Well, one out of three is not too bad. In fact in baseball that would earn you a big contract.
But whatever the outcome you can't miss having a great time at this little gem of a race that Mark Long has given us down in rural NC. The race is low key but certainly not low quality with ample aid, friendly volunteers and a good course for a fair test of your endurance and ability.
This would be the fifth edition and my fourth time running. In 2003 I was still new at this ultramarathon stuff and having just run a marathon a couple of weeks before , I didn't feel I was ready to race. But being a recent member of the MTC, I wanted to come join in the fun so I volunteered. After riding around with Mark most of the day, I ran the last loop with Jay and Anita Finkle. Ever since then I have returned to race and have set a PR for the distance each time.
This year I had three goals. One was to set a PR. Two was to run the whole race other than stopping for aid. And three was to run 9 minute pace. I was joined in the drive down from Wake County by my good friend and frequent training partner, the dark-haired lovely Jenn Ennis. We arrived at the Derby Community Bldg at about 7am and went inside to warm up and visit with friends. Ben Dillon and Mark Davis had also come down from Raleigh representing the NCRC. Soon enough it was time to head up to the start finish area so we hopped in the car with Tony along for the short ride to Derby Road.
It was a chilly morning, near 22F with a bit of a breeze but the sun was shining and the forecast was for near perfect conditions, around 50F. Mark said go and off we went. I made sure to start easy since I hadn't warmed up but was soon on pace and moving through the field. By the first mile the pack had already spread out with about 15 fast runners already pulling out of sight and just a few others around me. One guy passed me and quickly moved away and I settled in to a comfortable pace.
Suddenly out of nowhere at about the two mile point, I had a sharp pain in my right hip that made me skip a step. It repeated a couple of times and I was worried that if it continued that my race would be over early. I had been running on the soft shoulder of the road so I stepped back onto the pavement hoping the even surface might help. The pain did go away and soon I was pulling into the first aid station at about 3.3 miles. Already the lead runners were well out of sight and the one guy was 1/4 mile away. Two other guys passed me there and David McKay was coming in just as I was leaving. Just some water and I was out quickly in pursuit.
The rolling hills began as you leave this first stop and I soon repassed the two guys and ran strong up the hills until the 2nd aid station. We leapfrogged again with David just behind shadowing us as I left. The next section is my favorite of the course, mostly downhill and then turning on the dirt road. I was running well but took a pit stop along the way and allowed the two guys to catch me once again. I repassed them on the hill on the way to aid station three and that would be the last time I would see them.
As I left aid station three and began my second loop, I couldn't believe how great I was feeling. This was awesome. I had been so sore and feeling beat up since my back to back marathons two weeks ago but at this moment I was feeling strong and confident. I couldn't remember my time from last year but I felt I was a little slower. Even so, I was on pace for a Pr and feeling good so I began to pick up the pace a little.
I had only gone a little further when suddenly the hitch in my giddy-up returned. This was not good. I'm feeling great and on pace but my hip is giving out on me. I prayed that God would just let me get through this race andI promised I would rest and not race again until January. I guess God liked the deal because it would not give me any more problems the rest of the day.
Even with the record number of entrants this year, it is still a small race but I was a bit surprised how spread out we were by now. You can see for about a half mile at least while on Derby Road and I could only see the one guy that had passed me in the first mile way ahead. No one was behind me now except my shadow David about 5o yards back. I continued to run strong and things were pretty uneventful for awhile. I felt I was slowly closing the gap on the runner ahead but as I came into the first aid station again he was disappearing over the hill and as I left, David came in right behind me.
Once again I was strong on the hills. I had been running by myself the whole run so I was focusing on the runner ahead and using the chase to occupy my mind. I felt I was still closing in although he was at least1/4 mile ahead still. I came into the second aid station again and he had stopped and was meeting with his crew. He started out before me but he was toast. He began to walk and I ran by and that was the last I saw of him. I would not see another runner in front of me for the next 3 miles. Just as I was about half way up the hill to the third aid station. I spotted a figure ahead of me walking and running slowly up the hill. I caught him just before the top and saw that it was the legendary Ray Krolewicz. Ray was very encouraging to me and said I was now the first grandmaster in the race. Ray and I are within a couple of months of the same age.
My time for the second loop was almost identical to my first loop. I was running very consistent pace and still feeling good. Now all I had to do was hold it together for another lap. A quick look back and there was no one behind me but David still shadowing me and up ahead nothing but miles of road still to go. I was in and out of the first aid station again and facing the hills one last time. They were certainly tougher this third time but once again I was able to run all of them.
I soon came to the marathon point which Mark has painted in the road. My time of 3:58 :14 was the first time I could compare to last year when I had passed through in 3:54:56. I was over three minutes behind last year but I still felt a PR was mine as long as I didn't blow up. Last year at about 27 miles I had hamstring cramps and had to slow and do a lot of walking those last miles. As I entered the second aid station for the last time, I was tiring but still confident.
I was doing OK but as I hit the dirt road I could really feel my energy waning. David finally passed me looking strong and I had no intentions of trying to keep up with him. My goal was to keep moving and get that PR. As I nearly reached the end of the dirt road I spotted a figure ahead walking. It turned out to be Scot Haywood, which surprised me. I expected he would have been finished already. He asked me how far we had left and when I told him only about 1.5 miles, it seemed to inspire him and he took off running. I was now just shuffling along and as I turned onto the pavement and up the last hill my 2nd goal was gone. First had been 9 minute pace and now I had to walk. Oh well, I still had that PR if I could just keep moving. Matt Greene had run a smart race and went powering by me up the hill. I began alternating about 15 seconds of walking with a minute of running until I finally reached the top of the hill and I then knew I had it. Running strong back on the flat, I crossed the line a very happy guy in4:46:58, a pr by about 1.5 minutes. Although there are no age-group awards, I was the first runner over 50 years old for the second year in a row.Looking back at last years splits, I was behind pace all day so it was only in the last 5 miles that got the PR.
I quickly changed into some warm dry clothes and waited for friends at the finish. I was hoping Jenn would have a good day and I didn't have to wait long to see her. She had also run a smart race and set a new PR of 5:22:08, about 19 minutes improvement for her over Frosty 50K back in January. We waited around about another 30 minutes and then headed back to the community building for the delicious spaghetti lunch provided by the ladies from the local United Methodist Church.
It's a great little run and I had a lot of fun as usual. Just don't tell anybody. We like to keep it small and there is a limit.
Here are the photos