My back-to-back-to-back race weekends finished up this past Saturday with the Great Pumpkin 10K here in Louisville. It’s held at Beckley Creek Park, where Nick and I have been doing most of our long runs this summer. It seemed to me that this race really kicked off fall for me, though.
After some hard running at the incomplete Indy Women’s Half, and the Mill Race the previous two weekends, I did all my runs in the week leading up to the 10K nice and easy to ensure that my legs were in the best condition they could be. Although I felt confident going into the race knowing that I was familiar with the course, I knew that it would still present some challenges. There was a steep hill that you run up and down before the turnaround. I decided that my strategy would be to slow way down on the uphills so that I wouldn’t burn out too soon.
We woke up on race morning to almost perfect conditions. The temperature was about 48 degrees and the skies were overcast. I dressed in a short-sleeved shirt, shorts and compression calf sleeves; my body holds in heat when I run, and I prefer to feel cool. I felt chilly on the walk over from the field that served as a parking lot, but I knew I would be happy once I started running. Before the race it was fun to see some familiar faces wandering around the start/finish area and chat.
This was the first time Nick and I ran together since my final long run, which was in early September! His legs were still feeling the previous weekend’s half marathon PR, so he stuck with me on the course instead of pushing ahead. I ran by feel in the first mile, intending to go out at a good clip but reminding myself this wasn’t the 5K from the weekend before. I checked my pace at the mile mark and was happy, so I worked to maintain that. The first couple miles were mostly flat, with a few ups and downs, but nothing strenuous.
Almost immediately after that we started the first big climb, a short but painful 16% grade. I slowed down to almost a walk and allowed people to pass me…only to pass them again on the downhill. I know my strengths and I’m a good downhill runner. I know how to lengthen out my stride, use gravity, and let it fly. After coming back in from the turnaround point, I used the same tactic with the same effect.
Everything was going pretty smoothly until the fifth mile when my legs began to fade, and the exertion to keep them going was effecting my heart rate. I know that racing hurts, and I will keep my legs turning over, but I won’t push my heart rate past a point. I slowed for a bit to even it out. We soon rounded a bend and I knew we were closing in on the last mile, so I began to push it again. When the finish line was just ahead of me, I really kicked (and took the guy next to me completely by surprise.) I think I might actually be smiling in the finish photo, ha! No PR this time, but I ran better than I did on another hilly course this summer, and it was my third weekend of racing in a row, so I’m pleased.
Since it had started to drizzle by this point, Nick and I collected our medals, chocolate milk, and little bags of trail mix made my Whole Foods at the post-race party. We slogged back through the muddy field to our car, went home for warm showers, and then warmed our bellies with a nice lunch at our favorite Indian restaurant.
Both Nick and I would like to run this race again. It’s part of the Louisville Fall Runathon, which includes the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon, which may replace the half I didn’t get to run earlier this season.
Who else has race plans yet this fall?