Windy and chilly and hilly. Those are three words that best describe a potentially tough race.
It just so happens, those were the exact race day conditions for the Run for the Roses 10K. The forecast had promised sunny skies, but the sun was a no-show. The wind was ever constant and ever cold. Oh, and hills? They were pretty non-stop as well.
But, it was kind of fun to have a face-to-face showdown with Momma N. Right there, on a chilly morning, on a new (to me) race course.
Now in its 33rd year, the Run for the Roses took place in Ames, IA (about 70 miles from my home town) this past weekend. This event featured both a 5K and a 10K, with the option to run both races at no extra charge (the 5K started at 9:00; the 10K at 10:00).
I've whined about the weather quite a lot lately (yes, I am aware of my less-than-stellar attitude with the ending of summertime weather). I think we've had nearly non-stop wind for the past month or so. We've had a lot of rain. And, this "autumn season" has felt more like an early taste of winter.
Although I have been running in these weird weather conditions, that still doesn't make it any easier to choose an ideal race day outfit. I went with a flannel-lined base layer and a long-sleeved shirt over that. I opted for floral-patterned capri tights (a small attempt to keep with the "roses" theme). I also brought along a puffer vest, planning to wear it after the race (hold that thought).
On a whim, I grabbed my puffer vest. I was having second thoughts about the weather, and was considering wearing it for the race. I could leave it in the cafeteria (the site of the staging area and the post-race omelette breakfast) if I decided to brave the elements without it. As we walked across the parking lot, though, the wind was crazy and the air felt really cold and damp.
|The weather when we finished...#brrr|
|Lining up on the track|
This race was very old-school (which is not a bad thing), meaning there were no timing chips. The crowd wasn't especially huge, so Barb and I lined up near the front 1/3 of the herd.
We ran the track, as instructed, and followed the crowd onto the trail. The first part of the trail had a lot of curves and was quite scenic. It also had a decent descent for most of the first mile. The second mile took us out of the woods, quite literally, and (left) onto State Avenue, now heading north (and uphill). A right turn on Arbor for a short ways, another right turn, and (finally) a left turn, all involving some gentle rolling hills. We took another right turn, now heading south on Hayward. There was a water station at the 2-mile mark. I wasn't really feeling thirsty, but I grabbed a cup and took a couple swallows.
A short ways later, we took another right turn...heading due west (into the wind), up a gradual incline, on Mortenson Road. I did my best to keep my head down (because I really didn't want to see how far we had to go), and I soldiered on. Barb had been about a half block ahead of me, but I was able to eventually catch up with her as we headed towards the turn-around.
I had been briefly glancing at my Garmin, more to monitor distance than pace. I knew I was keeping well under a 9-minute pace, and things were still feeling good, but I didn't have any idea of what my actual elapsed time was (it was too hard to read under the cuff of my sleeve). In all honesty, I really didn't want to know...I wanted to just maintain a strong pace and not focus on what my potential finish time could/would/should be.
There was a water stand at the turn-around, so I (again) grabbed a cup and took a few swallows.
Oh, did it feel good to make the turn-around and not only have the wind at our backs, but also to be running downhill for awhile!
We made the left turn back onto Hayward (now going north) and passed the water stand again (now at the 4.5-mile mark). Still feeling good, but really tired of all the wind, I just kept pressing on. Another left (back on Knapp briefly), another right, then another left (back on Arbor). More rolling hills, more wind (every time we headed west).
We made the final big turn, this time back onto State (heading south), heading back uphill towards the wooded area where the trail would take us back to the the school.
As soon as I made the turn onto the trail, heading west (again), I could feel the wind immediately back in my face. There was just under a mile remaining at this point. I had inched a short ways in front of Barb, but could hear her behind me. The trail kept curving and twisting as we made that final ascent back to the school. Finally, I could see the finish chute. And I could see the timing clock above the arch. It showed 53:xx (something). I crossed the finish line, and Barb was about 10 seconds behind me.
They asked me to tear off the bottom tag from my bib (I told you this was old school LOL) as I made my way through the chute.
It was another one of those look-at-my-watch-in-disbelief moments.
I had only been under the 54-minute mark twice, ever, for a 10K. Most recently, it was at the Chocoholic Frolic (March), where I clocked a 53:57 (also on a rather cold and windy day). The other time was at the Marshalltown Madness Races (May 2012)...but I couldn't remember what that finish time had been (I looked it up after I got home, and saw it was 53:46). I told Barb that I thought I had just PR'd the 10K distance, and she told me she thought she had, too. So, we high-5'd each other (wouldn't you do the same?).
We grabbed some water and made our way towards the school, heading inside to warm up and have some breakfast. One of the sponsors of the Run for the Roses is the Alpha Omicron Pi sorority, so there were several sorority members lined up with skillets, making made-to-order omelettes for everyone. There also was water, orange juice, chocolate milk, fruit and a huge selection of various donuts and bagels to choose from.
A short while later, they announced the overall winners and age group winners. Barb was able to snag second place in her age group, and I got first place in mine. We were good with that!
1st (of 6) in AG
13th of 56 for females
33rd overall (out of 151)
official time 53:38
Mile 1 - 8:19 (mostly downhill, tailwind)
Mile 2 - 8:29 (rolling hills)
Mile 3 - 8:53 (mostly uphill, into the wind)
Mile 4 - 8:41 (mostly downhill, tailwind)
Mile 5 - 8:29 (rolling hills)
Mile 6 - 8:41 (mostly uphill, into the wind)
(.26) - 2:09 (uphill, into the wind)
This was my first time doing this race, and I was impressed with how well it was organized. Co-sponsors were the Alpha Omicron Pi sorority (of Iowa State University) and the Ames Area Running Club. Although the route was challenging with all the hilly curves on the trail, as well as the many rolling hills along the streets, it was scenic. The traffic control was well executed, and there were numerous volunteers along the course (members of the sorority, I assume) cheering and supporting the runners.
There also was a silent auction and several door prizes. All proceeds benefited the Arthritis Foundation, specifically the Arthritis Research Grants through the International Alpha Omicron Pi Foundation. I have not seen final numbers from this year's event, but $20,000 was raised last year!
Registration was very reasonable at $30 ($20 for students and military personnel). For swag, participants received long-sleeved cotton shirts. No finisher medals (other than the overall and age group winners), but everyone received a long-stemmed rose!
Some final thoughts...
I was pleasantly surprised how well this race went for me. I don't know if it was the cold weather on race day (coupled with all the hot weather I trained in over the summer) or simply a result of my recent marathon training. I was not gunning for a PR, but I did want to run strong and steady and see what my legs could do on their own. Anyone who has followed me for awhile probably knows I rocked a pretty solid plateau for several years...there were a handful of AG awards, and some decent finish times sprinkled in, but I went a long time without any PR's (of any distance) and a lot of erratic finish times. It's rewarding to finally see some consistency with my running and my training. I'm hoping this momentum continues...at least through the next two weekends.
Anyways, that's my story. The Run for the Roses was a fun event, and one that I will consider doing again.
What's the worst race day condition you've had to endure? What's your race day nemesis...heat? cold? wind? rain? hills? Have you ever surprised yourself with a decent race in less-than-desirable conditions?