Summer Races: Shelburne Falls

Most road races are like books to me. Just as I rarely re-read a book even if I love it I tend to only run a race once and then I’m done. This was my third running of the Bridge of Flowers 10K. It is a fairly local race for me held in the quaint northwestern town of Shelburne Falls, MA in the Deerfield River valley along the Mohawk Trail.

The Bridge of Flowers

The race began in 1979 and has been run each year since along the same route with a few adjustments here and there. The course offers scenic charm, a steep uphill challenge, a fast back half and lots of cheering support.

This is a rough sketch of the course. It’s more of a double loop course than a flat line. Trust me when I say that Crittenden Hill should be renamed Crittenden Small Mountain!

I first ran this race in August 2010. It was my first 10K and I completed the race in 1:07:36. With nothing to compare it to I was quite pleased. Last year I was training for the Disney Marathon and incorporated the Bridge of Flowers 10K into my training plan. My goal for the race was simply to finish a second or two under my 2010 time. In rereading my blog post (check out the photo of me near the finish) about the race I will say that I was very modest about my results. I ran the 2011 race in 1:04:16. That’s a fantastic improvement over the year before if I do say so myself.

Back in January after the Disney Marathon I set forth a new running goal in this post. Why the emphasis on speed and time you ask? Turns out I really thrive on having fitness goals. However, I do not wallow in defeat if I am unable to achieve my ideal goal. It’s fun and gives me something to work for. I try to make my goals realistic and attainable. It’s a personal challenge since the only one I’m competing against is myself. I also take into consideration that all race courses are not equal to my training runs. With all that said I have a few general guidelines when I run a race:

  1. Have fun!
  2. Run the best you can
  3. Smile and say thank you to volunteers at the water tables

I do not wear my Garmin when I race because as much I want to accomplish my goals it is more important to enjoy what I’m doing. If I finish with a good time even better.

This was the first year my husband would not be accompanying me. With very little arm twisting my college roommate, Colleen, graciously agreed to come up from Boston for the weekend to cheer me on while watching Carlos during the race. She has run the Boston Marathon twice once with a team during which she qualified to run the race on her own. She ran the second time in under 3:40. In recent years she has suffered with terrible knee injuries and has been unable to run long distances. She’s an inspiration to me and one of my dearest friends.

Me, Colleen & Carlos on the Bridge of Flowers

OK enough already you’re probably saying, get on with it. The day before the race it down poured nearly all day. I was a bit concerned when I woke up to grey overcast skies. Luckily the skies held back and the weather was perfect for racing. I lined up on the bridge without the slightest hint of nerves; made me feel like a real veteran of this race. Soon we set off across the bridge to the cheers of hundreds of supporters. Carlos and Colleen were there to see me off.

The obligatory pre-race photo

I know the course well. The hill was in front of me before I knew it and I tried to keep running, but it feels like you are running up a wall. I began to walk as fast as possible. There were supporters along the way up shouting words of encouragement. I picked markers every now and then and ran from one point to the next. By the time I reached the water station near the top I was certain the hill had grown over the past year. I quickly drank a cup of water and then sped downward as quickly and safely as I could.

The back half of the course begins on a tree lined shaded dirt road. It empties the runners out onto a main road which remains open to cars though there are cones to indicate the lane for runners. We wind our way back down toward the back side of the bridge which we cross yet again to enter the chute to the finish line.

My training for this race was incorporated into my marathon training plan. That was halted in early July thanks to a sore hamstring followed by a strained Achilles. I listened carefully to my body and held off on running until about a week and a half before this race. It was a very frustrating time. In place of running I did strength training, stretching and some swimming.

Despite the training setbacks I felt great during the race. I was comfortable with my pace and had no discomfort at all. I put no pressure on myself to set a PR and I certainly didn’t hold myself to my original goal of running this particular 10K in under an hour. I was just so thrilled to be running my favorite race pain free.

Someday I will run a 10K in under an hour, someday I will run this race in under and hour, but on this day I did not, but that was just fine. As the time clock came into sight I was overjoyed by what I saw and much to my delight I did set a PR with a finish time of 1:01:53. Hot damn!!

“Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.” 

–William Faulkner

8 thoughts on “Summer Races: Shelburne Falls

  1. Hot damn is right!! That’s an amazing time Aimee – you should be so proud of yourself, and glad your college roommate could be there to cheer you on.

    And thanks for your comment on my friend Mel’s blog – I am old enough to be her Momma and I worry about her.

  2. Aimee..I LOVE that quote…in a world where I feel like I am CONSTANTLY comparing myself to others, I find that I just need to remember, I am only competing with myself, and like you said, the most important thing is to HAVE FUN…every day is different and every day is a new beginning. I’m so glad that you got a new PR!!
    Great picture of you and Carlos too!

  3. That’s a sub-10 pace! Sweet! I’m exactly the same as you when it comes to setting goals — I like setting goals that are tough, and theoretically attainable, and if I don’t meet the goal, I just keep working at it, I just see it as a sign that I’m challenging myself. But I swear by wearing my watch in races, and I love running my favorite races again and again. Our local Thanksgiving race is an 8 miler, and it is my longest streak — every single year since 2003! I like feeling that I know the course and tracking my time on the same course compared to prior years (though of course the weather can vary). But it has to be a race I love for me to do it repeatedly.

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