Ashland Harvest Festival 10k - Ashland, VA - Obtober 2014
It was time to run an 8k-15k tune-up race in my marathon training plan. There are not many 8ks or 15ks in general, so I decided to race a 10k. But the problem is that on this particular weekend, there weren't any 10k races anywhere near me either. A couple years ago, I faced the same dilemma and just ran a 10k by myself on roads near my house....not the most exciting thing. Especially when you are nearing peak shape; you want to do races, test yourself, show off your fitness...and win awards! I finally found the Ashland Harvest 10k in Ashland, VA. It was a little more than an hour away from my house. Most of the races I do are within 30 minutes or so. But I was pretty desperate to find a 10k, so I decided to go for it!
I woke up early that Saturday morning, and hit 95 South, heading towards Ashland in the dark. We hadn't had the fall time change yet, so it was still kind of dark when I arrived and picked up my race packet. They actually had lanterns on the registration table, which was kind of cool. The race starts at Carter Park, not too far from the Randolph Macon College campus.
I ran the final mile of the course as a warm-up and was ready to go. The Ashland Harvest Run actually includes both a 5k and a 10k, with the 10k starting about 15 minutes before the 5k. It did not look like too big of a field at the 10k start line, but there still were a few people who looked pretty fast.
The course begins on Maple Street, heading towards Carter Park. About 200 meters into the race, just before you reach the park, you make a 90 degree right turn into the woods, and run on a dirt/grass trail for about a quarter mile. Finally, you emerge on Center Street, which runs through, well, the center of Ashland. At this point, there were two guys who looked to be college runners, and they had gone way out in front, with a third guy not too far behind. There were actually also two women who were not too far ahead of me, battling it out. This was a REALLY competitive race, considering how small it was. In a small town race like this, with only about 100 runners, I would usually expect to finish in the top 3 with no problem. But now, I might be lucky just to finish in the top 5, or win an age group award.
Center Street was interesting. There were railroad tracks, which served as a median, running along the middle of the street. While we were running, the train actually came along and passed by us. I don't know what it was, but it seemed kind of cool running alongside the train; almost like we were racing it, a Man vs. Machine kind of thing. Center Street passes through "downtown" Ashland, and continues towards the Randolph Macon campus. You basically circle around the campus and then begin working your way back towards the start/finish area. The course is almost entirely flat, and is a really good course to run if you are shooting for a PR.
I hung on to 6th place - behind 3 males and 2 females - all the way through the 5th mile. The final mile of the course is a loop, which means that miles 5 and 6 are very close to each other. You can see the 6 mile marker (and finish line) right after you pass the 5 mile marker and head into that final loop. As I came upon the 5 mile marker, I saw a runner blowing past the 6 mile marker. This seemed crazy; he was a full mile ahead of me in a 10k! Especially in a small race like this, I would not expect to see such an elite runner. He ended up finishing 1st place in a smoking time of 31:40 (5:06/mile pace)!! I actually got to talk to him after the race and he was a really nice guy. He was a college runner and now is trying to qualify for the Olympic Trials in the marathon. If he keeps running that fast, he will make it for sure! His wife also won the women's 10k in a blazing 37:11. That is one fast family!
I had slowed down into the 6:20s on miles 4 and 5, and heading into the final mile, there was only one person within striking distance - the 2nd place female (who also turned out to be a very nice person when we talked after the race...hey, us speedy runners have to stick together!). I picked up the pace on the last mile, with a 6:11, and closed out the final 0.2 miles in a 6:07 pace, and managed to pass her and move into 5th place overall. I finished 1st place in my age group and 5th place overall out of 99 runners. (Ashland Harvest Festival 10k, 2014 Race Results). Here were my mile splits:
1- 5:59 (151 average heart rate)
2- 6:06 (171)
3- 6:10 (176)
4- 6:23 (178)
5- 6:22 (179)
6- 6:11 (181)
final 0.23- 6:07 pace (185)
TOTAL: 6.23 miles, 38:34, 6:11/mile pace
So, even though the race was far away, it was ultimately successful, and I was glad I did it. The drive home was actually really pretty too, with all the late-October fall foliage. I'm not sure if I will run this race again or not - because it is so far away from me - but I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a well-organized, fun, flat, fast 10k.