I had heard stories about how tough the Dover 10 miler’s course is, the first race in the York Winter Series. I was told it was all downhill out and all uphill back. Knowing that I still wasn’t overly concerned this past Sun. as I got ready for the race. I planned to just run it how I felt with no specific time goal planned.
As I pulled into the elementary school parking lot where the race was to begin and end I was excited to see a large US Road Running archway setup; it made the race feel like more of a big deal to me. I parked and spotted my dad across the parking lot as his signature “doo rag” makes him easy to identify. I picked up my race bib and we did a warm up jog.
I think I spent at least 10 minutes debating on whether or not to wear my winter headband. This winter racing thing is new to me and given I tend to always be cold I’m apt to overdress. I finally settled on keeping it on figuring I could always pull it down around my neck if I became too warm. I was excited to wear my new UnderArmour leggings, a birthday present from my mom, though that too is new for me. I have always worn shorts over my running tights ever since high school and despite changing fashions I have continued to do so. To not wear them I feel is an invitation for people to stare at my butt. This is despite the fact that nearly every female runner as well as some men runners seem to wear theirs without shorts. Sunday’s race was the first I have worn just the leggings, no shorts, and that was mostly because they’re printed and I felt I would look sillier wearing the shorts.
I was happy to see my running friend Todd arrive as he had ran a marathon the Sunday before and wasn’t sure if he would be running the 10 miler or not. I did another warmup lap around the school with him and we waited as the 1 mile runners raced. Once they were all back it was our turn to line up. The York Winter Series chose to use chip timing this year which while expensive is something I love because I don’t feel pressured to be near the front of the pack to ensure the most accurate time.
The first 1.5 miles of the course was already familiar to me as I had ran it several times in the past as part of the Double Creek 5k. It definitely is a fast start with a lot of downhills and my first mile beeped on the Garmin at an 8:48. Reaching the 2nd and 3rd mile marks actually felt longer than I expected.
On the way to the 4th mile mark I spotted two kittens in the middle of the road. We were running on country back roads so the traffic was minimal, but I heard and turned around and saw a car approaching behind us. I veered towards the middle of the road and scooped up the kitten and dropped it off in the yard of a farmhouse, telling it to stay in the yard. Another runner who was farther ahead did the same for the second kitten. Fellow runners told us how nice it was that we did that, but all I could think was that I hoped I wouldn’t find any dead kitties on my way back.
Not far from the turn around point was a water stop which despite the cool temperature was still needed and appreciated. A group of young kids was outside of a house not far from the turn around point cheering us all on which always boosts one’s spirits. By that point I was needing the distraction. My new cold weather running socks, while doing a wonderful job at keeping my feet warm, were also rubbing a blister on my right pinky toe. Of all the races I’ve ever ran I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen, or if I did it certainly wasn’t with the same intensity and annoyance. I kept wiggling my toes hoping to shift the fabric enough to provide relief. Sometimes I was enjoying the scenery enough to forget about it for a few minutes, but it kept returning. I was running a good pace, but didn’t want to push much harder and risk rubbing the spot raw and making it bleed.
One reason I love out and back courses is because I can watch all those ahead of me; I find it energizing. The first male had a huge lead over everyone else. I spotted Todd and my dad running together and cheered for them as well as two other guys I had ran with in the past. Besides the blister I felt rather good after the turn around.
I had told my husband I would probably run a 1:30 though I realized during my run that was a faster pace than I meant to tell him. At the mile 7 mark I realized that time was possible but not probable given the number of hills remaining to climb. I did pick up my pace despite there being a gradual climb and clocked a 9:09. Mile 8 felt long for some reason; it wasn’t the hills that phased me as the course was very similar to my training runs, but I think I was just ready to be done. Mile 9 seemed long as well despite my knowing it was almost finished. I spotted the half mile mark from the mile fun run and opened my stride as much as possible, if anything to just get done so that the blister would stop rubbing. I had a very strong finish, more kick to it than my half marathon and my time was a 1:31:31.
I joked to others after the race that I probably would’ve ran a 1:30 had I not needed to rescue a kitten (who by the way was on the porch of the farmhouse on my return and not out on the road again). I also learned from Todd that running socks, like shoes, should be broken in prior to wearing them for a race. It seems no matter how many years you are a runner you can always learn something new. I was rewarded for my efforts with a pumpkin whoopie pie which was well worth running 10 miles for.
Overall the Dover 10 miler was not as hard as I had feared. Granted it would be very challenging for anyone not in decent shape or who hasn’t done training on hills. For me though it continued reinforcing how much stronger I have become. I’m starting to think that other than when I was in high school and college I’m in the best running shape of my life. My first (and longest) winter series race is in the books. The Spring Valley 4 miler will be next, the Sunday after Thanksgiving.