The Tidewater Striders Distance Series is a set of three races (20K, 25K and 30K) spaced about every three weeks designed to help prepare runners for the March Shamrock Marathon. It also includes a 10K, 15K and 20K for runners preparing for the Shamrock half marathon. A great way to get your long runs in while running/competing with other runners and having a good time.
I had planned to do the whole series last year but was only able to complete the 20K because of some bad shin splints that I had been nursing for a few months. I had hoped to run this race in a time of about 1:35 last year but because of the shin pain was only able to manage a 1:44. After finishing, I was barely able to walk for nearly a week and took a total of five weeks off to give it a chance to heal.
This year I am healthy and my fitness seems to be improving with every training cycle and even though I was thinking of this as more of a training run, since I had just raced a 5K on the 1st and my training was just kicking in strong the rest of week, but the competitor in me wouldn't let me.
My goal for this race was to start off slow and finish strong around 1:25. The race is run on Fort Story in Virginia Beach, which I think is probably the best place to run in all of South Hampton Roads because of the variety of winding road and hills...probably the only hills you will find in this area...also the scenery is great with the trees, beach and did I mention hills! So I love to run races there and I seem to do very well.
I got there early to register and signed up for all three races in the series, got my chip and went back to my truck to get ready for the race. It was very cold out initially and I warmed up in my warm-up pants and a hoody by running the course backwards up the finishing hill and then running a portion of the start for about 16-17 minutes. I then ditched everything except my running shorts and shirt and headed to the start line. I tried to keep in the middle of the runners to let them shield me from the cold and wind about 4-5 yards from the front.
At 9:00, the starting horn squeaks...I think it froze up a bit from the cold...and we all start running. The 10K and 20K runners all start at the same time with the 10K runners only running one loop of the course while the 20K runners run two loops. So it's quite crowded at the start. After making the first turn I finally free myself from most of the crowd of runners and spy Steve ahead and move up to run with him a bit. I knew he was planning a 6:26 per mile pace and thought I would try to keep up with him as much as possible. After making another turn and going up a slight incline we pass the first mile and it comes in at 6:25...so I figure I haven't slowed him up much. The second mile is along Atlantic Ave next to the beach and it comes in at 12:47. We make a left turn away from the beach and make the third mile in 19:30...our slowest mile and I mention to Steve to not let me slow his pace down, but he says it's still fine. Mile four comes in at 26:00 and we start up the first of two hills on the 10K loop and back down the other side making a hard left turn and back to the level road heading to mile 5. He mentions that a runner about 75 yards ahead is Dave McDonald...a former US Olympic Marathon trials qualifier and soon after Steve picks up the pace and I wish him a good run as he pulls ahead. Mile five comes in at 32:34. Steve soon catches Dave and passes him and I set my sights on Dave to use him to pace off of. We make an out and back turn before the second hill in the 10K loop and I can see who is chasing me. I see my main competitor in my Age Group about 50 yards back and then the first female and then a guy in the 55-59 AG whom I had chased to the finish at the Cape Henry 10 miler...now he was chasing me. These three were the ones I was most interested in keeping ahead of. I didn't see mile 6 but going across the start line for the second loop I noticed the finish clock reading 40:30..something and know that I am on a good pace.
The runners in the race have thinned out considerably now since most were only running 10K and are no longer with us. I could still see Dave McDonald ahead of me about 50 yards out and kept pace with him...otherwise it was kind of lonely. Mile seven comes in at 46:13 and then I hear heavy steps behind me. It seems to be keeping pace with me going up Atlantic Ave again, and I know that it's my main competitor. Just before the eight-mile mark he passes and I try to keep pace with him. Mile eight comes in at 52:55. Between miles 8-9 he steadily pulls ahead and mile 9 comes in at 59:52. We come up the first hill again and back down the other side and mile 10 comes in at 1:06:51...almost two minutes faster than my Cape Henry 10 miler but I hear someone bearing down on me. I miss mile eleven but at the out and back before the final hill, I see that the runner hot on my six is the first female and I'm not about to let her catch me. At this time I pass Dave and start up the final hill and try to increase my pace. I reach the top and race down the other side and mile twelve comes in at 1:20:34 and I also hear some one cheering me on...it was Steve's wife Ally and this gave me a bit of a boost.
As I made the hard left turn at the bottom of the hill, I looked over up the hill to see who was behind me and found that the nearest runner was quite a ways away. Racing around the final turn to the finish I see Steve and he cheers me on too. I cross the finish line with the clock reading 1:23: something...A nice feeling that I made it under 1:25.
I found out later that my age group was very competitive today. There were five of us that came in under 1:24 with my 1:23:19 coming in 4th and I think 17th overall. Checking last year's race results, 1st in AG 50-54 came in at 1:24:50...we all must be getting better with age!
There were 33 finishers in the Male 50 to 54 age group and 257 total finishers.
Overall finish place was 17 of 257
Age group finish place was 4 of 33
Time: 1:23:19 for an overall pace of 6:43 per mile