This morning, Seth and I headed about 10 minutes down the road into North Amherst. I was registered to run in the first even Cider Donut Run 10K to benefit the Amherst Survival Center.
I had learned about this run from a flier I received at the Bridge of Flowers 10K. I had signed up for the race early this fall. It seemed perfect -- the fact that it was local meant it was an easy drive, and my registration was benefiting an important local charity. In addition, cider doughnuts -- how could one go wrong? I also think that the 10K distance is probably my favorite for racing. It's long enough to make you feel accomplished (and I like that I don't have to run super fast). At the same time, it's not so long that you feel completely exhausted at the end.
The race started at Mill River Recreation Area. We arrived a bit early and parked around a five minute walk away, as requested. When we got to Mill River, it was hopping! There were balloons and signs everywhere.
In it's first year, the race had turned out 400 entrants. The atmosphere was very energetic. There was music and loads of people. Even a dog had decided to support his team on the shorter 2.4 mile walk/run that was happening.
I went ahead and registered. This was a bit chaotic, as the people handing out the numbers didn't seem quite as organized as everyone else, but things went fine. After registering, I went over to preview the course map, posted on the wall. I had reviewed the course and knew it passed through UMass and had an elevation gain, but I wanted a reminder.
Shortly after that, Seth and I met up with Maddy and Dave who had just arrived. Dave was running the 10K too.
Right before 10:00 a.m., we lined up, heard brief announcements, and were off on our run.
The first mile took us out of Mill Valley and up along North Pleasant Street. At this point, the road has a slightly uphill continuous rise. It wasn't killer, but I decided to keep my pace very conservative at around 9:50 per mile, as it looked like the course was going to be hilly.
Right before mile two, we turned on a road and headed into UMass, passing the North, North East, and Sylvan residential areas. This road , probably around a half mile in length was the most significant hill of the run. I had been worried about this hill, as it's decently long and somewhat steep. I was happy to stay that I tackled it without too much of a problem. I was able to run the whole way up keeping my pace in the moderate 10:00 to 10:15 range. The last little bit of the hill, I was encouraged by a band of around a dozen people playing at the top.
I was happy to make it to the top of the hill and turn onto East Pleasant Street. Finally, after around two and a half miles of running we were going downhill.
I had thought there would be more hills even after the one by the UMass dorms, but the last 3.5 miles of the course proved to be downhill or flat with only the occasional very slight rolling hill.
I kept my pace fairly even along East Pleasant Street, wanting to maintain my energy in case there was another hill (which there wasn't -- I should have studied the map more). For the last two miles, we turned and headed towards Puffer's Pond and passed through some beautiful areas of forest and parks in North Amherst. With only two miles left, I decided to give it my all and increased my speed, running the rest of the race in around 9:15 per mile. I achieved a nice negative split (probably most people did on this course with the hill at the start).
The entire run was very well populated with people who cheered us on. There were frequent water stops. The course took us along some heavily trafficked roads, but there were a lot of race volunteers and police officers, who all did a wonderful job with managing traffic. I felt very safe. All in all, the race was very well organized, especially considering it was the first time.
I arrived back at Mill River with a good amount of energy and raced towards the finish line to lots of crowd support and fun music blasting on the speakers. It feel like a wonderful community event. I was very glad to see how successful everything was in this inaugural year.
I finished the race in around 59 minutes with an average pace of 9:38 per mile. (*As of this post, official race times haven't been posted yet online -- these times are from my Nike+ sensor.*)
After the race, Maddy, Dave, Seth, and I hung out for a little while enjoying some tasty cider doughnuts and cider from Atkins.
In sum, thought that this race was a whole lot of fun. I really liked that the hilly and difficult part of the course was right up front. I was able to tackle the challenging part before getting tired and was able to know I could go as fast as I wanted at the end.
I was very encouraged by my stamina on the hill. I have been doing some more hill running (including a really lovely but hilly run in South Amherst from the commons on Friday), and I think that this experience made me have a successful run today -- it was great to see the progress I've made.
Today's run took us through some really nice parts of North Amherst I had never seen (although were were on some heavily trafficked roads, which was probably a big bother for drivers). It was well organized and just fun. I definitely think this will be a run I will do next year with Seth joining me.