My morning began at 5:15am. I woke up early to get a little breakfast (a bagel with butter) and gather my stuff to get to the buses that would take me to the start of the race. This race is part of Pacers races, and while they are a bit expensive ($75 for a 10 miler) they are well organized and know what they’re doing. Josh dropped me off at the charter buses that we took up to Mount Vernon. It’s about a 20 minute drive, which was the perfect amount of time for me to eat breakfast and down my nuun. The Parkway Classic starts directly in front of the traffic circle at Mount Vernon which is really cool for a history nerd like me.
I had enough time to do my routine of 2 bathroom stops, and a little warm up before I hit up bag check and my pre-race team photo with the Oiselle girls that were running.
The weather was absolutely beautiful. Sunny, with temps in the 50s. That is optimal racing weather for me. I will say that the race seemed way more crowded this year than it was last year. My Oiselle buddies and I had a lot of trouble making it into the 8:00-8:59 corral. There simply wasn’t any room. We were on the other side of some metal barriers, and hoped that we’d be able to weasel our way in once the gun went off. We were able to make it in, but it was CROWDED. I feel like maybe the race should start in waves, and that would ease some of the congestion.
I ended up doing a lot of weaving in the first mile and my pace was erratic. It started around 10:30 and jolted forward. In the past, this would have sent me into a mental tailspin – thinking that my whole race was wrecked because I wasn’t running the pace I wanted to be running for my race plan, but I played it cool. (That said, I realize why people want to line up near the front of races, especially when there are time limits on the course, but when there isn’t a wave start it’s best to line up according to your pace. You won’t be passed by as many people from every which direction and you’re doing a solid for your fellow runners who would be running at those faster paces.)
My plan for the race was to keep my miles between 7:55-8:05, knowing that anything under 8:15 per mile average was going to get me a PR (even if I had to take it a little slower on some of the hills). I broke the race down one mile at a time. That strategy has been working well for me lately, and helps stave off a lot of the negative self-talk that has gone through my head in the past.The course has a few rolling hills at the top. I pushed it on the uphill portions and used the downhills to my advantage.
I felt great the first 4-6 miles. I think around mile 2, I was running with a couple of my Oiselle teammates and that was a HUGE boost. It helped keep me on pace, they were a little speedier than me so they really pushed me to keep up with them. From mile 5-6 there was a nice downhill portion of the race. That was my fastest mile of the whole race. I encountered a bit of mental struggle during miles 8 and 9. I started to think a little negatively, but I reminded myself to think of running each mile as fast as I could. That said, it was around mile 8 or 9 that I definitely thanked the racing gods that I was not running a marathon! (Remind me of this later!)
I refocused after mile 9 to get over the 2 hills on the course (and they’re not terribly big, but they can surprise you if you’re not prepared). The first hill was a bit more of a struggle because it was gradual but long. At that point, I think my body was just so used to so much downhill that I was having a hard trouble getting my quads to cooperate. The final hill on this course comes after a nice little downhill, so that helped to power me up. From there I turned on to Union Street and basically could see the finish line in the distance. It was just a matter of pushing myself as hard as I could go.
In the end, I achieved a new 10 mile PR. My old record was 1:22:15, when I ran the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler back in 2013. This year I ran a 1:20:51 on a hillier course, and just a handful of weeks after a disappointing 10 miler. I was pretty thrilled with the results, and honestly can’t wait to race a 10 miler again. I really want to focus on getting under 1:20. That was my A goal this race, and even though it didn’t happen, I was so proud of myself and the race I ran. I stuck to a plan. I didn’t give in to my mental demons and I kept it cool when things didn’t go perfectly.
9 8:23 (those 2 hills tho)
My next race is the Met Branch 5K, this Saturday. I’d love to PR, and that shouldn’t be too tough (my 5K PR, 24:03, is also 3 years old). After that, I’ve got the Capitol Hill Classic 10K. I’m hoping to break 50:00 there, which on paper looks doable!