Decker Challenge – Race Report from a Newbie

Amber Wadey registered for the Distance Challenge after realizing that she perfectly fit the profile for the “average” DC runner. She participated in an ARC member interview earlier this year and we’ve asked her to let us follow along as she runs the series by contributing her race reports to our blog. We hope you enjoy sharing her journey!

Amber's Decker pic

Image courtesy Amber Wadey

Before I started writing up these blogs for the ARC, I had never written a race report. I thought it might be a good idea to read a few race reports from previous Decker Challenge finishers to help me prepare for the event, but all the reports I found were by athletes who run 6-7 minute miles and focus on nutrition and pacing on a completely different level than me. My goal for this run was to average 10 minute miles and finish without injury. I did learn a few things, like apparently the big hill at mile 10 is called “Quadzilla,” but I hope my post will inspire more average runners to give this event a shot!

I was pretty apprehensive going into this race. Last year, I avoided training in my neighborhood in favor of the trail because I didn’t like running hills. This year, I embraced the hills on Bee Caves Road and down Cuernavaca, and it definitely paid off. I also went into this event with a plan for my race day nutrition, which made a big difference. But the highlights of this race were the weather (we got SO lucky with temps in the 50’s and very little rain), the indoor pavilion with restrooms and sponsor booths just steps away from the start/finish line, and the pacers!

My predicted finish time was 2:13:13, so I decided to start with the 2:10 pace group knowing that I’d slow down on the hills. I actually went out pretty fast and sat ahead of the group for the first 4 miles or so, enjoying the easy rolling hills and taking in the rustic course. The water stops were perfectly spaced and I alternated Gatorade at miles 2, 6, and 10, and water with a clif shot at miles 4 and 8. By mile 6 I was feeling great and started to zone out, listening to music and watching the road pass by under my feet.

Amber's Decker stats

Image courtesy Amber Wadey

Miles 8-10 were less conducive to zoning out, but honestly the hills were not nearly as bad as I’d imagined they’d be. The runners around me were awesome and I drew strength from them as we powered up and cruised down each hill as it came. When we got to the biggest hill (Quadzilla?) I looked up and laughed, feeling like all that dread was overblown. It was just another hill in a sea of hills! I high fived a T-Rex (Coach Erin, you’re hilarious), and as another spectator suggested, thanked the hills for everything they gave us today.

By the time I got to mile 11, my legs were tired. I noticed my pace had slowed and wasn’t sure I could get back up to speed. Right after the 12 mile marker there was a nice downhill and I had just enough left in the tank to pick up the pace and beat my predicted time by nearly a minute.

While crossing the finish line felt great, walking back into the pavilion did not. My muscles were tight and my calves started cramping up immediately. I was SO grateful that Spinal Rehab Sports Medicine was providing electric foam rolling for participants. After rolling out my calves, I grabbed some snacks from our awesome VIP tent and headed home.

All in all, I loved this event and feel so proud to have earned that Decker Challenge finisher medal and magnetic puzzle piece. I would be remiss if I didn’t give a huge shout out to the volunteers who made this event possible. We are over the hump with 3 of 5 races done and I consider this my last event as a total newbie! I did the 3M last year and have finished the Austin Half Marathon twice. If the weather keeps cooperating like it did today, I expect to see some pretty impressive PR’s from my fellow Distance Challenge participants. Y’all are amazing!