This morning dawned cool, windy, and partly sunny. I know because first thing, Seth and I headed out to North Amherst so that I could participate in the 2nd Cider Donut Run 10K.
I had run this race last year and it was one of my favorites. I ran the race in 59:32, averaging a 9:35/mile. Probably my fastest race. This was made even better by the fact that the course is fairly hilly with an elevation gain and a significant hill at mile two.
To be honest, this year I was feeling less confident. I had a good race last weekend, but since then had been having some aches. My left calf had been tight at the race last Sunday and continued to bother me throughout the week when I ran. I ended up having to cut my most recent training run on Friday short as a result. I had also been having a nagging cough all week, though I otherwise felt fine. (I called it a bout of fall-related ennui.) All that being said, it probably would have been best to sit this run out, but I had pre-registered, and I loved this run -- I wanted to participate.
We arrived at the Mill Recreation Center where the run was to start at around 9:35 a.m. for the 10:00 a.m. start. The place looked festive.
I had my way towards the rear of the main building to pick up my race number at the pavilion. There was a wait of around five or ten minutes for number pick-up. Raceday registration had no line, so that was good news. I picked up my number (10!) and my tote bag.
Seth and I took a quick pre-race selfie, and I was off to line-up. It was pretty cold and a little bit windy, so I kept my warm-up jacket on until the last minute. It was, fortunately, starting to get sunny though, so I decided I would run without it.
There were brief announcements, and then, at around 10:05 a.m. we were off! The course, while similar to last year, ended up being slightly different in places. As with last year, we started by heading up Mill Road and then out along North Pleasant Street. The first mile was fairly flat, and I was feeling pretty decent. Right around the one mile marker we passed the local Lutheran church. Two of the ministers were out, in full vestment, cheering us on. It was amazing and totally my favorite part of the race.
As we continued along North Pleasant Street, my calf began to start bothering me. I told myself to take it easy. I had run the first mile in around 10:00, which is a pretty standard pace for me, but decided to dial it back for mile two. I was able to hold things together for a little while.
At mile two, we took a turn onto Eastman Lane right by the North and Northeast residential areas at UMass. The next half a mile or so was up a fairly significant hill. During the 2012 race, I took this hill at around a 10:00 to 10:15 mile, running the whole way. However, this was not to be the case today. About a quarter of the way up the hill my calf began to hurt fairly significantly. I had to crawl to a walk. Mid-way up the hill I tried to run again at somewhat of a shuffling pace; immediately I was in more pain. I again slowed to a walk. At this point, I still had around 3.5 miles to go. I wanted to be able to finish the race. I tried to carefully stretch my calf and finished the hill at a walk. Big disappointment. I was now well behind my time from last year and feeling rough.
Finally, at a slow walk, I reached the top of the hill. I knew from last year that the next section, down East Pleasant Street would be slightly downhill and then mostly flat with a slight rise. I moved back into a slow jog, and, this time, on the downhill surface, my calve cooperated, allowing me to finish the rest of the 10K. Fortunately, I did not have to stop to walk again; however, I was forced to keep my run at a very slow pace, averaging around 10:43/mile for the run overall.
Mid-way down East Pleasant Street, at the three mile marker, came the first change in the route from last year. Instead of continuing straight down East Pleasant for the entire run, we took a left down Van Meter Drive into a quiet residential neighborhood. We ran mid-way up the street took a quick right and then another quick right onto Harlow Drive and then headed back to East Pleasant Street. Clearly, the race organizers were padding the route with additional distance. This meant that there would be a change in the second half of the course from last year.
I loped along down the rest of East Pleasant. My calf had changed to a dull ache, my nose was stuffy, but I was making it. I was feeling that, while this would not be my best race -- more likely it would be my most challenged -- I would definitely finish. I kept up my moderate pace as we made the turn onto Pine Street at the four mile marker. Only two miles to go! Never had I been so happy.
Miles four to five were slightly up hill. This was nothing as steep as the hill through UMass. I took it easy and was able to keep running. This is where the course began to differ from last year and ended up being a bit more uphill running.
Last year, the course had continued up Pine Street all the way. We had then continued onto Henry Street and Bridge Street, taking us right to the left turn onto State Street and through the Mills River and Puffers Pond Conservation Areas. We had then joined back up with Pine Street, taking it to Montague Road for a fast downhill finish! This had, by far, been my favorite section of the course.
This year, the course was changed so that we did not take Pine Street all the way to the top. Instead, we met up with Bridge Street farther down and then turned onto State Street. Here again, we got to run through the Mills River and Puffers Pond Conservation Areas, which again was the loveliest part of the run. However, instead of joining back up with Pine Street for the last 0.75 miles, we turned again, crossing the bridge that is below the waterfall coming down off Puffers Pond. This was quite lovely, however, it meant that we were on a slightly more hilly section of road.
With around a third of a mile left, we turned onto Montague Road. The change in directions, had us approaching the Mills Recreation Center and the finish line from the opposite direction from last year. This meant that instead of getting to run the last bit of the race downhill, we were running slightly uphill. At this point my muscles, compensating for my bad calf, were all in knots. I was beat. This is normally the point in the race when I would put on a final burst of speed at push to the finish. Not today. I did my best, but ran towards the finish line as fast as I could, but still probably under my average pace from last year.
Crossing the finish line I breathed a sigh of relief. I was just glad I had made it.
I took a look at my time, 1:06:33. This was seven minutes slower than my time last year. I averaged a 10:43/mile (versus a 9:35/mile in 2012). Definitely disappointing, but it had been a challenging day.
After some brief stretching, I met up with Seth and headed over to get a doughnut and cup of cider. Seth had brought my jacket to the car, and I was getting cold fast, so we headed out.
On the way, we spotted the most delightful cider doughnut and apple couple, cheering finishers on. I had to take their picture.
Getting home, I took a warm shower to recover and then did a comprehensive 25 minute stretch. I'm planning to take the next week off from running to recover myself. I don't have any other races scheduled until the Manchester Road Race, which I am doing with my dad and Lisa on Thanksgiving. I think a week off from running, with a focus on recovering and doing other activities for a while, should hopefully help my calf situation.
For the rest of the day, I have been relaxing. I've been doing some work on the new blanket I started on for Seth.
The pattern is called Aran and is from Comfort Knitting and Crochet: Afghans. At Seth's request, I am knitting it in his favorite yarn, Valley Yarns Colrain, a 50% merino/50% tencel blend.