In the wake of the marathon madness of the past week, Rebecca and I had plans to travel south a bit to Richmond to hang out with a friend and run the local 10k race down there. That was what he told us at the time. What we didn't realize until we actually looking into it, is that the Ukrop Monument Ave 10k is one of the largest 10k races in the US. Turns out, they had 32,600 runners show up to nice cool temperatures, perfect for a road race.
Rebecca and I drove down the night before through torrential downpours and got in to Richmond around 9:30 pm Friday night. We quickly settle in on our "cozy" air mattress at our friend's place and set the alarm for a leasurly 6:45. The nice thing was that our friend lives about a block off Monument Ave, and about 1.5 miles to the starting line. So that meant no pre-dawn wakeup calls, no getting to the race early to get a good parking spot, and no need to worry. We were out the door by 7:10 to walk down to the starting line.
The only unfortunate thing about a race this large was that there were about 40 (I'm not kidding) waves. That meant that Rebecca's wave didn't go off until 30 minutes after mine! Although they didn't use every letter in the alphabet to name a wave, they had waves with double letters - there were THAT many! However, they handled the race with precision, starting each wave several minutes after the next, exactly on time. Waves were set based on expected finishing time, so in theory, most people won't run into people from the faster waves ahead and likewise with the slower wave behind. For me, it worked like a charm. I was in Wave C - expected finish time of 45-47 minutes. With the National Marathon only a week prior, I had no idea what to expect coming into this race. I figured as long as I was healthy, I should be able to run something in this range.
With the first 2 waves off, they shuffled us to the starting line. Feeling good and ready to run hard, I placed myself at the absolute front of the line. (As a side note, I went for a hard run to see how the legs were feeling on Thursday and managed to run 5.5 hilly miles with an average of about 7:15/pace. I knew based on that run, that I should have no problem running 45, which is why I set myself right at the front.) The announcer began the countdown from 10, as we all braced ourselves for the race start.
A quick horn sounded the start for our wave and we were off. I went out pretty hard, but in control. Studying the course beforehand, I knew the first 3 miles were a slight uphill and the last 3 were a slight downhill, since the course is a straight out and back. I was among 3 or 4 other runners from my wave to take off at the start and within about 60 seconds, we started catching people from the wave ahead of us. Something tells me those people probably didn't sign up for the correct wave. The first mile was a lot of weaving, even with their predicted times being 43-45 minutes, and giving our wave a 2 minute delay between start times. I hit mile 1 in 6:34. I knew it was a little too fast, so I forced myself to slow down. My 10k PR pace was 7:00/mile, so I decided to try and hang around that pace and see how it felt. I continued in control and just tried to focus on my form and breathing. It has been nearly a year since I've run this fast, so it was quite the shock to my body! Mile 2 came through in 6:56.
At this point, I started doing some math. I felt in control, but was starting to tire a little. I knew that if I could hold my pace close to 7:00 for mile 3, which was the most uphill section of the course, then I could cruise the remaining 3 miles, which were mostly downhill, to a new PR. Mile 3 came in at 7:02. I just told myself to hold on for the next 2 miles and then pick it up for the last 1.2. Miles 4 and 5 felt like forever and since the course was straight, I found myself constantly sighting to find the next mile marker. Mile 4 came through in 6:58. I tried to stay relaxed, but all I could think was PR, PR, PR. Wholly crap, I ran a marathon last week and I am going to run a 10k PR?!?!? WTF!
Mile 5 came through in 7:03. I started picking up the pace. I knew it was in the bag. My previous PR was 43:46, so I set myself the goal of trying to finish in less than 43 minutes. That seemed reasonable with my 6:34 first mile split and near 7:00/mile pace for all the others. I started kicking in the next gear, but I was hoping to see the finish line in sight. With still no finish line, the course moved uphill ever so slightly, but enough to block the view after the crest of the hill. As I neared the crest, I finally saw the finish line banner in the distance. I quickly approached Mile 6 with a split of 6:51. I picked it up some more. I covered the last .2 in 1:21, which is about 6:45/mile pace.
The numbers: - Final time: 42:48 - I new PR by almost a whole minute! - Pace: 6:53/mile - Average HR: 171 - Overall Place: 542/26242 finishers - Age Group: 106/1515
Overall, I am amazed that I pulled this race out. I had no intention of going for a PR and still am kinda clueless as to how I still have the speed in me to run like this, since I haven't done any speedwork and the fastest I had run in any of my marathon training was maybe 7:30/minute pace. Whatever it was, I felt great! I really had a blast running this race and am looking forward to running it again next year. It is a flat and fast course and despite the large crowd, felt much smaller than most other large races I have done. It has a neighborhood feel to it since it runs through the middle of a nice and scenic part of Richmond with tons of fans, bands, and crowds cheering.