That is what happened in the 10K I ran Saturday morning (River and Rails, Arlington). No PR, but it was my fastest 10K this year, and I won my age group, and also finished second female overall. All right, it was a small 10K (many more people chose to run the 5K), but there were four other F40-49 runners, so I earned my ribbon!
This race is fundraiser for Cocoon House, a teen shelter, and I've run it several times before. This year they changed the course, though. The original route went south through Arlington on the Centennial Trail, crossing some roads and including some gravel sections alongside the railroad tracks. This year the whole race was on the paved trail going north. (This is a new section of the Centennial Trail.) No gravel, and quite a lovely countryside view (especially compared to railroad tracks). The trail is quite flat, although there are a few gentle dips, and I'm pretty sure there were sections with a slight incline or decline...although that may have been an optical illusion. (I especially like the kind of optical illusion that seems like a decline in both directions.)
The group at the start was a modest crowd, with about three quarters wearing 5K bibs. Of the women wearing 10K bibs, I tried to estimate who might be faster, slower, or comparable to me. It is really hard to gauge. There was one woman I could pick out as likely faster than me, though. She just had "the look." She was not too tall, and lean in a wiry way, and her hair was very short (might be a fashion choice but I felt it made her more aerodynamic). She told me as we waited that she was checking bib stickers to see who was in her age group. (I wasn't, she was older than me.)
I moved near the front to make sure I got a fast start. (I left a little room for the real fasties, ha!) I took off hard, maybe a little too fast but I like to set a good pace in the beginning. I probably started in the low sevens but by the time I passed the first mile point it was 7:58. That would be perfect if I could keep it up. But I didn't.
In the first mile and a half I had lots of 5K-ers to keep pace with, but at their turnaround all my companions turned back. There were a few males ahead of me but no one I could try to catch up too. They told me I was the first female but I figured that wouldn't last. Sure enough, at about two miles the Fast Lady passed me up. I would be chasing her the rest of the race but sadly the distance between us continued to grow. After mile two (which was my slowest at 8:21) I slowly picked up the pace again but not enough to catch my opponent. (Interestingly, my average pace for the first two miles was the same as my overall average pace, about 8:10!)
There is not too much to describe about the next few miles. I told myself "I am strong" several times, even as I am thinking things like, "this is hard," "I hate running fast," "why didn't I do the 5K?" I kept my eye on the red shirt ahead of me and tried to close the distance even as the gap widened. I saw her pause for water at the turnaround (3.1 mile point), and I did close in a bit. But I think she took off even faster from there. Mile 3 (just before the turnaround) - 8:17.
I don't know if it's true that there was a slight decline in the return trip, but I managed to go just a little faster. Mile 4 - 8:09. Mile 5 - 8:05.
In the last full mile I really wanted to push hard and I ran from random object to the next to keep my sprints short. The last little uphill was in this bit though, and I would like to think that accounts for the few seconds I lost. (And not just that I was tapped out.) Mile 6 - 8:10.
I did manage to sprint out the last bit, sort of. Mile 6 - 6.23 - 1:47 (7:58 pace). Yeah, it could have been faster. Finish time 50:48 (8:10 average pace).
Could I have been a little faster? Probably. Could I have broken 50 today? I don't think so...I don't see myself shaving off 8 seconds per mile. (This time.) Could I have beat the woman ahead of me? Um, no way. Not unless she broke her leg or something. Her time was 48 something. Amazing!
Since I did a 1.9 mile warm-up, I finished with just over eight miles today. Tomorrow - 20 miles.
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