Race: City of Oaks/Old Reliable 10K
City: Raleigh, NC Date: 11/4/2012
Distance: 10k/6.2 mi
Weather: Warmer this year (upper 40s at start)
Course: rolling hills through downtown Raleigh, a usual route for me!
Summary: Another 10K PR!! And, this is quickly becoming my favorite 10k… shhh! Don’t tell Capital City Classic 😉
I loved this race this year. I loved this race last year. And the year before. And, not just because of my new PR, which broke last year’s PR that I earned in this very race… which broke the PR from the year before in this very race… Probably because of the challenge of it.
Because, my friends, it is a challenge. And, it isn’t my imagination – this year, I have validation from a friend of mine that ran it with me from out of state who verified for me that it is a tough course – of course, he had to run past what I did and ended up with an even tougher course later, but more on that in a minute.
A few years ago, when I was just starting to run, I joined a group on Active.com for people training for half marathons to learn about training, ask questions, and get advice… and to talk to people about running who actually got it – most of my friends and family at the time just had glazed over eyes when I would even mention “run” to them so I found it refreshing to meet people with the same interest I had – and who took it as seriously as I was starting to take it. It was a great group of people – very personable, informative and supportive – and I made a lot of new friends quickly. Since then, we’ve moved over to Facebook, added a few more people, and have become even better friends, and have, on occasion, met in various cities to run races together. Some of the races I’ve done with these friends have been the Virginia Beach Rock and Roll Half Marathon in 2010 and the Las Vegas Rock and Roll Half Marathon in 2011 (I promise, I won’t say another word about that race… today). In fact, I’m actually planning for my first two half marathons for 2013 (AL and MI) to run with a couple more of those friends, including the one that ran this 10k with me.
I mention this back story because one of those friends (from MI) joined me in my 10k and, although I did work on my speed myself, I credit him for coaching and pulling me along to get my PR – Thank you 🙂
The reason this is important is because another friend of ours from that group also lives here in Raleigh (I occasionally run with her in the big run group here). She has been a part of Marathon Maniacs recently – and I’m incredibly impressed and proud of her accomplishments with all she’s done the last year or so with that group. She’s done a couple of ultras in subsequent weekends, and had thrown out the idea to our friend in MI “hey, wouldn’t it be fun to run two marathons on subsequent days?” and he agreed. The plan was that he would fly to Raleigh, they would drive to Savannah to do the Savannah Rock and Roll full marathon, then they would drive back to Raleigh for the City of Oaks full marathon. When he first told me he was doing the City of Oaks on the second day I said “uhhh… you know that’s a hilly course, right?” he said “oh, no, they said it was a new course this year and was fast.”
Since I started running, I always told my out of state friends “you should run the City of Oaks – it is tough, but it is a great race” even though I’ve never run the whole thing from start to finish. I’ve run many parts of the route, though, incrementally, and I have always found them to be a challenge. I also ran the Raleigh Rocks Half Marathon in 2010 – my first ever half (and still the PR for that distance) – and a lot of that route was part of this one, so I knew the route well.
I immediately looked up the course and reported to him that it is all relative… the miles 15 through probably 20 were different and, since they don’t go through Umstead (which is just mean), it is “faster”, but by no means fast… and still pretty hilly. But, he’s got a tenacious competitive spirit – which I value and appreciate – and was up for the challenge. I hadn’t seen him since Las Vegas, so I was just looking forward to seeing him again and was happy he was going to be running *my* race.
All three races – the full marathon, the half marathon and the 10k – started at the same time and in the same place. At the 10k split, the 10k racers split off and the Full/Half marathoners continue on until they get to Meredith College, where the Half Marathoners split off to a turn around point and the Full marathoners start on their trek up the Raleigh Greenway, parts of it new (hence the new portion of the route this year), and then rejoin the half marathoners on the Gorman (and trust me this is a nasty hill) back up to the finish on Hillsborough street.
This race was also a big deal to me because I really wanted a new 10k PR and, since I had achieved my last two 10k PRs in this race, it seemed fitting I do it again this year. However… it was only the second race since my half in San Francisco – the other being the Oktoberfest 8k just two weeks before that I didn’t take seriously because I just felt under prepared due to lower than desired (and expected) training. My training hit a snag in August for several reasons, the primary of which were: (1) my work schedule got out of hand – I had work piled up to the point where I just couldn’t keep up with it even when I didn’t take run breaks (2) my kids suddenly hated the kids center at the gym and (3) I hadn’t replaced my in-home treadmill.
So… I was missing runs.
…and I was getting anxious about it. I was climbing the walls and irritated about the fact that I was unable to reach the training goals I had set for myself in August (71) September (72) and October (ugh… 53) – way under the standing 90-mile goal I set for each of those months. This was going to be a mess for me, I could tell. The only glittering hope I had of a PR rested solely on the fact that I ran the fastest mile I had ever run in the Oktoberfest 8k (7:25) – faster than any 400m interval, no less, and kept it for a full mile. Thought I was going to puke after that mile, but it was done.
If I could do that, maybe, just maybe, I could PR this race??
After my friends returned from Savannah, I checked in with them to see how it went and to see what time they were planning to get to the race – he said around 6 AM (for 7 AM start) and that was the same time I was planning, so I told him I’d text them when I got there. I was excited so it was no trouble for me to get up and ready, though, I didn’t have any sort of appetite and I was just anxious to run, so I worked on hydration and let him know when I got there. He said they were running behind, so I decided to go ahead and get started with the bathroom break and all the other little pre-race rituals I have set for myself. I kept texting them to figure out where they were, but got no replies, so I figured I would just meet them after the race – after all, I was going to be finished long before they were.
Random luck being what it is, though, I ended up walking right in front of them! woo hoo! I walked around with them and, while my MI friend was waiting for the bathroom, I warmed up by running with his bag of stuff to my car and back – which took longer because I thought I was two blocks closer to my car than I was. Once I got back, it was about time for us to line up.
This race seemed to be bigger than the year before – and I checked the finishers from last year to compare to this year. I don’t think it was my imagination. It was held on the same day the NYC Marathon would have been held – and due to the proximity of Raleighwood to NYC and the late cancellation of the NYC Marathon due to Super-Storm Sandy, we assumed there were several runners displaced by the NYC marathon that decided to join us for City of Oaks.
Although there were pacers for the half and full lined up according to where they thought they should be (I’m guessing – either that or someone directed them to a spot), there were no formal “corrals” in this race. It usually isn’t big enough for that – for 2011, there weren’t even 3k for all events combined – there were a little over 4100 this year, though, so it seemed pretty crowded.
Although we had done two races at the same time, this is the first time I had ever actually run *with* my friend, and, to hear him describe how he is in a race, it seems like I already knew what to expect – we think alike. He picked out a spot that would have been exactly where I would have lined up and he guided me to a good spot. We were ready!
One thing about my friend: he’s fast. He typically wins, or at least places high in most of the 5k and 10k races he runs at home. He also fares pretty well in the longer distances, too – including qualifying for Boston recently. No pressure – haha.
Because I had made a big deal about my 7:25 mile in the Oktoberfest 8k, I joked with my friend “there will be no 7:25 miles today! haha”. He was in his zone, though, and not really listening, so all he heard was “7:25 mile” – noticing that he didn’t seem to find the humor in what I said, I again said “I won’t be able to do a 7:25 today!” he smiled and said OK, so I figured he heard me. He said he’d run the 10k with me the whole way, which I was happy to hear, though, I worried about slowing him down. I think, though, he was tired and was looking forward to a slower start to the race because he was sore and tired from the race the day before.
The race started, and we were off at a pretty swift pace to start – I was fine – comfortable enough to chat with him about the course and catch up with him on how he felt he did the day before, but it wasn’t exactly easy for me. The first mile went by quickly and I could tell I was already running out of steam – no surprise: it was 7:36. I tried to keep it together for the next mile, but was really having a hard time. My friend didn’t say anything, so I figured he was OK with the pace. The second mile was 7:55. Still impressive for me, I must say, since I don’t usually run at those speeds for this distance, but I could tell I was starting to peter out because our conversation was starting to diminish.
Mile 3 was starting to get rough for me, but I kept it close to the 2nd mile – 8:05. I could start to tell, though, that my friend was wondering what was going on with me – he started to push me a little harder, trying to get me to go a little faster. I tried to keep it up, but I just couldn’t.
Then came mile 4. Critical mile 4. We actually talked about that specifically during the run – how mile 4 will make or break a 10k. He was totally right… and I felt myself slipping on this particular run. He was telling me this to keep me going, but I was unable to keep up a pace faster than 8:14 for very long, so that’s what I ended up with for that mile. This is where I started to loose it, really, gagging (quietly at first) and telling him I had to slow down a bit so I could catch up. It was around this time that it seemed like he was really confused – and I started to realize that he thought we were supposed to go faster than we were – and I felt bad. I told him to go on, but he told me he’d planned to stay with me, so he kept with me. Mile 5 was a dismal 8:28, and I was fairly certain (because I didn’t know the speed of the other splits at this point) that I had blown my opportunity for a PR.
I was determined, though, not to give up, so I tried to kick it up a little, and unfortunately, this made me gag even more. I managed to keep the first couple to myself (because I knew he’d make me walk if he heard me and I didn’t want to walk), but he heard the 3rd (just after mile 6) and told me to pull over to the side – which I did – but I told him “I’m just going to slow down – I’m not going to walk”. He tried to talk sense into me, but it was no use… I wanted to finish this thing running, so I slowed a little, but kept going. He kept coaching me and talking me through it – which meant a lot. I ended up with a slightly better 8:23 for mile 6, and though, still had me bummed about missing the mark on my goal of a PR. I just didn’t have energy in the tank to kick the last quarter mile like I usually do…
or do I?
The full marathons split from us just after the 6.1, and I said goodbye to my friend – wished him luck and thanked him for running with me, and then I looked ahead and could finally see the clock and… what tha?? Am I seeing that right? The clock had just clicked over to 50 minutes – what the what? My PR was 51:11, which meant I had just enough time to make it, if I could muster the energy to push it harder… so I did. I couldn’t really feel my legs and I swear I was going to throw up, but damn if I wasn’t determined to cross the line before the clock hit 51:00.
And, I did.
I actually got very emotional when I finished – you’d think I had just qualified for the Olympics or something. I was emotional for many reasons, but mostly because I had the support of my friend who didn’t even know at this point (nor would he for another two hours) how much he helped me get to this point. It meant a lot to me to have his support before, during, and since this race. I collected myself, walked around a little to cool off, reported my success and went back to my car to get something to wear to warm up – especially since it felt much colder. I got out of my car to wait for my friend, but was shivering so hard that it hurt, so I went back into my car to thaw out until it was 3 hours into the race. I expected my friend to finish somewhere between 3:15 and 3:30, so I got out of my car, bought the largest coffee I could find, bundled up and headed to the finish line to wait for him.
I got there just in time to see the marathon winner and to cheer for all the half marathon and full finishers and to get some photos of my friend finishing – along side a guy he coached along the way and didn’t let quit – just like me. This image is actually someone else that finished – I just loved the smile on his face and sense of accomplishment – I had that after 10k, so I can just imagine the sense of pride having run 20 miles more than that.
I reconnected with my friend, and we compared notes – I told him I had a PR and we celebrated that a little – though, he admitted that he completely misunderstood what I said! He thought I *wanted* a 7:25 pace and admitted that he thought I was overshooting a little and was confused about my inability to even hit 7:25 once – we got a pretty good laugh out of that! We got his stuff from my car, got some coffee, and chatted about the race – and he agreed that the route was nasty hill – as we waited for our Raleigh friend to finish.
Once we had thawed out a little, we started walking the reverse of the course and ran her in for the last mile of the race. She was having a tough time at the end of the race, though, so she really appreciated us running her in.
One thing that I have learned a lot about running is, while it is not really a “team” sport, there is an incredible amount of support and camaraderie of the people participating in events like this. That group I mentioned – we all support, encourage and help each other. We all cheer for each other when we have accomplishments and help encourage each other when we have low spots in training cycles or when we are injured. I honestly think my running has been better as a result and I couldn’t imagine not having this incredible group of people to share this stuff with. Daily Mile, Active, Runner’s World, Active – all other networks – all important and all helpful. To all of you, my friends, thank you 🙂