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Race Report: Forks 15K

15K race report

Now that Stephen and I race more locally, we tend to hit the same events every year — and it’s a great way to track our training progress. In fact, racing close to home means you get to sleep in your own bed, stress less, know your competition, train the course, and likely have your own cheering section of adoring fans at the finish. And that’s just among many other benefits.

About a month after our entry into the spring racing season – the St. Patrick’s 4-miler – comes the Forks 15K. It’s a particularly hilly course with temperatures usually in the low 40s, and it’s a good barometer to see how half marathon training is going for the big half marathon in May.

I actually didn’t set out to PR at this year’s Forks. In fact, I’ve been so wrapped up in trying to sell our house – the stress had surely gotten to me. I spent the entire morning before the race (the start was late — at 2PM) cleaning and tidying for a house showing. But that work must have been a great warmup. What I shouldn’t have done, though, was check my phone right before heading to the start line, as we got a counter-offer on the place we’re trying to buy and it wasn’t what I had expected. Half of racing is mental, so in the future, I’ll try to avoid possible triggers!

Anyway, when we got to the start, I searched around for some of my running buddies. A lot of people had been scared away by the impending bad weather (torrential rains and possibly a winter mix), though, and I didn’t find a familiar face. So, early on my goal went from finishing with a smile on my face to finishing fast, as fast as I could. The wind was whipping and the temps were plummeting, but I had dressed for success with my favorite vest and felt comfortable and ready to go.

After the gun went off, I regretted starting so far back in the pack because I had to fight my way forward. I think a lot of newer runners were trying this race out because they gunned it that first mile and a half  … and then came the first (gentle) uphill climb. I’d say – without exaggeration – I passed like 30 people by mile 2 or 3 and continued picking off competitors as the race went on.

If you know a course intimately, it gives you the unique opportunity to practice strategy. In this case, I really did save my reserves for the uphill portions and capitalized on all the downhills (which is why it pays to practice them!). On the flats in the middle? I kept as fast as pace as I could. In fact, until mile 6, I was flying! Then a huge gust of wind took away my, well, gusto.

I’d definitely say the real race began in that last 5K. With the wind at my face, the hills piling atop one another, and the unhappy feeling of racing totally alone (somehow I landed between groups) — I was fading a bit. Somehow, my legs were keeping steady, though. I certainly attribute my PRs this year to my indoor cycling, so I think developing more muscle has helped me carrying on when things get rough.

The last two miles start with a long, rambling uphill followed by two shorter bursts of steeper hills. I looked down and shortened my stride to deal with them. Possibly for the first time ever in my five years running the race, I didn’t even consider stopping to walk a portion. When I saw I only had about a half mile to go, I sprinted. Though I hadn’t worn a watch, I just knew I’d be close to getting a PR.

The finish was in my sights and I was slightly disappointed to have not been in the 1:12s, but 1:13:20,  21, 22 … and I crossed the line at 1:13:24! That smashes my previous record (at the 2010 Boilermaker) by more than 20 seconds. And it felt great to get a good time in the distance again. My age grade for this race is 63%, which I’m more than happy with considering all the hills!

At this point, though, I’m not entirely sure my half marathon training will get me a 1:40 finish. I think something in the 1:42s is more likely, but it would still be a massive PR. I guess we shall see!

Did you race recently? How’d you do?!

Written by  Ashley Marcin.