Pre-raceThis race wasn't anywhere near my radar. Originally, I was supposed to run the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon, a fast, point-to-point race starting at GW's Mt. Vernon Estate and crossing the Potomac on the Woodrow Wilson bridge to finish at National Harbor. However, thanks to House Republicans' government shutdown the race was cancelled just a few days prior: parts of the course ran along National Park Service grounds and seeing as how they were starkly affected by the shutdown, could not provide personnel to close roads to traffic. Thus began a frantic scramble to locate a race that same weekend, all other October weekends being fully planned while acknowledging the importance of a good tune-up race.
Thanks to the excellent race finder on "Running in the USA", I came up with a shortlist of alternatives: a metric marathon by the Annapolis Striders, the Great Alleand0ny 15K in Cumberland, MD and the Delaware Distance Classic in Wilmington, an hour's drive north of Baltimore. After ruling out the metric marathon (16 miles of rolling hills seemed a tune-up overkill), I briefly debated between a race in Western Maryland versus Delaware, but opted for the latter considering the much shorter drive. As an added benefit, I noted that the race was offering price money for the top three contenders, as well as the top team. A teammate from Falls Road Running, Graham Peck, was also in the market for a race and suggested we put together a team and shoot for a win at the team competition. We narrowly missed online registration, but thanks to the leniency of race directors got a green light to compete. Graham, his sister Kaylyn, Meg, Jeremy and I made up the team.
The hour and fifteen minute ride to Wilmington was made easy with Jeremy driving and a pit-stop at Starbucks. We arrived an hour early and found an excellent race-day registration setup. After a brief warm-up we were ready to roll. Race conditions were humid and warm but at least we were spared direct sunshine thanks to thick cloud cover.
|From the left: Graham, Meg, Jeremy, myself and Kaylin.|
RaceThanks to Pike Valley's generous price purse, the race attracted numerous regional competitors. Graham led the pack and pulled ahead, and I was at 10th place from the start. The course consisted of two out-and-back loops, the first three miles long, the last 6. While the first part of the course made for a good opportunity to lock-in the tempo, the second was much more enjoyable: it followed the riverfront deeper into Downtown Delaware along the riverwalk, and a regatta taking place simultaneously resulted in a large turnout of spectators and made for some interesting navigation through the crowds. After a 4 mile long chase, I was able to catch up to and take 9th place. Unsure of how close behind the competition was, I kept pushing the pace - or better, holding on. It helped having 2 racers in my sights, and with 3 miles remaining I hoped to catch them - one or two more miles more and I may even have done so! In the end, I finished 15 seconds behind 8th place, totalling 53:18 minutes, a new PR - though this came as no surprise never having raced a 15K before! I was extremely happy with my performance and felt invigorated to aim high at my goal race in Philadelphia, now only 5 weeks away.
PostI enjoyed a peach belini courtesy of one the race sponsors - quite the treat! There was warm pizza as well, which in hindsight I should have had after our 2 Mile cooldown. Bananas, pretzels and cold beer rounded off the spread. Following awards ceremy - in which our team took home the overall men's (Graham won it), 3 age group and the team competition award, we headed to nearby Iron Hill Brewery for a post-run brunch. When we discovered that they had no brunch offerings, we ordered beers and made it lunch instead! You know you're among serious runners when even after a race, 4 out of 5 order are salad.
What a day, and one that reminded me of why I love this sport so much!