Double Race Weekend: City of Oaks Old Reliable 10k Recap

After I finished running and partying at the Wicked 10k, I took a shower and jumped in the car to head to Raleigh, NC for my second race of the weekend: the City of Oaks Old Reliable 10k. I've run the City of Oaks half marathon twice now and have loved it. I probably would have passed on this this year's race though, what with B2B two weeks prior and Wicked the day before, except that I had a very special friend running her FIRST FULL MARATHON and I wouldn't have missed that for anything! I did briefly considered running the half but ultimately decided on the 10k - luckily all three distances offered start at the same time, which meant I could hang with Alyssa for 5 miles before sending her off to finish the rest of her marathon! And after I talked to Lisa a couple weeks before the race and she confirmed that she was planning to run the 10k too, it was pretty much a no-brainer.

City of Oaks has no race morning packet pickup, which meant I had to make it to the expo before it closed on Saturday. I knew I wasn't going to have a ton of time to spare, but left with enough time to make it an hour before the expo closed. Then I had to stop 3 times on the drive there to pee and my ETA kept getting later and later until I finally arrived with 30 minutes until the expo closed. I ran in and went straight to the bulletin board where all the names and bib numbers were listed and...I didn't see my name.

I didn't see my name! What? My last name is hyphenated and I usually just go by the second one for simplicity's sake, but I checked the first one too just in case I had registered under that name? I felt a wave of relief when I saw that name on the list, but was almost instantly deflated when I noticed the age listed for that name was 31, not 28. I figured it could have been a glitch, but I really didn't think it was me (it's a fairly common name). I went over to the registration table to ask if they had any other identifying info (like a city or something) to help me figure it out, but that bib had already been picked up so nope, just someone else with my name. I looked through my emails to see if I could find a confirmation email from when I signed up but nope, nada. I distinctly remember being on the registration site so I suppose it's possible that either it didn't go through for technical reasons, or I did something wrong. My supposed registration date was 2 weeks before Beach2Battleship, so it's entirely possible that the latter happened. I was thankfully able to register on site about 15 minutes before the expo closed, so eventually I was able to get on my way!

I stayed with my sister-in-law, who lives just a mile from the start/finish, so race morning I was able to easily run/walk to the start to meet up with Alyssa and Lisa! We hung out at the bell tower and took several permutations of group photos before making our way to the start! It was another day that looked like the weather would be great for the race. It was cloudy and there were a few raindrops at the beginning, but the temperature was perfect and I personally prefer cloud cover to full sun any day.

Hi, 6:45am.
City of Oaks has a rolling start rather than wave starts, so we made our way to the 2:15 half/4:30 full pacers to meet a friend of Lisa's who was pacing. We really didn't spend much time lined up before we were off!

I ran the first 6 miles of the City of Oaks course just a few weeks ago when I was in Raleigh for an interview, and that had acted as a good refresher of the course. The first few miles of City of Oaks are a net downhill, which is awesome but also not because there are at least a few, and at most very many miles to go, depending on what race you're running. Alyssa had told us that she was aiming for a 10:30ish pace, so 10:30ish is what we tried to hold! Lisa was planning to run/walk and start her walk intervals after 5 minutes, but she felt good at our pace that the three of us stayed together until mile 2 before she decided she needed to stick to her plan, and Alyssa and I ran ahead.

Since the course is mostly downhill for those first few miles, I could tell that it was a little hard for both of us to keep the pace in check. We had done a decent job of staying in the 10:30 range, but our watches beeped almost simultaneously at mile 3, and I looked down at mine to see a 10:04 mile. I had to assume that Alyssa's said the same thing, so I shot her an, "Um, too fast?!" look and she said, "I know." We tried to pulled back but I could see our average pace dropping a few seconds and our next mile came in at 10:11. And we were playing back and forth with the 2:15/4:30 pacers. Oops again.

We headed downtown next, and I had a brief moment next where I realized I was so concerned about Alyssa being happy and okay that I really didn't even feel like I was running at all. I thought the downtown part of the course went by really quickly, and before I knew it we were well past mile 4 and I realized I would be splitting off soon!

I thought my turn to split off was going to be at or just before mile 5, so when I saw the mile 5 marker I started to wonder if I was going the right way or if I had missed a turn somewhere? I looked around and saw another girl with a 10k bib so I figured that I must be going the right way. And sure enough, it wasn't long before I could hear a volunteer yelling out, "10k to the left! Half and full marathon to the right!" That was my cue! I held back tears as I told Alyssa how proud I was of her and that she had done an amazing job (not crying now either, in case you were wondering) and that I'd see her soon! We both still ran a quarter mile or so up the same street, we were just separated by cones, so after I split off I charged up the hill to make sure I could get her photo before I made my turn to go finish, while she continued to go straight.

Bye, see you in a few hours when you're a MARATHONER!!!!
Basically what happens on the course at the point pictured is this: the 10kers split off to go another maybe 3/4 of a mile to their finish, while the half and full people go straight for about a mile before looping back to where the 10k finishes, and then continuing on, obviously. The 10k ends after a climb, but if you're running the half, not only do you have to do that same climb, but you have to keep climbing afterward too. For that reason, I have always had disdain and envy toward the 10kers as I've run past their finish line.

This time, however, as a 10ker, I learned that the finish is not as easy as I had previously thought. There's a pretty nice hill before the turn where the 10k and half/full split, where I took Alyssa's picture up there, and although there were just a couple of rollers after I made the turn to split off from the half/full course, it wasn't long before I hit another long hill that just kept going...and going...and going all the way up to the finish of the 10k. So basically, whereas the half/full people do have an uphill from mile 5 -5.5, then (from what I remember) a little reprieve for half a mile or so before joining back to head toward the 10k finish, the 10k people pretty much just have to go uphill for the last 1-1.5 miles. Don't get me wrong, I would much rather have run a 10k on Sunday than a half or full marathon. I just found out the hard way that the 10k wasn't as easy as I had thought!

Official time: 1:03:54 (10:16 pace)

After I left Alyssa I was pretty much ready to be done, so I gave it all I had going up that final hill. I hit the timing mat, grabbed my medal and water, and immediately headed across the street to wait for Lisa to finish. Considering that she had told me she expected to finish in 1:10 - 1:15, I was shocked when I saw her come through the chute only a few minutes behind me! She absolutely killed it in 1:07! Unfortunately we didn't have a ton of time to celebrate because we knew we didn't have a ton of time before Alyssa would be coming through!

This photo cracks me up because I can see in her face that look of, "OMG! Faces I recognize!" Been there! After we saw Alyssa successfully pass mile 7, we had some time to kill before seeing her again oh, 19 miles later. 

10k finishers!
We took some celebratory finish line photos, had pizza and donuts at 8:30am, and parted ways. Lisa needed to get in another 6 miles for the day since she's training for Richmond, so I went back to my SIL's to shower and eat before heading back out to the finish line for Alyssa's big finish!

As we waited and watched random strangers finishing their own 26.2 mile journeys, I had Emotional Moment #2 of the weekend. I realized I had never actually watched the finish of a marathon I hadn't finished myself, and doing so was quite emotional. I don't know if it's because I know firsthand the grit and the determination that goes into making it to those last 100 yards, but I couldn't help but feel what those finishers must have been feeling as they saw the finish line in sight. I wanted to tell every person who passed what an amazing job they had done and, whether it was their first marathon or their 100th, how humbled I was to share just those few seconds of their journey. And it was then that I had a moment of clarity, that I realized that this is a sport I always want to be a part of. Whether it's running my own (much shorter) distance race and then standing on the sidelines later, or if it's running down a marathon finish line near midnight at the end of a 140.6 mile journey, I hope I never lose my love of finish lines.

Soon after that, I recognized a familiar pair of bright pink Newtons off in the distance and I could see Alyssa making her way to the finish right before my eyes. For the hundredth time that day I fought back tears as I geared up for my official finish line duty as videographer, and as I panned my iPhone toward the arch with "FINISH" in bold letters, I saw a transformation that's so subtle to the naked eye, yet so obvious and so profound for those of us who have been their ourselves.

It was an honor to be there, physically and emotionally, at not one but TWO different finish lines for two friends who absolutely smashed their races and their goals on Sunday. I could not be more proud, and my heart could not be fuller. I'm so grateful that I had an excuse to put City of Oaks on my race calendar this year!


  1. congrats!!! i love that you guys wore the Team Alyssa shirts to support her as well and you guys even ran alongside one another for a really does help when you run with a partner!

  2. awww this is so awesome! i love the shirts, and everything about this post. i so wish i could have been there! next time ;)

  3. What a great race! It made me tear up just thinking about the finish!

  4. This is so great! Love the shirts!

  5. ahhh - I love that you were there to cheer your friend to the finish line - while being awesome again in your own race!
    Yep - I love watching finish lines - they always hold so much emotion, even if you don't run!

  6. Just... just tears. So many tears.
    Our miles together did really fly, didn't they? I remember thinking "Already?? But we just started!" when they were splitting your group to the left. It was a relief to see that the few miles after that went just as quickly—surely because I was just feeling SO good. I've never felt that good in a race before. Even if it couldn't last the whole time, I'm glad I got to experience feeling like that in my first marathon.
    And this: "As I panned my iPhone toward the arch with "FINISH" in bold letters, I saw a transformation that's so subtle to the naked eye, yet so obvious and so profound for those of us who have been their ourselves." You nailed it. I knew the race would change me, but I didn't know how much. And I didn't really know that there would be different kinds of changes: one that takes place for 26.2 miles along the course, and another one that happens in one leap across the finish line. I'm happier than I can ever express that you were on the other side of that finish line too.
    Oh, and a final note that only you will appreciate... When can I buy more Newtons!?

  7. I just love that you are all so supportive of each other and doing these races together!!! I love this shirts that you guys had too!!! Two 5K back to back? You on fire!!!!

  8. Awww I loved this! I got teary just watching the videos Alyssa shared of her crossing the finish line, so I can only imagine how you must have felt actually being there and running with her. I also had to add that when I saw the finish line photos of the three of you on Alyssa's blog I was thinking how did Tracy get her hair to look perfect after running a 10k?! haha I guess I should have figured from your shoe change too that you were able to get ready in-between.