What: 10K (my first!)
Who: Me and Colin, with moral support from Drew
Time: 01:14:52 Automatic personal record!
Splits: (according to Simon, who clocked my final time as 01:13:54)
Mile 1: 11:53
Mile 2: 12:06
Mile 3: 11:55
Mile 4: 11:27
Mile 5: 12:16
Mile 6: 12:03
Mile 6.2: 3:38
Recap: Apparently I have a lot to say about this race… please bear with me, or feel free to stop now! (You can watch a short recap video about the race here.)
This was a race with a lot of build-up! I found the Old Wethersfield race back in February or March when I was looking for races that benefited mental health/addiction charities (like InterCommunity), and there was so much anticipation to running my first 10K that I started having stress dreams in the days before the race. After lots of support and encouragement from my fellow bloggers (thanks everyone! 🙂 ) I was able to calm down and race day arrived without too much panic. You can read about my experience tooling around Wethersfield the day before the race here.
The race was scheduled to start at 8:30am, so after a fabulous complimentary breakfast at our hotel – Hampton Inn Rocky Hill, which offered the best free breakfast I’ve ever seen at a hotel… at least in terms of what I want to eat before a race! – we headed over to Cove Park to pick up our bibs. The packet pickup area was super organized and fast; each volunteer had a computer to look up names, so we didn’t have to line up by last name or know our bib numbers beforehand. After getting our bibs – white for 5K and green for 10K – we were directed over to the t-shirt table to get our swag.
Colin and I did our warmups – some slightly-faster-than-our-slow-race-pace jogging and dynamic stretches – and then followed the sea of people to the starting line. There were (according to the results list) just under 500 people running the 5K and 615 running the 10K. We waited maybe 10-15 minutes for the starting gun, and during that time Colin was feeling like he should keep moving/stretching. He started doing a hip flexor stretch that a lady in front of us was doing and it looked like a good idea so I did it too – bad idea! I had never done that stretch before and have no idea if I was doing it properly, but I ended up – unbeknownst to me at the time – pulling my right hip flexor and and wrenching something in the left side of my lower back. Silly Dana… this is why we don’t do new things right before a race!!
Speaking of new things for a race… I went against protocol and was wearing new shoes and new socks, as well as a new shirt (but I wore another shirt under it that I had worn before). The shoe thing I didn’t think was too bad… I had worn them walking around the day before and already knew that they were shoes that would feel okay, and they did. I decided to debut my ProCompression socks in hopes that they would hold my shins together, and for the most part they were fine, minus a few blisters.
Anyway, back to the race. The 10K course was basically two laps of the 5K course and both races started together. Colin and I started near the back of the pack, so we ended up having to dodge around walkers (why do so many walkers always start so far up in the pack?!) as well as dodge the strollers that came tearing past us because they started at the very back and were so much faster than us. The first half-mile or so felt great… it felt awesome to be running again and my shins were behaving themselves. However, once I thought Hey, my shins feel okay! I totally jinxed myself and they both started hurting, especially righty. My right hip flexor hurt a bit too, so after being giddy about feeling great I was suddenly limping a bit and feeling dejected.
It was also incredibly humid. The temperature at start time was probably upper-60s or low-70s, but the humidity was high enough to make it feel completely miserable. I was covered in sweat very quickly, and was glad that I had grudgingly brought along my leak-prone hand-held water bottle. I mostly wanted it for the pouch, because I wanted to bring a pack of chews and my iPod along and didn’t have a pocket, but I ended up being thankful that I had some water when the aid stations seemed really far apart. (They weren’t really, but during stretches of running on sunny asphalt, they seemed miles away!)
Colin and I purposely ran slowly to ensure that we’d be able to complete the full 6.2 miles, and after averaging 10:30 for most race miles, the high 11s and low 12s seemed incredibly slow, and yet felt faster than I wanted to be moving! The first half of the race was rough with my shins and hip flexor protesting so much, and it was really tempting to veer off around Mile 2.5 to join the 5Kers. But we pressed on, taking the path less traveled as the 10Kers thinned out a lot by that point. As we rounded a corner to begin our second lap of the course, there were hardly any other runners around us, and the crowds had all left to go to the finish line. In a way it was nice, because we no longer had to dodge around people, and I put my iPod on sans headphones so that we could both listen to my running tunes.
Around the time we passed Drew, a little after the 3-mile mark, I suddenly realized that I felt okay again. My shins had abruptly stopped hurting, and my hip flexor only hurt sporadically. I also felt like I had all my energy back and that, coupled with realizing that I felt great, spurred me on to pick up the pace a little bit. Or maybe it was the music. Either way, I became sure that I’d be able to finish the 10K after having doubted it just a mile back. I’ve noticed during long runs and speed work that the workouts tend to get easier the longer I run, so maybe I’m not warming up properly and the painful beginning of this race was my warmup? Who knows, but it lifted my spirits to feel good again!
Even though I was feeling good once again, I realized that I had developed a sort of tunnel vision, or at least an intense focus. Maybe it was because we had already run one lap, but I stopped paying attention to all the pretty houses and scenery around us and just focused on staying in the rhythm I had found. I had planned to take a walk break at 1.5 miles, then 2, and by this point I wanted to keep running as long as possible.
I was so focused, in fact, that I totally forgot to eat my chews, which I had planned to do around the 5K mark. Oops! I didn’t realize until Mile 4.5 or so, where there was a water station, so I grabbed a Gatorade instead of water to get my electrolyte fix. I was hoping for the same jolt of energy I had experienced during the Old Port race when I accidentally grabbed Gatorade, but didn’t feel anything. And, now that my mind was tuned in to how my body felt, I felt my legs getting heavy so broke out my chews anyway (just a few). I was glad I did, because as we turned into the final mile, which was different than the course in the first lap, we were met with a hill that might have forced me to walk if I hadn’t refueled that little bit.
After the hill we only had a bit of road left, then we ran down towards Wethersfield Cove. It was so nice to be plunged into the shady park after so many sunny streets, but I did not like the sudden transition to trail from asphalt. To get to the trail, we took a very sharp turn onto grass, and both my ankles protested violently… whether about the turn or the change in surface, I don’t know. After a few feet on the grass we hit a gravel trail, which kind of felt nice after the roads, but also threw my legs for a loop after they had gotten used to so many miles on asphalt. The trail was quite narrow too, and the people around us who had seemed spread out were suddenly bunched into a tight little group, or mini-pack as I kept thinking of them.
At the end of 5Ks I usually have enough energy, depending on the race, to finish with a sprint, but I hadn’t expected that to happen in a 10K. However, maybe it was the last-minute fuel, but I wanted to finish fast, and the mini-pack clustered on the tiny trail was moving so much slower than I wanted. I started running like obnoxious tailgaters drive, getting a little closer than normal and weaving back and forth, looking for a way around, and when I spotted an opening I zoomed around everyone and took off, surprising Colin. I vaguely heard some cheers and clapping as I approached the finish line, and I pushed it with everything I had left and passed everyone who was in front of me.
I did it! I finished a 10K! I tried to stop but my legs needed to keep moving and I walked away from Colin and Drew like I was being remotely controlled and just kept going. I gratefully grabbed a water bottle that volunteers were handing out in the chute, and my legs carried me across the park over to the Dunkin’ Donuts booth to get a free sample of iced green tea. After guzzling the tea and some water in the shade (Drew and Colin had caught up by that point) we wandered over to the sponsor booths, hoping for some goodies. This was the downside of being slow and running the longer of 2 simultaneous races – all the 5K runners had finished, as well as the vast majority of 10K runners, so everything was picked over. There were some orange slices, a few tiny bits of bagel that had flies buzzing around them, and some fruit-and-nut bars that Colin tried and said were disgusting. Oh well.
Despite the slightly anti-climactic feel of the post-race festivities (no swag, not many snacks left), I will say that I loved how they had results set up. Instead of printing out the results and posting them somewhere with people all crowded around making it hard to see, they had left the registration computers out and cued up to the results database. All we had to do was punch in our bib number and our results were displayed on the screen. I was very happy with how the race was managed – it seemed very well organized and all the volunteers were great!
Speaking of great… I have to give so many props to Colin. He had run a 5K the day before, and could have backed out of running the 10K with me but he didn’t. He also gave me complete control over the race – we ran at my pace, he offered to stop with me if I needed to stop at any point, and he even offered to carry all my stuff at the end so that I could pose for the finish line cameras:
Colin told me later that he was mentally cursing me during the race because he really wanted to stop to walk but didn’t want to slow me down. He also didn’t pressure me to finish strong like he usually does; he knew this race meant a lot to me and was completely supportive and awesome the whole time. He’s also a total badass who ran 15K over the course of the weekend! Thank you for being the best running buddy ever, Colin 🙂
(I’m a terrible blogger and have no photos, but we did make another stop on our diner tour – we had brunch at a lovely little place in Wethersfield called the Aroma Bistro. They had bottled chocolate milk and lovely iced coffee, as well as specialty bagels that were delightful, especially the Dutch apple! I wanted to eat everything in the cafe – bagels, breakfast sandwiches, pastries – but somehow managed to control myself. I’d definitely go back if I ever found myself in Wethersfield again!)
So, to wrap-up this giant ramble, I’m quite pleased with my race experience! I’m chuffed to have finished a 10K, and to have run my longest distance – race or otherwise – to date, especially given that I didn’t have to walk except for a few seconds at a water stop. The Hartford Marathon Foundation put on a great race (though I was secretly disappointed that there was no bling to be had) and I’m glad I had the chance to explore such a cool New England town. It also felt good to support a cause like InterCommunity, though I was puzzled that they didn’t have a presence at the race at all (that I could find anyway, and I looked for them specifically). I do wish that I hadn’t tried that hip flexor stretch… there’s a knot the size of a fist lodged in my lower back, but other than the usual post-race soreness in my legs (and hatred of stairs) I feel great! No pain in my shins or anything. Huzzah!