Last Saturday was the 38th annual Spring Thaw, which is a 10, 15, and 20 mile race held at North Park. I signed up for the 10 mile race this year, because it fell perfectly in conjunction with my marathon training plan. Last year, I signed up for the 20 mile option and ended up dropping to 15. I was in the midst of training for the JC Stone 50k, and most of my training had been done around that 5 mile lake loop. I attribute this over-training and lack of variety to my drop in the race. This year, though, I’ve been doing things the right way.
This was my third 10 mile race – I recapped my first and second 10 milers previously on the blog. My 10 mile PR was one hour, fifty nine minutes, and one second, which is an average of 11:54 per mile. I’ve been training hard to run faster than this, and Saturday’s 10 mile training run was supposed to be run at race pace (i.e., my marathon goal pace) which is 10:15/mile. If I was able to keep race pace, I would be looking at a new 10 mile PR.
Despite the race not starting until 10am, I arrived by 8:30 in order to get decent parking. The lot I usually park in was full, so I ended up getting (what I thought) was rock-star parking, in a lot directly above the finish line. I got my gear together and headed over to the Rose Barn, where registration was taking place, to see if any of my fellow Runners of Steel had arrived. We planned to take a group photo before the race and to coordinate pace groups.
For all of our long runs, we’ve been breaking into small pace groups. As a mentor, I’ve been consistently leading the 11:00 pace group, which is also my long run pace. We’ve been having so much success running as a group, so I suggested that we try to get together before the race and run together.
I felt nervous, because
I had skipped a few runs lately I had not run the lake loop since the Just a Short Run 30k last year, which was an awful experience (again, due to over-training). I knew the hills and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep the pace. As the race started, the first mile was so incredibly packed that I figured that would keep us on pace (slower, instead of starting too fast). Instead, the first mile flew by and was my fastest mile at 9:37. Uh, oops.
Obviously, this pace allowed me to warm up very quickly. I rolled up my sleeves and took off my gloves within the first two miles. My friends Michael and Jen were at the finish line to cheer us on, so I hoped to be able to hand off the gloves as I finished my first lap.
I ran with a few people – Keith, who I’ve been running most of my Saturdays with, but who has gotten progressively faster and I can no longer keep up with him! There was Francie and Steven, who were running 15 for the day, and Nancy, who was running 20! The four of us ended up running together for most of my race. It was great to have fellow Steel City folks to chat with and basically just hang out with. We had an awesome time and soon the first lap was over. I never thought of running as a social event until I began training with the group this year, and now I wonder how I managed my 15, 20, 25, and 30 miles runs on my own last year.
I had brought a Clif Shot gel to take after mile 5, along with my own fuelbelt with Nuun-enhanced water. This is what I’ve been training with, and I wanted to have that same thing on race day. Also, I don’t like to stop (anymore) while I’m racing, because it makes starting up all the more difficult. Plus, having my own water means I never have to wait for an aid station. I may end up doing this on marathon day, too.
As we rounded the bend to the finish line/timing mats, I was able to hand off my gloves to Michael. I was really grateful – holding onto the gloves for another 5 miles would have kicked my paranoia into gear, because I kept thinking I had lost one, despite them both being in my hands. I don’t need to worry about such things when I’m racing!
I completed my first five mile loop in 50:56, which was a massive improvement over last year’s first lap of 1:03:46. To be fair, I thought I was running 20 miles that day, but still. I was thrilled with my time. My prior fastest lap was exactly 60 minutes, at last year’s March Mad Dash. Pretty awesome progress! We began the second loop and I felt good – I knew exactly what was coming, and I was ready to keep pushing with my fast friends.
I know if I hadn’t been running with Steven, Nancy and Francie, I would not have pushed my pace as much as I did. It was an interesting thought, one I’ve not yet figured out: how will I know the difference between pushing the pace, and just plain running too fast too early? Perhaps I won’t really know until I’ve run too fast too early.
We were about a mile into our second lap when we came up on a fellow Steel City runner (seriously, we were everywhere in this race. The gear made it easy to spot each other!) who was walking ahead of us. I called out “You’re doing great!” as we passed, and she started running with us. Her name is Jenni (yay, new friends!) and she said what I’ve often thought during races: sometimes you just need that simple encouragement from a total stranger to inspire your legs to get moving. Jenni stayed with us for a little while and dropped back when some of the angrier hills appeared.
Soon we were within about a half mile of the finish line and I realized that I still had gas in the tank and it was time to turn up the heat. As this point another Runner of Steel, Dave, had caught up with us, and he ran with me to the finish. We left Francie and Nancy behind, since they had many more miles to go. We rounded the bend in the parking lot and full-out sprinted across the finish line to excited cheers from Jen, Michael, Shannon, Lori, Keith (fasthole), and other Steel City folks. I lit up when I heard the cheers and when I saw the clock! My second lap was 50:33.
When I finished, my Nike+ watch told me that I had a new 10k PR of 1 hour 2 minutes. It did not inform me of a 10 mile PR (because maybe it only does 5k and 10k?), but I had in fact earned a new 10 mile PR of 1:41:28. That’s an 17 and a half minute improvement over March of last year! That’s pretty awesome. Fun fact: I was also 10 pounds heavier when I previously PR’d. Losing weight plus consistent training makes Lora faster. Yay!
Unfortunately, my happiness was short-lived. While I hung out at the finish line for a while, watching and cheering on other runners, unbeknownst to me, someone was hitting my parked car. They selfishly didn’t leave a note, despite having hit my car two separate times – no way they didn’t realize it. My not-even-a-year-old car is scratched and dented.
Somehow in my 14 years of driving, I’ve never been hit before (without someone leaving a note), so I wasn’t entirely sure what to do. I changed into a dry shirt and walked back down to the finish line area, but stopped to talk with an Allegheny County police officer. They were blocking traffic for the race, as they always do at North Park events, so I asked him what he thought I should do. He said there wasn’t much they could do for hit and run incidents, and I said that it certainly could have been worse. He advised calling my insurance company. I thanked him for his advice and headed back to my friends at the finish line, where I ran to get into this picture!
I’m glad I could smile despite the circumstances. I had an amazing race and it shows!
While I was hanging out, the police officer I had talked with found me and said that he had looked at my car – the damage was more than he thought based on my description, so he said he would have someone come take photos and a report. This perked me up a little bit – it was significant enough to warrant a report. I waited for another officer to arrive and we surveyed the damage together – not just to my car, but the park itself.
He took photos and my information, and during this a girl walked over and said that she had seen a woman in a small silver SUV hit my car – it actually interlocked with my passenger side mirror, which was folded in as a result. She didn’t get a license plate number (I really really really wish she had), but at least it was something to go on.
The fact that it was most likely a fellow runner, or a fellow runner’s supporter, really bummed me out. I mean, we were all there for the same reason: to run a race. Perhaps it’s naive of me, but I feel a kinship with other runners. It’s come to the point where I see a person running and think, “Oh, a runner! Do I know them?” It’s frustrating to think that this woman hit my car not once, but TWICE, and felt okay about fleeing the scene without leaving a note. It also goes to show you that you can commit a crime with hundreds of people around and get away with it.
Finish line photos were released from Elite Runners & Walkers, the race sponsor, and I decided to do a little (read: A LOT of) detective work. I managed to narrow down the timeline and guess what Detective Lora found? Photos of the vehicle hitting my car. And photos of people who were complicit in this woman’s crime, because they helped to push her car out of the mud. I’m glad they all felt that there was nothing wrong with helping her leave the scene. At any rate, I sent the photos to the police, and I’m hoping they can use them.
What irritates me the most? I did nothing wrong, and I have to pay for it. Her selfishness took away from what should have been an amazing day for me. It dulled my accomplishment. She obviously went about her day feeling fine, and I’m left with the consequences. Please: if you ever see someone commit a hit and run, take a photo or write down their license plate number. Even a few numbers plus the make of the vehicle would help in these kind of situations.