The Perfect 10 Miler is next Sunday! With a course like THIS (see below), I thought I would be a responsible runner and check it out as part of my long run a week early. This ended up being a great idea. For all readers who don’t/didn’t have a chance to run the course, or are coming from far away to run next week’s race, I’ll write some details about it for you here! Disclaimer: I used it as a workout so you’ll also have to read allll about how that went. 🙂
I woke up to 100% humidity in both the air and, it seemed, in my head (nose, throat, etc.). Not an ideal combination (I think the roadtrip to GA, plus a busy week and hard running caught up with me). Ten miles of sweat would be a great way to flush it all out, but I was concerned I also wouldn’t be able to breathe. Oh well. It needed to be done. The plan was to run the first four miles at a normal, conversational pace, then bring it down to 7:00 pace (average goal race pace for the first half or so) for the next four miles, then run the last two easy and/or “normal.” And, of course, to learn the course. We had done a packaging-tape-laminating job to a miniature version of the course map to be pocketed during the run and referenced when necessary.
Miles 1-4: 7:28, 7:36, 7:28, 7:30
We imagined the start line to be precisely where the dog park parking lot narrows into a road, which leads to the main park road (Paxson Ave.), so that was where we began. The course turned right onto Paxson and did a u-turn onto the other side of the two one-way roads just before the park sign at the end (close to Old Trenton Rd.). The first mile was just after that. Mile two is on the same stretch, just before the Marina lot entrance.
At the West Picnic Area entrance, the course takes a right. The surface changes here slightly, to rougher pavement, but not enough to make a difference. I just noticed. I usually park in this lot when I come here to run, so it was very familiar territory. There is a grass hill in the center of the parking lot – the lot loops around it. The course follows this loop and heads back out the same road, then makes a right back onto Paxson. The third mile is on the far side of the parking lot, when you are about halfway across it. A note about elevation: this course only fluctuates by about 87 feet, which is nothing. There was a little downhill during mile three, which might get you excited for about ten seconds, until you realize it’s, um, already over.
Miles 4-8: (goal: ~7:00) 6:57, 7:00, 6:46, 6:57 (6:55 average)
My watch hit 4.00 miles about 200 meters from Hughes Dr., where the course takes a left. I felt pretty decent for these miles, but I knew they would feel easier come next Sunday if I manage to kick this head cold (and I will).
So, left onto Hughes and then the first (real, don’t turn onto the dirt road) left onto Mercer County College’s campus. Then, the course takes the second right (the first right that makes sense) onto the road that circles the campus and initially borders a parking lot. The fifth mile comes up just before the road veers to the left.
Then, the unexpected happens. The course makes a left…over the grass?! I’m going to call this a grassy knoll, because that’s totally what it is. It’s a very slight (emphasis on very) incline to get up and over the grass, and then you basically roll down the other side, over one walkway, and turn right onto a second, parallel walkway. I’m sure on race day this will all be marked with cones or caution tape. I had no idea there was grass involved, but luckily my trusty
pacer leader did (I’m not saying pacer – yet – because he ended up almost running out of my sight during these four faster miles!).
Then, you basically blaze through the center of the campus between academic buildings on a wide brick path, which opens up to a wide sidewalk leading to another parking lot. There was apparently a walk for autism this morning, through which we ran through the middle…but they were putting away the clock so it was all good. The course turns left after passing two grass and tree medians and goes through the lot to meet up with another path by the athletic fields.
I started to feel better around this point, as my watch hit 6.00 just before the softball field. This path is fairly narrow and windy, so it’s a good thing it isn’t in the first couple miles of the race. It spits you out right at the side of the Welcome Center, and then you get on the main road almost all the way to where you first entered the campus…but there is a sharp right onto a paved path that leads back to the park. This snuck up on me, and it kind of felt rebellious, like I was recklessly abandoning normalcy and heading for the hills (hey, why not make this description more fun?).
The course just runs along the paved trail north until it intersects with the path that runs parallel to Paxson, where you make a right. That path gradually curves toward Paxson, where it will intersect and the course makes a smooth right again.
In general, the paths were fine; while some of them were windy (read: wind-y, not talking about weather here), I didn’t really feel like it made them “slow.” Footing was just as good as the road except for one small spot as you cross over the powerline overpass in mile six…there was a bit of sand/dirt (nothing to trip over though). The eighth mile ended on Paxson, so I slowed down to a recovery pace at that point, taking it pretty easy to get myself feeling back to conversational pace, but not stopping.
Miles 9 & 10: 8:08, 7:28
One thing we were unsure of was the turnaround point to head back to the finish, during this little out-and-back that happens in these miles. This right turn is at the same road where the race started, but after you enter it, the course goes on a road to the right (that is, do not turn left; continue). This out-and-back road is arc-shaped, with grass on the right (heading out, that is), and parking lots and basketball courts on the left. We ran all the way to the last side parking lot and did a loop around the grassy median, as the course map suggests:
The finish: We didn’t run into an issue until the very, very end. In fact, not until after we had ran a perfect ten (well okay, 10.06) miles. The issue was, we stopped running at the end of that arc-shaped road, not where we started the ten miles. You can see the tip of the “stop” icon at the top of the above picture (that “9” is on the way down to the turn-around, by the way), and how it isn’t anywhere near the green “start” pin. The official course map groups the start and finish together, like so:
…but if we were to make a right and head back to the spot where we started, it would put us at about 10.22 miles. So…is the course fairly long? Is the finish at the end of that road where we decided to stop? Is it somewhere in between? We’ll find out right away next weekend, when we see the “FINISH” banner positioned in its proper location. Perhaps I can shoot an email to the race director since we’ve met before; it’s a simple question.
Overall run stats: 10.06 miles in 1:13:50, average pace of 7:20
One more note about the conditions…
Yeah, that is 100% humidity. So don’t knock on me for looking like I jumped in Mercer Lake. I virtually did.
Thoughts on the preview run…I’m very glad I did it. Specifically, I’m glad I didn’t decide not to do the uptempo portion because of feeling congested, or shorten it to three miles, which I could have easily done since I wasn’t sure whether to do three or four in the first place. I was glad I hit those miles in 7:00 or under, feeling like they were more like 7:05-7:10. The fact that the faster miles were also during the entirety of the technical part of the course is also advantageous; I have already ran through those sections at race pace, so next week I’ll know exactly where to go and what to expect next. Even writing this blog post (OMG it’s actually taken longer than any one – besides HTC – to date I think…) has helped me draft some racing/pacing strategies in my head! I was having a rough training week from Wednesday onwards this week (mostly because of feeling sick-ish, not really leg-wise), and since that hasn’t happened in awhile (yay!), I was a bit discouraged about the race heading into this run. I’m learning,though, that I have reached the point where excuses aren’t options: barring rare, extreme unfortunate circumstances for legitimate reasons, I just run the pace I want to run because I said I would, I want to, and that’s that. It’s simple.
I always said “sub-70” when anyone asked me about it, and that still stands. What I really meant was “sub-7-minute pace,” so if the course is in fact ten and a quarter miles, those won’t mean the same things. I would like to average sub-7 pace. I would like to negative split in my recent fashion. And I would like to have awesome amounts of fun. I may have another thing in mind too but I’ll just tell you how that worked out afterwards. 😉