There are not hills on the Eastern Shore. At least, not significant ones.
So, my legs were in for a shock today, Feb. 25, at the Maryland-District of Columbia RRCA 10 Mile Club Challenge, hosted by the Howard County Striders. Runners must be members of an RRCA club in Maryland or Washington, D.C. (like the Eastern Shore Running Club). The course started near Howard Community College and took participants through neighborhoods.
I had never run this race before, but I had seen it was a hilly race in a Facebook comment, and this was confirmed in a packet of information I received via email from the race, which described the course as a “very hilly, challenging route.” I figured if the race is describing itself as challenging, it probably is.
I saw the event a while ago on Facebook and watched for registration to open so that the Eastern Shore Running Club could put a team in. Even though I saw there were some extremely competitive times, I thought it would be fun to do as a club — and it was. We ended up having five members participate in the race and one (our president and my boyfriend) volunteer.
It’s only $9 per runner, and there’s the fun challenge of competition with other Maryland and D.C. Road Runners Club of America running clubs. Being on the Eastern Shore, our club is naturally smaller than the larger metro clubs, some of which brought a huge contingent.
Although a couple of our members mentioned they had participated in the event before (not ones who ran today), I don’t think our club had previously really had a presence at this event, so I’m glad we did this year.
I left my house shortly after 4:30 a.m. with my friends and fellow members Lynn and Liz. We made it to Howard Community College with time to spare for the 8 a.m. start, and we easily picked up our bibs. It was very foggy on our drive up, and as we neared the college, it started raining harder. It was not pouring, but the rain was solid when we started the race.
I had hydrated a good amount and felt great at the start of the race. I remember thinking the hills really weren’t that bad, and my first mile of the day was 9:18, a good pace for me. I had originally put an hour and 35 minutes as a goal on Athlinks, but I figured with the hills, I would just try to keep my pace under a 10-minute/mile average. I ran the second mile in 9:50.
I learned toward the middle of the race that the “challenging” description was accurate. Since I’ve had hydration issues in the past, I stopped at each of the three water stops on the course. Right after the first one was another uphill.
There were many hills to run (or walk) up, although as another runner noted on the course, they were pretty much always followed by a downhill. I was near several of the same runners throughout the course, even though there was a mix of walking and running. I mostly tried to keep up a run, but shortly before I got to the Mile 5 marker, I started walking up a hill to conserve energy (and I walked some before that too). As the race continued, I would do this more often.
Cardio-wise, I felt pretty great, but my legs began to felt like bags of sand in the second half of the race. These hills were really getting to my legs, and it was impossible to keep up the paces I’d seen for those first two miles. I didn’t see another mile split with a 9 in front of it until the last mile.
At the last water stop, which was shortly after Mile 7, I decided to eat the fuel I’d brought — I’ve been trying out UnTapped syrup that I ordered in preparation for the Vermont City Marathon. I wasn’t really sure if I needed it, but sometimes having the fuel gives me a mental boost.
Along the course, there were plenty of volunteers with large orange flags, so it was never confusing about where to turn. Although it was raining, there was a little boy waving from a second floor window, a couple kids with signs under the shade of an open car trunk and another family or two out on their porches.
There was a stretch after the water stop that didn’t seem so bad, but there were still hills to come. Once I started getting closer to the finish line, I tried to pick up the pace, and my last mile was my third-fastest, at 9:58. I remember seeing a 9:25 pace on my watch as I neared the finish. My boyfriend, Mike, was at the finish line volunteering, and it was awesome to see him there at the end.
My final time was 1:44:10 — that was the same time I had on my watch, about a 10:22 pace. As I neared the finish line, I was worried that I may come in with my slowest 10-mile race time ever, but although it was close, that honor still belongs to the 2017 Bottle & Cork 10 Miler, where I ran a 1:44:47.
However, despite not hitting my original goal, I actually feel pretty awesome about today’s race. I felt good the whole time. During that Bottle & Cork race, I was really struggling and basically got to a point where I was miserable. Today, I was happy as I ran — I just couldn’t go any faster on the hills.
Earlier, I said this was a competitive race. I ended up coming in 601st of 677 runners! The cutoff was 2 hours and 10 minutes. (Here are the results.)
My watch logged an elevation gain of 643 feet during the race. In comparison, I logged 137 feet of elevation gain on my 10-mile training run last weekend in Salisbury (and I’m not even sure how there was that much gain), and 764 feet over 26.2 miles at the Richmond Marathon in November.
I loved being able to represent the Eastern Shore Running Club — we all wore our club shirts and Lynn and I had the personalized ESRC BibBoards — and I hope we’re able to bring out a larger group next year! We’ll need more runners to get an official team score, so Eastern Shore Running Club members, expect to hear from me next year.
Mile 1: 9:18
Mile 2: 9:50
Mile 3: 10:32
Mile 4: 10:02
Mile 5: 10:45
Mile 6: 11:08
Mile 7: 10:35
Mile 8: 11:01
Mile 9: 10:35
Mile 10: 9:58
Last part (watch had 10.04 as I didn’t run the tangents well): 0:20
Time: 1:44:10; 10:22/mile pace on watch