“Well, I wasn’t expecting that!” was the first thing I said to Tyler after I crossed the finish line in 52 minutes, 49 seconds, my second fastest 10K time ever. I was expecting sub-60 minutes and hoping for sub-56 minutes, which would be faster than any of my training runs since starting to train again in November.
But before we dive into the race, let’s go back to the beginning. Before my husband moved to California for his job last spring we had my winter trip to visit him planned. Of course I looked up races in the time frame I was going to be there and found several, but the Death Valley 10K stood out to me because it would mean checking off another National Park.
-Produced by Enviro Sports, the race includes a marathon, half marathon and a 10K and takes place on the first weekend of February.
-They only allow a total of 350 participants, and it sells out so if you plan to do this race I would sign up early.
-The weather was PERFECT. Dry, warm (but not hot) and sunny. The highs are usually in the low 70s with lows in the upper 30s – low 40s.
-All of the courses are are out and backs on mostly pavement (there’s a small gavel area near the start/finish line), utilizes a multi-use path for some portions and for other parts on roads that are open to traffic. The course has some rolling hills, though, the race website describes it as mostly flat–this is of course relative to the runner.
-The scenery is AMAZING.
My race experience:
“GO!” Yelled the race director, and the 77 runners racing the 10K took off. I positioned myself in the middle of the pack because that’s what I usually do, but quickly found myself passing runner after runner within the first five minutes. To be honest, I’m still a little intimidated by lining up toward the front.
The first mile or so is slightly downhill then it levels out before getting to the rolling hills. For the first mile I decided to keep pace with a few other women until I made a move passed them on the first big hill….only to be passed by one of them on the huge downhill on the other side. This went on and on until the turnaround.
Speaking of the turnaround…..The race director said the turnaround for the 10K was at the 5K mile marker near the first water stop. The first water stop had a very clear THREE mile-NOT 3.1 or 5K- marker so myself and another female runner kept going until our watches hit 3.09 and decided we should turn around. Huge mistake on our part, obviously, but I think a clear turnaround/u-turn type sign would have been something to have in place to avoid any confusion. Once we turned around, she stopped to use the restroom and I went on my way, determined to finish strong and not let that mistake bother me too much.
Up ahead I saw a few female runners that had turned around at the correct spot, so I decided to run them down. I caught the first two pretty quickly. The next one made me WORK for it and I caught her on the second hill. Thank goodness for my love of hill repeats and running generally hilly routes regularly. After that, I had the other two in my sights. I passed one of them in the last half mile or so (thank you uphill finish!). The final woman was too far ahead of me to realistically catch so I tuned back into my race. I decided to just run as hard as I could anyway and cross the finish line with nothing left.
I crossed the finish line in 52 minutes, 49 seconds WITH NOTHING LEFT IN THE TANK! This is a huge deal for me as last year I crossed all of my finish lines thinking I could’ve gone another few miles or so or could have gone faster/harder.
I picked up my finisher t-shirt, some water, gave my fellow 10K+ runner a big high five when she crossed the finish line. When I met up with my husband he told me he thought I was 4th or 5th female across the finish line. WHAT?!? Excitement level was pretty high at that point!
Turns out I was the 4th female overall and first in my age group 30-34F. I missed the awards ceremony because I missed the announcement that it started at 4pm instead of 5pm as stated in the race info email. I was a little pissed about that but later found they mail the awards anyway so it was no biggie. Plus Tyler and I got to do some really great hiking that afternoon so it was well worth missing it.
About a week later I received my pretty blue ribbon in the mail.
All-in-all, it was a great race experience. Living in Northern Virginia, I’m used to relatively large race fields and mostly lackluster scenery (can someone say cookie cutter home capital of America?!), so this was a welcome change. Given the opportunity, I would definitely race it again.