Today was the 8th Annual Great Pumpkin Challenge 10k (also a 5k on the same course) in Saratoga Spa State Park. It was my 10th road race and my first 10k. I placed higher than in any previous race I’ve run: 17th place overall (out of 200+ runners)! I’m pretty happy about that.
It was raining and the course was really tough at the end. The first 5k cruised by really fast — I came out at a blazing 6:43 first mile pace, then slowed it down to 7:01, and 7:00 for miles 2 and 3. My 5k split was almost exactly on pace with my Silks & Satins 5k time (21:07).
I kept on cruising on the 10k course past the 5k finish turn and clocked in a nice 7:02 in the 4th mile.
Right around there was the 10k course turn-around point. A witch on a bike led the front of the pack. I got a rush of adrenaline when I realized that I was looking at the front of the pack — the leaders of the race — and that I wasn’t far from the turn-around point myself.
So I started counting runners: 1, 2, 3... By the time I’d counted a dozen runners, I felt myself getting more excited and picking up the pace even more since the reality of being in the top 25 started to sink in. 13, 14, 15... I was almost to the turn-around point and could now see runners making the turn. 16, 17, 18…
I was in 19th place! I got a rush. It was a total trip to realize that I was among the top 20 runners! And all I had to do was hold my pace and my position another couple miles and change — maybe even pass another runner or two in the final mile.
Keep your eyes on that witch (not the biking witch, but the fellow runner dressed like a witch I’d been tailing most of the race), I told myself.
Mile 5 is where the race started to get really tough and the hills at the south end of the course took a toll. Up on your toes, spring off each step, shorten your stride — that’s the strategy I read about recently for hill running. It was working. And all my recent training where I’ve been seeking out hills was paying off. I was gaining on the witch and another woman in front of me.
In the final mile, the course flattened out for a stretch, then I realized that we still had to scale back up the biggest hill of the course that we’d cruised down earlier. Springing off my toes, I could see the runners in front of me falling back. I passed the witch and the other woman who’d been in fron of me. 18, 17…I was in 17th place and had only about 8/10th of a mile to go!
I was feeling strong and increased my pace after the monster hill. I clocked in a 7:12 and 7:10 pace in the last two miles.
In the final 0.21-mile stretch to the finish, I caught a glimpse in my periphery of one of the two runners I’d been pacing trying to make her move. Time to turn it on. My signature move is a sprint to the finish line, so I gave it all I had left, maintaining my 17th place as I cruised around the final turn — thanks, Kyle, for cheering me to the finish! — and across the finish line in 43:37!
Unfortunately, Jen had to work today, so she wasn’t able to be there or run the 5k, as she’d wanted to do, but it was fun to see the likes of Betsy, Gabi, and other TnT runners this morning.
What Jen and I did get to do today, though, was hang out during a fire alarm at the SSPL, then enjoy a delicious lunch (and photo shoot) together at Four Seasons.
Despite the weather and despite my slightly slower than anticipated pace (thanks to the hills) — the McMillan Running Calculator predicted that, based on my awesome 1/2 marathon performance a couple weeks ago, I could handle a 6:57 average pace (in ideal conditions) — I’m elated with my overall finish place and time. I was 12th among men and 6th in my division.
Not a bad day at the races.
[ View Flickr set: Great Pumpkin Challenge 10k & Lunch @ Four Seasons ]