I really enjoy the 10K distance. Basically run at close to the same speed as a 5K, but double the length! My goal was just to run hard. A PR would be nice (currently 35:54 at Christmas 10K this past December), but being summer, I wasn't expecting it. The race was canceled last year, but previous results were a mixed bag. Some years, there was fast competition and others not as stout. Who would show up this year?
I arrived about an hour early with my dad on race day. The forecast was for an overcast chilly day, but the sun came out and the temperature had climbed to the low 70's. A strong wind was rapidly diminishing to a pleasant breeze. The setting at the park along the ocean was spectacular. There was a nice sandy beach, a live band rocking out in the parking lot, and new clean restrooms. We registered and then chatted with the many other WTAC runners in attendance. SNERRO was timing the race, so I talked with Way Hedding about the course and the competition as he is always in the know. He said a bunch of fast local guys ran a race the night before and that I had a good shot. Yikes! I wasn't expecting that, and now the pressure was on.
I tracked down Jeff, and we headed out on a warm up with his son and Mike C. We ran the first (and last) 1.25 miles of the mostly out and back course. Despite being a relatively flat course, this section had some small rollers. Also, the roads were not closed to traffic, so running perfect tangents was not going to be an option. The wind helped keep the body cool, but it did feel hot with it at your back in the sun near the finish. We returned with 10 minutes to showtime. I ditched my hat and glasses and then jogged over to the start. I then got a couple of strides in as I saw Jeff and his son doing them. Lining up, Jeff and I scoped the crowd one final time. There were a couple of potential fast guys, including one tall kid. We lined up front and waited for the gun.
Niantic Bay 10K start
tall kid scoping out the WTAC competition
I was out front early. I did my best to keep relaxed and just go with my usual quick start, making sure it wasn't too quick. The first mile is up, down, and up some more. I was running alone, but could still hear plenty of people not far behind, and I was following an East Lyme police car (kind of cool). After about a half mile, someone was moving closer. I was checking my watch for pacing, and was still moving at a good clip. It didn't sound like Jeff. Eventually, this person moved along side of me, and I recognized him as the tall kid I had noticed before the start.
The race was on! I decided to stick with this kid and see what happened. The pace felt a tad aggressive for 10K (more like 5K), but I wanted to challenge myself, and this is the way I've been racing recent trail races. I hoped that either the pace would eventually break him or he would pull me along to a fast time. We went through the first mile at 5:39 (according to my watch - 5:47 according to the mile marker).
Mile two descended down to the water, and ran basically straight north to south. We were still side by side. I felt that I was working harder than I normally would be, and too fast for this distance. But I continued to match his pace. We negotiated a few puddles and dealt with a headwind at times. Being used to the elements, I thought I might have an advantage here, but there was no let up in this kid. We reached the point, and the course was a tad hilly again. My watch was not matching the marked miles, and I couldn't figure out what my 5K split was. We made the turn on roads around the point and ran down a hill back to the main road we just had run on. At this point, the kid was usually a step or two ahead of me, dictating the pace. Back on the main road, we were now passing other runners on their way out to the point. I was getting alot of cheers and "go Jonny!", thanks to the huge WTAC turnout (and fellow bloggers). I typically return the cheer, but I was too focused on the task at hand today, and couldn't muster up anything audible.
We continued side by side (or me a step behind) for most of the long straight stretch along the water. I couldn't tell if we were slowing down, but the effort was still pegged high. Suddenly I noticed a waver in his form. Was he tired? I didn't dwell on it, but for some reason I surged ahead. I had tested him a couple of times early on in the wind and going uphill, and he easily matched. Would he do the same now? Surprisingly, he did not catch back up. We passed a water station, and I blasted through and I think he grabbed water. I kept up my charge, and as I reached the long climb to the mile 5 mark, I couldn't hear him anymore. I was not expecting this, and I felt a twinge of anxiety knowing that I could really win. But there was still 1.5 miles (hilly and in the sun) left.
I climbed the hill, nervous I might go too fast and blow up or too slow and get caught. I reached mile 5 in 29:15 (mile 5 GPS time was 28:48). I was all alone now in the middle of the road, with some people lining the street. I was trying to look strong, but I could feel the fatigue setting in. As I reached the final climb, I got a long look behind me and I couldn't see anyone. I knew I was going to win, and my pace definitely slowed. I had only a down hill section and a flat finish left, but it was taking longer than I remembered. Finally I saw the finish line and heard Way Hedding announce my name as I crossed the line.
alone near the finish
Total time 36:25 - 5:52 pace. I was surprised it wasn't closer to my PR, but people did say that the Christmas 10K was short and people here were telling me this race was long. GPS had my 10K split at 35:53 and my overall pace at 5:45. That seems more accurate to me.
The kid finished second 49 seconds behind me. Jeff sooned came in after that. The WTAC runners kept coming and coming. Lots of great performances including another age group win for my dad.
my dad finishing strong
Team WTAC: Pard, Pres, Gazelle Jr, Gazelle Sr, Miles, Critchlery, Jeff V
I chatted with the 2nd place finisher - an 18 year old high school runner and 16:45 5Ker. He had never run a 10K before. It was a fun battle. Jeff, Steve, Josh, and I headed out for an easy cool down. My legs were extremely tight, and I hobbled along at a PW pace. We finished up along the beach back to the parking lot. The post race scene was festive with good food, the band still rocking, and lively conversation. It was nice to meet Beth in person after reading her blog the last few months. My dad and I received our awards and then made the journey back to RI. This was a great event and I can't wait to do it again. Getting the "W" was pretty awesome too!
Photos courtesy of Jana Walker