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Rising to meet a new challenge, earlier this month I ran the Run to Overcome 10k race in Lincoln. Last year the 10k did not exist (only a 1 mile & 5k races). I was excited to run this race after seeing the course and recognizing almost all of it from our running courses we frequent. There was only a tiny loop that I don’t usually include. But it is a good bundle of family-friendly races for a good cause: helping those with depression and mental illness, providing some medical/wellness scholarships for people in need. Last year I ran the R2O 5k and unexpectedly broke my 5k PR running it. My goal was simply to run well and to run fast enough to make sure I could deliver my daughter to dance lessons on time. The short-on-time dance wrinkle gave me a tiny incentive to make sure that it was an uptempo race.

Before we began, the one-mile race was completed, allowing for kids and families to finish together. Some ran as teams in memory (or in honor) of relatives and friends. It was nice to see signs around the track remembering several of them. A few runners/athletes shared stories of who they were running for and their transformation stories. It was positive and uplifting.

As we were lining up, a funny moment happened when some young kids were trying to dominate the front lines of the 10k start. However, they quickly realized the 10k was going to start first before the 5k. One leader told the others: The 10k is starting 5 minutes after the 5k. Then he asked his friends: are you running the 10k? One of them said: I don’t know, I’m not sure. Indecision. Most of the younger kids stepped away and waited for the 10k start before lining up for their 5k moment.

For the start and finish of both the 10k and 5k, both begin on the track at Southwest High and we run half a loop on the track before exiting the track area to run the rest of the course. So I remember my high school track days whenever we run there. And our Magic Mile Galloway run club workouts that Southwest High has allowed us to have there.

We lined up for the start. Unlike last year, I didn’t have dozens of kids trying to enjoy their moment in the sun leading the race before we grownups caught up to them. One variable that slowed us slightly was the sun and heat. 73 degrees at the start. Warm cloudless day. Not much shade on the course except near trees.

My time goal was to run close to 7:30 mile splits and I was very close to achieving it.

With fewer runners running the race, I had the unusual pleasure of running with the lead pack for most of this race. After we left the track, as runners set their paces and adjusted, I found I was in the lead pack with 2 others. Unfortunately, the wind was absent, which caused one in the lead pack to ask me: where is the breeze? I told him yes, that would be helpful, wouldn’t it? (According to Garmin, we did have a very gentle gust later in the race of 7mph out of the SW but it was less than we needed to stay cool.) Ironically, the one who asked me that ended up winning the race.

The new course runs in a loop east on Pine Lake to 27th Street, south on 27th Street around Wilderness Ridge area, back on Yankee Hill Drive to 14th Street, then running north again to the finish at Southwest High School. The tough part is a hill going south past Pine Lake up to the turn for the waterfall by Wilderness Ridge. Very familiar territory for me, it almost felt like running on your home course in a cross-country meet.

To start strong in a race of this length, I wanted that first mile to be under 7:00. And it was. 6:49. We were moving at a good clip, too fast for the leader who fell behind the lead pack for a while. A new leader surged in front of us slightly and we did our best to keep pace with him. Early on, I got a green light from Garmin with my heart rate jumping +8 from baseline. So I was free to run as fast and free as I wanted.

At mile 2, the split was 7:35, the closest to goal pace for the entire race. The hills were coming next and I knew I might have to slow down slightly to keep enough energy for a strong finish late in the race.

We turned south on 27th at Pine Lake. It seemed strange running in the street as I am always running on the trails/sidewalks on this loop for safety. But the traffic control by the police was very impressive on this stretch. They kept cars from turning into our lane along 27th Street, a very busy Lincoln thoroughfare.

There were water breaks throughout the race but I carried my OrangeMud hydraquiver single vest with water so I didn’t have to make unnecessary stops.

I slowed a little bit on the hill and we reached the mile 3 split: 7:57. My slowest mile. But I expected that. Surprisingly I was still in the lead pack at this point. Although earlier I was as high as second, here I was still running in third.

We turned west towards the waterfall and there was a water stop there. I started drinking water from my vest. It was hot and I was a little dehydrated. I began scanning the course for shade. There wasn’t much. Yes, I wanted to run the tangents but I wanted to stay cool as well. Fortunately, my Buff headband helped and I raced in my BocoGear visor (*will be reviewing later on the blog) for the first time. It was a good combo. However, I did need to take the visor off for a while to allow more sweat to evaporate. I was feeling very warm.

There was a mysterious loop on the course that I couldn’t identify and it ended up being a nice tear-shaped traffic circle with a slight hill. Ah that’s what that is. I was surprised I couldn’t figure it out before the race with how much running I do in this neighborhood so near ours (most of the course is within a mile or two from our house). I remember being passed by one or two runners here. I was trying to save fuel in the tank for the end.

Up to about 3-4 miles into the race, I was mostly able to keep the leaders in sight. I figured if I could do that I might be able to close on some of them. After 4 miles or so, the front pack pulled away. Meanwhile I was overheating a little bit. Couldn’t do much about it though: drink water, stay in the shade, and finish faster.

For some reason, running on/near Wilderness Ridge always makes me feel like I am home. Maybe it is because I have trained on all 27 holes of golf as well as all the side streets. The waterfalls are relaxing even on hot days without much wind, shade, our cloud cover. Lots of scenic beauty and animals always welcoming us in the area. Especially birds: waterfowl.

Somehow I was able to set a PR in the middle of the race according to Strava: 6:54 as my fastest time between Pine Lake and Yankee Hill Road. It makes me wonder what the distance between the two roads is: I think it’s very close to a mile. It’s interesting that we run better, faster, more efficiently when we are on very familiar “home turf”. Not quite the home field advantage as in football but somewhat similar.

My remaining splits: Mile 4 was 7:55. Mile 5 was 7:54, and mile 6 was 7:49. Closing speed was 7:27 in the last .22. Good burst at the end.

Another runner passed me before we returned to Pine Lake Road after the Wilderness Ridge stretch. After that, I think I held my position (5th or 6th). I’m pretty sure I was sixth if I counted right.

As we neared the intersection of 14th Street and Pine Lake Road, I began to see 5k runners who were running/walking their race. Some ran, some walked, and some run-walked. I think I used 3 walk breaks of :30. One was mainly to drink water.

I really liked the split nature of the race: first 3 miles were slightly uphill, last 3 miles were downhill. (Tiny uphill in the last .22). But nice variety to split the elevation in halves like that.

Once I reached the 14th Street, we had to do a little dodging. There were a lot of 5k runners and walkers to run around. Not a big deal.

At 5 miles or so, I noticed my split time was pretty tight (almost behind but not quite) for getting my daughter to dance on time. My heart rate jumped a little bit. I don’t like being late. And I parked a few blocks away so I didn’t have to deal with race-day traffic.

At 6 miles, we were looping near Southwest High School again and then we finish on the track running counter-clockwise (clockwise at the beginning). I did have a little bit of acceleration at the end. I did not want a time slower than 48:00. I saw it was going to be very close. One last burst. 47:58 finish. Whew. Close call.

After finishing, I grabbed some water and refilled by Orange Mud bottle. I was relieved. I was slightly disappointed I wasn’t able to move up at the end but I burned all my energy. No warm up run before the race (unlike last year when I ran to the 5k and ran back for the trifecta). No run after. Just very fast strolling to my car. I wish I could have stayed, I knew I may have placed in my age group although I wasn’t able to place in the top 3 overall. Within the past week, I learned that I placed 2nd in my age group (45-49). So I won a $15 gift certificate to Fleet Feet-Lincoln. Thanks Fleet Feet!

Overall, it was a wonderful experience. It’s always fun to run a new race and course, even if some is familiar. The lead pack did seem to cooperate and help each other and we pushed each other’s pace a little bit. We weren’t really speaking much. We were focused on the race.

As far as the BocoGear visor, I think I wore it for at least 4 miles or so of the race. I’m glad I wore the Buff under it. The sun was a little overpowering. The visor worked well. I like the fact that it can let sweat evaporate in a running/racing situation.

Always try to rise to the next challenge. Don’t be intimidated by the challenges you face. The 10k is a little outside my comfort zone. The middle distances are tougher. The 5k is over before you know it. The 10 mile-half-marathon distance is a little closer to where my strength and ability lies. With the 10k, it’s a tougher distance to keep a race pace going sometimes. But the splits were pretty even and steady. Sometimes the magic happens a little outside of our comfort zone. We just have to dig deep and believe in ourselves. Run wild and free! Only then can the powerful running magic can happen. Don’t you agree?