Sometimes I wonder if one reason I love running so much is because of where I get to run. When I started running I mostly ran on the Mount Vernon Trail, along the Potomac River between Mount Vernon and Old Town in Alexandria, Virginia. My first race was the 5K of the George Washington Parkway Classic which now follows the same route, but on the road. It deserves its accolades as the “Prettiest run this side of the Potomac!” (And I want to know, what race is prettier on the other side?!)
It’s also one of most well-organized races I’ve run, which is another reason I keep signing up year after year, even when it means back-to-back race weekends with the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler. This year Pacers offered packet pick-up on several days at any of their stores, which made it easy for me to get my race shirt and bib despite my hectic schedule.
Clearly this is a unisex shirt design in contrast to my blossom-colored CUCB shirt!
Do you see that Port City beer tent ticket? Yum!
Race morning was very similar to last weekend, before the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler, except we didn’t have to leave the house until about 7:00 am. I was having a hard time resisting a second cup of coffee, so we let early, and my husband dropped me off at the race start area at about 7:20. On the way, I checked my Race Recaps page on this blog to figure out some sort of goal pace, and settled on 8:15, which would beat my previous two years’ 1:24-ish finish times.
After my husband left, I got in the porta-potty line “just in case,” but when I saw the time getting closer to the MRTT group photo time without me getting much closer to the front of the line, I decided to skip it. After the group photo, I headed towards the corrals and lined up. After the National Anthem we waited a few more minutes to start, and then we were off.
The first mile of this race is downhill and fast. I tried to keep my pace closer to an 8:00 min mile, but I hit mile 1 at 7:41 on my Garmin. The next few miles have rolling hills, but it was still relatively cool and shady. 7:56–7:58–8:11 I was looking forward to mile 5 and the long down hill stretch that would come after that, but I kept encountering “one more hill.” 8:25
During mile 6 I tried to recover from the hills and pick up my pace–I knew the rest of the course was going to be mostly flat, but also sunny. 8:13 The race had a 5K that the 10 mile course overlaps with, so I was looking forward to getting to that point, where I would only have 3 miles to go. 8:25–8:26 The last mile into Old Town was sunny, and I could feel my energy flagging. I remembered past years where my calves seized up at this point, and was grateful that I was just tired. 8:40 Um, yeah.
Mile marker 9 comes 3/4 the way up the last short but steep hill. I had contemplated walking the hill, but since I’ve never done that I decided to run it slowly. I chugged along and then tried to pick up the pace again for the last mile. At this point, I was near a very enthusiastic runner who was high-fiving and thanking everyone who lined the course. I told him he was awesome and wondered how he still had so much energy.
I’ve run this race enough times (this was my 8th!) to know how to pace myself for the finish. I knew the Starbucks was about 1/2 mile from the end, so I used that landmark to start pushing myself even harder. 8:36 That’s all the strong I had left!
When I crossed the finish line I was pretty sure I had beat my 1:24 finsih times, but I didn’t expect to be dead on my 8:15 pace goal!
I got my special 30th anniversary edition finisher medal, and headed to the beer garden to enjoy a Port City Monumental IPA.
Since I’ve never had a post-race beer before, I was a bit cautious at first, but it went down quite nicely! Between that and the fresh bagel, both me and my stomach were very happy. 😉
So, my pacing was pretty uneven, but I might be OK with that. The first part of the course is easier, the rolling hills do take their toll, and the last few miles were hot and sunny. I’m not sure that if I’d started out slower I would have been able to finish stronger. If you are a running guru and have any insight on that, I’d love your feedback! Anyway, it’s hard to be too critical when I’m pretty sure this is a PR for this race, beating the best time I can find (from 8 years ago) by 1 min, 20 sec.
Have you ever enjoyed a post-race beer?
Do you think you should aim for even split times in races?