I think it is maybe my destiny this summer, though, to be running in tiny tiny races. The Legend of Arlage 5K had maybe 40 participants and the Verona Hometown Days 10K, which I ran Sunday, had 35. (To be fair, there was also a 5K that attracted at least double that number.)
Because of its size, most likely, the race was low-tech. We didn't even have bibs, just strips of paper with our names and ages on them that we pinned to our shirts. I didn't mind the small field, really, mostly because everything was organized very well and ran really smoothly. The course was clearly marked, which is obviously important for my dumb ass, and because there weren't a ton of people there, the organizers were always around to answer questions.
The race was in Verona, a smallish town about 15 miles from where I live. It began and ended in Harriet Park:
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But it was mostly on pavement. The course was an out-and-back, which I didn't know when I registered for it. I don't tend to like out-and-back courses, not for races and not for training runs, because I dislike knowing exactly how far I've gone and exactly how far I have left to go (this probably sounds counterintuitive, now that I think about it). I'm glad, though, that I didn't know, because the half marathon I'm doing next month is two huge out-and-back loops, so this was good preparation.
As I think I mentioned before, I had never run a 10K before and so I really had no idea what to expect. It's a weird, in-between distance; you can't sprint it like you do a 5K and you can't pace it the same way you do a half marathon. To pick a goal time I looked at my training runs and settled on anything under 54 minutes, which I figured was an attainable goal because that basically meant running at a sub-9 pace which I've been doing easily for the past month or so. My SUPER-SECRET goal was to finish in under 50 minutes, but I figured that was unlikely because it would mean staying at 8-minute miles. So REALLY, my strategy was the same as it was for the 5K - go out at a pace that felt good, but try to hold back a bit so I could go for negative splits if possible.
So, we set off, I was feeling good, and then I checked my watch at the first mile marker to see 8:06 staring back at me.
I literally uttered "Crap," out loud. And then in the next second, kind of shrugged and thought, Well, I feel fine, let's just see how this goes.
A little bit after that my mom showed up, yay! :) The course was on streets a lot of the time so she was able to drive around and see me and take horribly unflattering running photos at a lot of different points. Like this one, right after she arrived:
I was actually talking to the guy next to me, who had come up beside me and said something like, "You have quite the fan club." I laughed and said, "Aw, just my mom!" and then thanked him for not passing me until after she'd taken the photo. WHICH CLEARLY IS NOT REALLY WHAT HAPPENED, WHATEVER.
The course was hilly, and the major out-and-back portion was one long huge incline. Getting up that thing was a motherf-er, not only because it was huge and it sucked but because at that point I started seeing people who'd turned around passing me on their way back - but I had no idea where the turnaround actually was. I wanted to die a little by the time I got there, but I just told myself I'd get to savor the downhill on my way back. I hit the four-mile mark right after the turnaround, at 32:20.
You can tell how awesome I am feeling after all of those hills. In case you can't, the answer is really not that awesome at all. But I finally made it back to the road without dying and passed the five-mile mark at 40:20.
This is the point where the small field was both a blessing and a curse. I was totally alone on the road at this point. I could see the frontrunners ahead of me, but eventually they turned the corner to the finish line and then I couldn't see them at all. It was nice, kinda, not unlike a training run, but sometimes having other runners around you pushes you more. I was also worried I'd somehow managed to get lost again (though these organizers had spray-painted bright orange arrows everywhere so even I would have had a difficult time losing my way). Eventually I turned the corner to the finish line, ran up yet another hill and passed a very kind woman who told me I was almost there and that the finish was downhill and right around the corner. I loved her mostly.
I kicked it in a little, sprinted down the hill and crossed the finish line in 50:05.
Y'all, I'm totally and 100 percent thrilled with that time. My splits, from what I can remember, were almost completely even - I think they were: 8:06, 8:11, 8:04, 7:59, 8:00 and 8:00 - and I felt great and paced myself well. Of course there's that part of me that's all "Ugh five seconds and you could have broken 50!" but it's a small part. Because I'm really proud of myself. :)
Right after finishing, sweaty but celebrating:
That time was also good enough for third place in my age group, fifth woman overall, which meant I got a medal:
AND WHO DOESN'T LOVE A MEDAL, HONESTLY. (Fun fact: this race was a fundraiser for the Verona High School cross-country team. My first-ever cross-country race was at Verona and I am pretty sure they gave out this same medal then.)
My only gripes about this race are the fact that runners weren't even given the option to pick up registration packets before race day (I hate dealing with that on race day, it is enough trouble for me to get there on time, since I have to factor in extra time for getting lost), and that there were three different start times listed online. The active.com site said 7:30 am, mapmyrun said 7:45 and the Verona Hometown Days website said 9 am. I was all set to show up for a 9 am start and decided, at the last minute Saturday night, to call the organizer (whose number I found on mapmyrun) and double-check; good thing I did or I would have been posting a stabby entry about missing the start.
Up next: Summerfest Half Marathon, and then I gotta find something else to register for because I am on a total race high now; why did I ever stop doing this?!