Monday, July 7, 2014

Race Recap: Innsbrook Independence Day 10k

On Saturday, I tackled the Innsbrook Independence Day 10k. Innsbrook sponsors a 2-mile, 5k, and 10k on each of their three big summer holiday weekends. I've wanted to do the 10k for years, but scheduling, heat, and apprehension have kept me from showing up at the starting line. With unseasonably cool temperatures on deck and legs that felt fresh and strong, I knew this was the weekend to make it happen.

Elevation profile for the course.  An easy start with a crazy hilly finish.

Race day weather was picture perfect, as predicted: mid-60s at the start with a slightly overcast sky - my favorite running weather. The 10k field was quite small with just 40 of us tackling the distance. Small but mighty, we took off to explore 6 miles of wooded scenery on foot. 

More than half the field passed me in the first mile, but I reminded myself that I wanted to start slow. I had no idea what the first half of the course held, but I knew the back half was hilly; better to conserve energy for those late inclines. Much I my surprise, the entire first half was flat as a pancake. I enjoyed the views along the path and spent most of those early miles chatting with a gentleman from Nevada.

As the climb started at mile 3, I saw that my conservative strategy was starting to pay off.  I passed six runners on that first massive hill and felt happy and strong.  My pal, Jack, hung with me for half the hill and then wished me well; he didn't have it in him to maintain pace through the back half of the course.  After saying farewell to Jack, I could see just one runner ahead of me: a woman in a striped tank top who was consistently about a third of a mile in front of me.  I chased her up and down many hills, and nearing mile 5, I started to narrow the gap between us.  I passed her just after the 5 mile mark, but I could tell that we were both running out of steam.

Mile 5 through 5.5 was the toughest part of the course for me.  I was feeling tired and hungry, and with her now at my back, I had no other runners in my view.  And of course, I was climbing yet another incline.  I slowed to a walk to take a drink from my water bottle and do battle with the part of my brain that wanted to quit.  "Suck it up, buttercup," I told myself.  "You've come too far to stop now."

I forced myself to resume my running stride and even found enough energy to finish strong, running my last (mostly downhill) mile in 8:50.  I crossed the finish line in 55:09, conquering even the loftiest goal I had set for myself that day.  I downed a banana, chugged some water, and cheered in other runners as they finished their race.

Overall, the race was a wonderful community event.  Though there were no crowds of spectators to speak of, the camaraderie among the runners was spectacular, and I enjoyed the gorgeous views along the course.  I definitely plan to run it again and try to improve upon my time.