On Saturday, I raced the Danville 10k! This was my Q2 goal race, building on my 5k PR in the first quarter of the year.
Before I go any further, I need to talk about my existing 10k PR a bit – sorry about this. I set my PR in February 2014 at Bay Breeze when I ran 50:37 on a short course. It measured 6.18. If I extrapolated that up to a full 6.2km, it would have been 50.46. That’s an 8.11 pace! I’ve never been entirely sure what to claim as my PR – 50.37 or 50.46? No worries…I’d claim the pace, 8.11!
For this race, I had a flipping ambitious goal – a sub-50 minute race, which would be an 8.02 pace. That’s a big leap. A week or two beforehand, it became apparent that sub-50 wouldn’t be happening at THIS race, so I decided to focus on just PR-ing, taking any time at all off my PR. This was a really good decision – it relieved me of the pressure I was feeling and fired me up for the race. I got REALLY fired up when my fast friend Angela offered to pace me. Seriously – when someone whose PR is six whole minutes faster than your goal-pace, offers to pace you, you bit their hand off to say yes!! Angela had never paced anyone before, I’d never BEEN paced, so it was new territory for both of us. A few days before, I emailed her all my thoughts (in bullet-point format) which basically said:
- Please wear my watch for me.
- Don’t tell me anything, I don’t want to know how I’m doing.
- Please run just to my left and just in front of me.
- Feel free to get sergeant-majory on me and shout at me if necessary.
There was a lovely crowd of us at the race. Me, my boys, Angela, Jen and Danielle who wasn’t racing but who drove over to cheer us on which is super-kind! Jen’s boyfriend’s sister was also doing the 10k! It was going to be a warm day (very warm) so I decided to run in a skirt and sports bra. Initially I felt a bit self-conscious (baby over-hang) but I quickly forgot about it and it was very definitely the right decision – I was a decent temperature throughout the race! I also felt like this was my best ever race outfit. I looked fast, even if I was going to be slow.
The Danville Half-Marathon and 10k is a really nice event. In its fourth year of running, it’s grown from 60-odd runners to just over 400. It’s in honour of a local soldier who died a few years ago and in aid of the Semper Fi foundation (which supports injured soldiers and their families). We all gathered at the staging area which was the local LDS church – they let us use their loos, which was much appreciated. It was Memorial Day (like Remembrance Day in the UK) so it was all very patriotic. They played all my favourite American songs including this one – if you’re British, you need to click on this link and watch it!! Anyway, there were speeches, including a speech by the father of the fallen soldier which was very moving. The National Anthem was sung and then there was an amazing fly-by by some WW2 planes, which was very exciting…and the Half-Marathoners set off. We hung around for a few more minutes then shuffled forward to start. (There was no chip timing for the race). I think there was a whistle or something…and we were off.
I (we) started off like greyhounds! As we ran onto the first path, Angela literally stretched her arm out to stop me running any faster – we were doing 7.10 pace! We slowed to a more realistic pace. We ran along the path, onto and along a residential road and, about half a mile in, we joined the Iron Horse trail for the rest of the race. I was flying. I felt absolutely amazing. The pace felt easy. We barely spoke, saving energy, but it was effortless. Angela was like a machine, checking our watches frequently to adjust the pace. I trusted her completely. The first mile ticked by. Done. We continued along the Iron Horse trail, through downtown Danville. The trail was much shadier than I’d expected, I was grateful. Still easy. Mile Two done. Mile Three was still easy. I thanked all the volunteers, aware I probably wouldn’t be able to thank them on the way back. It was still so easy. We must be doing 9-min mile pace. Had Angela’s watch miscalculated, I wondered? But I kept my mouth shut and ran on. I was God’s gift to running! At the turnaround, I saw three familiar figures – the Husband, the Dude and Danielle. Lots of cheering, it was so nice to see them. We were currently third and fourth ladies.
We turned the U-turn and started back up towards Mile Four. And all of a sudden it became clear. The route is an out-and-back. The ‘out’ was ever so slightly downhill. Not enough that you noticed it, but enough that the running was effortless. But all of a sudden, I was running ‘uphill’ and it was like a mountain! I had been totally ready to work but the sudden increased effort was a shock! I stuck close to Angela and started working. I heard an older lady, on the ‘out’ section of the 10k, say ‘Oh look at those fast young women’. I think she meant us. I totally decided she meant us.
It was at about Mile 5 that the wheels started coming off. I saw the boys and Danielle again – and the Husband told me later than I ‘didn’t look so great this time’. Angela ran steadily at my PR pace, she was a metronome. I just had to stick to her. But suddenly she was a few steps ahead, then a few more. She wasn’t far away but I couldn’t catch her. I bust a gut to catch up to her – I more or less got to her but couldn’t maintain the pace. Correctly, she just kept running my PR pace…all I had to do was stay with her.
I couldn’t stay with her. I was probably about six seconds behind her for the remainder of the race – but those six seconds could basically cost my PR. The mental battle began. The shutting up of demons. The fighting off of despair. The embracing of the suck. This was where it got tough. I’m fairly pleased with how well I handled it – I did despair, the demons did tell me I sucked but I kept on keeping on.
Finally we got off the Iron Horse trail, roughly a mile to the finish line. I was fading super-fast by now, I just wanted the whole thing to be over. I slogged along that residential road onto the final path. It twisted and turned, all I wanted was to turn a corner and see the finish line. It seemed to never come. But eventually I could see it. As we ran back onto a road for that final 0.1, I could see Danielle on my right, cheering. And on my left was a cyclist cheering for me too – by name. I had no idea who it was and I did not have the strength to look. I must have been crawling by now but I ran as fast as I could towards the finish line whilst the mystery cyclist yelled my name. I looked up at the timing clock – 50-something. I put in the final sprint (ha!) and crossed the line. The suffering could end.
I caught my breath for a few minutes. Angela reappeared with water and watermelon – she looked as fresh as if she’d just been walking round Target. My boys and Danielle hugged me and the mystery cyclist turned out to be Layla who had come to cheer as a surprise! Angela gave me my watch, I glanced down…50.14. PR, baby!!!! And the endorphins flooded me and it had all been worth it.
Jen came through a minute or so later, PR-ing by 30 seconds! And Angela had come third woman overall and had won a cup, so we decided to hang round for the presentation. It actually took longer to wait for the presentation than it had to run the race (the organisers waited till the first three men and women for the half had come through too) so we ate a lot of watermelon and snacks. It suddenly occurred to me that Layla was cycling! Ages ago, she trashed her thumb on a bike ride and hadn’t cycled for 10 months…this was her first ride back. I was SO proud of her!! This was a big day for all of us.
Eventually Angela got her cup, presented by a small child (adorable) and we all sloped off for brunch at Chow. I’d given up sugar and alcohol for the preceding three weeks so I was VERY excited about brunch – I’d been chanting ‘FRENCH TOAST FRENCH TOAST FRENCH TOAST’ throughout mile 5. It was as good as I had expected. I sat in the shade with my lovely friends and family, still wearing my medal like an idiot, and thought how flipping lucky I was. What a great morning.
A note on my time. The course measured slightly short, at 6.15 instead of 6.2. If I extrapolate my time up, it would be 50.45 which is still (just) a PR. Clearly I’m claiming the 50.14…and I’m all fired up to race again and beat it!
The Danville Half/10k is an excellent race. It has a really lovely small community feel but was well-organised. The medals were cool, the cotton t-shirts were awesome (my woman’s small fitted better than any race t-shirt has ever fit me) and there were plenty of snacks AND a WW2 plane fly-by. I’d suggest they move it forward to a 7am start to avoid the heat but whatever, it was a great morning!
And the French Toast was perfect.