Race Report: Maryland Club Challenge 10 Miler

It feels like it has been an eternal winter.  Seven snowstorms totaling over 30 inches of snow has crippled much of the country and cabin fever has kicked in as we’re all forced to train indoors, rearranging schedules to train outside every chance we get a decent day.  Despite the harsh winter the weather gods seemed to be in a good mood today for the RRCA Maryland Club Challenge Ten Miler.  45 degree start at 8AM with the sun peeking through the clouds made it perfect conditions for a fast race.

Each year the top runners from the top Maryland running clubs meet up at Howard Community College to compete against each other in a ten mile rolling course through Howard County.  It’s amazing running against such great athletes and the deep field always turns out fast times.  This year, RASAC – the Harford County running club – came in hoping to improve upon 9th place last year.  Everyone brought their A game and our mens team finished 4th, while our women’s team finished a respectable 6th.  Overall, our team placed 5th.

Coming into the race I felt I was a little behind the ball in terms of speed.  I’ve managed to get in a 20 miler last weekend, but haven’t done any speed work on the track since the Half Full 70.0 in October.  I have, however, been doing some lung busting workouts on the trainer in my basement and that has definitely transferred well to my running.  The dreaded alarm went off at 5AM as I rolled out of bed and put on running shorts and tank top.  I grabbed some arm warmers, my SwiftWick socks and decided to just wear my Brooks Adrenalines instead of my racing flats.  (A big shout out to Swiftwick socks for being an awesome sponsor of MoxieNation.  Their socks are light and thin and keep your feet from sweating or chaffing.)  I drank some water, ate a banana and peanut butter, and was out the door around 5:30 to pick up Courtney and Sara at Charm City Run.

We got to Howard Community College around 7:15 and quickly hit the bathrooms and got our race numbers.  868.  I like when my bib is either an even number or the same forward and back.  The 5 minute walk to the starting line was a decent ‘warm up’ for the legs and I quickly lined up with some fellow RASAC runners.  At 8AM, the race began and we were off.

The course is a 10 mile course that keeps you honest.  The first four miles are downhill and fast, but going out too hard on this course will make you hurt the last 5, as they are mostly rolling hills that are predominately positive in elevation gain.  My goal was to keep it pretty consistent and hoped to be around 32 for the first 5 miles and 32 for the second 5.

ClubChallengeElevation

Coming off the start line the front group immediately went out at a quick clip.  I ran a 5:58 for the first mile and was still pretty far back so the front pack had to be pushing low 5’s.  I figured I’d stay conservative and slowed my pace just slightly until I found a decent group to run with.  I felt very relaxed and comfortable and maintained a 6 minute pace for the first four to five miles.  At the halfway point, you hit your lowest elevation and the remaining 5 miles are mostly uphill.  Some of the guys that went out fast at the beginning were starting to come back to me and I took advantage of the hills to really fly by people.  I love hills.  I found a couple RASAC guys around mile 5 and 6 and kept pace with them through the tougher sections of the course.  I still felt relaxed and just focused on my cadence and breathing up the steeper hills.  Our group stayed together and started picking off people one by one as we got to the tougher hills of miles 6-8.  My legs were starting to cramp and I was getting pretty bad side stitches at mile 8, but pushed through, constantly convincing myself that 2 miles is nothing.  The last 2 miles felt pretty flat, with just a slight incline to the finish at mile 10.  RASAC was sitting pretty with about 5 guys all within a minute of each other within the last mile.  There was a group of guys from Howard County right on my tail during the last mile so I started my kick early and really sprinted to the finish.  I managed to run my fastest split for the last mile of the race.  I crossed the finish line in 1:00.45 – a new 10 miler PR.  A big thanks to Jeff Burger who convinced me to race this year and to all the guys who were pushing each other during the entire race.

10milersplits

Like I said before, RASAC really brought their A game.  We managed a 4th place finish, 5 places up from last year, against some really good clubs.  We also had 4 guys dip under the hour mark and everyone who scored/displaced finished under 1:05.  Likewise, our women improved from last year and had several girls under the 1:20 mark.  Courtney and Sara both beat their times from last year as well.  Full results can be found here.

RASAC killing it at the Club Challenge - Jeff in the background pushing me the entire way

RASAC killing it at the Club Challenge – Jeff in the background pushing me the entire way

After the race Courtney and I met up with some friends at Sunny Day Cafe – the best post-run breakfast joint in Bel Air.  It seems like everyone took advantage of the weather and it was great seeing so many people out riding bikes and running up and down main street and through Bel Air.   Overall, today I had an awesome race with some amazing athletes, great friends and it was a great way to kick off 2014.  My speed isn’t too far from where I want it and I’m looking forward to throwing in more track speed work once the track clears up from the snow.  My bike workouts really pushed my fitness level to new heights this year and can’t wait to see where I am come Boston in April and Eagleman in June.  Next up – the HAT Run 50K Trail Run.

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