Greg and I had run this race last year for the first time. We decided to return because the course offered a unique pacing challenge. The first mile features a net incline of 70 feet, and most of the rest of the race is downhill, with a few hum-dinger up hills for extra thrills. The Washington DC metro area actually offers a few four-mile races throughout the year. If I'm counting correctly, I had run 7 four-milers prior to today's race. So while it's not a widely common distance, I've run enough of them for a PR to be meaningful.
Before I get into this race report, I'd like to give a shout out to blog reader Kate. Hello Kate! I went to the Reston Town Center yesterday to pick up my race packet, when I was approached by someone who asked me if I was Elizabeth Clor. I replied yes, and she told me that she read my blog. We didn't talk long, but it was a nice surprise to meet a blog reader and Instagram follower.
Goals and Strategy
|Greg and me
Before the Race
Race morning went smoothly. Greg and I had retrieved our bibs the day before, which meant one less logistical thing to worry about. We arrived 45 minutes in advance of the start time, drank our UCAN and warmed up for two miles. We warmed up on the course, which was a good reminder of the tricky hill profile. The first mile is a net 70 ft climb, but there is also some downhill, which means that the total climb is actually greater than 70 feet. I felt good during the warmup and I was ready to run fast.
After the warm up, I realized that I needed to go to the bathroom, but I'd never make it through the porta-potty lines in time. So Greg and I found a path that led into a secluded woody area, and I was able go pee there among nature! We then met up with our friend Hannah and chatted with her for a bit at the start line. Just by looking around I thought that Hannah would probably win the race. She had just run Boston and she didn't want to over-do it, but regardless, I thought she was poised for first. My father and step-mother had come to the race to cheer us on, and Greg told them where to go to get the best viewing.
Mile 1: 6:58
Mile 2: 6:38
Now that the hill was over, it was time to start racing. After so much uphill, I felt like this mile was all downhill, even though it was only a -7 decline. I was neck-and-neck with two other women and there were a few men around us as well. I didn't want to surge too soon, so I reminded myself to run my own race. I also reminded myself that I had been running 50+ mile weeks and that even though this pace felt hard, I would be able to maintain it for the rest of the race. I'm pretty sure I passed one of the women at the end of this mile, but I was still very close to the other one. I thought that there were only two women ahead of me, but I couldn't be entirely sure. Last year I ran this mile in 6:54, so I was now way ahead of 2016 Elizabeth, which was what was most important.
Mile 3: 6:47
This mile is deceiving. Before the race, I had looked back on my Strava data and noticed that mile 3 was a net 21 ft elevation decrease. So it should be fast-- faster than mile 2. But last year I had slowed down substantially, and had run a 7:04. As I started the mile, I surged on a long downhill. This is when I passed the woman who was next to me and didn't expect to see her again. I looked at my Garmin halfway through the mile and it read 6:35. But with about a quarter of a mile to go, there was a huge hill. I had remembered this, but I thought that since most of the mile was so fast, it wouldn't cost me too much time. Wrong. This hill took so much out of me and it took all the mental and physical strength I had to keep pushing. When my Garmin beeped 6:47 it was a little disheartening, considering I had banked so much time early on in the mile.
Mile 4: 6:33
|Approaching the finish line
My official time was 26:57, and I was so relieved that I managed to get in just under the wire. Third overall female was a nice surprise, too, as this race tends to draw a competitive field. Last year I was the 12th female, and second place in my age group.
After the Race
I met up with Greg and Hannah and we started our cool down. Hannah had won the race and Greg had set a PR in 26:21. I had to stop twice during the cool down because of a side stitch, that was actually more like a front stitch. This usually never happens to me, and I was extremely thankful it didn't happen during the race. Ultimately the cramping subsided and I was able to do a proper cool down jog.
|Top 3 Women: Me (3rd), Hannah (1st), Meredith (2nd)
Finally, they began the awards ceremony. I won a $50 gift certificate to Potomac River Running. Being third overall also gives me lots of points for the =PR= Race series. Greg won third place in his age group.
Final Thoughts and Stats
- I'm very pleased with my performance in terms of my pacing strategy and my mental toughness at the end.
- I set a PR by 54 seconds; my previous PR was from last year on this course.
- There were 634 women in this race, but only 220 men. I wonder if this has anything to do with the Mother's Day theme.
- Both Greg and I find it odd that neither of us were able to run this race at a faster pace than our 10K from February. Even though I am not in marathon shape anymore, I've been consistently running track workouts since February with only a few weeks of post-marathon. I have a new respect for people who can run really fast in the short distances.
- I enjoy the experience of new races, but it's also nice to run the same ones each year to see year-over-year improvements.
- I'm running a 5K next weekend and it's supposed to be a hot one! Running yet another PR will be a challenge, but I'm going to go for it.