I did the Club Challenge 10 Miler this past Sunday in lovely Columbia MD. This race is open to any member of a running club in Maryland or DC. Can't beat the price: Free! About 1000 people enter so it's not overcrowded. It takes only 1 minute from getting out of your car to picking up your bib (hooray for race day morning bib pickup) and another 2 minutes to walk to the start line. If they didn't shut down bib pickup 15 minutes before race time, we would have all shown up 5 minutes before the start!
The only thing I don't like about this race is that there's no gatorade, only water on the course. And since I'm training to run at fat-burning pace for an upcoming ultra, I decided to forgo using gels. A decent breakfast would have to do.
I've done this race several times so I know it has rolling hills and you have to pace yourself. But this year, I figured I'd take it even easier because, the day before, I had "run" 18 miles on sloppy trails. Here in Maryland, the trails were still covered with a mixture of ice, snow, and slush. It was tough and, half the time, it was more like a hike with occasional bits of tiptoeing across ice and streams. And a lot of slipping throughout.
So I wasn't expecting much for the 10M the following morning. But despite getting to sleep late the night before and having to wake up early, I nuked a frozen entree, and felt fine at the start. So I figured I'd run at my usual pace - I would slow down later.
Around mile 8, I could feel my energy lagging and I knew I was going to have to slow down as I heard some guy gaining on me. Even though it was honestly a bit annoying, I figured I would at least compliment him on his pace. He, in turn, told me I was doing fine and that turned into a conversation as we swapped stories of previous races. He was so much fun that I kept up.
By mile 9, I needed to slow down and told him to leave me. But he was in no hurry ("this is just a training run for my upcoming marathon") and so we continued yakking away despite my discomfort. 100 yards from the finish, I told him to go ahead and "break the tape so it would be easier for me to cross the finish." He finally let me go as I backed off, and I finished about 10 seconds after him.
I was stunned to find that I had finished in 1:27, beating my PR for that race by 4 minutes. So what's the moral of the story? Find someone to run with during the last two miles who is better at pacing and won't let you slow down? Or run (hike, really!) the day before under conditions that feel so awful that running on pavement the following day feels easy?
I'm thinking that the former was nice but the latter was key. Compare it to my race report from last year when I ran significantly slower despite several day's rest(!) before the race:
PS: If you do 10M races or just want to try one, join the Spark 10 Mile Team! 10M is a nice intermediate distance that bridges the gap between a 10K and a HM. (Plus we need more people on the team!)