I decided mid-week that I wanted to run this 10-miler in The Woodlands. With it being a smaller race (only ~1700 participants), I was able to sign up with no issues. The price was a little steeper than what I’d expected, but I got a really great running shirt out of it and I was a late signee. Plus, now that I think about it…I’d say the price was about right considering the distance was between a 10k and a halfsie. I’m glad to see running events are getting away from the heavy cotton t-shirts and leaning more toward apparel that breathes while you run. I’d actually wear this out on a training run again when the weather’s in the 60s. I can’t say that about a majority of the race shirts I’ve accumulated (and subsequently donated to Goodwill) over the years.
It was a fight
Miles 1-2: I started out at a fairly normal pace, though I couldn’t tell you exact splits due to technical difficulties with Garmela (my Garmin 405; yes, you’re required to name your watch) so no fun Garmin data reports with this post. I really struggled to find a good rhythm. I typically look for a pace-setter; someone I see ahead of me who has a steady, consistent running form, with footwork I like and a pace I can see myself hanging with. As much of a solo runner as I am, I still like to run with a quick pace-setter to help me grind out those first 5 or 6 miles until I can break through the “wall” and fall into my zone. As I came up on the Woodlands Parkway bridge, the 2-mile mark timer announced I was a little under 17-minutes. My 8:30/mile pace was on par with how I normally start off my runs, so I didn’t worry. Garmela was clearly still trying to scrape the morning gunk from her eyes and I was getting bummed that 2 miles were down and I had a piece of valuable technology wrapped around my wrist that was rendering itself useless.
Miles 3-4: At around the 2.25 mile mark, my watch finally stopped with the problem child act. I activated the GPS and gave it some time to find a satellite signal now that I was already almost 20 minutes into the race. I like to see my pace as I’m going and hear that beep that goes off after every mile. Even though the miles weren’t matching up with the course, it’s still good to hear your progress! I still wasn’t feeling like a champ though. I wanted to take off but couldn’t quite break the 8:00/mile pace.
Miles 5-6: Once I hit the halfway point, I popped my lone Hammer Gel and chased it with some fluids at the 6-mile station. I instantly felt it. My legs were starting to go but my lungs were breathing well and my energy level definitely peaked at this point. It was at this point that I realized I had spent too much energy in the first half of the race. My breakfast was sufficient, but I wasn’t aware I was going to run this hard (which means I need to replace more calories during the race). By hard, I don’t mean fast. I mean hard as in having to push myself more than normal. Like an uphill battle? It just wasn’t easy today—it was definitely a fight. The upside: I started to pass people at this point. Lots of people.
Miles 7-8: Even though I was struggling to maintain my new 7:30/mile pace, I was still passing runners of all ages. They weren’t slowing down or running out of steam…they were just maintaining the pace they’d had the entire race. Because of the way I run, I start out slow and pour it on strong in the end, which lends a huge ego boost when the race is coming to an end and you’re blazing past other competitors. Sometimes in more populated races, I get to use my expert H-town highway driving skills and zoom through the traffic, darting here and dodging there. I’m sure I upset some people by cutting them off, but they shouldn’t have built a 5-person wall blocking the path! It’s not like I can leap over them like a video game. Thankfully with the race size being on the smaller side, I didn’t have to do this today. What was not fun about this particular course was the back half of it heads east—looking directly into the rising sun. Ugghhh…I’ve definitely been spoiled by my 6 a.m. runs where I run by moonlight.
Miles 9-10: The crowd support was awesome—it definitely exceeded my expectations for the race. I had my zune rockin’ so I couldn’t hear them, but I could see their enthusiastic cheers and it really does wonders for your dwindling spirit in the waning moments of a run. They really helped me increase my pace (about 7:15/mile in mile 9 and a 7:00/mile in mile 10)! Before the last mile marker, I’d caught up to an older gentleman in his late 50s or so. He saw me, smiled, and pointed to the mile marker. “That’s where we want to get to! After that it’s only a mile!” This put a smile on my face because it’s how I used to run. I’d set myself goals throughout the race. It was either get to that tree before that chick or get to that curve before that old man or something…always mini-goals to help me get through the longer races. Now I just put my head down and zone out to good music. I escape mentally and let my legs do their thing.The last mile was rough with having to run up and over the Lake Woodlands bridge. Kinda reminds me of the stories you hear about Heartbreak Hill at the Boston Marathon. I will be honest: I kick A at hills. I don’t slow my speed and I just attack them. I passed probably 20 people on this bridge as their paces broke down trying to cross it. Before I know it, I’m at the finish watching a 13 year old cross the line in front of me. What a blow to my over-inflated ego at this point! I just got beat by a little kid more than half my age. The joke’s on him though, as my chip time was quicker! ha!
I finished with no fuel in my tank. I was spent. The one Hammer Gel did it’s job until it burned off—I definitely needed another one. My calves felt like someone had beaten them with a bat. But mentally I felt accomplished! I was very happy with my time considering I’d set out for a 1:20:00ish time. And by default it was a new PR (because it was my first ever 10-miler! ha).
This race is what I love about running. Sometimes it’s not always easy. Sometimes you have a rough race, but you get through it and are better for it afterwards. You have struggles along the way, but you overcome. Now take those points and apply it to your life. The ideas and lessons learned are 100% transferable—you struggle, overcome, listen to good music along the way, give everything you’ve got and leave it all out on the field (i.e., the span of your life), and you feel like an accomplished winner afterward. Not a bad way to live your life, if you ask me.
Deep stuff on this beautiful Saturday morning, people. Deep stuff!
Male Winner: 00:56:68
Female Winner: 01:03:45
Field Average: 01:37:00 (141/1669, top 8%)
Male Average: 01:29:00 (97/699, top 14%)
Age Group Average: 01:26:00 (9/39, top 23%)
Me: 01:14:54 (7:29/mile)