Upon running up to my parents’ house after the aforementioned rainy run, I saw folks getting out of the car at our long time neighbors’, the Parkers’. Well, I went over and chatted since my parents weren’t home yet. In the course of talking, Mr. Parker mentioned there was a 10k on Sunday and that I should do it. I replied that I’d think about it, but that I had planned on a long run on Sunday. That’s when he threw down. You see, John took me on some of my first runs fourteen and a half years ago and was a running mentor/second father threw high school. In all those years, I had never beat him in a race despite toeing the line together many times. I decided to accept the challenge and even gave him a handicap… I would run to the race! The night before the race I planned a route to the park where it was being held and opted for a course that was a couple miles longer than the shortest way but with less traffic.
About 5 miles into the run to the race I was doubting myself. My legs were heavy and the hills relentless. I knew I could make it to the race and finish, but it might not be pretty. Even though I wasn’t feeling great, it was a beautiful run. It sit here writing this up almost 3 weeks after the race and I vividly recall crossing the bridge over the Delaware River about a mile into the run. There was light fog on the river, the sun was about to break over the trees on the river’s east bank, the sky was a crisp pallet of pastels, and the air still sharp with the night’s chill. I’d only run a small section of the roads on the route, and all but the last mile or two were beautiful hilly country roads past farms and colonial era house.
After I got the race I quickly signed up for the race, had some Clif Bloks (love ’em), and met up with Parker and some of his running buddies. The ladies started 6 minutes before the men’s gun went off. When the gun did fire, I went off a bit faster than expected – about 6 minute flat pace on the even terrain. It felt pretty comfortable. Not long thereafter … and for quite awhile, the course got pretty hill. I had noted my heart rate I plateaued for 6 min/mile pace on the flat and stuck to that regardless of my pace on the hills. The morning was also very, VERY windy. About a mile into the race we entered about two miles of open grass fields and I settled into a pack to let them break the wind.
The second half the race started with a nasty uphill before once again mixing rolling hills with some short flats. On the first half, I had handled the pace and effort rather well and felt like I was in control even though I was running at a pace I hadn’t hit in seven months or so – I decided to continue with the same game plan. Although the race was pretty spread out at this point, I could see that I was slowly working my way up and that felt pretty good. With a mile to go, I still felt strong so I upped the effort and rolled past a couple people. I was making good progress towards catching on of Parker’s friends, but I had incorrectly thought that the start and finish were the same. In fact, the finish was about 200 meters short of the start, which meant that I didn’t unleash my kick and didn’t catch the guy. I ended up 9th in around 37:55. Not bad for a hilly course on a windy day with no speed work… and 12 miles on my legs at the start.