The Valley Health Apple Blossom 10K is held annually in Winchester, VA during our area’s biggest event of the year…The Apple Blossom Festival (or locally known as “The Bloom”). Per the Bloom’s official site:
The Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival® has grown from a one-day affair to a spectacular nine-day celebration. All of the events, whether dating back to 1924 or evolving more recently, have become part of a tradition that celebrates the arrival of spring and the pink-and-white apple blossoms.
This includes parades, festivals, dances, and my favorite…the 10K race on Saturday morning! The Apple Blossom 10K will always have a special place in my heart as it was the first real race I ever ran when I got into running back in 2012.
Having achieved a time of 47:53 in 2017 my goal going into the race was to set a new PR at the very least. At the end of last year’s race is when I became fully dedicated to being a runner, so my time this year would be a good indicator of how things have been going in my training over the past year.
I was slightly concerned how this race would go after dealing with a back muscle pull this week (from stretching a week before). Also yesterday during the 1 mile kids run (Bloomin’ Mile) that my daughters attended, I fainted and nearly passed out because of a Vasovagal Syncope episode. It was a freak occurrence which was super embarrassing (medical transport, M.A.S.H. tent, and all). The EMT’s and doctor were all very friendly and super supportive…but they said I should think twice about running the 10K the next day. After dinner that evening at the Chinese Buffet I felt a ton better, and pretty much decided I was running the race.
Race day morning I felt really good physically, but mentally I was still thinking about last night’s encounter with the med tent. Also, I made the mistake of dragging the family out of bed to the race start way too early. I thought the race started at 8 a.m., but really it begins at 8:30 a.m. Looking on the bright side it gave me extra time to warm up.
Weather that morning was very nice, in the mid-60s with overcast weather. I made the decision to carry my own hydration with me via a hand-held water bottle as I did not want to stop and slow down at the water stop areas. Once the race started I ramped up to what felt like an average quick pace and held that for the first mile, which includes a significant incline to start. Due to how many people run this race (over 1,000), you have to be careful taking the turn at the first 1/4 mile as everyone tries to run on the inside often leading to tripping. I learned that the first year I ran and have stayed on the outside corners for the first mile ever since.
Into mile 2 which is mostly downhill I could feel my back tighten up a bit, which was a quick reminder to me to keep good running form with nice posture. Passing the first water break, we came to another hill. Several runners were starting to slow at this point, but I kept my pace and increased my speed a bit (thanks to running in the mountains on my home course). With mile 3 and 4 being mostly flat, I increased my pace further and came to a turn-around point when all of a sudden I saw the lead EMT paramedic from yesterday who took good care of me! I waved to him and shouted “Hey!”, and he immediately recognized me and responded with “Aaron! Go, Aaron!”
Miles 5 and 6 are where the race gets the toughest as they progress up a gently sloping incline the whole way. However to me this is always my strong point, again, thanks to running in the mountains all the time! I kicked it into high gear and finished strong passing several other runners in the process. When I rounded the turn towards the finish line, I saw the race timer read 45:45! I couldn’t believe I was moving that fast, and gave one last sprint to the end finishing with a time of 46:00 even. A new 10K PR by 1 minute and 43 seconds!
Reflections on Hard Work
This to me showed how much I have improved with my running over the past year. I felt very proud knowing all the hard work is paying off. Yet as is typical of my personality, I know there is a ton of potential and room for improvement and getting even faster.
We celebrated by going to Cracker Barrel for breakfast. Not my favorite place (I’m a Denny’s guy), but the girls love the gift shop there, so everyone bought a stuffed animal!
Time: 46:00 (PR)
Overall: 122 of 1155
Male 35-39: 7 of 63
All Male: 100 of 532