One of the best parts of the fall season (in addition to cooler weather, hoodies, bonfires, apple cider, and comfort food) is the large number of local races taking place. In the Ames/Des Moines area, I could easily run a race every Saturday and Sunday for weeks on end. Unfortunately, my bank account can’t necessarily support this, but it’s fun to be able to support local groups, causes, and often friends organizing the races. The Run for the Roses is just such an event, and an annual Ames tradition, with this year’s race being the 28th annual. I don’t typically plan ahead much for smaller races, and have a tendency to sign up at the last-minute, and this race was no different. There were so many friends running the 5K, 10K, or both that it seems like a no-brainer, so I signed up a few days prior to the October 5th event (albeit, too late to get the discount given to our running group!).
My training has been a bit seat of my pants since completing the Mark Twain 100 and recovering. I know I have the Des Moines Marathon and the Route 66 Marathon coming up, but training for those is really just a matter of maintaining my fitness after my legs were recovered. I was happily surprised that the recovery period after the MT100 was quite short, and I was out running again three days later with only minimal stiffness. I had to smile knowing that my training had obviously paid off in that regard.
The race itself was on Sunday morning, but I still managed to go out for my normal Saturday morning run and logged 25 miles. I decided to run to the start of the race on Sunday morning, which would add about four and a half miles to my day and get me near where I wanted to be when coupled with the 5K and 10K. My intent all along was to run both races comfortably and treat them as training runs with a lot more friends. I haven’t really felt like I’ve had a lot of speed in my legs lately, but have mainly chalked it up to logging more miles than ever before. Thus, I had no expectations other than to have fun, and run with a great group of friends. The 5K started at 9AM, and I got there about 20 minutes early to pick up my packet and pin on my bib. I lined up with a couple of friends who are far more speedy than I, and figured I’d try to hang with them for a mile or so, and then taunt them as they went whizzing by me. I shouldn’t have underestimated my competitive spirit quite so much.
The gun went off, and I took off fast, but was still fairly comfortable. After almost a mile, I wondered why my two friends hadn’t passed me. I yelled back at them and told them to stop sandbagging and pick up the pace. That’s when Ben pointed out that we were running a 6;40 pace. I was quite shocked by this, and definitely didn’t feel like I was moving that fast. I briefly considered slowing down, but my internal competitive nature got the best of me and I decided to see what I could do.l I kept pushing and was able to maintain about a 6:45 pace through the first two miles, despite quite a few rolling hills. The course runs along a trail for the last mile or so, and both Eric and Ben were close on my heels the whole way. I naively thought for a moment I might be able to hold them off, but soon realized they had more speed in them then they had kicked out. Ben passed me as we were flying down a curving hill. I continued to hold off Eric, but I slowed a bit coming up a short, steep hill near the finish, and he passed me with a slap to the ass about 100 feet from the finish. I had no intention of going out as fast as I had, no aspirations of finishing as strong as I had, and certainly didn’t expect a PR. However, I finished in 21:21 (20/378, Garmin Time 21:07, no chips), which was in fact a PR!
I was a bit surprised and all smiles as I downed a bottle of water and started chatting with Eric, Ben, and others. However, I felt like I had put it all out there for the 5K and I still had to run the 10K. I told myself I would take it easy, and that I had already accomplished more than I expected. However, I couldn’t help but wonder what, if anything, I had left in the tank. The number of 10K runners was significantly less, but it was still a decent crowd (over 1,100 participants for the two races). After about 30 minutes to catch my breath and rehydrate, we lined up to do it all over again. I went out considerably slower, but still felt comfortable with a 7:30 pace. Ben took off ahead of us relatively quickly, but Eric and I stuck together longer. We ran into another friend who was out for a run of his own, and he hopped in and began pacing us. I stayed with the two of them through the halfway point, but fell back after a 7:49 mile. However, I managed to push hard those last three miles, and I kept the two of them in sight the entire way. I was hurting a lot more towards the end of the 10K, but realized that I had a chance at a PR yet again, so I kept pushing. I crossed the finish line in 47:33, which was good enough for 20th out of 71, and another PR! My hands fell to my knees and I kept the same goofy grin I’d had on my face since the start of the 5K.
After we recovered a bit, we all made our way up to the middle school for made-to-order omelets and other breakfast goodies. We sat around chatting, and wondering where our times left us. The final surprise of the morning was finding out that I took third in my age group in both races! I’ve never placed in my age group in any race, so this was pleasant surprise, and I couldn’t help but crack one final smile as I picked up my two medals. I wish all Sunday morning training runs could be this much fun! As always, the race was very well run, the volunteers were fantastic, and the food was delicious. Alpha Omicron Pi & Ames Area Running Club have this race down to a science at this point, so if you are looking for a local 5K/10K with lots of energy, I highly encourage you to check out this Ames area favorite!