Today was my first race of the season, the Sandhofen 10km road race (also, incidentally, the first official road race I have ever run in my life). Sandhofen is a small town just to the north of Mannheim. Today was a beautiful sunny day, with a high of about 18 degrees Celsius, and I was anxious to get a race under my belt. The course consisted of two laps of a route that went first out of town through some country roads, then back into the town with a finish around the track. The start is visible in the picture, with the track just out of the frame to the left. There was a 5km race that started at 14:30 and then the 10km race kicked off at 15:30 (earlier there were also events for kids, such as the Bambini Lauf, so it was a fun family day with a festive atmosphere in the warmer weather).
I had to get to Mannheim on the tram, which took about an hour and a half, and arrived at the race location at 14:00, in plenty of time to pick up my start number, get changed, have a quick look at the course, and warm up. With a short-distance race, I didn’t have to worry too much about nutrition, but I nonetheless think that I handled this well: I had a good lunch at noon that was well digested by the time the gun fired, and I kept well hydrated. Once I’d warmed up and was all set, I tried to take a pre-race photo of myself with my phone for the blog. This is something I had never done before, a lack of experience that showed in the final product:
Because the sun was in my eyes, I simply look angry in the photo…. but I wasn’t angry, just half blinded by the sun (on which, more later). About ten minutes before the start of the race, I gathered with the crowd on the start line and waited. There were just over 600 people running the race, and I had a pretty good position towards the front. Given the narrow road, the start was packed and it quickly became hard to move (a common element of start lines, I suspect). When the gun went off, the first 200 metres were a game of jostling for enough room in which to run, but after about a kilometer the pack had separated into groups and spread out across the course. I actually think this helped me in the beginning not to set off at too quick a pace. I am not the best at pacing: in run training earlier this week, my coach asked me to do some intervals on the track at my intended race pace for the weekend – without a watch, I set out for the first 600 at what she informed me was in fact a 3:30/km pace (=35:00/10kms), something I obviously could not hold for 10kms today. So I was conscious going in to set out at a reasonable pace.
I think that my pacing was actually reasonable through the first 6kms. As I had no watch at all (something I plan to remedy this week), I had no idea of my splits (I was not about to carry my phone with me to get splits today) or my overall time, but the pace felt right. At around the 6km mark, I realized one mistake that I made today – I showed up without a hat or sunglasses, and I was amazed at how strong the sun was. This is of course bad generally, as one should always have proper eye protection in the sun, and without a hat and sun screen I came away from the race today with a red face and top of my head. But I was also surprised at how hot the combination of sun and a bit of wind felt after 6kms. I have mostly been running in colder or cloudy weather, or in the evenings, and I simply wasn’t prepared for the sun.
I had been following a group up until that 6km point, but then backed my pace off as I was starting to feel that I was working hard and wanted to have something left at the end – this was a bit of a mental game for me, as I really wanted to keep with that group, but I also didn’t want to give too much too soon. After about 8kms, I then picked the pace back up again and, although working hard, I knew how much I had left. At this point, I passed some people who had overtaken me two kilometers earlier (which felt good: I wasn’t the worst pacer out there at least, and there were even a few people in front of me who had to stop to walk at the 8km point), even though I also got overtaken by some people who had certainly paced better than me. In the end, I was able to pick up to almost a sprint over the last 300 metres, so I definitely had something left in the tank, but I also felt I was working pretty hard over that last kilometer (more than I had expected). All in all, I think I learned a lot about the strategy of running a 10km race today and I’ll feel more confident next time I’m at the start line.
When I crossed the finish line (visible in the distance in the photograph above: this was taken well after the race was over), the only problem was that I had no idea what my time was, not having had a watch. The time was recorded on the computer, but not displayed anywhere, so I had to wait about an hour until they posted the times to find out how I’d fared. In the end, I ran a 43:46 (3oth in my age category and 123rd overall), which is a time I can be pleased about, if not thrilled. On the down side, I had set myself the goal to run sub 43:00, but on the plus side, this is the quickest time I’ve had for the 10km distance since restarting training this year. If I could do this time off the bike in a triathlon, I’d be overjoyed.
So, overall this was a good and enjoyable first race for me. The event was reasonably small, as running events go, but there were also some very good runners in attendance – I’m not sure of his exact time, but the winner today was close to the 30:00 mark, which I find impressive. It was good just to see how these people prepared for and then paced the race (as the route was a square, I could often see the leaders across the fields when we were in the countryside). Given that this was my first road race ever, today also gave me a taste of the atmosphere before a race and what kind of pre-race routine works for me. One thing, incidentally, that does not work for me is sugary tea. The race was very well organized, but I was puzzled by the fact that instead of providing water at the end, they had hot (!) sugary tea available – needless to say, this did not sit well in my stomach after running in the hot sun. Prior to the race, I thought the tea was iced without sugar and so I took a sip from a cup, before politely setting it aside upon realizing my mistake.
KT and NP stayed home today, as the travel time to the event would have made for a cranky NP, who would have insisted on trying to walk while in the tram. This meant that I didn’t get any action shots today. But hopefully they’ll be able to attend my next race in April and catch some shots of the actual race.