While I greatly enjoyed running the Dover 10 miler this year I can’t say I was looking forward to the Spring Valley 4 miler. Hills tend to be my forte but only when they are rolling, not super steep and certainly not within the first quarter mile of a race. The only part of the race that I was looking forward to was the weather. After running a frigid 4 miles on the rail trail last Friday, 50* for Sunday looked mighty spectacular.
I did not expect to be able to run any of the winter series races in a tshirt and shorts, but that was my outfit on Sunday and proved to be the best choice. My dad had picked up Armand and myself and we arrived early enough to try to scope out where the course might be altered after hearing that a bridge was washed out. We knew the final long hill of the course would be made even slightly longer because of that. Once again I simply had a goal of running faster than I ran in the previous year’s race.
I had made sure to get in an extra thorough warmup so I would be ready to tackle the first short steep hill. There were many more runners this year than last year likely due to the great weather, so dad and I lined up fairly close to the front. The race started and through the parking lot we went to turn up the hill. I really just wanted to get it out of the way so I went “beast mode” and pushed up it fairly hard. I was only a few steps behind my dad and worked to catch him as we began the long downhill. I did my best to improve my downhill running form and it worked until the last portion of the hill when it became steeper. At that point fear kicked in a bit and I put my arms out for balance and my dad started to pull ahead of me again.
We turned onto a gravel road road and I clocked a 7:30 first mile. At that point I knew it was best to not try to keep up with my dad for the whole race so I settled into a comfortable pace. This was easy to do given the road was relatively flat. I began seeing the leading runners and had to move over to the side of the road which was rather muddy at spots. I had chosen to wear my old running shoes rather than my new ones for exactly that reason. The turn around seemed to come rather quickly and soon I was the one heading back while others were still running out the road.
The last mile began fairly flat, but I quickly approached the final climb. I glanced at the top and quickly averted my eyes to just a few feet ahead of me and said to myself “Don’t look up”. The steep portion I struggled with on the downhill didn’t feel as bad on the uphill despite looking scary initially. The majority of runners around me were running the hill, only a few were walking, which helped to keep my momentum going. I kept a steady pace through the top of the hill and last little steep climb before I was able to open up and coast downhill to turn into the parking lot to the finish line.
My Garmin clocked 4 miles about 8-10 seconds before I actually crossed the finish line so I’m not sure if the course was slightly long. My official time was 33:06 and I finished 3rd in my age group. That was over 2 minutes faster than last year though I did find the course easier this year and the great weather helped as well. I had been 6th in my age group last year so I’m improving in that regard. I’m hoping to continue placing well so that I might finish in the top 3 for the series this year.