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Run Inspired had sent a detailed itinerary for the morning that had lineup slated for 9 am, a half-hour before the 9:30 start time. I knew I wanted to get in a quick warm-up run before the race and I hate feeling rushed before the start so my mom and I decided to arrive at Winterthur no later than 8:30. I have to say I definitely felt some extreme nostalgia pulling into the park and reminiscing about my last race there almost nine years ago.
We had plenty of time before the race so before warming up we decided to explore some of the booths. They'd advertised the post-race festival but I wasn't expecting so much to do before the race. My mom and I made an obligatory stop at the Project Warm photo booth, the raffle tent, and although we didn't participate, we enjoyed spectating during the group warm-up that they held around the starting line. I also did a quick warm-up run running backward from the finish line, and I'm glad I did because I realized that the last quarter mile or so of the race was going to be a gradual uphill push.
Just before the start, I had the pleasure of catching up with fellow Bib Rave Pro Meredith who was also running the race. It's been great meeting so many awesome runners online through I RUN ON BEER but nothing beats getting to meet a fellow running buddy in person!
I headed to the starting line around 9:15 and was a little nervous about how crowded it was. The chute was separated into different corrals by different pace signs and so, as politely as I could, I started trying to move forward closer to the eight to nine-minute group. The path we were on was only 15ish feet wide so we were crammed in pretty tight. Although I was a bit nervous about weaving my way forward once the race started, they did stagger the start times which allowed the crowd to thin out significantly. By the time I crossed the finish line, I was off and at a comfortable pace within the first thirty yards past the starting line, hardly any weaving necessary.
Miles 1 & 2
It felt great to get started, and even better since we started by running straight into the woods. I'd built up so much excitement in anticipation for this race that I was ecstatic just to get started. My mind was definitely racing since I was so unsure of what my pace should feel like but I made it my goal to not look at my watch until I crossed mile two. I was running at an effort a bit higher than a training run but one I knew I would be able to maintain.
As soon as we crossed the treeline, the path took a quick turn up the first steep hill of the course and it was rough. In high school, we drilled hills relentlessly and focussed on pushing up the hill and using the flat ground at the top to recover. I'd like to think I'm still as good at running hills as I was back then but I don't get much training running around Long Island. I was definitely pushing up the first few hills but was cautious not to overdo it.
Miles 3 & 4
I don't think I've mentioned yet but it was extremely overcast on Sunday and had rained in the morning so the roads were wet. On one hand, the day was much cooler than initially predicted which was a welcome surprise. Unfortunately, this also meant the roads were a bit slippery. I could feel my feet slipping beneath me on the uphills and had to run more cautiously on the downhills.
Crossing into mile three was the first time I checked my watch and although I can't remember my exact pace, I remember it being under eight minutes, somewhere close to 7:50. My legs were starting to show signs of slight fatigue but the burn felt good. I was breathing heavier but still felt like I was running a pace I could maintain. There was water every 1.5-2 miles so I also paused briefly at the 2nd station to steal a few quick sips of water.
Miles 5 & 6
The race was flying by but the course was beautiful. Winterthur is a beautiful park and the course winds its way through all of the best parts. We had run on a few open roads and through a couple of fields but for the last third of the race, we were back in the trees. It felt more secluded but I had my running playlist to keep me company. I have a very eclectic taste in running music and just as I crossed into mile five Scotland the Brave came on. No vocals, just pipes and drums. Call me crazy but I always hide that song somewhere in the middle of my playlist to give me a needed boost on race day.
I knew I was closing in on the finish and continued to push harder. There was definitely a voice in my head telling me to ease off but I was able to keep it at bay (for the most part). It definitely helped to see my mom about halfway through mile six cheering me on. I gained a second wind and really opened up just in time for another brutal uphill. My lungs were screaming but I kept running. Closing in on the top there were several moments of panic as I thought I might hurl but luckily I reached the top just in time to relax and regain my composure. Steep uphills mean steep downhills so I was able to cruise back down and recover before the finish (another hill).
Rounding the final turn I spotted my dad by the finish line; he hasn't seen me run since high school. That really gave me the push I needed to let go on the final straight-away. I wasn't sure of my time but I knew I had smashed my initial goal. Every step I was pushing myself harder and was barely aware of that last hill. My mom had made it back to the finish line so I shot her a quick smile right as I crossed, or at least I think I smiled... I was gasping pretty hard at this point.
As soon as I'd stopped my stomach was in knots and the urge to puke came rushing back. I took a moment to focus on my breath and thankfully was able to keep it down. The feeling passed quickly and it's a good thing because the finish line snacks were stockpiled with my favorites. I stuffed my pockets with all the Wawa grub I could find (Wawa pretzels are close to life-changing) and plenty of Herr's Cheese Curls (whole grain so I'm sure they're healthy). I joined up with my family who asked for my final time and I realized I'd forgotten to stop my watch! With the added time of walking through the chute, my watch was showing 49:49 (a 7:57 pace), I was thrilled.
As excited as I was to know my final pace, I was even more excited to get into the beer garden. I knew I'd beaten my goal significantly so I didn't mind waiting to get the official results. Almost every race I've run that offers free beer offers Michelob so I was pumped to get into the beer garden that was offering beers from two local favorites, Dogfish Head and Two Stones Pub. I decided to go with a 2SP ASAP IPA because I'd never had it before and I was really craving an IPA. It did not disappoint! We hung around long enough to catch up with Meredith as well as a few other runners who shared our table, then it was time to head to brunch but not before stopping by the official results table! I finished the race in 48:24.1, a 7:48 pace!
I wasn't sure what to expect from my first 10k but I couldn't have asked for a better race. Great organization and communication throughout the run. Beautiful views on the course. Great beer at the finish. I could have easily spent the day at the finish-line celebration if the weather had been a little nicer but it made for a cooler race which I certainly can't complain about! This race will definitely be ranking high on my list for next year!