There was never really any question of whether or not I would run the Spa 10k. I love this race. It’s challenging and exhilarating all in one. This is one of those races I like to run regardless of whether I’m in shape or not. I’ve had years when I’ve been fit and ready to PR and I’ve also run it during a marathon recovery cycle. Or in last year’s case- 2 weeks after having the flu. (Not my finest hour and yes, I ran a personal course worst!) But for whatever reason this race brings me back every year.
This year timing was not ideal- 3rd back to back weekend of racing for me but it was the last race in the Grand Prix series on the kids schedule which means it was Anthony’s last race to complete Iron Runner. (The kids schedule has 16 races for the year and doesn’t include the marathon, two half marathons, or the 20k.) The Spa 10k is part of a big running festival in Hot Springs, Arkansas which includes a 5k and a half marathon. I’ve never participated in any of the other events- only the 10k because it is the one in the Grand Prix series. And finally, this year the Spa Running Festival had a special guest who would be at the start and finish line- Olympic medalist in the marathon Deena Kastor!
I can easily say this is the most challenging 10k race I’ve ever run but in my opinion the last two miles make it totally worth it. The first two miles have a gradual climb. The middle miles contain the toughest sections of the race and then the last 2.2 miles are mostly downhill and fast!
My Spa 10k Race History
2014- 40:34 (coming back from plantar fasciitis)
2015- 40:24 (2 weeks post marathon)
2016- 38:23 (healthy and had a great race)
2017- 41:32 (one week post flu recovery- yikes!)
This year I was healthy, not recovering from an illness or a marathon and my goal was to run around my time from 2016 when I ran my best Spa 10k. I knew this would be a tough but possibly attainable goal. I actually wrote my 2016 splits on my hand so that during the race I had a mission for each mile.
I spent the night before the race at my sisters house in Benton. We had a very relaxing night (hello hot tub!) and I was able to sleep well.
We left a little after 6 am and it was about a 45 minute drive to Hot Springs. Once again I was in crazy mom mode so my pre-race routine was all over the place. I jogged over to pick up all of our packets and then between two restroom trips I barely got in a mile and a half warm-up. I didn’t do any strides and I headed to the starting line in a hurry trying to make sure Anthony got situated.
From the moment the gun went off I focused on my mission for mile 1. The first two miles have a gradual incline and I was hoping for just under a 6:10. Actual split- 6:12. For mile 2 I was going for 6:16 or faster. Right on track with a 6:15. At this point I knew the real fight was beginning. Mile 3 for this race is a beast. There’s a long steep climb up West Mountain. My best time for this mile was a 6:42 but most years I’ve run it in the 7’s. Mile 3 clocked in at 6:48. A few seconds off but I was hanging in there. Mile 4 has another climb although not as long. I focused on making it through one more tough mile. (The last two miles are downhill and basically a reward for running up the first 4 miles.0. Goal for mile 4 was a 6:17. Actual split was 6:23. Once again close but a few seconds slow.
My basic strategy for the last 2 miles was to run as fast as I could and enjoy every second. I love downhill racing and don’t get to do it very often. Mile 5 clocked in at 6:07 and mile 6 was 5:53. I had someone right on my tail the entire last 2 miles and once we made it to the mile 6 marker I sprinted in as fast as I could. Jeffrey still managed to pass me in the last few seconds but I fought him off as long as I could. My last .25 was a 5:15 average pace and he was sub 5!
When I crossed the line I wasn’t sure if I managed to break 39 minutes or not. Abi told me I made it.
Official Finish Time- 38:59 (1st FOA).
Once I finished Abi and I headed over to meet Deena Kastor. She was so friendly and signed my book I’d brought and we talked for a few minutes. I’ve enjoyed reading her book about the importance of thinking positive in training and racing.
After our visit with Deena I headed back to find Rocky who was still running the 10k.
I finished the last part of his race with him and then we found my dad and met up where they had all of the post race food tents. This race does a great job of providing several food options. I left the kids with my dad and then my sister and I went for a cool-down.
This race was also the RRCA State Championship 10k and I won a gift card to Dick’s sporting goods. Tara placed in her AG and we found out my dad was 2nd in his AG.
All in all a fun morning in Hot Springs! So glad I was able to share this experience with my kids, my sister, and my dad.
Now for a racing break so I can get back to marathon training!!