2016 Rock Run 8K
The Rock Run 8K is part of the Arkansas Grand Prix Series and is attended by runners from all over the state; the race is run along the Arkansas River Trail, with which I am very familiar, and is always well-attended. I'd planned to run in this event at the beginning of the year and, since I'd just run my "last minute" half marathon along the same trail last weekend, the course was fresh on my mind.
There are always loads of familiar faces at Grand Prix races, so I knew that I would be able to share the experience with many local teammates and running friends; in addition, two women who are members of the Oiselle Volée decided to run and I was super excited to meet up with Hallie and Karen.
Having only run this race once before, last year, on a day that had a rather rocky beginning, I was eager to put my hard work to the test and see what I could accomplish this year; in addition, thanks to a built-in PR last year, I knew I'd need to push a little harder to post a time that would satisfy me.
My coach always provides me with a great race plan but, I have to admit, the pace he suggested scared me: 8:10-8:20, which would result in about a two minute PR over last year's time. My friend and Oiselle teammate Courtney recently wrote about earning a big PR and then having the realization that ALL of your pace times/goals should now be adjusted; it's a mental challenge, to be sure.
Having said that, Coach has always set me up for success; when he gives me a goal pace, I assume that I can do it and, barring difficulties that are completely out of my control like illness or weather conditions, I usually can...as long as I provide the mental fortitude to go along with the physical ability.
The plan was to attack the race at a sustainable effort for the first few miles and to break the race into manageable chunks; in addition, I would need to shoot for pretty even splits for the first 3/4 of the race and then see if I could manage some extra effort at the end. It's easy to go out fast in shorter races, try to stay with the crowd, but then have no energy left in the final quarter of the race; instead, I wanted to aim for even to negative splits.
After months of what I call, at least for those of us in the south, "distance season," I always look forward to the shorter race distances of the summer; they provide a different kind of challenge and they are a great measuring stick of the progress we've made during the fall and winter. Even though it felt comfortable, I was excited at the start and took off at about a 7:30 pace; I gently reminded myself of the plan and backed off a little bit. I ran mile one in 8:15, right on target.
I saw so many familiar faces and smiles along the way, including that of 8-year-old Braden Eason, the young man I met during last year's race; he lost his shoe, just after the start, having been clipped by another runner, but he handled it with grace and took off again. He and his dad, Barry, provided me with so much inspiration last year and I was delighted to see them again; Braden, by the way, won his age group and set another PR.
Feeling controlled and fairly comfortable, I was able to navigate the course pretty well and finished miles two and three in 8:12 and 8:09; mile four presents a small incline which, for me, at this pace, feels like a hill, and I ran it in 8:12.
The fatigue of race pace began to settle in and I could feel myself start to drag just a bit; however, my friend and Oiselle teammate Rose mentioned to me that I needed to race for her - she's recently been sidelined and is in a boot - and so I did just that. I even smiled to myself as I started thinking about her and I picked up the pace; I decided that I wouldn't look at my watch and run as fast I could manage.
I cheated, though, with just over a half mile to go, and, glancing at the time and my pace, briefly wondered whether I could break 40 minutes; I knew that I wanted to finish strong, so I put that out of my mind and just kept going. I finished the final .97 mile (8K is such a crazy race distance!) in 7:27; thanks, Rose.
My finish time of 40:18 earned a 3rd place spot in my age group (40-44) and I was delighted to see that I'd run an average pace of 8:07; definitely quicker than I'd anticipated. I was able to share my success with some of my Hot Legs and Oiselle teammates, which made it even better. Hallie, who is brand new to the Volée, finished in the top 10 of her large and highly competitive age group (25-29) and I can't wait to see how she does in her 5K next month!
So, what's next? The 2016 RRCA National 1 Mile Road Championship, the Go! Mile, which is such an exciting race; there is no way to replicate the experience. I finished last year in 7:08, so I'm definitely hoping to beat that time on June 18. Time to get back to the track and keep working; I can't wait!