What is it about a taper week that brings out the worst self-hating demons? You’d think by this point I’d be used to it, but they get me every time. By Wednesday, I’m feeling achy and diagnosing myself with the flu or some new chronic disease. By Friday, I’m sure those niggling pains are actually torn ligaments or stress fractures.
This past week Michelle finally put a stop to all the nonsense and asked why I was freaking out that I always got like this before a race. She was right, of course. There were no upper respiratory infections or torn ligaments. It was just a big, hairy goal that was trying to knock down my confidence. I didn’t entirely succeed. Clearly, I still have a lot to learn from Deena.
After a solid spring 5k season and an age group win at my last sprint triathlon, I was feeling pretty good and decided to try to lower my 10k PR. It was my longest standing PR and I hadn’t really sniffed it in any other attempt. I’m not sure I’d come within a minute of it since setting it. But with my knee issues limiting my long runs and tri season done, I had plenty of time to devote to shorter speed work.
The problem turned out to be less the workouts, though those were pretty tough, but more in finding a 10k to actually run. Anything other than 5k’s or half-marathons seem increasingly hard to find even in running crazy New England. After a lot of searching (I wanted a well established race with a fast field), I settled on the Genesis Battlegreen 10k in nearby Lexington.
In its 23rd year supporting local community charities, the Battlegreen run offers both a 5k and 10k. A quick peek at the past results assured me that there would be people ahead of me to pace and chase. This would be my race.
After another soggy Saturday, Sunday was clear, a little breezy, but still rather mild for early November. I wouldn’t be able to blame the weather if I crashed and burned.
I registered online in advance (very reasonable cost for this race especially with advance registration) but was picking up my bib on race day. Another reason to like this race even before I toed the line. It started at 12:15! No pre-dawn wake-up call for this one. This did not stop me however, from eating my traditional race-day rice porridge which has yet to let me down in the GI department.
There was a short line inside the high school, but bib pick-up about 45 minutes before the start was easy. Parking was a bit harder, as the high school lot had filled up, but side streets near the course were still available. I didn’t opt to pay extra for a shirt and there was no additional swag bag stuff.
With the high school open, there were indoor bathrooms available along with 3 port-a-potties outside. I didn’t see too many people waiting in lines for the outside option. I imagine during colder years having the indoor option was good while you waited for the race to start. There was a small exhibitor fair on one side of the gym and two (quite good) acoustic guitar players providing entertainment on the other. Bib pickup, and later, post-race food was in the middle.
My only mild complaint of just about the whole race day experience was the start line PA-system. I was only standing maybe 20 yards and could barely make out what the race director was saying.
The 5k and the 10k shared the 5k course before the 10k went off and did a different loop for the second half of the 10k. Luckily the 5k runners had a different bib color, but still led to some interesting mental decisions for me during the first half. Is he a 10k runner or 5k? Go with this guy or hold back?
I had positioned myself in the second row so there wasn’t too much dodging and weaving even right off the line. I did my best to let the 5k guys go and settled into a pack of 5 or 6 10k folks, picking up or dropping the occasional runner.
The start was flat with a mild climb to the first half mile, then it flattened out until a steep, short climb around mile 2 (about 75 feet in a quarter mile). Thankfully, there was a nice, almost half-mile long downhill payoff once you made it to the top. This helped me recover some leg speed and get back on pace after the climb.
Mile 1: 6:24
Mile 2: 6:30
Mile 3: 6:24
I went through the 5k at just over 20 minutes, which had me right on goal pace get under 40 and way under pace to smash my nemesis PR (41:15). I didn’t know what hills were lurking in the second half, but I was feeling ok at the halfway mark. I had dropped two guys on the downhill and had 2 guys within 20 seconds of me up ahead to chase.
I found out about the hills soon enough. After a water stop just past the 5k finish, there was another short, but grinding hill. So much for feeling good. And this time there was no immediate reward of a downhill waiting. It just leveled off. I stayed tucked in five or six strides behind one guy in front of me. The second guy had stretched it out, still visible, but just barely. No one passed me and I couldn’t feel anyone that close behind when I went around corners or heard people cheering on the side.
Mile 4: 6:33
With the uphill, I was starting to slip behind pace. I needed 6:25 to make sure I got under 40 minutes.
Mile 5: 6:29
Even with a net downhill on mile 5, the race was starting to take its toll. I was working hard to stay positive and keep the legs moving. I knew going into the race that I was trying to squeeze an 8-week training cycle into about 5 weeks. Even with my tri fitness, most of my hard workouts had shown I had about 8k speed and endurance. I was just hoping the adrenaline and competitiveness would carry me the last two. Time to find out.
Climbing that hill at the start of the second half finally paid off a mile and half later when we hit the downhill. Unfortunately, the guy in front of me also got to run down that hill and was maintaining the space between us. As we turned onto the straightaway and hit the six mile mark, I was able to find a little more and use my chase position to run him down.
Mile 6: 6:18
I also managed to smash my previous PR by over 2 minutes.
Total: 39:06 (new 10k PR!)
Even with a shortened training cycle this time, looks like those 10 specific workouts paid off.
The post-race buffet definitely lived up to the hype. It’s the largest post-race spread I’ve ever seen. I think I preferred the Dover Tri breakfast spread a bit more, but this one was top notch.
I think just about every restaurant in the area must have donated food and you had your choice of anything from pizza, to sandwiches, to salad, to Indian, to bagels, to vegetarian chili. And that’s only naming a few of the options. No beer, however.
This is a well run race with a very affordable price tag, especially for the 10k. It offers a challenging, but not overwhelming, course on town streets with ample volunteers and police officers to control traffic and make sure you don’t get lost.
The post-race food spread is almost dizzying with all the options. Plus, there is live music and some activities, like face painting and balloon animals, for the kids.
If you are looking for a late season local 10k (or 5k) before the holidays, the Battlegreen Run is definitely a race I’d recommend.