The leaves are turning. It’s probably me looking for symbols but I find it apt: in a couple of weeks I will be moving back to NYC after a 4-year absence to start a completely new job. These are rather hectic days — movings are never easy — and bound to become more and more so, but I can’t leave the Valley without one final race, a farewell of sorts.
Part of Conway’s Festival of the Hills, Covered Bridge 10k is one of the toughest courses I’ve run to day: very hilly, it loops around back and dirt roads. The weather was perfect: it threatened to rain but kept a cool overcast sky that contrasts the red and yellow foliage of a rather early Fall. I am awfully undertrained but I did PR by 2 minutes: why are 10k’s so rare?
The pre-race plan to run with CW who was shooting a sub-45 10k blew as soon as Marc tagged along to pace me. The first mile, a net downhill, went by in around 6:20, a pace I can’t keep in such a hilly course. As soon as the hills started, i.e., right after the first mile marker, the pace slowed down to high-6, low-7. The second mile marker was in 6:40 and I was still far from the real hills. When the real game started, that is, when the paved road turns into a nice dirty roads around farms and meadows, and when I was topping one hill to only find a longer and steeper awaiting, my pace slowed to around 7:15, 7:20; the always chatty Marc kept me company and we chit-chatted a bit, which means I was answering his questions with monosyllables and grunts.
We played cat and mouse with the first woman, a very strong climber; sometimes ahead, sometimes behind, and shouting splits, we worked together for a couple of miles. My legs turned lead for the last two miles and I was breathing hard, trying to consciously relax. I complained already about the erratic training of September, and I don’t feel like wasting more time on the subject, but it totally showed today in Conway; hopefully I’ll be able to return to a comfy, monotonous schedule and fit some good miles into it, I would hate not to be able to run Monson or any of the great races coming up in NYC.
The last two miles were a battle of will and determination. I kept up with Marc as much as I could (more likely, he slowed down to my pace) and looked for competition to motivate the running: when the first woman surged I tried to match to no avail, then was Jamie who caught up with me. With 200 yards to go, I tried to move away from Jamie and shorten the gap with whoever was in front of me (at that point, Marc picked up the race to then finish in an easy sub-42); Jamie surged back and then no matter how hard I ran I couldn’t fill the gab.
I finished in 42:33, not too shabby all things considered. My previous 10k PR was 44:15 set at Bridge of Flowers, which makes me think a sub-40 on an easier, more flat course could be within my possibilities.