Nookachamps 10k Race Report
Seriously? I haven't written this up yet? Epic fail on my part.
Two weeks before my marathon I had a 10k on the schedule. Luckily the Nookachamps race down in Skagit Valley was the same weekend - committed. Unfortunately, I didn't have any takers on running buddies so I was flying solo for this race.
The morning of the race I awoke to rain and fairly cold temps. It had been threatening to snow all week and it definitely felt 'on the verge' when I got up. I laid in bed contemplating bailing. I didn't feel like running a 10k and I especially didn't feel like running it hard, in the cold, wind, and rain. Gabe was supposed to do a cyclo-cross race that morning and he wasn't enthusiastic either so we both laid around until the last possible moment trying to convince ourselves to bail on our activities.
But of course, I sucked it up. I knew I would feel guilty that I didn't go, knew that it would be 'beneficial' for my overall marathon goal, and knew I just had to HTFU. I dressed, I ate, I piled extra clothes into a bag to shower afterwards (the race had access to a gym and I needed to go directly from the race to a birthday party) and then hopped in the Prius and headed South.
I hit the hills and instantly hit snow and ice. The roads were slick and kept my speed way down - like annoying grandma speed. I prayed that my stubbornness to do this race wouldn't result in a car crash and kept driving - saying that if it got any worse I would turn around (of course that might have been more difficult).
But alas I made it to the race. I sprinted from my car into the gym, trying to avoid the pelting sideways freezing rain (no, I'm not being overly dramatic). Once checked in I found a comfy spot to rest on my laurels and wait - there was no way I was going outside earlier than I needed to. Luckily I spotted a familiar face, Tjalling was there to do the half marathon, and we quickly passed the time talking about the misery that was the weather outside.
About 10 minutes prior to race start we both sucked it up and decided to warm up. We found a nice covered walkway right outside of the gym and proceeded to run back and forth under it. It was damn cold and I had already stripped my extra layers so the high knees, the butt kicks and the easy jog were the only things keeping me warm-ish.
As the crowds began to migrate to the start line, Tjalling and I made our way from our sheltered walkway to a sheltered doorway where we stood for a minute or two - just long enough to get cold and tighten up anything that we had just 'warmed up'. We saw folks braving the downpour (because that's what it was at this point) and piling in at the start line. We waited just a few minutes more and then sighed deeply and joined them. At this point we parted ways, said good luck, and I made my way towards the front of the pack. Everyone was complaining about the cold and wet and mumbling that the race should just start early.
The race eventually started, after what seemed like forever, and I was weaving past folks left and right. The plan was to shoot for a 7:11 pace (random I know but it's what the McMillan Pace Calculator spit out for me as my 10k pace for a 3:30 marathon). I had no idea what to expect to be completely honest. I had never run this course (heard it was hilly), the weather was crap, and I had never run a 10k. So shoot for the goal and see what happens was my strategy.
The first mile starts out flat as you run away from the community college. About a half mile in you come to a fairly decent climb as you make your way through a few neighborhoods before dropping what feels like straight down into the valley and farmland. After a mile or so of flat lands you have a nice BIG climb up out of the valley. From there you weave through farming neighborhoods, up a few shorter climbs before looping back on the original route and heading back into town. A nice 90 degree left turn into a hill just before mile 5, then downhill through what seems like a park with a barked trail back to the college, looping around some of the college facilities and into the finishing chute.
First mile, feeling great. It didn't take me long to warm up but it was definitely a bit of work to weave past the slower runners. I probably didn't find my groove until right before the first mile marker (1st mile 7:31). The sharp descent into the valley had me a bit sketched out only because of the rain and the temperatures. I wasn't totally sure footed and so eased up a bit. Once in the valley I picked up the pace and caught a group of guys and snuggled right in behind them - letting them break the headwind. Luckily, they also broke the huge splash brought on by a passing truck. Boys drenched, Meghan dry - FTW (2nd mile 7:12)
Hitting the hill just before mile 3 was a bit daunting. It was long, it was steep. I put my head down, focused on little steps and trudged up it, passing a few people on the way. Of course as I neared the top I spotted two women - one I was definitely gaining on and the other was too far off for me to really tell. So, I used the closer as my bunny and chased her down within a half mile. Too bad she was all of 14 or 15 - young kids are FAST! I grunted a 'good job' at her and continued on my way - setting my sights on the second gal (3rd mile 7:46).
Meandering through the farmland neighborhoods COULD have been pretty. I wouldn't know. The rain had subsided a bit but everything was drenched, I was breathing hard, and there just is no time to look around when you're focused on the race. I'm betting if it were sunny I might have noticed. Mile 4 just happened. I'm sure something stood out during that time but since I've waited so long to type this up I can't remember (4th mile 7:23).
I caught the next gal as we were heading back into town before the mile 5 marker. Actually I passed three people around this time and only saw one other person up ahead. Running strong, breathing hard and just excited that I was nearing the finish. As I neared the 90 degree left hand turn I started to pick it up a bit more since we were coming in for the last 1.2 miles (5th mile 7:19). But... then I hit the hill. Man that took a lot out of me! I dialed it back to get up and over and hit the top with a bit of energy and dove into the park and the trail.
This section of the course was just plain irritating. The trail had been freshly covered with bark but the surface was completely squishy. Every step my feet would sink a bit. It was almost like running on a semi firm mattress. Although great for my joints it was not so great for my speed. But, I was pouring it on thinking that I was almost to the finish (for some reason I didn't look down at my watch to know 'for sure' that I was almost to the finish).
I was flying around corners, dashing down the trail. I had seen two guys up ahead that I was trying to chase down. And then... then I hit the outlying facilities of the college (6th mile 7:10). My breathing was rapid, my chest hurt and I still had probably a half mile to go. I could SEE the finish but knew that I would have to weave around the outskirts before heading into the chute. When I reached probably a quarter mile left I hit a point where I was completely anaerobic. My breathing was out of control and I could literally feel my muscles locking up - they weren't getting any oxygen. They felt like lead weights. I glanced down at my watch and was struggling to keep it in the 8 minute range. In fact... I walked! I was literally 200 meters from the finish and I was walking!! Fortunately the walking allowed me to catch my breath enough to not pass out and to finish the race (last .2 of a mile 7:28).
Overall it was a great experience. The course was tough not simply because of the hills but also the conditions. I came, I saw and I conquered. Although I didn't meet my pace expectations I was pretty proud of the results. Besides, first 10k = PR!
30th/245 Overall - 46:18 (7:25 pace)
7th Female; 1st in Age Group