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Race report: The Lockport Y-10

The hill.

It's pretty much all people talk about when you bring up the Lockport Y-10. Well, that and the cold and wind which inevitably come when running a 10-mile race outside in February in Western New York.

But Saturday was a beautiful day in Lockport -- no wind, a little sunshine and temperatures in the upper-20s. Not bad at all for a February run. So the hill, well, it scared me.

I grew up in Lockport so I knew the Market Street hill. It's a rather steep decline that takes you from downtown to the canal. It separated what once-upon-a-time was called "lower town" from the rest of the city.

To get to that hill, though, I had to run over nine miles first. While most races like to bill themselves as "flat and fast" the Y-10 doesn't pull any punches. "Challening 10-mile course" is how it was described. Pace yourself.

The race begins and ends at the same point so the Market Street hill descent is the first thing you encounter. I learned from running with Sue to let the down hill take you -- the more you try to hold yourself back, the more energy you expend. So I relaxed my arms and coasted down and made it to the first mile in about nine minutes.

Ok. My race plan was to run about 10-minute miles, so I figured I was in good shape. I knew the course was hilly throughout and while there were no "climbs" the course certanily rolled through the Niagara County countryside to keep you honest.

The first five miles actually felt pretty good. As often happens to me in a race, the pack settles in and I end up inbetween -- running by myself. Occassionally someone would pass me and a few times I passed someone else. But I was working a bit too hard to keep from being lonely at all. My goal was a 10-minute pace, but I figured the hill at the end would slow me down, so if I could bank up some time on the first five miles, I could afford to be a bit slower on the hills on the second five miles.

At the midway-check point everything was in order. I crossed the five-mile mat in 46:44 for a 9:21 pace. I walked the water stop, took some sips of water and few gel blocks and started up running again.

The second five miles were difficult. I went to the website MapMyRun.com to check out the elevation of some of the course. At one point in Mile 8, it appears there is a 4 percent incline and it appears the Cold Springs Bridge which takes you over the canal might be at a 3 percent incline.

Not very nice.

In my head I start thinking of "harmonious hill running." It's something Sue taught me. Frankly, I don't remember exactly the point because she was discussing this book she read about hill running during a 6 a.m. run in December. I wasn't quite awake enough to catch the entire drift, but it came down to thinking about how much you loved the hill. It was about feeling in harmony with the hill rather than fighting it.

So I tried to find my happy place and think "harmonious hill" the final two miles of the course. Then came "the hill" up Market Street. According to my crude calculations on MapMyRun.com, that final ascent was 121 feet over about a quarter of a mile and a 7 percent incline.

It was steep.

My goal -- keep running.

I didn't care how slow I was going up the hill or if my "run" wasn't much faster than a "walk." At this point it's all about your head and your mind and I was going run up that hill darn it.

I was just about at the top of the hill when one of my friends who had finished ahead of me came back to help run me in. Thankfully for him, I was already up the hill -- he was dreading the thought of having to go back up it with me. But the sight of a good friend at the end of the race helped me get through those final yards.

I pushed across the finish line.

1:37.53.

Yes.

In the final numbers, my second half was slower than my first. I ran my second five miles in 51:09 for a 10:14 pace -- but since that incluces my brief water stop and the hill, I'm pretty pleased. I went out fast enough at the start to gain some cushion but had plenty left in my tank to finish it off.

And I could still feel my legs.

Oh happy day.

My parents greeted me at the finish line, pretty pumped about my run. My coach was rather joyed at my time and pace, especially considering the approach to the Y-10 was as a training run. In other words, we weren't "gearing up" for a good time at the race. There was no taper or rest, just an integration into the regular week.

On to this week to see where training and challenges give me opportunity to grow and improve.

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