Yesterday I ran my first 10K road race. I wasn't even planning to do this race until a few days beforehand, and I wasn't sure what to expect. I had to go to the internet and find the VDOT calculator to help me. Based on my recent 5K PR time, VDOT told me I could run a 10K in 38:06. I then used an online pace calculator to see what 6:10 pace for 10K would work out to be (I recently had a 5 mile workout at that pace). The calculator told me 38:19. Lastly, there was a local runner I beat in a recent 5K by 50+ seconds, who ran 39 minutes last year. Based on all this, I set my expectation to be between 38:00 - 38:30.
I traveled to the race with my fellow WTAC teammate Justin. We were disappointed that race day registrants could not enter their team affiliation. We did anyway hoping that maybe WTAC would be included by our names. We then headed out for a 3 mile warm up. We noticed a nature preserve right across the street and wanted to go check that out. We spent time exploring the trails. The park has some impressive cliffs. We then returned to the car to figure out what clothes to race in. The morning was chilly (21 at my house when I woke up), but warming to the high 30's. I opted to just run in short sleeves with a hat and gloves. We then jogged down to the starting line. There we ran into some fellow Chariho friends. Before I knew it the race began.
Immediately I took off in a comfortable sprint, and after a few hundred meters, settled into my position (about 15th or so). The first mile went by pretty quickly. The course has rolling hills every mile. Justin and I crossed the 1st mile marker in 5:48. He then moved ahead of me. I wanted to stick with him, but knew I was in danger of overdoing it way too early. But around the next corner was a nice little hill and I made a move around a small group of runners and briefly reunited with Justin. The next mile I was either part of or slightly leading the same group of runners. In this group was Dave Schaad - the guy who I beat in a 5K in November and who ran 39 minutes last year. I used him as a barometer, thinking that I would want to be in front of him to reach my goal time.
Working our way around Brenton Point, most of this group of runners went by me, including Dave. My mile splits were getting a little slower (6:00 mile 2), but I was still under my goal pace of 6:10. I tried not to worry. As the course veered east, I was expecting the light wind to be at my back. Unfortunately, the wind was more NW than the forecasted SW, and it was right in my face. If anything, I knew this would help my overall race position, but maybe not my time. I reached the 3rd mile marker in 17:54 for 3 miles (6:06 split) which seemed pretty fast for me. I tried to pick up my pace slightly, and I was able to pass a TNT runner. I now had my sights on Dave. With every small hill I was gaining on him, even though my 4th mile was my slowest yet (6:09). Finally with a looming long uphill ahead, I pushed myself to go faster and passed him. I could hear him working harder to stay with me. It was sort of scary - the feeling of being chased. I thought he might get me after the summit, but after a short descent, there was another significant climb. I continued to push myself and passed the mile 5 marker (6:04 split).
I knew I was getting close now. I was confident in finishing the last 1.2 miles strong. The sixth mile is a challenge. It is mostly all uphill and into the wind. I wasn't worried about anyone behind me. I could see a couple of runners ahead of me, but I didn't think I had a shot at them. As the gradual uphill mile wore on, I began to close on one of them. After a screaming descent, there is one final short but sweet hill. It was here (also the mile 6 marker - 6:01 split) that I put on a sprint and passed the runner ahead of me. He encouraged my energy at this point in the race. As I closed on the finish line I had the urge to throw up, so I took it down a notch and crossed the line in 37:24 (last .2 in 73 seconds) - good for 10th place overall and faster than I thought I was capable of.
Justin and I watched fellow WTAC teammate Jeff finish his race (17th overall) before embarking on a cool down in the nature preserve. Justin had a huge PR and VDOT busting time of 36:08. We had a festive ride home, which included a stop at Taco Bell. Next year, we'll make sure to pre-register our team and give the TNT's a run for the title.