The races came fast and furious in April & May, and next up was the Iowa Able Foundation 5K/10K. This was a must-run race, as it was organized by several great friends, and all of Vardo Nation came out to run or volunteer! I was heading to Lincoln, NE that afternoon with a couple of friends to run the marathon the next day, so I fully planned on using the 5K and 10K as comfortable runs to get my muscles moving before the marathon the next day. I should have known better!
I ran to the starting line at Ada Hayden Park, and arrived a bit early to pick up my packet and chat with everyone before the race. The weather was absolutely perfect for running, which put everyone in good spirits, and the normal race-morning energy was buzzing through the air. After hanging out for a bit, I wandered up to the start with a few friends to wait for the signal to head out. It was a small field, so I ended up at the front of the pack, despite having no intention of remaining there. I was relaxed and simply enjoying being able to spend time with friends before moving in a few weeks. We received the “go” signal and I took off at a strong pace, still planning to slow down and take it easy. However, after about 100 yards, I was near the front and my internal competitive spirit kicked in. I was a lost cause at that point, and I gave in to the urge to race 🙂
Slow, easy miles are important to training but so is speed and tempo work and this definitely fell into the latter category. I was breathing hard pretty quickly, but my legs were moving smoothly and I was comfortable otherwise. It was a strange sensation to see the leader ahead of me, and recognize that there were only 6 or 7 people between us. The figure 8 course is a loop I’ve done countless times over the years, so I had no fear of the unknown, and knew exactly what to expect with each turn. I hit the first mile at 6:51, which I knew was fast for me. For a split second, I questioned whether I could hold it, but I knew at that point that I was committed and I was going to put everything I had that morning into those miles. I maintained my pace during the second mile and closed the gap between myself and several of the runners ahead of me. By the time my watch buzzed 6:52, I recognized that I had a shot at a PR and I pushed a bit harder. I kept my eyes focused ahead and saw a friend take the lead, and I knew she wasn’t going to give it up. After another half-mile, I was able to pass a few folks that clearly went out too fast and ran out of gas (I hoped my tank still had a bit left!), and I made the final push for the finish line.
I held onto my pace for the final mile, and finished in 20:43, which was a solid PR by almost 40 seconds! It was the first time I had seen “20” when I crossed the finish line and I was equal parts surprised and elated. I ended up finishing 5th or 6th, and 1st in my age group, which was another first for me. Not bad for a casual Saturday morning social run, eh? I was breathing heavy, but recovered quickly, which was good because I had signed up to run the 10K as well 🙂 However, I had my achievement in hand, so taking it easy on the 10K was much more manageable.
I ended up running the entire 10K with another good friend, and it was a great opportunity to chat and just enjoy being out running on a beautiful Saturday morning. We weren’t taking ourselves too seriously (not that I ever really do!), and it made for a great cool down run. The first part of the course was identical to the 5K. However, the course then hopped onto the Upland Trail, which is where some folks apparently got a bit confused by the route. We didn’t realize this until we saw a group of runners heading toward us and in the opposite direction. I was pretty sure we were going the right way, but didn’t mind all that much either way. At one point, we ran into a group of folks heading the wrong way, and I gave them some general directions for getting to the 10K mark distance-wise. Towards the end of the course, we even took a slight detour up a small trail to the top of an earthen mound that overlooked the park, just to take in the view. We scrambled back down and finished out the race, crossing the finish line in 52:40, with big smiles on our faces.
Overall, it was the perfect Saturday morning race combo! The weather was beautiful, the volunteers were fantastic, the organizers put on a great race along with plenty of food and entertainment perks, and I was able to spend the morning with an amazing group of friends. Mornings like that are why I run! 🙂 #chasing42reports #chasing42