In college the 10K was my race - it was the longest distance offered. The highlight of my track career was probably a fifth place finish at the NCAA Division I New England Regional Meet (I went to a Div. 3 school). I still drink coffee in the mug I won. My best college time was still about 50 seconds too slow to qualify for Nationals.
Since graduating, I have tended to favor races longer than the 10K. Somewhere in my mind I have just decided I am too slow for that distance and so I don't usually do it. But this week my good friend and colleague, Debbie, came in on Monday and asked if I wanted to do the Willamette Valley Road Runners Club Summer Solstice 10K with her Friday night. She did have one reservation:"Wait, you aren't in my age group are you?" Debbie's got a competitive nature, too! After she was assured that I was not in her age group, she again encouraged me to run with her. The race was in Minto-Brown Park, which is probably the best running opportunity in Salem and I was anxious to learn more about the trails there. And the price was right: $8 ($10 day of race), which included an ice cream sundae at the finish. Plus, I figured a 10K would count as a good tempo run.
To solidify my intentions to use this race as a workout I still did my usual "ass-kick Wednesday" workout: up at 4:30 (AM!) for a set of mile repeats and some heavy lifting! Not to mention, I like to have an excuse to fall back on if the race doesn't go well!
I met Debbie at the race and we milled around a bit before the air-horn signaled the start of the race. We took off and I could immediately make out three girls ahead of me. I know, I know, this was just a workout, but it never hurts to check out the competition, right?
The race started down the bike path before turning on to a bark chip (and not barf chip!) path. I passed one girl on a small uphill before mile one. My 6:44 split was faster than I wanted - I guess I am still having problems with going out too fast. I slowed it down, because I knew I couldn't keep that pace, especially because I could feel a bit tiredness in my legs, surely left over from Wednesday (or at least that's my excuse!).
The next girl up slowed a bit too and I fell in behind her. At the two mile mark, I pulled past her, too. I could see the last girl up ahead, but I never seemed to get any closer, even though I did a pretty good job of keeping a consistent pace after mile one (7:11, 7:14, 7:14, 7:12, 7:18). At mile four, I could hear somebody behind me and I was sure one of the girls had made a comeback, but it turned out to be a guy with long basketball-types shorts, riding way too low on his hips, particularly for a runner! He passed me but I managed to get him back with about a mile to go, probably because I got sick of looking at the four inches of gray underwear sticking out above his shorts! I didn't catch the girl ahead of me and so took my usual second place (44:41) (11th overall). She got a nice medal for the win and I had to just settle for an age group award : a first place laminated paper ribbon! (sorry first LOSER!) My friend Debbie also took home the blue ribbon in her age category.
OK, sure, I'd like to be writing about how I won the race and got all the applause when they announced the winner, but it was still a good race for me and I had a great time. Minto-Brown proved to have a lot more trails than I was giving it credit for. After the first mile, I think I did a great job at running a constant pace, especially since the variation corresponds very nicely with the little hills on the course (mostly it was flat). And my time was nearly 11 minutes faster than the I did this year five months ago- just goes to show the power of training! And who wouldn't be proud to hang a paper ribbon on the wall?