Let me start by saying OMG it’s the first day of October!! You know what that means people. Marathon month is here!!
I wasn’t sure if I would be running this race, after missing nearly an entire week of training the week before it. But things started to look up at the end of the weekend before this race and I was hopeful I may be able to participate. I don’t know what it is about the Virginia 10 Miler, but as soon as I crossed the finish line last year I knew I wanted to run it again.
Last year we stayed at a nearby campground for the weekend, but this year Barry and I chose to drive to and from the race. It’s a little over 2 hours each way, which meant we had to be out the door by 4:45 AM. I decided to give a new pre-race breakfast a try, as this was a good chance to practice for the Marine Corps Marathon since I’ll also have to leave really early for that race. I had a pancake with peanut butter about 4 hours prior to the 8 AM race start and then ate half of a Honey Stinger waffle about 45 minutes before the start. It worked well and I think that will be my game plan for MCM!
We arrived at the race about an hour prior to the start. I hopped out of the car and picked up Barry’s and my packets while he found somewhere to park. The high school lot was already full, but he was able to park in an adjacent shopping center. I met him back at the car where we pinned our bibs on, dropped the race bag off at the car, and headed back over to the start. They have ample porta potties at this race, so it was easy to make a quick stop there on our way to the start.
This race has a 10 mile run, 4 mile run, and 4 mile walk and all three are unlimited. All three races also start together at the same time, so it’s very crowded! We listened to announcements and to the introductions of the elites (although we couldn’t see anything). Then there was the singing of the National Anthem, and then we were off at 8:00 on the dot!
The first mile and a half of the race course is all downhill, so I just let gravity carry me. I was aiming to use this race as a long run, which means my target pace was 11:05/mile. I wasn’t sure I would be able to meet that goal with the hills, but I was going to put in a good effort for the day. My first mile was sub-10, but I knew it would average out once we hit the hills. Plus it felt good to just let it roll!
After the first mile and a half we veered onto another street and were faced with our first tough climb of the day. Lynchburg is often referred to as “The Hill City” and for good reason. Not only is it hilly, but they are big, big hills! There are big rolling hills along most of the course, and just before mile 5 there is a short but very steep hill in the park. That one was especially tough!
Despite the hills, I continued to have mile splits below 11 minute pace. Most of my splits ranged from 10:20/mile to 10:50/mile. I definitely surprised myself! Barry kept asking me if we were running too fast, and I kept telling him yes, but that I was sure we would be slowed on the hills and it would all average out.
The race course is what I refer to as a “lollipop” course in that it’s an out and back with a small loop at the top before you head back. We headed out on the roads, did a small loop around a park (and up that dreaded hill!), and then head back the way we came.
One of the really neat things about this race is that is also serves as the RRCA National 10 Mile Championship, so there’s a lot of great runners. Since the race course is laid out the way it is, you get to see many of the elites on their way back while you’re still on your way out. It’s a lot of fun to cheer for them, and it always amazes me the way they run. There were several men under 5 minute pace for the 10 mile this year. So fast!
My right leg felt great the whole way, and I didn’t have any lower leg or shin pain during the race. During the last few miles of the race my calves and quads got really sore and tired, though. I knew I was definitely working hard on those hills!
Barry ended up running the entire race with me, which was a lot of fun. He had just gotten over a bad cold he had all week, so he decided to take it easy. It’s been awhile since we actually ran together and I really enjoyed it. I sometimes have a strange type of humor during races, and it’s often lost on the strangers around me who don’t understand my dry humor. Barry gets it, though, and he makes jokes back at me. 🙂
This race always has a lot of great spectator support as well. It’s not enough to overwhelm you – there are still a few quiet places along the course, which is nice. But there are plenty of spectators and volunteers who are all very excited to be out there. This one girl in particular had a sign that said “keep going” and she was interacting with all of the runners and jumping up and down and cheering everyone on. When we saw her on our way back she was just as enthusiastic and the sign was all crumpled from so much cheering. She yelled to Barry and me “you’re running so fast, I can’t even see you!” which was funny since we were running uphill 🙂 I saw this great sign, too:
Finally, we reached the final 1.5 miles of the race. Which was good because I was getting pretty tired at this point. If you’ll remember, the race course is out and back and the first 1.5 miles were downhill. That means if you want to get to the finish, you have to climb back up what they call “farm basket hill.” The first part of the hill is rather steep, and much to Barry’s dismay, I took a short walk break. I was really proud of myself for not taking one up to that point, though. Then I ran the entire final mile uphill and back to that darn finish line.
I chose to go with the classic “looking down at my watch” finish line pose rather than the “arms raised in victory” one.
Like last year, Katherine Switzer and Roger Robinson were at the race. We learned at the awards ceremony last year about Katherine Switzer’s ties to Lynchburg. This year she was at the finish line announcing names and she announced my name as I crossed the line! We’re basically old friends, now.
I finished in 1:47:29, for a 10:45/mile average. I really surprised myself by actually running too fast, as I thought it would be a struggle to maintain my long run pace on this course. Especially so since I jumped head first back into training last week, and didn’t rest at all for this race. I beat last year’s time by about 7 minutes (although I did run 6 miles prior to last year’s race to turn it into a 16 mile long run).
After the race, Barry and I hung out for a bit and had some post race food (standard fare- bagels, fruit, cookies, pizza, and Gatorade and water). Then we hit the road to make the two hour trip home.
Overall I had a great time at this race. We had perfect fall weather (mid-50’s by the finish) and it never felt too warm. The Virginia 10 Miler continues to be one of my favorite races and I will definitely be back to run it again sometime! The hills are challenging, but the race course is beautiful and they do such a great job in putting on this race, which is now in its 41st year.
Who else raced this past weekend?
Do you ever include other races as “training runs” when training for a goal race?
What kind of race do you prefer: out and back, point to point, or loop?