2011 Race Reports: City of Oaks/Old Reliable 10k

Race: City of Oaks/Old Reliable 10K
City: Raleigh, NC   Date: 11/6/2011
Distance:
10k/6.2 mi
Weather
: Sunny, but chilly at start (upper 30s), warmed up to mid-50s
Course
:  rolling hills through downtown Raleigh, a usual route for me!

Summary: A new race with a new (old) name. A new 10k PR. a new (tougher) course. A very nice experience! and… update… 2nd in Age Group – holy cow!

Pre-Race

I loved this race last year. Not just because I got my 10k PR – though, that’s a good enough reason – but the course was nice. It was familiar. It took me down Hillsborough street, through parts of Cameron Village and back. And… it was a pretty small race, relatively speaking (all of the 10k races I’ve done so far were pretty small) and I loved that.  Now, of course, having the chaos of the Las Vegas Rock and Roll Half Marathon behind me, the smaller races are even more enticing… it just felt intimate. I also noticed that most 10k races are pretty much the runner crowds – not so much the folks who are doing their first ever 5k or the people who – on a dare – decided to do a half marathon. These are the folks that are into running. They all have Garmins. They all wear compression socks and know how to wear a mylar blanket.

I love this crowd.

I also loved this race because it was one of the few afternoon races on my agenda. Most of the other races were stinkin’ early in the morning or stinkin’ late at night (that’s right, Disney Wine and Dine – I’m looking at you). This race started at 2 pm – enough time to get up, stretch, eat a little, enjoy my coffee… relax, hydrate and get to the race on time without feeling rushed. It was on a Sunday afternoon in November, so the weather is usually good. Kind of like a leisurely Sunday stroll.

I love leisurely Sunday strolls.

I looked forward to doing this race since I finished the Capital City Classic 10k in May. When I finished that race, I was pretty sure I had a PR until I realized my PR was actually from the 2010 Old Reliable. Sigh. So… I felt like I had to make up for flubbing the PR by earning a new one. So, you can imagine my surprise (and mild disappointment) when I discovered that, this year, for some reason, organizers decided to combine this 10k with the City of Oaks Marathon and Half Marathon and start all 3 races at 7 am.

The cynic in me immediately thought the worst: that’s. gonna. be. a. mess.

Where is everybody going to park? And, really, City of Oaks is one of the bigger Half and Full Marathon events in Raleigh – adding a 10k (among other events) is flat out crazy. Some rogue RD decided to create another 10k the following weekend with the old route from the 2010 Old Reliable that started at 2 – and I was intrigued – but let’s be honest about a couple of things:

I was curious how this was going to work.

The City of Oaks/Old Reliable 2011 race really worked better with my schedule.

If it was a mess, I’d never, ever do it again.

My first experience was packet pickup – they had an Expo in the McKimmon Center and it was well organized. Each race had it’s own table and they hand you the bib – you go over to the table where they register the chip in your bib, and then you go into the expo to collect your shirt and look at the booths. It was pretty small, but I’ll be honest, it was clean and nice. I got my shirt, walked around a bit, took a free chapstick (always need it when I out there) and went back to my car. Struck up a conversation with a fellow doing his first half, wished him luck and went back home to rest and start carb loading.

Race Day

Yes, the start line was in front of the NCSU bell tower – but… the part I didn’t really pick up on when I registered for the race was the more than ample parking at the Cameron Village shopping center, just a little over a block away. duh. There was more than enough parking when I arrived at 6:30 am. I was pumped. I had been up a little over an hour and I already had my coffee and my GF Oats and I was ready to run. I parked, went to the bathroom, and queued up. It was cold, but I was so excited about the race for some reason, I didn’t really care.

As I lined up, though, I was impressed with the number of people in this race. I honestly don’t remember lining up in corrals or having waved starts – I just remember starting – and passing.

As a (proud) graduate of NCSU, I did like the fact that the route started at the NCSU belltower, went alongside the campus down what I’m now going to call Mount Ashe (Ashe Ave). What goes up must also again go down… and roll along via Western Boulevard (the scene of the disastrous 2010 Capital City Classic), back up Boylan Avenue (before we get to the nastier, hillier part of it), around downtown (where I run about 2-3 times a week) and back to Glenwood up to Peace (mercifully past the WORST of the hills, but still pretty hilly) just to end on a hill on Clark Avenue… In Cameron Village – hey, how convenient!

However… since the disaster that was the 2010 Tarheel 10-miler/Fleet Feet 4-miler (were I still don’t know what happened, but I think I missed a split off), I’ve been worried to pieces about missing a split off with multiple distances starting in a single race. Truthfully, I absolutely LOVED how they split this one off – they actually had all 3 races doing the first 10k together. The 10k folks split to finish and then, shortly after the 10 mile marker, the Half folks did a turn around while the full folks continued on to Umstead and ran a loop back inside the park. Brilliant design in my humble opinion.

I did listen to music during this race. I was actually in kind of a foul mood the day before, and coming out of my funk this particular day, so I wanted music this run. Because of the music – and the runkeeper – I was able to hear my pace throughout the race. I was impressed when the first four miles averaged just at an 8mm pace!! Mile 5 – up Glenwood Avenue – slowed me down to a little over 8:15 and the last mile did me in at a little over that, but I still ended up with an overall pace of 8:14.

At the time I finished, I couldn’t tell if I had broken my PR or not. I went to my car, changed my clothes and then waited at the finish line for the Half Marathoners to finish (I had 2 friends running it). I didn’t see one of my friends (because she’s much faster than I thought!) but while I was waiting for my other friend to finish, I saw the full marathon winner finish in about 2:08 and some change. That was the first time I’ve ever seen a full marathoner elite finish and I must say, I was pretty impressed. I got caught up in cheering for him and congratulating him after the race. It was a great experience for me.

Learnings

I wasn’t trying for a PR, but I got one on a much tougher course than I expected. Funny how that always seems to happen to me when I say to myself “nah… I’m not even *trying* for a PR today”. haha.

Sometimes, big races – when run well – can be a very pleasant experience. I had a great experience at this race – many, many thanks to the city of Raleigh, NCSU, all the volunteers and the spectators that came out to cheer everyone on. It was very nice for me, and I hope to do it again next year!

2011 Race Reports: Triangle Run/Walk for Autism 5k

Race: Triangle Run/Walk for Autism 5k

City: Raleigh, NC   Date: 10/08/2011

Distance:5k/3.1 mi

Weather: Warm, pretty day

Course:  rolling hills through parts of downtown Raleigh

Summary: a 5k that I “didn’t take seriously” that I somehow managed to come close to tying my PR for this distance. again.

Pre-Race

I have three 5k races that I never miss each year: the Susan Komen Race for the Cure 5k, the Friesen Run with the ‘Canes 5k, and this one, the Triangle Run/Walk for Autism 5k. I have a personal reasons for running each of them, but race in particular is special because I have a son with autism. To be blunt, autism is not the handicap it was presented to me to be – I find how his mind works to be absolutely fascinating. It can be frustrating at times trying desperately to communicate with someone that just doesn’t communicate the same way I do, but we are both learning how to communicate with each other and get better at it each day. The benefactor for this race is the Autism Society of NC, a group that does a lot of work in advocacy, education and support of families with autistic members – on all parts of the spectrum.

So… knowing that I had a half marathon the week before (Disney Wine and Dine) and knowing that I *never* miss this race, I did not go into this race expecting anything under 26:00. I did this one time before when I entered the 2010 Friesen Run with the ‘Canes 5k a week after finishing the Virginia Beach Rock and Roll Half Marathon and was surprised at my results then, too. All I wanted to do was to complete the race without falling down. I really didn’t care too much about my time.

Race Day

The boys were with their dad, and, usually, this had been a family event. Not this year. My dad considered running it, but hadn’t prepared for it – maybe next year – so I did it semi-solo this year. I did have one friend from work (not my usual run buddy, though since this race I’ve run with him a couple of times) who also ran it as his second official 5k (he smoked my PR just three weeks after this race, by the way).

My usual routine for 5k races has become someone mundane now… I still get nervous, but there is nothing flashy or exciting about the routine any more. I get up. I check my gear (usually several times – OCD tends to kick in just before the race). I eat my (now Gluten Free) oatmeal. I drink my coffee. I drink water… and more water. I go to the bathroom. I drink more water. I go to the bathroom again… until it is time to go to the race. I usually don’t even remember to pick up race packets in advance of the race anymore, so I usually just leave myself enough time to get the packet and take it back to my car. That’s what I did this particular morning.

Since I work downtown and have access to a parking space, albeit about 4 blocks in 2 directions, I usually park there and walk to the event. It is a good warm up for me, anyway. I got my packet, returned to my car, stopped at the bathroom in the hotel both times (not so dumb after all, if I avoid the port-a-johns) and made my way back to the event. I was meeting, for the first time, a high school friend of my usual training partner – who also has a son with Autism. We chatted on Facebook a few times, but I met him and his wife in person for the first time this day. We talked about running and, since I had just finished the Disney Wine and Dine, I talked about the wall I hit at mile 10 when I was just *done*. He talked about that wall for him in the full marathon he did earlier in the year. I was running and he and his wife were walking it, so I wished them luck and lined up.

Because I like to start in the front and because I wasn’t really trying for time, I had my music with me at this race. I was treating it as a training run. With my usual training partner, I had run this route a few times before my half, so I felt pretty comfortable with the route itself – and the hills that went with it. In 2010, this route felt like a challenge for me, though, looking back at my time, I did pretty good (24:59). Nevertheless, I’d been working hard in 2011 to get back to where I was at the end of 2009 (due to depression and scheduling challenges, I had a hard time making all my training runs in 2010) and this route was starting to feel easier to me, finally. I picked a spot, and as I usually tend to do, I moved up through the ranks to fill in any blank spots until I was in my happy place to start: first third, off to the right. I plugged in my songs and turned it up. I was ready to go.

I don’t know if it was that I was just zoned into the race or that I just didn’t care, but I did feel like I was going fast. I didn’t really check pace at first, but I wasn’t being passed as much as I usually am at that spot and I felt like I was a lot farther a lot faster than I expected to be. I also noticed that I was out of breath and having a hard time catching it, usually an indicator that I’m going too fast so I took a look at my pace – I was sub 7! what! I think I’ve done that maybe a couple of other times, but that I can’t really remember ever going that fast. I took it down a bit because I didn’t want to hit a wall in a 5k and ended up at a far more comfortable 7:50-something.

The remainder of the race was more or less like any of the other times I’d run the route – I took the hills without much effort, and every 5 minutes, was reminded by RunKeeper that I was keeping my pace under an 8 minute mile. I didn’t think I would set a new PR, but I was pretty happy with my results and cruised through the finish line happy and exhausted.

Learnings

I really don’t know what got into me that day – it was a great race and I felt good the whole race through. I’ve gone on to feel terrible in a couple since then, so I’m always grateful for the ones that feel good and it makes me appreciate them that much more. I went on that day to swim a mile for the first time… I guess I had a little extra pent up energy. I’m looking forward to doing this one again next year – maybe I will break that PR after all in 2012.