This Saturday marked the 8th consecutive weekend I had a race. Yes, this is now my (unintentional) record but I promise the racing streak ends here! Of all 8 races I probably had the lowest expectations for this one and I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised. For the first time in many months I negative split a race and finished strong. Definitely a good way to end the racing streak!
Saturday morning my friend Ann met Natalie and I at my house- at 4:50! Then we met up with two other teammates in North Little Rock along the way. We arrived in Benton around 6:20. This gave us 40 minutes to pick up our chips, shirts, use the restroom and warm-up.
For years the Benton 20k started and ended at the Benton high school. In my opinion the old course was not very runner-friendly. It was open to traffic and had become increasingly dangerous as the area became more populated. The race directors worked hard to change things and they found a much better location and route this year. The new course was much safer.
A 20k is 12.4 miles so one might think you could pace this race at your usual half marathon pace. Not quite. This race is hilly and at this time of year it still feels like summer in Arkansas.
The first time I ran the Benton 20k I crashed and burned hard. I started around marathon pace and the last 3 miles felt like the end of a really bad marathon. Last year I was in pretty good training shape (race was a couple weeks before Chicago Marathon) but I started too aggressive and I should have known better. Once again I faded the last few miles. This year my goal pace was 6:30-6:40. My coach thought this would be a realistic goal range.
I really tried to go by effort and the first 5 miles were pretty hilly. From the beginning my average was in the low to mid 6:40’s. I didn’t stress about being off pace. This wasn’t an A race- more of a hard workout. No reason to stress and push too hard too fast. I ran the first two miles with Erik, another GP runner. The remaining 10.5 miles were solo. Very solo. The guy in front of me was far enough ahead that I rarely saw him.
Around the mile 9 marker I thought I’d seen him turn left but that didn’t seem right since there was not a sign pointing that direction. Up until this point there had been a sign at just about every turn. I had to stop and ask some runners coming from the other direction. I asked if she saw runners heading back that way. She said, “I’ve seen them go both ways!” I would have found the situation more humorous if I wasn’t in the middle of a race! There was a ;policeman nearby directing traffic at the intersection. He told me to go straight so that’s what I did. The road had a roundabout and other side streets but I just kept going. For over a mile and a half I did not see another runner (or a sign) that I can remember. I was pretty sure I went the wrong way but I thought if I did I was leading the rest of the runners behind me! When I saw the lake ahead I knew I was in the right area. I was just confused as to why I wasn’t seeing any other runners. Then I saw the lead male runner heading in the opposite direction. He called out “Hi Tia” to which I yelled, “Is this the right way?!!” He told me it was so I kept going until some volunteers directed me how to get on the lake path. At this point my overall average was 6:41 and I wanted to pick it up a little. I felt pretty good the last stretch and the last half mile was actually at a 6:10 pace (where did that come from?!) so when I crossed the line my watch average was 6:39. Last year it was 6:43 so this was an improvement. It felt really good to finish strong.
Official Time- 1:23:24. (1st female). Garmin stats- 6:39 avg for 12.54 miles. Official Results can be found here.
Splits: 6:44, 6:45, 6:37, 6:45, 6:44, 6:38, 6:34, 6:36, 6:46, 6:39, 6:38, 6:34, last 0.54 was at 6:10 avg.
It turned out that a few guys in front of me were misdirected so they had to back track. I never saw anyone in the later miles because I was the second finisher behind Mark. Fortunately, the confusion around mile 9 was resolved and I don’t think anyone else made a wrong turn. Overall I liked the new course and I think with a few more signs and volunteers there will be much less confusion. Now that I’ve run it I don’t think I’d have a problem with it again.
After I finished I jogged a couple miles with one of my teammates and then enjoyed a sow cone and hamburger. The post race food was great! Girls on the Run designed the awards too and they were very unique.
We had promised the kids we’d take them to the county fair (it was the last day it was in town) so when I got home we went straight there! The kids had fun but it was a blazing 92 degrees.
I’m looking forward to a few weeks break from racing. The next Grand Prix race is October 15 and then we have 3 10k’s in a 5 week span. Time to get in some good training sessions!