I wasn’t feeling too stoked for today’s Pacific Grove 10k when my alarm went off at 4am this morning…a combination of race anticipation but mostly anxiety from my school application process had led to yet another relatively sleepless night, and running a race at 7am was the last thing I wanted to do.

Fast forward a few hours, however, and I am so grateful that I participated! Why is that? Because for the first time ever, I placed in a race!

My two racing buddies – Kim, the woman who cleaned my teeth, and Albert, who coaches her – picked me up at 5:15am. I started to wake up and get into the racing spirit as we chatted about our training and various other things – really lovely people! It was also quite convenient that Kim’s parents were volunteering for the event, and had already picked up our numbers (mine was 10019 – old NYC zip code!) and bags, and later on, watched our stuff. Nothing like a bit of VIP treatment!

I had pictured the Pacific Grove 10k as a smallish event, with around one hundred or so runners. I had also imagined a bustling race atmosphere, given that the 10k fun run was part of a much larger triathlon event, and chilly but sunny weather (according to the weather report, at least). Therefore, I was quite surprised when we showed up to the race village at 6:15am for the 7am start, and not only was it still pitch black out, but there was no one there! Everything was set up, but completely dead, with only a few volunteers out and about. Finally at around 6:45ish, some runners started to appear, triathletes started to gather in the transition area (their event started at 7:30) and the sky slowly brightened (although it remained quite foggy and chilly). Here are a few photos to give you a sense of what it was like, merely 20 minutes before the start.

 

A few minutes before 7am, I approached the start line with my two running buddies. A very enthusiastic race organizer said a few words of welcome on the microphone, as if he were speaking to a massive crowd. I looked behind me and practically started laughing when I realized only about 40-50 people were participating in the event! The course also turned out to be three laps – not exactly exciting, but the route was along the water with beautiful views, and I do love my three-lap 10k courses for pacing purposes.

I set off aiming to run the first two laps at marathon pace (8:15ish) and the last lap at tempo pace (7:23ish). However, with such a small field and a pretty fast course, we found it hard to put on the brakes and ended up running between 7:49 and 8:01 for the first four miles. A part of me wanted to just go all out and see if I could break 45 minutes, but I knew I had to hold back for tomorrow’s 15 miler, plus I was having fun chatting with Kim and Albert. By the last lap, I was itching to pick up some speed and squeeze in my planned tempo session, so I bumped up the pace to the finish. Check out my Garmin details for my splits and a map of the course, and the photos below to see me in action (sorry for the horrible quality).

   

My injured areas were feeling a bit tight, and my gel belt (which I wore with 5 gels to practice for the marathon) was loose and bouncing around everywhere (I forgot to tie a knot to keep the tightened belt in place – drove me crazy), but otherwise, I felt really good throughout. What a contrast to the Reykjavik 10k only three weeks earlier – I felt pretty good then too, but it was a MUCH harder effort and only 24 seconds faster! I still have a ways to go, but it’s a relief to see proof that I am finally starting to recover my fitness!

The real confidence booster, however, was hearing my name and hometown announced on the loudspeakers (which rarely happens for me) as I sprinted towards the finish and crossed the line in 47:10, and being told as I was handed a cup of water that I was the first female and fourth overall finisher! Had I actually raced it, I probably would’ve come in 2nd. I couldn’t believe it – well, I guess I could having looked at my fellow runners, but still – this is the first time I’ve actually placed in a race! Even though my race time isn’t anything to brag about and the competition wasn’t exactly fierce, it still made me incredibly happy. Kim and Albert came in just after me – it was a great workout for all of us!

I was even more excited when I saw the official results! Check this out – my name is listed first in the top 10 women finishers, even above the winning female triathlete, which is quite hilarious, given her 10k time was nearly 10 minutes faster than mine! But hey – I’m not complaining…although I think I CAN complain about the fact that they said I’m 30 years old, when I still have a full week of racing left as a 29 year old!! Oh well…have to start getting used to seeing the big 3-0 next to my name anyway!

*Slight update on the above – over the course of the day the results have shifted, obviously, to showcase the triathletes with crazy fast times…however I’m still top of the list when you search a few of the results options!

Several hours later, I’m a bit sore and very tired, but my spirits are high and my ego has received a sizable boost. So if you’re approaching a big race and your confidence levels are starting to sag, try entering a local race and see if you can place in it! It’s an awesome feeling, regardless of finishing time and/or competitor field…

Here are a few more photos from the race:

   

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