As part of my running one race every month goal this year, my July race was the 35th Annual Melon Run 3 Miler at Westside Park in Gainesville. I’ve run this race once before, about a decade ago as my one and only race after having my oldest son and before last year. I remember being very disappointed that my time placed me in the bottom third of the runners, so I don’t have the best associations with this race. The larger races in Gainesville (by larger, I mean more than 100 runners) tend to have a pretty fast field, with the top runners averaging around a five minute per mile pace.
But, it’s July in Florida which means that races are few and far between. And although I wasn’t looking forward to this run and I knew there was no way I was going to win my age group (like I did in my April and June races) I was still determined to do my best and beat my time from a decade ago (29:23).
It’s been raining here for days and days and I was really hoping we’d luck out and get a nice rainy morning for the race. No luck there. The race started at 8am and it was 75 degrees already with 94% humidity. Yuck! I jogged a bit before the race to warm up because I’ve noticed on my training runs that the first mile always feels harder even at a slower pace. After that short warmup, I lined up in the starting area and noticed sweat dripping down my legs already. Not a good sign when I knew I had three miles of running ahead of me.
The start area was pretty crowded:
I lined up around the middle of the pack. I got my Garmin all ready to go and was chatting with another runner about my Surf City SparkleTech when the race started. The first mile was slightly uphill, then we turned onto a sidewalk. I felt pretty good and once we started moving there was a little breeze which helped with the heat and humidity. Sort of. A bit. Considering:
When we were running on the sidewalk, it was hard to get past slower runners and I had another crazy mini-race with a pre-adolescent boy who apparently did not want to be passed by a girl in a skirt. As soon as I passed him, he sped up and got back in front of me and then slowed down. So the next time I passed him and he tried that game, I pushed it harder until he dropped back. Silly! You can see below where I bumped up the pace to leave him in the dust (sorry if that sounds mean, but I didn’t have time to worry about some strange kid’s ego!).
Then we rounded the park’s corner and headed up the road that leads to The Hill. The Hill is a horrid cruel hill. So you can only imagine how thrilled I was to discover that we were cutting through on the boardwalk BEFORE The Hill. Whew, what a relief! The boardwalk was pretty wet from the rains we’d been having but I didn’t see anyone slip. Here’s the course map.
There was a water stop around 1.5 miles and I grabbed a cup but didn’t realize it was only maybe 1/3 of the way full until I was too far to get another. I was pretty thirsty but decided it was time to “suck it up buttercup” and power through to the end. I have trouble figuring out the proper level of effort in a race. I’m afraid to push it too hard, especially before the last mile, because I’ve overexerted at the beginning of a race before and did not enjoy that at all. But when I get to the finish and feel like I could have pushed harder I’m disappointed too. It’s a hard balance to find and I suspect I’ll get better at it with practice.
The rest of the race was gentle rolling hills and it ended with a fairly long down slope back to the park for the finish line.
I ended up finishing in 27:06, which was more than two minutes faster than my time a decade ago. I didn’t place in my age group (I was 8th out of 29 in my age group and 66th of 217 women overall) so I didn’t get the watermelon they were giving to the winners. I have to admit that I was a little disappointed not to get at least third place in my age group, but I’m going to use that as an incentive to lose weight and to get faster for next year’s race. And I’m proud that I’ve sped up enough to be in the top third instead of the bottom third.
They were giving out watermelon slices at the finish which were delicious.
And I did enjoy seeing everyone’s festive costumes:
And getting to check out the sponsors and vendors, including UF’s new running and orthopedic group who were having a sign up for a running form study. I signed up and hope I hear back from them because I suspect I don’t have the best form and could use some help in avoiding injuries as I increase my distance starting this month.
So, the race wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be and I think I may have exorcised some of the running insecurities I have from a decade ago. It was really hot and humid and I didn’t place in my age group and I think I could have pushed harder and maybe shaved off a minute or so, but I’m still happy with my performance. My pace was just over a 9 minute mile according to the official results, but my Garmin said the course was a little short, so my pace according to the Garmin was 9:23 which isn’t bad for me either. I’m also happy with my steady pace during the race and being able to hold a pretty fast pace for the last mile:
I also pushed past my natural introvert nature and said hi to another runner that I’d met on a Facebook running group. That is so far outside of my comfort zone, but I’m proud of myself for doing it. I’m fine with being an introvert, but I really need to work on being more social sometimes too. I think it’s like exercising for me, it isn’t comfortable but it is good for me!
My next race is a 10k trail run in late August. I’m also eyeing a 10k in Deland in October that is a certified course just in case runDisney won’t take the 10k trail run time for corral placement (I know they are getting more strict on those requirements). Plus it will probably be a lot cooler by mid October!