I have lived in this area for pretty much my entire life so when I heard about my run club’s 8 Miler at Loch Raven Reservoir I was pretty sure I knew what the course was going to be, but somewhat in denial of it until last week. Sign up for members was only $2 though and as I am still a relatively newbie to the area running scene I was excited at the prospect of getting out there and meeting some people. Plus I really want to participate in their Grand Prix series and this is one of the qualifying events.
Anyway, as I said I was somewhat in denial. Here’s why.
HOLY HILLS. I used to drive this route in my Mini Cooper all the time and it is difficult to navigate in a car. I consider myself to be a fairly adept hill runner, but this was scary.
Basically I headed into the event yesterday making it my goal to just not walk no matter how much I had to slow it down. Start time was slated for 9am.
I arrived at Peerce’s Plantation – a local restaurant where we would park and register – at around 8:30 am after doing a quick drive of the course to refresh my memory of how awful it was. Yep. Still awful. There were a number of people out running already and for a minute I thought I somehow got the start time wrong and panicked until I realized that none of them were wearing bibs yet. It was a really beautiful morning out there and COLD. The temperature reading in my car was 10 degrees. I stopped for a few peaceful moments to snap a photo of the partially iced-over Reservoir.
I arrived at the restaurant, paid my race fee, and hid in my car until about 10 minutes until start time agonizing over how many layers of clothing I was going to need for this. I had an extra jacket just in case, but decided to go without and in the end I would be glad that I did. By the time I headed to the start around 120 people had turned out for the race. The vibe was informal, relaxed, and friendly. Everyone was in a good mood despite the sub-freezing temps. We were given the go at a couple minutes past 9. I fired up the Garmin and off I went.
I have been working hard lately at going out slower so I found an easy, comfortable pace that I knew I could stick with for a little while. I had started in the back of the pack, but didn’t worry about getting around anyone right away. I settled in and enjoyed the scenery. The course was an out and back that starts off with some easy rolling hills and I felt like I was hitting my groove quickly on them, but I knew that a mile long 200 ft climb was coming. I went into it as relaxed as possible and before I knew it I was cresting the hill to the cheers of the awesome volunteers handing out water at the top.
That first hurdle out of the way, I was feeling really incredible. The cold wasn’t bothering me, my legs felt great, and my breathing was even. The next part of the course would be the easiest part…a big descent down past the dam to the turnaround area. I knew I was going to have to run back up it soon enough though so I tried to conserve my energy as best I could while still letting myself pick up a little bit of speed, mindful of the cars that would creep past us from time to time because they can’t shut the road down for the event. At one point a woman ran past and shouted “7!” at me, which confused me at first until I realized that she was telling me I was in 7th place for the women. Basically I was doing MUCH better than I anticipated and I started feeling a little more confident. The leaders had started to pass me on their way back and I couldn’t believe I was nearing the halfway point already
After the turnaround, the next mile and a half would be the worst, but I knew it would be smooth sailing if I could just get up that hill. I made it up the drop next to the dam still feeling great and then it was time for the part that I had been most dreading. I focused on the road in front of me and went to work, shocking myself yet again when I was able to pass a few people along the way. Quite unexpectedly the cheering volunteers with the water came into view again. Had I really finished that hill already?? I ran past them with the biggest smile on my face, relieved that a downhill was in front of me and nothing was going to be as hard as what I just did.
At the start of the last mile I started feeling a little fatigued and a woman who had been running nearby for a little while must have seen it written on my face. She took off ahead of me a bit, but before she did she turned around and encouraged me to keep going. It was exactly the push I needed right then and I would thank her for it at the finish! The same woman who had shouted “7!” at me earlier passed me again and shouted “4!”. I had no idea how close behind anyone was at that point, but I wanted that 4th place finish! The last mile was a blur and those easy rolling hills from the beginning definitely felt more like mountains, but soon enough the clock was in my sight and I could see that I was going to come in under an hour, which would be an 8 Mile PR for me on a course where I never in a million years expected to PR.
My clock time (a bit slower due to my back-of-the-pack start):
And my splits because I’m so proud of them!
5 7:40 (BIG HILL!!)
I celebrated by stuffing my face with the world’s largest crab omelette at brunch.
I cannot say enough good things about this event. Even though it was a small club race, they still provided plenty of water and post-race food. The volunteers were spectacular; super friendly and boisterous. The course was AMAZING (haha funny how opinions can change). Everyone was so nice and welcoming and it was fun getting to meet some new people. I am getting the feeling it’s a very cool group to be a part of.
I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend!
Did you run or race this weekend? Do you love or loathe hills? Tell me about it!