' Towpath Ten-Ten 2016 Race Recap | Adventures with FitNyx

Friday, August 5, 2016

Towpath Ten-Ten 2016 Race Recap

Oh yeah, it's Towpath time again!  I won't take too much time to reiterate my love of the Towpath races, since I've already posted about it several times back in April and will probably end up posting about it again in October as the Towpath Marathon approaches (I'm registered for the October half, too, to complete the trilogy), but I WILL say once again that I'm always honored to be sharing the Towpath courses with the runners who support one of Ohio's best and most beautiful landmarks.

Last year's Ten-Ten was my first race upon coming back home to Cleveland.  This year, the race became my first-ever repeat race!  I loved the course last year, running in the valley under some historic railway bridges and through some of the gorgeous parkways that line the 100 mile stretch of the Ohio Canal, but last year's race had been overshadowed by the beginnings of my divorce and my (then unwanted) move from Illinois to Ohio.  This year, though, I approached this race with exactly the opposite life situation.  The weather matched: instead of last year's dreary rain and gross humidity, 2016 brought nothing but sunshine for race day.

My Gypsy Runner shorts have joined my favorite Hylete
tank as go-to race gear.

I actually arrived very early to the race, to assist my fellow race manager with data entry for race day registrations.  I'd also worked the packet pickup at Quaker Steak and Lube the day prior - anything to stay involved with my favorite race team!  After spending the early hours inputting runners for the timing equipment, I hustled over to the starting line to hand off the race files before lining up to run.  I know so many more people in the local running community now, I'm almost never without friends at a race, and I was able to squeeze in with some of my race acquaintances while we waited for the starting bell.  Suddenly we were moving - races always start so suddenly, it seems - and I had 10 miles of Towpath between me and my next medal.

Since my half marathon PR pace is roughly 10:15/mile, I was aiming to do about that for this race, only two weeks after the Hill Yeah! half marathon I'd run (though that had not been at my PR pace).  I don't run by my watch, I run by feel, so I set off at what I thought was a moderately brisk pace.  The advice is usually to run negative splits (to make your later miles faster than your early ones) but I knew how quickly the valley would heat up, and wanted to get the quicker miles behind me before the heat became more intense.  Still, I was very surprised to hear my GPS click through one mile with a time of almost 9 minute even!  Apparently I was feeling pretty good and started off even quicker than anticipated.  I tried to slow just a bit, but my next few miles were all about a full minute faster than my goal pace - and my legs didn't seem to want to let up!

Lush green vegetation, beautiful rippling water, and
oh-so-much sun.  Perfect day.

The heat started to set in.  I wasn't running with anyone, but many of the 10k participants and the lead 10 milers were starting to pass me on the way back to the finish line, so I started cheering for everyone who passed.  One of the things I've noticed about my racing is that, on courses that loop back and allow runners to pass in both directions, cheering on my fellow racers actually keeps me moving faster and feeling stronger.  When I take the focus away from how I feel and just try to have fun and encourage people, I guess I ignore the part where my legs are tired and it's getting warm!  I carried my 9-ish minute pace through about seven of the ten miles this way.

Finally, midway through mile seven, I started feeling a little twinge in my hamstring, which grew into a more hampering pain over the next mile or so.  I had to walk a little and stretched out my stride to help ease the tension.  With the heat rising by the minute, though, I instituted a little rule that I've used in several long runs since: I can only walk in the shade, never in the sun.  So I walked under the last bridge, and once again under some trees, but I pushed myself to keep moving and keep the legs turning over.  Before long, the finish line was in sight, and though I was starting to struggle, I knew I could make it.  My final time was 1:37:47 - a 10 mile PR for me by almost 10 minutes!  Even after walking and slowing considerably at the end of the race, I had gotten the legwork (pun intended) done early and learned that a sub-10 pace was totally do-able over this kind of distance.  I snagged my well-earned medal, stopped by the massage therapy tent to have my hamstring tended (by a former teammate from an old soccer team, ironically - I know people everywhere it seems!), then booked it over to Quaker Steak for the brunch buffet before heading home for some even more well-earned rest!

Towpath Ten-Ten Breakdown

Organization: Do I have to say it again?  Canalway Partners runs some of the best races around, and truly some of the best races I've run across several Midwestern states.  Throw in the partnership with my own beloved Hermes for top-notch timing and management, and you've got a sure recipe for success.  Packet pickups are smooth and the staff knowledgeable (okay, so in this case the staff was ME but that just makes it even more accurate, eh), race day moves efficiently even with the starting line a bit of a hike from available parking, post-race food is always filling and delicious, and every face is friendly, from the ample awesome volunteers (okay, so in this case most of the volunteers are good friends of mine but again, that doesn't make it less true) to the regular staff that works year-round to support the Towpath and the Trilogy.

The Course: Always beautiful and sometimes surprisingly secluded, running on the Towpath feels like I'm hundreds of miles away from civilization.  Only a small stretch of the course runs along buildings and businesses, and though we cross under a handful of bridges, so much of the trail is surrounded only by the canal on one side and trees on the other.  It's quiet, peaceful, and in the morning hours, a showcase of sunrise in the valley.  Miles are marked for both the 10k and 10 mile races, and though the path is not incredibly wide, there always seems to be plenty of space for two-way traffic.  Great course, fun to run, perfect for getting a little lost in your tunes or your thoughts for a while, and definitely one I'll do every chance I get.

That's a heck of a medal - if you can see it with such
a crazy bright shirt next to it!

The Swag: Towpath races are usually a little pricey if you don't register pretty early, but this is one organization that definitely uses the money for their cause.  In the past year, Canalway Partners has broken ground on two amazing new parks, hosted repeated graffiti and trail cleanups, and extended the trail restoration project to give us even more exquisite trail.  Plus, racers always get a tech shirt and the 10 milers receive a very cool medal, which this year was almost twice the size of last year's.  Oh, and let's not forget the all-you-can-eat brunch buffet at Quaker Steak afterwards!  It's a race that gives generously to participants but even more generously to the community, and to me, that's always money well spent.

The Bottom Line: Can you guess what I'm gonna say here?  RUN TOWPATH RACES!  They're awesome!  If you need more convincing, shoot me an email and I'll give you the best word vomit you've ever seen about every incredible detail.  Try me.  Or don't and just trust me - and come run with me in October!

Do you have a favorite race you run every year?  What makes your favorite repeats so special?  What is your favorite cause to run for?

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