This year I decided that I would walk the Abe’s Amble. Last year, I was just getting started with walking regularly to improve my fitness. I would never have dreamed at the time that I would have been competing in the Abe’s Amble the very next year. I am not for sure but I think Abe’s Amble is the signature race of the Springfield Road Racers Club. There was a little under a thousand people that attended the race and the club actually had formal training also, they called it Abe’s Army. I thought about joining the Abe’s Army but decided that I would have a hard time attending the weekly training on Monday night.
The race started at 7:30am at the grandstands of the Illinois State Fair. All the participants were warned about parking and should come early, so I showed up an hour early. I did not know actually were to park when arrived, so I parked in parking lot next to the gate we were told to enter the fair at. Actually, the Illinois State Fair was in full swing and it costs to get into the fair. I guess the club made arrangements for the racers to use this gate to get into the fair for free. After parking, it was a little ways to the starting line which was kind of a decent warm up.
I met up with some friends and we did some catching up. Then, ten minutes before the start, I took some electrolytes, gel, and two puffs of Ventolin. This is the same starting practice that I use in training and it seems to work for me. I guess there were some opening comments on loud speaker, but I could not hear a thing where I was standing. The start was pretty much a silent one for me, everyone started running at the front and I just followed the person in front of me. This being my 4th race, I am still unsure what to think about or what to do at the start. This start was good practice.
I know starting with my friends in the middle of the pack was a bad idea. Sure enough, I was pacing a tad high at the start and was being passed by a lot of people. Yeah, being passed like I was is not good on my confidence level. Anyway, realizing that I was not in a good spot, I remained on the pace until everyone who was going to pass me did. I just did not want to slow down and have someone run into me because they did not expect me too do so. After the mad rush of people all around me subsided, I slowed my pace and started my normal race.
However, I have been having problems with shin pain and a stiff set of calves. So, mile one was all about pain. I am use to this, often times I need to change the way I walk until the pain subsides. When I do change the way my foot touches the ground it does slow me down about 30 – 45 seconds a mile. I guess my normal gait is highly refine and efficient.
After the first mile, I started to feel the pain easing. The race had started to bunch up into its respected groups and I was able to maintain pace with some pretty good race walkers, who I stayed with most of the way.
Mile 2 – 4 was pretty uneventful. I remained with my group and we maintained a pretty comfortable pace for this leg of the race. We entered Oak Ridge Cemetery, which is home to Abraham Lincoln’s Tome, about the 2 ¼ mark. I would say that it is pretty hilly in this part of the course. I was on a strategic pace and I think it was a good call through this section. At this point, I have a feeling that I was a pacer for the group because I was pretty much walking at my pace for the race and my small group was still with me.
Mile 5 was the dreaded climb. I have climbed this hill a few times so I have a good idea what I need to do too climb it. We reached the hill about the 4 ½ mile mark and I attacked the hill as planned. I actually climbed the hill at pace and was not willing to give up time because of this climb. Plus, I found it to be fun. I loved to climb hills when I was a cyclist and it seems nothing is new. I felt like a yellow jersey rider in the Tour de France. When everyone slows down in the mountains, this is when a rider makes the move to distance themselves from everyone else and become overall winner. I passed quite a few people on the way to the top.
Mile 6, this section of course is reasonable flat. After the climb in mile 5, I had only one person left with me out of the group. So, she said she was doing really good and would stay with me all the way in. It was nice having some one to walk with. We maintained a little faster pace this time and I was kind of enjoying the feeling of some speedy legs.
Finishing line, I was walking pretty fast the last 2/10th of a mile. My friend wanted to catch a race walker in front of use and we did get close but he kept speeding up as we got closer to the finish. She ended up telling me too try to catch him, because I think she thought she was slowing me down. Well, I thought about staying with her but I said what the heck, could I catch this guy? So, I went on an all out sprint and actually caught the guy and we finished together. According to my GPS watch, I was actually in the 10 minute mile range at that short distance. Frankly, I did not think I could ever walk that fast, I amazed myself.
After I had my timing chip removed, I left the finish line and cheered on my race walking group as they crossed line. Most of the race walkers where new to the sport and this was their first race. I though they did great.
Personal thoughts – I thought I did pretty well in my first 10K race. Even though I did not finish in the fastest time at that distance, I would say that I managed a pretty smart race. I am pleased with my performance. I did have some lung troubles about the 4 and 5 mile mark, actually had a micro flare-up after the big climb. I was able to control my breathing and did not need to hit the Ventolin, thank goodness.
All in all, I had a blast and learned a few things that will help me in the future.
This photo was taken about 1 ½ miles into the race. I am a little cut off but that is me in the white shirt and hat.