Scroll all the way down to the end of the post for the tl;dr version.
It’s been a month since I ran the Eugene Marathon. I took 10 days off after that race and still didn’t feel like running again. I thought racing frequently would help get my running “mojo” back. I ran the Alexandria Running Festival Half Marathon this past Sunday. I did a moderate run on Tuesday and a medium run on Thursday that left me walking.
I chose this race knowing very little about it – no friends had run it and there was very little information on it on the internet. The race seemed very small and Belmont Stakes/horse-themed which made me a little nervous. This could be interesting…
- 5K PR: 20:43 (6:39 pace) at the April 12, 2013 Crystal City 5K Friday.
- Most Recent 5K: 21:29 (6:54 pace) at the 2016 Firecracker 5K.
Achievable: Sub-22:30 (7:13 pace). It’s hard to set goals when you don’t know the course. But, based on my recent training and races, this seemed like a time I should be able to sustain no matter what.
Stretch: Sub-21:45 (6:59 pace). This is about where my 5K pace workouts were in April.
Start out with the 3:30 pace group (8:00 pace) and see if I can hang with them through Fifth Avenue. Then, see what I have left in Central Park. Oops! I forgot to overwrite my strategy from the New York City Marathon!
The course was on a road and bike path for about a half mile and then on a golf course .
The race is in a small community, so there wasn’t crowd support. There was one water stop shortly after the 1 mile mark.
I was nervous about getting lost on the course, so I ran without music.
I woke up feeling groggy, which was odd because I’d been sleeping well this week. I had some coffee and water, but I didn’t eat anything. It was about a 30 minute drive from my house to the race site. I don’t travel to this part of Northern Virginia very often, so the trip felt oddly exciting. Woodbridge, Virginia is so exotic!
In Belmont Bay, a volunteer told me where to park. I talked with her a little before heading over to get a view of the river.
Race day registration was pretty quick, in part because the race was so small that no one was behind me. I did a pretty short warm-up before the start. I was a little worried about getting lost on the course. I took a copy of the course map from the registration table and put it in my short pocket.
Waiting for the start, a woman struck up a conversation with me. She thought I looked like a serious runner. She asked what time I thought I would finish in and like all runners I gave a slightly slower time, “Around 23:00.” A volunteer came up and encouraged me to come up with a racing horse name for the race. I couldn’t think of anything creative.
With about 2 minutes to the start, the bugler played the “First Call”. The race director made a few more remarks and the runners came to the starting line. The woman I was talking to lined up slightly ahead of me. The bugler played a long blaring note and then we were off!
Pretty nice racing weather.
Early Mile – Mile 1 (Belmont Bay Drive and Ospreys Golf Course)
After just a few strides, I found myself towards the front of the pack. The race started with a brief turn-about in a parking lot and then went onto a street leading towards the main road. The race director told us to stay to the right of the cones and I obeyed. I passed two runners and still managed to still stay in that zone. I checked my Garmin and it was showing low 6:00 pace! After a quarter mile, the course went onto an asphalt trail next to the main road and there were only six runners ahead of me. As I passed one, he told me I had the female leader in my sights. I said, “This is a horse race, right? So, I should stalk her.” Looking ahead, I saw the male runner in the lead take a wrong turn! The guy I just passed yelled ahead but the leader couldn’t hear. I was breathing very hard. I passed a little boy and moved into 4th place overall. About a quarter mile short of the first mile, the course turned right onto the golf course. I hit the first mile mark and knew it was too fast.
Split (by course): 6:44.
Middle Mile, Mile 2 (Ospreys Golf Course)
Shortly after the first mile marker I tried to gauge how far ahead the first woman was. I counted “alligators” between when she passed a landmark and when I did. I thought she was about 10 seconds ahead of me. I continued running hard. I tried to will myself into running faster but something in me was fiercely fighting that idea. As I went along, I scanned the scenery. The sun was coming up and the trees were providing good cover. At the mid-point of the race, I was already out of gas. There was a clearing and I counted alligators again to see how far ahead the first placed woman was. I counted at least 20. I ran past the water stop – no need for a race this short. I checked my split. I knew it would be slower but I was surprised that I faded so much.
Split (by course): 7:13.
Later Mile 3 to 3.1 (Ospreys Golf Course and Belmont Bay Drive)
It seemed like an eternity before I hit the 2 mile marker. The course felt slightly uphill and I lost all hope of keeping up my current pace. About a quarter mile later, the course looped back on itself and I could mentally picture how much of the race was left. I also received some support from the other runners and walkers in the race, which was nice. By then, the first female was solidly in front of me – no need to count alligators – and I was really just running for pride. Back on the rail trail next to the road, I told myself, “Come on!” I really wanted to finish strong. I turned left back onto the road leading to the finish line and another left into the parking lot with the finish line. I didn’t see a 3 mile marker but at that point, I didn’t really care. I managed a smile at the finish line.
Splits (by course): 8:15 (7:26 pace)
I drank some water and half a bagel after the race. I stuck around since I knew I won my age group. I talked with the other runners about the race. “Fifty Shade of Hay” won the award for best race horse name. (I thought “Sir Trots Alot”, “Ground Pound”, and of course Covfefe” were good.)
The winner of the men’s and women’s race get a bouquet of flowers – just like the horses will in the Belmont Stakes – a trophy, and a Visa gift card! Pretty sweet! I won a ribbon with a horse on it for winning my age group.
I ran 22:10 (7:07 pace). [Log Details]. I was the 4th finisher out of 33 (top 13%), 2nd woman out of 17 (top 12%), and 1st in my age group/female master.
Just like last week, I didn’t pace the race very well. Conditions were similar in that they were both small races where I was toeing the line with faster runners. While I’m not proud of the splits, it wasn’t a terrible race. I finished in the time I thought I would. Beyond time, I had a lot of fun! It was great talking with people who lived in the community. And, I had race results and pictures before 2pm! I would definitely run this race again.
Next race: 2017 Lawyers Have Heart 10K on Saturday, June 10th. (My Complete Racing Schedule.)
I ran 22:10 (7:07 pace). I tend to run “event” races with hundreds or thousands of participants so this was a refreshing change of pace. There were less than 40 finishers! I was 4th overall and 2nd woman! The organizers clearly love their community and their enthusiasm was infectious. The course was mostly on a golf course and now I understand why so many runners like running on them – it was flat, quiet, and had plenty of tree cover. The race is horse themed but it’s subtle. I definitely see myself running this race again.