…or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Hills.
About a month ago I ran the Scope it Out 5K , where the bag check was largely volunteer (wo)manned by a great group of ladies (and Hubz). One of those ladies recruited the whole crew to run and/or volunteer for bag check at her organization’s upcoming race, the Run for the Children 10K in Fairfax. The race is a fundraising event for Fairfax CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), a non-profit that recruits and trains citizen volunteers to advocate for abused and neglected children placed under the protection of the Fairfax County court. My friend Becca works for this group, and was one of the organizers of the race. CASA does an important service, and I’m always game to race for a good cause, especially when I get a free ride via my volunteering Hubz.
Even though I knew I’d be freshly back from Zambia with rusty running muscles, I signed up to run because I figured it’d be a good way to kick start me back into the racing game (with the Columbia Tri continuing to loom over me…) Although the Habitat GV builds luckily keep me very active so I don’t feel like a total lug (hellooooo mixing concrete by hand), my two weeks in Zambia were a total running hiatus. I ran off my jet lag on my first Friday back, and managed one run with a bit of speedwork this week, but that’s about it. Needless to say, I was not exactly in racing shape yesterday morning.
Nonetheless, I was excited to get moving again. Hubz and I arrived early so that he could exercise his expert bag check volunteering skills again. I only had about an hour to hang out before the race start, but unfortunately it was FREEZING. Cold, windy, cloudy, gross. So I spent most of the hour jumping around, trying to keep my muscles lukewarm and prevent my fingers from losing all feeling. Was not too successful on either front.
The lovely Joanna was also signed up to run, so we left the valiant bag check crew to their peppermint schnapps-infused hot cocoas and meandered to the start line. The organizers had arranged for pace signs in the starting corral area. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem like people were really paying attention to them. There were a number of dogs and strollers around the 8 min/mile sign. (There was also a 3K run/walk so there were a number of families there to participate in that. The 3K started at the same time and start line as the 10K, but veered off to a separate course within the first mile). Seeing as people weren’t adhering to the signs, I hung out between the 10 and 11 min/mile groups with Joanna, fully intending to weave around and pass the crowd once we took off.
And take off I did. I pushed my way through some groups of walkers and slower runners and finally got to a spot in the crowd that I could cruise. I think Joanna was like WHAT is wrong with that girl, throwing elbows. But it worked. And I cruised for a bit…until I realized exactly what was in store for the day. See, I made a major rookie faux pas, in that I did not research the race course AT ALL before I got there. Had I done so, I would have realized that not only does the course involve a number of turns back and forth while circling through various Fairfax neighborhoods, but that those turns take you through 6.2 miles of nonstop rolling hills. Up and down, up and down. I should have counted, but I would estimate 4-5 inclines/declines of varying degrees per mile, and some of them were seriously BIG!
Now don’t get me wrong, I love me some hills. I love them for both the physical and mental challenges they bring. So I wasn’t entirely discouraged…just had to change my game plan and get in a better head space really quick. I held in pretty well through the first 4 or so miles, but then started to feel like my heart rate was getting very high as I continued to attack each hill. I did not have the staying power to keep my intensity up where I wanted. I was forced to slow it down bigtime on several of the inclines in the last couple miles of the race. I tried to keep cruising constantly on the downhills and flats, but I could really feel myself fading. It was hard coming into the last half mile, but by the time I got close to the finish line I could hear this fantastic bag check crew cheering loudly for me! A little bit of support really goes a long way, and I gunned it into the finish!
I grabbed a water and went to hang in the hot spot bag check tent. A bit later, we all cheered Joanna to a successful finish as well. Then I desperately and unsuccessfully tried to keep myself warm until the volunteers could wrap up and head out to celebrate. Hubz had to head home to work but I got to spend some more quality time with these jokers:
Total time – 53:22, a 8:36 pace. This is the same pace that I ran my last half marathon at. Not impressive for a 10K time and not really close to my goal time, but I will take it as a win given my utter lack of race preparation in all possible ways.
This is only the second year that the Fairfax CASA folks have been putting on this race, and I have to say they do a fantastic job. The details were all attended to. Pace groups/signs in the front, great giveaways and amenities, and an easy-in easy-out location among many other perks. Plus, I’ve never ran a race with such an impressive amount of course support. There were folks directing traffic at every turn on the course, of which there were many. There were three water stops that appeared to be plenty stopped when I ran by (though I didn’t stop for any). The announcers, entertainment, and post-race celebration were great as well, including free chili for runners from local hot spot Hard Times Cafe! I wasn’t in the mood for chili but it was a popular stop!