After deciding that long races are stupid, I ran the Sly Fox 10k last Saturday. Last year, I ran the Sly Fox Half Marathon, which was a fiasco as they messed up the course and left it about 1.2 miles short. I figured they wouldn't make the same mistake twice (and they didn't) so I signed up for the 10k this year.
Running this year hasn't been going nearly so well as last year. My mileage is down about 30% due to a mixture of illness, work, cold and malaise. Specifically over the last month I've either had a cold that just won't go away but keeps flaring up again once a week, or I've had 4 different colds. It's hard to tell. By race day I was still quite congested, but mostly felt fine. The weather turned out to be excellent: low 40s, clear and a slight breeze. After much wavering back and forth, I settled on running in just shorts and a short sleeve shirt. I did a half mile warm-up and headed for the starting line.
This is a fairly small race. Last year there were about 100 men and 200 women that did the 10k. It's also not a fast race. If the results online are to be trusted, the 10k winner last year ran it in 44 minutes. Even with a cold, I can beat 44 minutes. So I weaved my way through every single person in the starting area and put myself on the very front row. It felt pretty weird. They fired the gun and we took off. It's been 4 years since I've run a 10k. Every distance has it's own challenges, but I think for the 10k it's the fact that you have to run hard from the very beginning, but it's still a long-ish race. In a half marathon you get to start out easy enough that the first few miles are fun. Not so in a 10k. We took off and I was in 2nd place! For about 50 yards. After a quarter mile or so I had slid back to 5th. First place took off like a rocket; he either didn't know what he was doing and would crash hard after a mile or two or he knew exactly what he was doing and was going to crush us all. (It was the latter. 33:30 - wow!) The other three people in front of me seemed a little more reasonable, but 2nd and 3rd gradually pulled away over the first mile or two until I lost sight of them most of the time. Maybe on a better day or after a better month I could have stayed with them, but not today.
The race starts with a half mile of moderate uphill. Not steep or anything, but enough to get your heart rate up immediately. Then it flattens out until about 1.5 miles in. At that point we made it to the turn that was missed in the race last year. It turns out whoever started us lemmings on the wrong route last year might have known what they were doing, because the hills! Oh! The hills! They weren't long, but they were steep. 50 or 100 yards up, then back down, then back up again. It's lovely if you live on the street and drive on it. Not as easy to race up and down as it gently curves left and right as well. At the 2 mile mark I was roughly where I wanted to be at about 13:40 (6:50/mi). The turn around point was at the top of the longest climb of the race. Google tells me that it's not more than a quarter mile, but it felt much longer. I hit the midway point at 21:30. I was hoping for a 42 minute finish, so I was a full minute behind pace, but I didn't feel too bad about that. I didn't think that I could make up the whole minute on the second half, but given how bad those hills felt going up, I though I should be able to make up some of that on the way back.
I noted that the leader passed me on the way back at about the 19:00 mark. I didn't check the time on 2nd and 3rd place, but they were a few hundred yards ahead of me. I didn't need to check the time on 4th place though, because he was right in front of me. He had a lead of 30 yards or so, and throughout the whole race, that lead just wouldn't budge. I might close it by a little bit, but then it seemed like any ground I'd made up would be gone again. He couldn't lose me, and I couldn't catch up. At the speed we were running, 20 to 40 yards is a gap of 5 to 10 seconds.
The second half of the race didn't seem to feature nearly as much downhill as the first half had uphill. This must have been the route that all our parents walked to school through the snow, back in the day. Slowly, ever so slowly, I started to claw back some distance on 4th place. I saw him check back a few times during the race to see where I was. (I checked a few times behind me, but mostly couldn't see anyone back there.) I've rarely been in a situation where I'm trying to specifically pass someone at the end of a race, so I don't have a lot of experience at this, but I knew that the final quarter mile was a nice downhill so I gave it all I had and hoped to out kick him to the finish line. So I kicked, and I kicked hard, but no matter how fast I ran, I was barely closing on him at all and from behind it looked like he was just cruising along like he had been the whole race. In the end, he beat me by 2 seconds. A spectator (volunteer?) afterwards told me that she thought I'd catch him for sure, but it wasn't to be, apparently.
In the end, I don't feel too badly about how I ran. I finished in 42:58 (6:56/mi), 5th place over all (out of 268), 5th place among men (out of 90), and 1st in my age group (6 minutes ahead of 2nd, though 1st and 2nd overall were in my AG, too). It's also a 10 second PR for me, though it's still slower than the pace I did the half marathon at last year (assuming that the distance for the race was accurate [the people running with me with their fancy watches were in general agreement that we ran the full 13.1]). My goal for the summer remains to do a few more 10k's and try and get my time down to an even 40:00. I think that's a very ambitious goal, so we'll just have to see how it goes. I don't have the next 10k picked out yet. I don't have any pictures from the race because Julia was sick so the girls all stayed home, but here's my swag.
(Yes, it's a finisher's medal for a 10k, which I abhor, but I'm pretending it's an AG award, since what I really got was a gift card to a running store.)