road is gently rolling, shaded, and has some of the most beautiful homes around, so it's scenic even before you get to the ocean. As a result, I was feeilng pretty great, and ran miles 2, 3, and 4 in 7:45, 7:41, and 7:50.
There were some moments during those first few miles when I just felt like everything was working perfectly. I didn't feel like I was struggling, but I didn't feel like I was coasting or taking it easy, either. It felt like precisely the right kind of effort for a 10-mile race. And every time I felt that way, I took a glance at my Garmin, and it was registering right around a 7:50 pace. It was very encouraging to me that that pace was feeling so darn comfortable : )
Mile 5 is the point at which the course turns off of Ocean Road and heads up toward the only really bad part of the race. This part of the course also involves a slight uphill climb. Not steep at all, but a very steady climb, and it was enough to slow me to a 7:58 pace for mile 5.
But I also got a nice blast of cool water from someone standing out on their front lawn with their garden hose, and that gave me a big boost psychologically. It wasn't that hot, but it was warm enough that I appreciated some cooling down.
Mile 6 was where I struggled the most. This part of the course runs along a four-lane road, and it's flat and straight, so you can see the road stretching out in front of you, seemingly forever. And it's also horribly boring - very little to look at - and since it's a busy road, there isn't nearly as much crowd support. So, my energy really flagged here, and I was having to reassure myself that I could still do this, and that once I got through this part of the course, the rest would be easy. Mile 6 was my slowest of the entire race - 8:07.
But I knew that once I turned off that road, I'd feel better, and I was right. We were now back into the quiet neighborhood just off of Ocean Road, and as we made the turn, there was a big crowd of people cheering, which gave me a huge boost. I knew that the mile 7 marker was right around the corner, too, and after that, there was just a 5K to go.
I was happy to see I was back to a sub-8 pace for mile 7 - 7:56. I was also really happy just to see that the end was near. Mile 8 took us back past the start, and also back through a ton of spectators, which was great. I was definitely tiring at this point, but still feeling ok, and managed 7:57 for mile 8.
With two miles to go, I had hopes that I could start to pick up the pace a little bit, but it just didn't happen. There's one small climb during mile 9, and on top of that, I was just getting tired, and I wanted to be sure and save something so that I could finish strong.
I've now run this course so many times on training runs, and every time I run it, I love running down the final one-mile stretch, imagining it filled with spectators yelling and clapping. I've imagined that so many times over the past few months - it was nice to finally be experiencing it for real!
And I'm glad I saved a little bit of energy, because I used it during that final mile, pushing myself to a 7:34 pace. It hurt, and I couldn't wait for it to be over, but I'm glad I got my strong finish. And I'm even more glad that I surpassed my 1:20 goal, finishing in 1:19:02.
First order of business after finishing was hydrating. I had stopped at several of the water stops, but I was still in need of water, so grabbed a bottle immediately and then found a spot where I could cheer on all my friends who were still running.
I watched all of them finish, chatted with them all for a few minutes, and then made my way back to my car, and on the way home stopped at a local restaurant and picked up a well-deserved burger and fries that I enjoyed when I got home.
This race was everything I had hoped for - fun, exciting, successful, and a nice challenge. It was great to see so many friends, and to be a part of such a nice community event. And it was great to PR by 6 minutes and 40 seconds, too!!!!!!
Final stats -
23 out of 326 in my age group (not bad for a very popular, very competitive race!)
498 out of 2600 overall
A great race, a great PR, and a great night! And I had exactly one day to recover before heading out for my triathlon - which I'll save for another blog post.....