It’s hard to believe during the thick of training—at mile 17 of a 20-mile run, or when you’re sore and tired from lifting during an uninspired cross-training workout—that your hard work will, at some point, pay off with increased speed and strength. Especially when you’re first starting out, or just coming back from an injury, pregnancy or other forced hiatus, it can feel like you’ll never get to the point where your workouts leave you feeling good rather than dejected.
A couple weeks ago, I wrote that after months of hard work and patience, I got a boost in my wrist’s strength and range of motion seemingly overnight, saying it was like the way Hemingway describes a man going broke: “gradually, and then suddenly.” This past week, the same thing happened with my running legs. My weeks of slow, painful training runs and exhausting swims and hill workouts finally paid off with a fast (for me!) 10K on Sunday: I ran the Capitol Hill Classic 10K in 50:35—slightly over eight-minute miles, which was fast enough to get 31 out of 323 women in my age group (which I’ll only be in for another three days!).
Even if my time hadn’t been so ego-boosting, I would be raving about this cool, low-key race, which benefits the neighborhood’s elementary school. The packet pickup takes place in the school itself, with the bag drop in the playground outside. This set the tone for a friendly race, unfriendly hill notwithstanding (we’ll get to that …).
I started the race with no time expectations for myself. I thought a good race would mean less than nine-minute miles, but prepared myself to go even slower. I started the race with Steve, and felt all warm and fuzzy that my speedster husband was holding back to run with me through the lovely rowhouse neighborhoods in Capitol Hill.
At about the 1.5-mile mark, I glanced at my Garmin to find we were running seven-minute miles. Steve wasn’t running with me—I was running with him!
I slowed down to what felt like a sustainable pace as I started the trek around RFK Stadium. I glanced at my Garmin again to find that my “sustainable pace” means eight-minute miles again. Welcome back, legs! Thanks for showing up to the party!
I kept this up on the gentle, rolling hills on Capitol Street and Independence Avenue, as I passed lovely urban parks and neighborhoods full of dog-walking spectators. The crowd support was amazing for such a small race, and helped immensely.
I was on pace to run a sub-50-minute 10K when I caught up to two of my regular (pre-surgery) running buddies. Then came that hill. Capitol Hill only represents an 80-foot elevation increase, according to my Garmin. But that 80 feet is consolidated into a short, steep, quad-eating monster, and I dragged up it at 10-minute mile pace. What’s truly scary is thinking about how slow I would have been without the hill workouts I’ve been focusing on!
Thankfully, Capitol Hill is the last significant challenge of the race, and I managed to pick up the pace again through the lovely, flat neighborhoods leading to the finish line, after which we headed to our post-race reward: brunch at Le Pain Quotidien. I can’t be sure about this, but I think if I’d known praline butter (!) was in my future, I could have managed a bit more speed on that hill.
Have you run this race in the past? How did you fare on the hill?