RRCA Club Challenge: Fun with ESRC and 10 seconds away from last year’s time

Our Eastern Shore Running Club team poses for a photo before the race. Back row, L-R: Woody Disharoon, Joe Andrews and Matt Berggren. Front row, L-R: Me, Karen Dunn, Karla Christie and Carolyn Webster.

For the second year in a row, I got up early and left Salisbury for Columbia around 4:30 a.m. for the Maryland-Washington, D.C. RRCA Club Challenge 10 Miler, hosted by the Howard County Striders.

Road Runners Club of America running clubs based in Maryland and Washington, D.C. compete in various team categories at this race. Participants must be official members of an RRCA club.

The Eastern Shore Running Club had more participants than last year, but we didn’t have enough to be scored for the team results. However, I had a lot of fun and I was certainly glad we went up to represent our club on what here on the Eastern Shore people call the “western shore” or the “other side of the bridge.” I believe our club traveled the furthest for the event.

I’m also hoping we will have at least nine men and six women represent the Eastern Shore Running Club next year. The cutoff time for the race is 2:10, but other than the race cutoff time (and there were people who finished after the cutoff), I do not care what your time is. I really want our members to come out and represent! Even if we come in last place (and we might not, of course!), I want us to show up as a team on the results.

Plus, it’s hard to beat the price — after the $5 discount per member that ESRC provided, it was $8 per member. The cost may go up a little for next year, but I imagine it will still be cheaper than most 5Ks. Definitely keep it in mind for next year.

Here I am showing off my new gloves after the RRCA Club Challenge. I wasn’t looking my best, so I used a filter.

The race participants and my boyfriend, Mike, who volunteered, met at the Royal Farms near Hebron and drove up to Howard Community College. Unfortunately, I misdirected us a bit, using a different address for the college than what was included in the athlete guide (oops!) but we still made it to the right location with time to spare.

Sunday, Feb. 24, was a rainy morning as we drove up, and during the race, it was raining at some times and not raining at others. There were some puddles on the course, and before the third water stop, there was a muddy area that the volunteers were warning us about.

It was also colder than I thought it would be. I’d seen that it was going to be 60-something that day, but I think temperatures were in the high 30s or low 40s. I went back to the car a couple times while deciding what to wear. I ended up wearing my short-sleeved Eastern Shore Running Club shirt, shorts and the Turtle Gloves I’m testing for BibRave (blog post to come soon). It turned out I didn’t actually need the gloves.

Since I’d run this race last year, I knew what to expect as far as the course. Last year, I started out too fast. My first mile last year was 9:18, but my average pace per mile was 10:22.

So, even though the first part of the race is not very hilly, I decided to hold back some in the beginning. I wanted to beat last year’s time, but not use up all of my energy too early.

I took this photo for my Instagram story and the RRCA account shared it on their story!

I started out with some consistent miles. I ran the first mile in 10:12 and the second mile in 10:14.

The third mile, which included a water stop — I almost always stop at all or most race water stops — I ran in 10:47. I ran the fourth mile in 10:17.

I remembered from last year that the middle of the course had the worst of the hills. In Salisbury, we don’t have the type of hills that compare to what we ran on this course in Columbia. I am much better at running flat courses.

I felt like I ran most of the time at this race, but I did choose to walk up some hills to conserve energy. When I hit the halfway point, I was at about 52 minutes and some number of seconds. I knew that last year, I’d run this course in 1:44-something, so I knew I needed to pick up the pace.

As I hit four miles to go, I had about 40 minutes left till the clock would hit 1:44, and when I hit three, that number was about 30 minutes. I knew that I needed to run some sub-10:00 miles to have a chance at beating last year’s time.

I have been adding some tempo miles into some of my training runs, and I thought about those as I tried to pick up the pace toward the end. I was able to run the second-to-last mile in 9:52, which was my second-fastest mile of the day, and by the time I finished that mile, I knew I really needed to pick it up for that last one.

I tried to go as fast as I could and I was able to run a 9:15 for my last mile.

My watch logged 10.09 miles — it’s a certified course, so it must have been me not running the tangents — and I ran the last 0.09 in a 6:32 pace, according to my watch.

I was not quite fast enough to beat last year’s time. I saw 1:44 as my finish time on my watch and hoped last year’s number of seconds was higher.

I had 1:44:21 on my watch; the official results show my time as 1:44:20. Last year, I ran the course in 1:44:10. After I got a chance to check my phone, which was in the car, for last year’s results, I realized that I was 11 seconds off. Now, after seeing the official results, it turns out I was just 10 seconds off — one second per mile!

However, I think I ran a stronger race, given that my last two miles were my two fastest. Hopefully next year, I will be able to come in ahead of this time.

Since I’m also marathon training, I didn’t taper for this race, either. I was running on tired legs. That week, I logged 46 miles. I’d run 30 since Monday, I ran the 10 miles at this race, and then I ran another six when I got home to get a total of 46.

There were so many amazing volunteers at this race. There were tons of people along the course to direct us at turns, in addition to the water stop volunteers. Everyone was so friendly and seemed happy to be out there, even though it was raining. I tried to thank many of the volunteers as I ran through.

There were also a couple spectators. There were a couple kids with their mom (I’m assuming) with a sign in a driveway, and an older woman who was standing out on her front steps cheering on the runners.

After the race, there were basic food and drink offerings — water, Gatorade, bananas, bagels and chips — along with gloves that had the name of the race on them.

Two of our team members finished before me, and I stuck around the home stretch as the remaining members finished the race — we all made the cutoff! — and after waiting for Mike at the presidents’ meeting, we had lunch at Charter Deli before heading home. Then, when we got back to the Royal Farms, there were Girl Scouts there selling cookies, so I bought two boxes.

This is a very competitive race. Normally, I would say I’m pretty solidly a mid-pack runner, and at small, local races I can often place in my age group (I’m in the 20-29 F/25-29 F age group, which generally has less participants than age groups in the 30s, 40s or 50s).

At this race, I came in 649th of 769 participants when they were sorted by gun time. Since I had a strong finish, I think that would have helped me move up a few spots if the results were sorted by chip time, but I did not do all the math to check. Basically, about 84 percent of the field was faster than me.

There were 56 runners who came in under an hour (faster than 6:00 pace) and, including those runners, 201 who came in under 1:10 (faster than 7:00 pace). That is just flying — and those are just the gun time results!

I’m looking forward to representing the Eastern Shore Running Club next year, and I’m already recruiting for 2020. The past two years, the race has been on the last Sunday of February. So, if it stays the same weekend, the race would be held Feb. 23, 2020. Mark your calendars and plan to join ESRC for the event!

Splits
Mile 1: 10:12
Mile 2: 10:14
Mile 3: 10:47
Mile 4: 10:17
Mile 5: 11:06
Mile 6: 10:57
Mile 7: 10:31
Mile 8: 10:32
Mile 9: 9:52
Mile 10: 9:15
Last bit (watch had 10.09): 34 seconds (6:32 pace)

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