Note: This is an archive-edition race report for the May 16, 2010, Inside-Out Sports Classic 10K in Cary, NC.
I set a time goal for this 10K: Run it in under 50 minutes. I failed. And, I realize that there's a lot to learn about how to run a race. That's probably a good lesson for first race, right?
I arrived early at 6 AM, an hour and a quarter before the 10K start time. It was no problem to arrive early, because I'd been lying awake in bed since just after 3 in the morning. (I was more than a little excited about my first race) The sun was rising in an overcast sky, giving the morning a blue hue with a touch of crispy humidity from the evening rain. I parked in a shopping center approximately a half mile away from race headquarters in order to have a nice warm-up run with purpose before the start time.
The bulk of the participants hadn't arrived yet as I picked up my race materials: Bib #1020, the green tech shirt, my timing chip, and a course map. I wanted to take a few photos before the races. So, I'd brought my phone in an arm band on my trek to the race area. But, after that half mile warm-up, the arm band was already getting on my nerves. So, I walked back to the car and tossed the phone, arm band, and race shirt inside. By the time I returned to the race area, the crowds had arrived. I attached my timing chip to the black laces of my Mizuno Elixirs (the IVs for anyone who cares) and watched everyone go through their various pre-race routines for a few minutes.
It was around 6:40 when I decided a bathroom break was in order. Unfortunately, a few hundred other people had the same idea. The line for the porta-potties was long! Luckily, the 10K start time wasn't until 7:15. But, the half marathon was scheduled to start at 7. And, the half marathoners in line with me were getting antsy. One of the girls forgot to lock the porta-potty door. (I don't think there was enough time for that to be awkward, though)
I walked up to the starting corral and placed myself towards the back third of the pack, as the rest of my fellow 10K runners listened to the race director describe the challenges of this course. There was something about hills. The runner in front of me was wearing a pair of Puma street shoes. I wondered whether he knew exactly what he was doing or vice versa.
The starting horn sounded and the pack began shuffling across the starting line. I kept telling myself, "Start slow. Start slow. Start slow...." And, I must say, I managed to start out marvelously slow! Perhaps that warm-up run helped dissipate some of the jitter-induced adrenaline.
So, there I was, embarking on my first race, comfortably jogging at the back of the pack while the sun gradually turned the sky from blue to orange. The humidity hung in the air like cigarette smoke. I maintained my conservative, easy pace for at least a mile, passing people slowly and watching for hills. It was fantastic!
The course took us down a rural road leading into Umstead State Park on gravelly bridle trails. After about three miles, we turned around, only to diverge from the first mile point and follow Black Creek Greenway to a longer finish than I'd anticipated. (Why couldn't they have made a race map to scale?) Due to park restrictions, there were no mile markers posted. And, since I don't have a GPS device, I found myself holding back most of the time out of fear that I'd not covered as many miles as I thought. Yet, I gradually moved forward in the pack, distributing the good-works and great-jobs at random. It felt great!
The last mile and a half was the most challenging for me, because I found myself feeling almost lost (no, not literally) due to not knowing how much further to go until the finish. "Do I hold back some more or start sprinting? Hold back? Sprint..?" I really wished I'd known the course better.
I saw the lead runners pass by in the other direction, which meant they'd reached the final turnaround. But, where was that turnaround? Oh, there it was! The volunteer there said we were at about mile 5.5. So, I started picking up speed. Somewhere behind me someone screams an expletive in rage. I'm glad I wasn't right next to the guy.
And, then, there was a hill. No, not a big one. It was small, but steep enough to put a kink in my otherwise even pace. More critical, though, was that this hill made me realize I was more tired than I thought I was a few seconds ago. And, this little climb, followed by another little climb, really hit my legs where it hurt.
I passed a guy who was walking. Told him, "Good job, man." And, he replied in kind. Then he sprinted ahead of me! I could hear the cheering just yards ahead and picked up my pace as much as I could. Another volunteer was guiding Mr. Walk/Sprinter and me toward the final right turn, which would lead us downhill across the finish line. (Note to race directors: A downhill finish is awesome!) I tried to catch up to the walk/sprint dude before crossing the finish, maximizing my stride and ignoring the slight discomfort in my left knee. But, he beat me by a few seconds.
In the last few meters I suddenly remembered that there'd be a photographer around. I saw her just as she focused on the person behind me. Hope I didn't look like an idiot.
My official finish time was 53:13, an 8:34 pace. I'd really hoped to finish in under 50 minutes, especially on such a relatively easy course. But, perhaps that goal was a bit uneducated. I'd never actually timed myself on a 6.2 mile course. So, the 50 minute goal was really just me choosing a nice round number that seemed reasonable for a first 10K. I mean, it's my first race, and I had no real idea how I would run in it. I'm just so glad that I ran at all! It was fun!
Thanks to all of you for the tips you provided while I obsessed about this first race in the days prior. And, thanks if you've read my babble up to this point.
The weapon of choice: Mizuno Elixir 4