The 39th annual University City Memorial Day run was this past Monday. According to the event organizers, this is the oldest continuous 10K race west of the Mississippi. So it's got that going for it, I guess.
Rob and I both ran the race last year (in what was apparently the 38th annual event), and I had a lot of fun. 10K is a distance I don't get to run very often, and I forget how much enjoy "short" races like that. I was looking forward to it again this year.
On the night before the race (Sunday), our friends Cara and John were in town, and we met them for Shakespeare in the Park. Of course we rode our bikes over there. Even though it was only a few miles away, there were some hills, and my legs could feel it. This didn't bode well, but I decided not to worry about it. The race was only 10K (what could possibly go wrong?), and my expectations were pretty low. Really, I just wanted to have fun. So I went ahead and drank a Schlafly, some Prosecco, and a just a smack of Cara's Straw-Ber-Rita. That really helped keep the worrying in check.
We left pretty early (about the same time the actual performance started) so that we could bike home before it got too dark and still put Will to bed at a semi-reasonable hour.
The next morning I got up around 6am, put on my No Meat Athlete singlet, and managed to eat most of a Clif Bar. I decided to wear my 4mm drop New Balance WT 110 Trail shoes (with a rock plate) for this 10K road race because... why not? Then I headed out the door to run to the start line, all before anyone else in the house had woken up.
A crowd was beginning to congregate at the U-City Public Library (i.e., the start/finish area). A guy stopped me and asked, "Excuse me, how do you get one of those shirts?" This always happens to me when I wear any No Meat Athlete gear. The answer is simple, "You can buy it online."
Another guy stopped me and asked, "Are you really a… vegetarian?"
"Actually I'm a vegan."
*Gasp* "Where do you get your protein?!"
Luckily for him, it was time to start the race, so I didn't have time to give him a full lecture on how shockingly easy it is to live on plants.
This race was both a 5K and 10K, so I had it in my mind to line up around the middle of the pack--hoping that I wouldn't get too caught up with the 5K runners and start out too fast. But as I stood there waiting for the gun to go off and more and more people crowded around me, I began to feel that I was way too far back. I can become really judgmental at times like this, such as, if you are wearing mascara or have your race number pinned to your back, I assume that I can crush you. I was so closely surrounded by people who should have been starting much, much farther towards the back, that it took me almost a full minute even to reach the start line once the gun went off. And when I finally crossed the mat, there was no change in my pace. I was walking-- completely boxed in by other runners. Or rather, by people who basically intended on walking the race but had still lined up as close to the front as they could get.
I was really frustrated, and I started maniacally weaving my way through the crowd--squeezing my body through impossibly small spaces and trying to get out of this congestion as quickly as possible. But it lasted like this, with basically no relief from the crowding, for the entire first mile.
My time at the first mile was 8:10, which was pretty disappointing to me. Last year at this race, when I had run a meh-slow time and had to stop and tie my shoelace during the first mile, I still managed a 7:45. I will say that I think it can be advantageous to start out slow even in a race as short as this. You don't want to burn off all your energy in the first mile. But a nice and easy, slow start wasn't exactly what had happened here. It felt like I'd put in closer to a mile and a half by the time I got to the first mile marker, what with all the frantic weaving I had been doing to get through the crowd. Not a good way to start.
On the bright side, the 5K runners turned to the right at mile 1 and the 10K runners went straight ahead. At last, there was space and I could run.
I loved the hills, I loved the heat. I tore through the course, passing people left and right. I got to mile 2 in 7:35. This was getting better. Made it to mile 3 in 7:32 and mile 4 in 7:31. Last year at this point in the course I started feeling really bad and my pace dropped a bit. But this year I was totally fine. And there were only two miles left! Considering that my last 2 races were 50 miles and 44 miles respectively, a 10K feels downright comical after that. I tried to speed up, but only managed to hit mile 5 in 7:35. My quads were a bit jelly and I started to feel like my breakfast Clif Bar was going come back up, but there was now just a mile left. I got to mile 6 in 7:31 and saw Rob and Will cheering for me. That made me feel like a million bucks. The end was so close, and I finished it off in 47:38.
This is not breaking any land speed records, but it was good enough to place me as the 12th overall female and 3rd in my age group. Kind of hard to believe.
This time may actually be a 10K PR for me, or at least close to it. My previous fastest time would probably have been at the 2004 Christie Clinic 10K in Champaign/Urbana, when I ran the race as the "middle leg" of a 20 mile training run and spent the whole time laughing and talking with Jeff Riddle. But way back then, I don't think results were computerized (we got a postcard a week or so after the race with our finishing time written on it). That postcard has not survived the numerous moves we've made both in and out of this country since then, so I have no way of knowing what my time really was. I vaguely remember that I'd hoped to run the race in around 46 minutes that day and not quite made it. So this one might have been close. Regardless, I am pleased with my time. Last year, running this race was much more difficult for me, and I only managed 49 minutes. I was also happy because before this race, I was a little paranoid that switching to ultras had ruined me for short distances. I spend so much time doing long, slow runs that I seem incapable of running "fast" anymore. So this race gives me hope that I've not forever shut myself off from anything sub-ultra.
What I learned from this race: "Starting with the mayor" is not as good of a tactic for short races as it is for ultras. Maybe I am just out of practice at this distance, or maybe I was just spacing out a bit, but I started way too far back. I passed people the entire race, even to the end, and not a single person passed me. That is somewhat of a good position to be in during a race, but in my case, I think it was mainly because I got off to a terrible start. I mean, my first mile was around 40 seconds slower the rest of my miles, which were at a pretty much dead-on even pace. And it wasn't because I was purposefully trying to take that first mile easy-- I was wasting a lot of energy to get out of the traffic jam. I'm not sure how much that first mile either helped or hurt me. On the one hand, it was good to start off too fast, but on the other hand, if I'd been able to run a 7:30 for this mile as well, I would have been tantalizingly close to a sub-47 minute time, which would have for sure put me in PR range.
Something else I learned from this race: A hilly, night-time bike ride (after having a couple of drinks) is not necessarily a bad idea for a pre-race ritual.
Would I do it again: You betcha!