I’m linking up today with HoHo Runs and MissSippiPiddlin’ for their weekly wrap linkup! Today I’m sharing my recap from the Virginia 10 Miler on September 26. Also, in case you missed it my little sister wrote a guest recap about running her first half marathon, the Hokie Half Marathon. You can check that out HERE.
The Saturday before last I ran the Virginia 10 Miler in Lynchburg for the third year in a row. I wasn’t sure what to expect, with having run a half marathon 6 days prior and the rainy weather forecast, but it ended up being a pretty good day! Plus this year’s race shirts were purple 🙂
Lynchburg is roughly two hours away, so I was up entirely too early on race morning to get there for the 8 AM start. I also needed to pick up my packet (I love race day packet pickup!) so I planned to arrive by 6:30 AM and was out the door at 4:30. This time it was a solo trip, since Barry decided to skip this year’s race. There was an ominous rainy, and windy weather forecast, and it rained the entire way to Lynchburg.
I ended up arriving a little later than planned, but I was able to get a parking spot in a nearby shopping center. From there, it was just a short 5 minute walk in the misty rain to packet pickup and the start/finish line area. Packet pickup was a breeze and by 7:15 AM I was back at my car getting ready for the race. The volunteers at this race are top notch!
About 30 minutes before the start, I walked back over to the start/finish area and met up with my friend Jessie. I hadn’t seen her in a little over a year! She’s faster than me, but said she wanted to run the race together since she hadn’t been running too much this year. Works for me, and I was excited to catch up with her! We mingled around, waiting for the race to start, as a light, steady rain came down.
A little before 8, they had a color guard presentation, the singing of the National Anthem, and the introduction of the elite runners. This race also serves as an RRCA Championship Event, so it draws some of the swiftest human beings on the planet. The top three men this year finished in under 50 minutes! Right at 8 AM, they fired the starting gun and the elites were off, followed by the masses.
The first mile and a half of this race is downhill, and the best thing to do is relax and let gravity carry you. It was raining steadily and the temperature was hovering around 59 degrees. This stretch of the race was also pretty windy, but I didn’t feel too cold. I had decided to go with capris and a short sleeve technical shirt, and that ended up being a good decision.
Thanks to the downhill, my first mile clocked in around 9:23 which is a bit quick for me in a 10 mile race. I felt fine, though, and Jessie and I had been chatting away since the start. Just after 1.5 miles, we encountered the first big climb. Right away I could feel some fatigue in my muscles, but we kept a steady pace up the hill. This race as a whole is very hilly – they don’t call Lynchburg ‘The Hill City’ for nothing. The course is a ‘lollipop’ style, an out and back with a loop in the middle. This means that you have to run up that lovely 1.5 mile downhill from miles 8.5 to 10 to get back to the finish!
As you can see above, from that first hill at mile 1.5, you’re pretty much either going up or going down the rest of the race. It’s tough, but I actually prefer a course like this to one that’s completely flat. I don’t always remember that while I’m running the race, though!
Despite feeling fatigued, I kept running alongside Jessie as we clicked off mile two. I just focused on each hill as we were on it, and the good company and conversation. I set a goal to make it to the park, the loop part of the lollipop course, where we would hit mile 5. Along the way, we saw the lead pack of elite men on their way back. I think we were between miles 3 and 4 as they went screaming by on their way to mile 7 at sub-5 pace.
Before I knew it, we had made it to the park and were nearly to mile 5. There, we encountered a nasty, short but steep hill and I gave in to a walk break. I used the break to have a salted caramel GU and drink some water. My stomach wasn’t feeling great, but I hoped the energy gel might help with my fatigued legs. I think that it did, a little!
After our loop through the park, we were headed back the way we came and running towards mile 6. Whether she knew it or not, Jessie was helping push me. I was definitely running faster on the downhill and flat-ish sections than I would have on my own. There were plenty of hills to run on the way back, but we also got the pleasure of running down all of the hills we had run up on our way out. Oh yea, and it was still raining.
Jessie and I kept plugging along, with a few other short walk breaks thrown in, and before I knew it we were past mile 8 and back at the 1.5 mile climb to the finish. This section is known at the ‘farm basket’ hill. You can kind of break it up into three pieces: the first is a steep section up to mile 9, then two gradual long hills with a slight break in between during the final mile. We made it part way up that first steep section and both needed a walk because our legs were on fire.
It wasn’t until this point that I realized I may have a shot at running a best time for this course. After voicing this to Jessie, we decided to give it a go. We started running again right around mile 9, and I knew it was going to be close. I tried my hardest, but had to take another very short walk break around mile 9.5. I guess I really wanted to make it a suspenseful finish! We started running again at mile 9.55 and I got tunnel vision, as we could see the finish line ahead. We continued to pick it up, and I was excited when we crossed the finish line in 1:46:20, a course PR of one minute and nine seconds! Like last year, I surprised myself again on this tough course.
After crossing the finish line, we got our medals and wandered over to the food tent. We both grabbed some Gatorade, but we were more cold and wet than hungry. I got a change of clothes from my car and went with Jessie to get changed. Her husband’s office is close to the start/finish area, and we were able to get changed in there. Much better than changing in a McD’s bathroom, which is what I had been anticipating! Putting on dry, warm clothes after being soaked to the bone felt amazing. Jessie thought to bring a comb, so I was even able to comb the snarls out of my hair!
We hung out in the office for a bit, just enjoying being out of the rain and chatting some more. My right Achilles tendon had gotten quite painful after we crossed the finish line. While sitting in the office, it hurt more and I noticed it was swollen on the inside part of my ankle, and very tight. I’m not sure what was going on with it, but it remained sore and swollen for the next few days. I took it easy last week and was able to return to some easy running this past weekend without any issues.
After awhile, we decided to leave the office and head back out into the rain and over to the finish line to see if there was any food left. The walk did not feel great on my Achilles. I think it was around 10:30 AM and they were packing everything up since no one really hung out due to the rain. Lucky for us, there was a bit of food remaining and I got a still-warm slice of pepperoni pizza and a quarter of a bagel. My stomach was still feeling off, but I knew I should probably eat. We also got a chance to pose in front of the photo op area!
From there I said goodbye to Jessie and headed back to my car to make the 2 hour drive home. All in all, it was a very fun day with a surprise course PR. That makes me excited to run it again next year!
What’s your favorite type of race course? I like out and backs/lollipops because you get to see the race leaders and friends along the way
What’s the furthest you’ll drive on race morning for a race? I think 2 hours is about my max
Hilly or flat?