A couple weeks ago this race caught my eye because it was an evening race instead of an early morning race. I knew it would fit in perfectly with where my long runs are at but I wasn't sure if I would be doing anything this weekend or not. I kept the race in the back of my mind just in case I was free. As it turns out, I was! I decided late Thursday that I would be doing the race but didn't want to make a big deal about it. In fact, I lifted weights on Friday.
After doing some race research I learned that the course was rolling hills with three loops. Once I heard that my plan was to go faster with every loop. Unfortunately I realized I left my Garmin at home about half way to the race, which was held in Druid Hill Park in Baltimore. I still wanted to stick to my race plan but I would have to go more on perceived effort than what the clock said.
My dad and I arrived to the race site about 45 minutes before the start and quickly registered. It was a small race of only about 200 people. There was a great atmosphere and I was sure it was going to be a great night.
About 5 minutes before 6:00 everybody started heading over to the start line. I wasn't sure where to position myself so I decided to start closer to the back to ensure that I didn't go out too fast. I wanted to keep the pace easy during the first loop but it was pretty difficult with everybody shooting off after the starting gun.
The beginning of each loop is really hilly so I made sure to keep my heart rate down and conserve energy for later in the race. After 1-2 miles of hills you hit a water stop and then enter a flat path that takes you around the lake. This was my favorite part of the course, partly because of the water stop, partly because of the lack of hills, and mostly because of the view of the lake. I really, really enjoy running by the water.
During the first loop I felt really great. I didn't feel like I was working hard and felt like I could maintain that pace for a lot longer. I used the first loop to get an idea of how the course plays out so that I knew when and where to push the pace.
The hills on the second loop really tired me out but I still made sure to take them easy. In general the second loop wasn't terribly exciting. I was feeling progressively more tired but not exhausted yet.
At the start of the third loop, though, I felt drained. I was getting passed pretty frequently and felt like I had run out of energy. I was really frustrated since my running had been going so well lately but I didn't let my frustration get me down. I slowed down a lot on the hills, hoping I would be able to use the energy I saved in the final mile around the lake.
At the last water station I took 2 cups of water and then took off. I am not sure what happened but suddenly I was full of energy again. I started running hard and was passing everybody in sight. I felt like I was flying! It was such a great finish to the race because I felt so strong all of a sudden. I knew my time wasn't anything spectacular but it was a huge improvement over what my half marathon times predicted I could do.