It’s that point in the summer when I have a bunch of races lined up – four within five weeks. Despite knowing that I tend to prefer slower, long distance endurance events, for some reason I chose to torture myself by signing up for a 5K/10K double. A $5 discount and the promise of donut holes is really all it took. Those perks convinced me to go to Flint on Saturday, July 30 for the Atwood Races.
This is an event I’ve considered in the past because it is presented by the Crim Fitness Foundation. I have run the legendary Crim 10-miler numerous times and plan to return for this year’s race in a few weeks. I thought it would be nice to run part of the Crim course for a little practice.
Most of the time I’m in marathon training mode and I don’t concentrate on speed very often. Although the 5K and 10K distances should seem like a breeze based on all of the mileage I run, it’s the speed factor that intimidates me. As long as I’m challenging myself, the shorter the race, the faster the pace. I told myself that sometimes it’s good to get outside of my comfort zone to see what I’ve got. I had my first speed workout in quite a while scheduled for the Tuesday before the race so at least I got my legs moving extra fast one time leading up to this event.
The 10K started at 7:30 so I arrived at Kettering University’s Atwood Stadium about an hour before that. It was kind of refreshing that it was in the 50s first thing in the morning. I was actually shivering! I’ve gotten used to running in the afternoon when it’s been in the 80s and 90s so it seemed like it was going to be a great day for racing.
After waiting in a line for the packet pickup, I got to the front and was told that people running the duo race should go to another table. One with no wait. It would have helped if they had a sign or something, but oh well.
As race time got closer I ran from the parking lot to the roads around the stadium for half a mile to get my legs moving. As I waited for the start, I lingered close to the starting line but left plenty of room in front of me, assuming faster people should come fill that gap. There weren’t many people who were anxious to start at the front and I figured they’d just have to pass me!
We started up a slight hill then had a few rolling hills. As I flew downhill I reminded myself that the downhill segments help me more than the uphill segments hurt me. This was the first time I used the Brooks Hyperion Elite 2 shoes for racing and I felt like I flew down the hills. My friend Lisa has a pair and told me that she keeps getting PRs while using the shoes. I have a cheaper pair of Hyperion Tempo shoes that I really like for racing but I resisted spending the money for the fancy “super shoes” with the carbon fiber plate…until I saw them discounted by $50. I finally caved and was curious to see if they would actually help my times.
I noticed the blue line on the road that marks the Crim 10-mile course a few times throughout the race. A few parts of the course overlapped with Crim’s course, including a segment of the Bradley Hills. That’s the area with the steepest climb during Crim. Although the hills slowed me down, I was glad to get a little practice on them before running the big race later in August. Plus, there was a nice decline after that which helped make up for slowing down on the hills. Then we ran on the smooth, paved Genesee Valley Trail for a bit. At that point I kept swapping spots with a couple guys in front of me. I’d pass them, then they’d speed up and pass me. We did that for a bit until I gained a little more of a lead as the path continued through a park by the Flint River.
A guy ahead of me asked a volunteer where he should turn but the answer wasn’t very clear. He made a left while I got the impression that I was supposed to continue straight until I reached a cone that marked a turn. I yelled to the guy in front of me to come back. At that point, everyone else in the race was so far ahead that I didn’t have anyone to follow. I could see a guy way up in the distance crossing a bridge and figured I’d end up there eventually. Prior to the one volunteer who didn’t direct us very well, the turns were pretty clear. There were signs in some spots that marked the 10K course and cones in other spots.
I made it to the bridge and saw police blocking traffic up ahead and assumed they were there because the course headed that way. It was a bit of a climb uphill to reach them and I had to ask where to go because nothing was there to mark the course. They told me I was supposed to go back where I just came from and make a turn on Bluff Street. I was extremely frustrated because it added an extra quarter mile to my race. Several people had followed me up the hill so I had to tell them to turn around and go back to Bluff. All of us who had missed the turn were pretty mad and yelled amongst ourselves that there hadn’t been anything telling us to make that turn. No signs, no cones, no people. A map of the course had been posted and we’re always told to study it so we know where to go, but I’m not familiar with the area and the rest of the course had been marked so clearly I didn’t have to worry about it. I was pretty annoyed, especially when I looked at my watch at 6.2 miles and knew I would have had a new PR – just over 45 minutes. There was one more stretch of path along the river before we got to the stadium’s parking lot. I ran into the stadium and finished on the turf just after the 50-yard line with a time of 46:41.
I was greeted by a volunteer who asked how it went and I complained about the part of the course that hadn’t been marked. Someone else must have complained and she said she thought the race director had been made aware of it. I hoped so! This has happened to me in the past and is bound to happen again in the future. It’s frustrating but not terribly uncommon. People have been misdirected while running marathons as they to qualify for the Olympic trials, so obviously this was a minor inconvenience compared to that. I didn’t have anything riding on this race other than hoping to get a new PR.
The two guys I had traded spots with a few times during the race finished soon after me and we commiserated with each other. I found out they were both running the duo so I’d see them during the 5K as well. In the meantime, I got a cold, wet towel which was helpful. Even though it was cool compared to the heat I’ve been running in, I had worked hard and was still pretty hot.
Then it was time for my reward – donut holes from Blueline Donuts. I collected a few but chose to refrain from enjoying them until I was done racing. I ate a Clif Shot Blok or two because I know those sit well with my stomach while running and I wasn’t sure I could say the same for the donuts. So, I stashed them in my car.
I had close to 45 minutes to kill until the start of the 5K and that’s where things are tricky with these combo races. How to spend the downtime? I wanted to conserve energy but I also didn’t want to get too stiff. I spent a chunk of time on the field after the race chatting with people. I found my results and saw that I was the second woman in the 10K! The girl in front of me was super fast and once the race started I never saw her again. She beat me by eight minutes. I was relieved when I saw the results because obviously there was no way I would have caught her even if I had run the proper distance. The missed turn didn’t make me lose a spot to any of the women. I was still ahead of the next woman by a minute. Although I was annoyed that I didn’t get that PR I could have earned, it didn’t seem to mess with my placement in the race.
I killed a few more minutes at my car then decided it was time for another jog. I went through the same routine a second time – out of the parking lot and onto the roads around the stadium. While I had only run half a mile before the 10K, I did a mile before the 5K.
As I waited for the 9:00 start, I was surprised again by how far back most of the runners stood. No one wanted to be at the front! I figured I had done pretty well in the 10K so I may as well start toward the front for this race too. I chatted with my two new friends from the 10K. We had all finished within a minute of each other so I thought we could end up near each other for much of the 5K as well.
The guys took off in front of me as we started up the same slight incline we had run for the 10K. I caught them by the time we got a bit of a downhill. I decided I was happy with my fancy super shoes. I won’t say they made me dramatically faster but they may have helped some!
I had assumed since we wouldn’t climb the Bradley Hills for the 5K course that maybe it would be easier. Instead, we ran up a hill into a cemetery and it sure didn’t feel easier. There was quite a bit of winding with some ups and downs. As it was, I didn’t know how much speed I’d have left in my legs after pushing so hard for the 10K. After I got past the initial climb my pace was around 7:00 or faster so it seemed like I was on track for a good 5K. The cemetery slowed me down to a 9:00 pace for a minute, then it was still another minute or two before I got back to a faster pace. I still had it in me though! I may have cringed most of the way but I kept pushing.
This time we turned at the bridge rather than adding distance in the park like we had for the 10K. When we got to Bluff Street there was a van parked in the middle of the road and two volunteers there to tell us to turn. We definitely didn’t have that during the 10K! Maybe they heard enough complaints to make sure it was obvious for the second race. I was convinced that although maybe I should have known the course better for the 10K, it’s not like I had missed anything that signaled where I should have turned. I made a point of looking during the 5K, and minus the van and volunteers, there wasn’t anything marking that turn.
Back onto the turf for the finish once again, and my official time was 21:59. I JUST broke 22 minutes, which I don’t think I’ve done since 2015. It wasn’t an easy course either, so I was especially proud. On top of that, I was the first female finisher!
This time when I went to the donut area I was able to enjoy them right away. I am very motivated by good post-race treats and these were worthwhile.
I scanned my bib again and eventually I was able to see the results for the 5K but nothing came up for the duo race. The timing people said that awards would be sent by mail. That was pretty anti-climatic! I guess now I just wait and see if a surprise pops up in the mail one day. I really lucked out that the speedy woman from the 10K didn’t run the 5K because I wouldn’t have stood a chance. Placing second in the 10K and first in the 5K meant I had probably won the duo. Several days after the race those results were finally posted and confirmed that. My total time for the duo was 1:08:39 which good for first place by several minutes! 58 women and 59 men participated in the duo.
It’s pretty fun to actually win a race but I always have the disclaimer in the back of my mind that it all depends on who shows up that day. I was really happy with how I ran since I was pretty close to my fastest time for each distance if I ignore the bonus quarter mile that added over a minute to my 10K time. I think my recent training mileage plus running through the heat of the summer has made me strong. It’s always a dream to get acclimated to the heat then have it suddenly cool down for race day. This race also reminded me that even though running that fast can be painful enough that I usually avoid it, I have that potential in me. It encourages me and makes me realize that I might be capable of even more if I do more speed workouts. Although I’m usually pretty wary about running the shorter races, I usually come out of them wanting to see if I can do even better. Now I want to run another 10K to see how I’d do at the proper distance. I want to run another 5K that has a flatter course.
I have a swim/run race this coming weekend and a 5K swim a couple weeks after that. Then it’s back to Flint for the Crim 10-mile race. Getting a little taste of the course for the Atwood Races has me especially anxious to see what I can do this year.