Overview of the Spa 10k.
The Spa 10k was my first race after the 2017 Chicago Marathon, so I was ecstatic just to be back out running in a race.
I’m primarily focused on building up my base again,so the race was a nice chance to see how the legs are doing.
Not only is it a championship race in the annual Arkansas RRCA Grand Prix (read below), but the Spa 10k race is one of my favorite runs.
Part of what makes this race great is the course and the crowd, both of which I will tell you about below.
And I love their shirts – something about the material on their long-sleeve shirts that makes them so comfortable for me to wear.
The big reason the Spa 10k – named for the nickname of its host city, Hot Springs, Arkansas, or “Spa City” – is my favorite because of it was my first 10k when I started running in 2015
Running it again gives me a chance to see my improvements since then.
My wife and all the boys came with me this time, and we were able to visit overnight with some very dear friends down in Hot Springs the night before the race…we had a great time visiting with everyone and catching up.
We had so much fun the night before, though, that I felt like I was setting myself up to have a very bad race the next morning.
It started with our awesome host making the most delicious Moscow Mules – I got greedy and had 3.
Then there was the pizza with feta cheese and spinach: great — delicious — on the taste buds, not so great on a racing stomach.
Then Fritz decided he was to going spend the night in bed with my wife and I instead of his own cot. This means that I had the pleasure of getting my spleen kicked every 20 minutes.
Anyway, I hit the start line the next morning a little (a lot) hung over, a little (a lot) tired, so I was not expecting much in the way of performance….
The 10k Course.
2 years ago – the first time I ran the Spa 10k – it was cold and raining/sleeting and I busted out of the gate hard to warm up.
I had no idea about the mountain ahead of me, and I ended up having to walk the first steep hill to keep from puking.
This year, I decided I would be happy if I met 2 goals: 1) Come out of the gate even & steady, and 2) Run the whole race. No walking.
This course starts out flat for the first 2 miles – the course zips and turns through the old hotels and spas that made Hot Springs a unique and trend-setting vacation destination some time ago.
Hot Springs is still a beautiful place – a great place to get out and see nature, hunt, fish, cycle, run, hike…and gamble at the Oaklawn Casino and Racetrack if that’s your thing. Like most of Arkansas, Hot Springs is a well-kept secret
Around the 2nd mile, the course enters the Hot Springs National Park, and heads straight up the West Mountain. This mountain is a tease.
After the first uphill, it levels out. Just when you start to believe the worst is over, it climbs again.
The course then teases you with a little downhill – right as you hit your downhill stride, it goes back up to a “summit”.
I use the term “summit” loosely, because the folks brave enough to do the Half-Marathon go uphill to the second summit. Twice.
It’s a hard 10k, but rewards you with some really cool views of the Hot Springs valley when you get to the top.
This year, on the way up the mountain, I had the chance to race a huge 8 point buck as he sprinted alongside the ridge for a moment looking for his getaway from all the people.
Here’s the elevation chart for the course.
Round about mile 4, you hit the summit, and the downhill sprint begins.
By mile 5 you are running through the town’s historic neighborhood, and seeing all the beautiful turn of the century (early 1900s) homes in the Quapaw Quarter.
The race logistics are phenomenal – water and gatorade exactly where you need it, police and volunteers keep folks on the right course for the right race.
And the field of runners on the course are always a special bunch.
Right before the last uphill, a young man (probably about 10 years old) that had the courage to run this race screamed out when he saw the last incline: “Are you kidding me?!?!”
You could hear the desperation in his voice, but in a matter of seconds, a group of runners had slid in next to him, and told him they would all take the hill together.
That’s the field of runners you get on this course: that sense of camraderie – the shared victory and shared pain that comes from climbing a 2 mile mountain.
It’s a thin field, too, so while there are plenty of people on the course and you never feel alone, you never feel crowded, either.
The finish line is lined 4-5 deep with folks cheering and yelling as runners sprint across the finish, most of the time with an ear-to-ear grin, glowing with pride for their enormous achievement.
By the Numbers.
Turns out, I placed 9th (out of 23) in my age group (Men, 45-49)….96th overall, and 77th among men.
Official pace was 8:36 m/m, but shown below is my Garmin time.
Here are my splits for the race:
And then, of course, the “bling”…a sharp 10k Finisher’s Medal and long-sleeve technical shirt:
Arkansas RRCA Grand Prix.
The Hot Springs Spa 10k race is the second to last of the year in the Arkansas RRCA Grand Prix.
The grand prix is 20 races from January to December…each put on by one of Arkansas’ RRCA running clubs.
Once you sign up for the Grand Prix, points are kept for each race you run in….individual scores, and scores for the team you run for. (I run for the Little Rock Roadrunner Club).
This was a “championship” race, which has some implications in scoring for the Grand Prix.
It’s a pretty cool way to see all the races, cool towns, and beautiful scenery that Arkansas has to offer, so if you are an Arkansas Runner, I encourage you to check out the Grand Prix next year.
Here is the 2018 Schedule (image links to Arkansas RRCA Grand Prix message boards)
I hope to see you at next years 10k …. if you are brave enough to run the mountain, that is. 🙂