Saturday was the next to last race in the York Winter Series, the Springettsbury 10k. I hadn’t raced since the Wildcat 10k in December due to a race being canceled courtesy of bad weather, not feeling well/bad weather for another race (Sickness Slump), and coaching at an indoor track meet during the race prior. Despite pre-running the course the Sun. before and hating nearly everything about the run (Weekend Winter Woes) I was rather pumped Sat. morning for the race.
I tend to assume most runners feel this way, but great running weather can make such a difference in one’s mood the day of a race. The rain wasn’t set to arrive until afternoon, and it was warm enough that I didn’t require two layers of clothing though I did decide to go with gloves and my headband after feeling chilly on my warm-up run. Physically I was a little uncertain given I had only ran one long run (the pre-run) the week leading up to the race. I did, however, run steps with the track kids during a practice and utilized the elliptical and recumbent bike in the school’s weight room to keep my legs moving. Mentally I knew nothing could be as miserable as the pre-run so already the race would be better than that.
Armand (my 70 year old running friend) and I agreed to start out together because he struggles with hills and we wanted to hold our pace back initially to ensure a strong finish. My dad and Todd took off quickly, but Armand and I kept to our plan and held back even while others rushed to pass us. I joked that we knew what was coming and they likely didn’t. The long, steep hill near the end of the first mile was a little more bearable than I expected. My legs didn’t feel ripped to shreds like they had during the pre-run. The hills kept coming through the second mile and despite my yelling encouragement to Armand I soon was ahead of him to the point that I couldn’t see him when I glanced back. Approaching the third mile mark he caught back up to me. For what he lacks in uphill running abilities he certainly makes up for in his downhill running skills. He never ceases to amaze me and the rest of our group often jokes that we hope we’re still running at his age let alone running as fast as he does.
The hardest part of the course behind me, I settled into a comfortable race and started to enjoy the country scenery. I love running races on back roads with limited traffic that allow me the freedom to run in the middle of the road to avoid the camber. There was a water station just past the third mile mark that I utilized. I tend to always use them in distances longer than a 5k. I struggle with hydrating well enough for morning races so it always provides a needed boost for me. Armand did get a few feet ahead of me since he didn’t take water, but I worked my way back up to running with him.
My first two miles had been around a 9:30 pace, but miles three and four were hitting around the 9 minute mark. After the four mile mark I just felt energized and strong. Of all the winter races I had ran, this was the first that I didn’t feel uncomfortable in terms of heating up and cooling down. My body temperature felt comfortable the whole time. I did pull my running gloves off to carry, but otherwise I was focused on the run and not sweating or freezing.
I started to increase my pace which is not normally something I would do with two miles to go. I’ve always been a cautious racer, waiting until I knew that I could truly “go” without worrying about burnout. I felt strong though and wanted to push it and see if I could hold it. Armand commented on how strong I was running especially compared to Sunday’s pre-run. I encouraged him to keep up with me and while he wasn’t running right beside me anymore I could hear him behind me.
I broke 9 minutes at the five mile mark and was determined to push the last mile. There was a small footbridge to cross in a development and the whole area in front of it was a sheet of ice. There were two race volunteers there cautioning runners. Armand passed me at this point. I quickly turned my run into a “baby quick step” with arms spread wide to cross the ice. I knew it would cost me a few seconds, but I’m naturally clumsy and wasn’t going to risk going down. Once I got back on the road I told Armand he was a better “ice runner” than I was. He told me yet again to go, that I was having a strong run. I told him not to lose sight of me, that we would finish the race the way we finish our Wed. night runs to and from John Wright Restaurant – fast and strong.
I took a deep breath, shook my arms loose and prepared to kick it as much as possible. I turned into a development and upon exiting passed the six mile sign. One final turn in the parking lot and I was striding out as much as possible to the finish line. My official time was a 54:12 – almost a 9 min mile pace. Unfortunately my Garmin as well as Todd’s and another runner’s registered the course at 6.1 miles instead of 6.2, but I know that happens and I try to not get too hung up on it. I ran a strong, smart race even if it was .1 short.
Armand finished close behind me and said he had tried to catch me at the end but couldn’t. I was fortunate to have him to race with as I think it really helped me to start out smart. Of all the winter series races I have ran this year, I think the Springettsbury 10k was the strongest hard race I have ran. I even enjoyed a good portion of it thanks to the scenic countryside. A chocolate chip bagel at the end was also a nice touch.
One race to go in the series – the Northeastern 5k the first Saturday in March. After all these longer and hilly races I’m excited to see what I can run when I’m not so focused on the pace and miles left to go!