The 10 mile race distance was more intriguing. Shorter than a half. Longer than a 10k. Right in the sweet spot. Plus, some running charts can correlate from the 10 mile distance to 26.2 marathon distance.
So, with excitement at the new challenge and fueled by more interstate competition, I burst from the start with adrenaline. For a very short time, I was in 4th. But I was not speed-trained to stay with the leaders. After a faster first mile, I slowed a little bit into the 7:00-8:00 min pace range. I was trying to run 7:20-7:30 or less. For the most part, I held that pretty well.
There was some humidity, that became a factor later, forcing me to slow down a tiny bit.
Running in brand new, barely-broken in Mizuno Wave 18, I felt fast in these lightweight lightning bolts.
We had to be careful, there was mud on the course from rain the day before the race.
Found myself running “fartlek games” with several runners, primarily a 52 year-old FAST running gal. For several miles, I held her off. Finally, I let her pass me but utilized her speed as a magnet, trying to draft from her, letting her cut against the wind. She stretched out her lead and I struggled mightily to keep her in sight. I could tell she was going to medal in her age group (she won gold, too).
At mile 8, my pace sagged to 8:05, the only mile that was above 8 minute pace. Barely. Was feeling the humidity at this point. Felt heavy here, slight hills. Except for this one mile, I felt like I had boundless energy during this race. Used tactical speed bursts when needed but generally trying to run steady 7:00-something splits.
Picked up the pace a little again, finally rolling back into Holmes Lake near the finish. Had a strong headwind climbing onto the dam (reminded me of my experience at Skyview Lake in Norfolk, Nebraska from being a cross-country runner) but determined to slice the wind regardless of its speed or direction.
Pushed the pace hard at the finish, thought I might have a good chance at an age-group medal for the men’s 45-49 division. It was really hard to determine ages of other men near me during the race but we were pretty spread out due to the length of the race.
Was exhilarated to finish in 1:15:17 officially (23rd place overall), a very brisk 7:32 pace. Walked immediately to the drink table to rehydrate with water. Ate bagels and bananas.
Checked the results, happily learned I was the gold medalist for my age group. Double checked. Yes, it was true.
How did this happen? Confidence, hard training, and the long 600+ day runstreak have deepened my appreciation for running and my running knowledge. But feeling confidence and attacking a race with high energy helped produce the first (age group) gold medal of my running career. Yes, it took me 47 years but it shows my running groove runs deep and I look forward to plumbing the depths of this groove further to explore wherever it leads, perhaps to the Great Wall of China.