After completing our last 10K race en route to the Castle earlier this month, I was feeling very ready to ramp up the race distances to better match my long training runs. I never thought a 10K would seem short, but somehow it now does! I was ready for the next challenge: 10 miles. These are hard to find in Canada as 16.1K is just not a popular race distance – go figure. But it seems to be the only distance between a 10K and a half-marathon so I was itching to check it off my list. The only one I could find was 2 hours away and didn’t seem to be the most organized of races, but it was timed, came with a medal and took place 3 weeks after the last 10K race on our race schedule. Good enough for me! But unlike my other races, I soon learned I would not have my BRF Alana with me – the race fell on her daughter’s birthday and, truth be told, she would probably rather poke her own eyes out than race 16K right now. Her long runs are closer to 13K (and climbing!) so she was the first to say that this race was a great idea FOR ME. I took the hint. I also decided not to subject my family to driving 4 hours in a day just to wait 2 hours for me to run a race. So I was totally on my own for my longest race yet. Luckily, a friend I made at the Toronto Women’s 10K was also looking for a 10-miler and we quickly decided to meet for this one. Knowing that I wouldn’t be a sad and pathetic lone princess on the course, I took the plunge and registered!
Leading up to race day, I pretty much harassed the race director for information as the web site was devoid of any information other than date, time and location. What did the route look like? Was it an out and back or a loop? What was the elevation? Was it chip-timed or gun-timed? I am a gal who likes to have all of the information in order to prepare. Call me Type A, call me crazy, whatever – I just need to know these things!!! Well, this race was a real test because I didn’t get the information I craved at all. All I could get from the race director before the race was “hard to say for sure due to construction, so the route will be posted on race day”. Hmmmm. I tried to tell myself that my finishing time didn’t really matter because it was my first 10-mile race. Anything would technically be a PR, right? Wrong! Not for this Type A runner. Based on my long runs, I decided it needed to be under 1:42. As race day approached, I decided it needed to be sub 1:40. But enough with all of these technical goals – the real question was what to wear?
My friend, Laural, and I decided to wear our running skirts by Team Sparkle. I had donned my first sparkle skirt at the Prince Edward County Marathon Relay and quickly fell in love with it! It is so light to run in, and really doesn’t feel much different than my normal running skirt – but of course it is so much sparklier! We went back and forth the whole week of the race trying to decide what to wear (long sleeves or short? Capris or full tights?) as the weather was walking that fine line between crisp and just plain cold. Once you factored in wind chills, there was no easy answer…so we both decided to layer and bring alternate outfits as a princess can never have too many clothes. Soon enough, it was race day!
When we got there, it was a little difficult to determine where the race was actually happening. There was no obvious starting area, which brought back visions of my last 10K race with its chalk drawn start line. And when I picked up my race kit, I noticed the race was sponsored by the Whitby Road Runners Association. Again, this brought back visions of the last race where we learned NOT to register for Road Runner events as the runners are just way too serious and way too fast. But here I was in my sparkle skirt and there was nothing left to do but tackle my first 10-miler.
But first I finally got to see the race route! Remember that map I was so keen to see leading up to race day? Well, it was posted as promised that morning and here it is:
What is it about Road Runner Associations? Are they so in love with the run itself that they can’t focus on race logistics? My 5 year old could have made a better map that would have been closer to scale, easier to read and definitely prettier. Moving on…we were then told that our official times would be based off the gun, and that the individual chips we were wearing were not actual chips. What?!? There were over 600 runners and I was not thrilled at the idea of losing time while waiting to cross the start. Laural and I decided we would start as close to the front as possible and people could kiss our sparkle skirts if they didn’t like it. (As it turns out, no one cared so we were totally indignant and rebellious for nothing).
The race started a little late which had all of the tech-happy runners a little agitated…when do I start my iPod? How long will my Garmin hang in before powering off? We were then told we would have a whole 5 second warning before the gun. Generous! While we waited, we met a couple of nice ladies who loved our skirts and were great to pass the time with while we waited to run. And then, ladies and gentlemen, it was time to do this thing.
Out of the gate at the front of the pack, I made a rookie mistake and ran too fast. My first kilometer was 5:17 and, to give you some context, my goal pace was 6:10. I tried to slow my pace, but still ran the first 10K under 6 minute kilometres, not too far off my 10K race pace. I was feeling great! The course was nice! I was even noticing and appreciating the beauty of the water, the sand, the dunes, the little lighthouse, the pretty park! When the 10K group turned off for their finish, I was at 58 minutes when I should have been just over an hour…things were going great. (Except I was TOO.DAMN.HOT. After all that angst about clothing, I still didn’t get it right.) I was flying along the course and I only had 6K to go, right?
Right. Technically. But this is when the real race started and by that I mean, the hardest part of the course. Those running 10 miles were sent up some challenging and windy trails which were just punishing – physically, but also mentally. At first, I didn’t notice I was on a gradual incline. I just found myself slowing down and getting tired for the first time in the race, and starting to fall into that mental funk that sometimes happens in races. I hate that funk, as it is so hard to snap out of once it takes hold! As I tried to figure out why this was happening, I noticed that I was looking up to spot the runners ahead of me. Well, that helped my mood somewhat because I figured I would have to get up the hill eventually and then all would be ok, right? Well, not really. Around this time the ball of my right foot started to scream at me for some reason, and that hill never really seemed to end. I knew we were running to the 13K turn-around point, but it just never seemed to come. Finally, there was a downhill – and a long one. Of course I knew I would have to run it the other way after the turn-around so I didn’t really enjoy it, but I did make up some time by allowing gravity to help me out. At the bottom, there it was: the turn-around. Hallelujah!
I got a nice boost at this point because, once I turned around, I saw Laural waving with a big smile on her face and 2 thumbs up. A minute or so later, I saw one of the women we had been talking to at the start line doing the same thing. I never got her name – but thank you, lovely lady in tangerine! Those two friendly faces helped me power up about half of that big hill, but the last climb was tough. And now it was time to race back to the finish. Even though my Garmin told me I had 2 kilometres left and I knew I should be powering through them, my foot was not cooperating, I was wiped by the hills, and the course felt so removed from the waterfront where we had started that it was hard to believe we were getting close to the end. Even with half a kilometer to go, there was no evidence of the finish. It wasn’t until I noticed the 10K marker on the other side that I realized the finish was just around the corner. As I ran through the finish, I saw my time flash on the screen: 1:36:50 (actually, it was 1:36:47 according to my Garmin, but who’s noticing? Other than me, a card-carrying Type A). I had met my goal and then some! But I will always wonder what my time would have been if the back 6K had been as great as the first 10K. I mean, who wants to run 6K of hills and wind at the end of a 10-miler? The course would have been so much nicer if we had just run to an 8K turn-around instead of turning around at 5K and then adding the torturous 6K on the back trails. However, I was done and got my medal! It was rather ugly, but I really didn’t care – I earned it!
As I was trying to decide whether to sit down or fall down, a fellow runner handed me some water and proceeded to complain about the course – which made me feel a little better. I was glad to hear that I wasn’t being a wimp, and it was actually a very technical and tough last leg even for a “real” runner. Moments later, I saw my sparkle skirt twin come flying towards the finish line. Laural had also met her goal of running under 1:45 – she actually ran under 1:40! We were proud to have taken a chance on this race and to have run it so well, despite the tough course. Sure, there are many things that could be improved about this race, but it served the purpose we needed it for: one last milestone check point en route to Disney! Having completed a 10-mile race, I can now officially say that I’m ready to take on the next distance – a half-marathon, princess-style.