Back on the Track! Poppy’s Bucknell Outdoor Classic 10k Race Report!

slack_for_ios_upload_1024In college I raced the 10k for Bucknell all four of my undergraduate years. However, since we didn’t have any home meets with a 10k race, this past Saturday, almost 16 years after I graduated, was the first time I raced a 10k on the Bucknell track.

I’ve been looking forward to this moment since a few years ago when we moved back to Lewisburg, PA, the home of my alma mater. I was tempted to do it in 2014 when I was pregnant with daughter, Emmy (in the slow heat, of course) and had planned to do it last year to jump start my post-partum marathon training, but opted out after a mid-March shit-show of a half-marathon in DC caused by all the hormone whackiness.

Finally, the stars lined up and a track 10k fit into my training schedule. I was so excited when I penciled the Bucknell Bison Outdoor Open 10k in my calendar!

In discussing race plans with my husband-coach, he suggested I run the first few 400 meter laps around 88 seconds (5:52 pace) and then hopefully bring it down later. I felt I could do better than 5:52 pace and husband-coach did say that the plan was to at go out around 88s so I considered ignoring him, but then I thought better of it, reminding myself that many of my successful college 10ks were run by following Coach Gulden’s plan of keeping it conservative early on and really picking it up over the last two miles. My dear college coach always said that a 10k was a four-mile tempo, or “power run” in his words, and a two-mile race. Words to live by for any 10k racer!

Off the line I tried to settle into what felt like 5:52. I also tried not to get too jostled around by the 29 other women in the race. It felt like we were jogging the first mile or two. The first lap was slower than I’d planned. From there, the splits yo-yo’d a bit because I made an effort to tuck behind anyone who seemed to be running a pace I was looking for. It seemed, though, that whenever I’d find someone to sit on, they’d slow down within a lap or two.

Mr. Paul
I’m second from left (#12) and this is between the third and fourth miles. Photo by Mr. Paul of Paul Portraits.

Finally, during the third mile one of the college gals took off and brought most of the gals who were sitting behind me with her. I could feel their pace increasing significantly, but this wasn’t in my plan, so I let them go a bit and fell back a touch. I kept clicking off 87/88 seconds per lap (5:48 – 5:52 pace) and eventually pulled back up to the lead pack by the fourth mile. As I caught up to the leaders I realized that I felt really good and could comfortably pick up the pace, so I  started to pass them one-by-one and focused on reeling in the gals still in front of me.

When I got to lap 16 (of 24) I realized how strong I felt and told myself now I just have one more 3200 rep to go. I felt a lot like I did during a killer 3 x 3200 workout I did back in March which I finished with an 11:27. I mentally grabbed ahold of that workout and convinced myself I could repeat that last rep over these last eight laps. Just as I did this, Spoon’s My Mathematical Mind popped into my head. Specifically, these lyrics:

My mathematical mind can see the breaks
So I’m gonna stop riding the brakes
No more riding the brakes

I felt freaking awesome those last two miles, especially the last 1600. I kept passing people, feeling strong and fast. I had no idea if I was lapping runners or if the girls I passed were ahead of me as I moved up in the ranks. Either way, it was great momentum to have people to focus on to reel in. I told my husband before the race that I wanted my last lap to be my fastest. I’ve had trouble closing in races or at least generating any kind of kick. As I got to the last lap I tried my best to shorten my stride and really turn it over. I was pretty psyched to see that my last lap was indeed my fastest, an 81 (5:24 pace).

When I crossed the line I did not feel tired. I think I said to my husband that I could keep going at that pace. It felt like I had just finished a workout, not a race. I had the feeling of oh no, I didn’t push as hard as I could have. The hubs told me to wait until adrenaline wore off before making a full assessment on that. When we were back home I finally saw the results that I had finished 3rd. The 1st and 2nd place gals were 35:33 and 35:42.

I had a few reactions to this. First, I had no idea what place I was because I was passing so many people at the end. I thought maybe I was 5th or 6th, so I’m pretty jazzed to see I finished higher. I am also pleased to have finished higher than my seed time and position and that I only got beat by two youngsters.

Second, even now that the adrenaline has worn off, I think I could have possibly run in the 35:40’s. However, it’s hard to say if I had gone out harder if I would have felt as I good as I did in the second half of the race. Maybe it would have meant doing more solo work and not having the momentum of people to pass like I did with going out at 5:50s.  Maybe it would’ve meant I hanging on and not fading versus feeling strong and getting progressively faster the last two miles. I know that I can run faster. I would love to do another track 10k this spring, but don’t really think I will have an opportunity.

Emmy helping me check the results.
Emmy helping me check the results.

This was such a fun experience. I’ve wanted to race a 10k at Bucknell for so long, as an alumna and as a member of the Bucknell community now. It was nice to finally be running on the track I practice on alone in the early hours of the morning with other people! It was really great to witness so many great Bucknell student performances:  Chrissy demolishing the 1500 school record (4:19.99!); Kate breaking the 5k school record (16:38); and LJ running a 3:45 in the 1500. Seeing the phenomenal performances by the Bucknell kids really fed the positive energy I had going into my own race. Also, really thankful my mom was able to stay with the kids, so the ol’ husband-coach could be there for the race.

If anyone is looking for a quality open track meet on the east coast, I highly recommend this one.  I know weather can be a gamble in the spring in the mid-Atlantic, but we’ve lived in Lewisburg now for 2.5 years and have been to the last three Bison Outdoor Classics.  All three have had really great weather.  The fast heats of the distance races take place from 8pm on and the temps are usually a good bit cooler than the daytime highs. Additionally, the wind tends to die down by the time the night races start. This may not be the meet to run an Olympic A standard, but it is pretty competitive for those of us that are the next level or two down.

Splits for the nerds:
2:56.68 (TPS missed first 400 split)
88.70 [5:51]
87.47 [5:52]
86.39 [5:51]
2:55.41 [5:51]
87.01 [5:45]
85.17 [5:42]

last 3200 in 11:21, last 1600 in 5:37
1st 5k 18:16, 2nd 5k 17:56

Have you ever raced a track 10k? Tell us about it!

I'm a licensed massage therapist with a background in biochemistry and also a mother of two. After almost two years of focusing on shorter race distances, I am back on the marathon training horse. My next goal race is the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. I write mostly about health and science as they relate to running as well as being part of a running family.

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  1. Congrats on your race! First, that was brave to get out there on the track with all those college girls. And you certainly held your own! Second, good job in sticking to your plan, and then meeting your goal of running faster at the end!

    1. Thanks! The thing about a track race is there’s nowhere to hide, so that was definitely a little nerve wracking when it came to considering jumping into the race….with college kids. I’m glad I did it though. It really was so fun!

    1. Thanks! This was only the 2nd 10k I’ve done on the track since graduating a looooooong time ago. Actually, in college I only ran faster than what I ran the other night one time. So it’s nice to see I can still compete with my younger self. Each time I’ve run a track 10k post collegiately, I realize why I loved it so much in college….it’s the marathon of track events. The mental approach of a track 10k and a marathon are similar. You have to zone out for the first 2/3 to 3/4 of the race and not count how many intervals you have left, at least until the very end.

  2. Really amazing. Love to see your workouts and that it all came together on the track. Tracks seem very scary to me (for racing) but it was interesting to hear how it provided an incentive for you to push in a way a road race might not. Congrats on such a great performance and in beating so many of the kids!

    1. Thanks! Yes, track racing can definitely be intimidating, especially for me after I’ve had so much focus on longer road races since graduating from college, but it can also be really fun. It helps when there are lots of other competitors to tuck in behind or key off of – takes some of the focus off what lap you are on or trying to hit splits on your own.