As I mentioned in my preview I had not planned on running this race until after doing so well in Lynchburg. With the way things have been going for me this year I was feeling confident I would be able to achieve my goal of beating my time here from 10 years ago but the other goal of making the podium was going to be tough with the level of competition signed up to race.
I arrived at the race site in plenty of time to pick up my bib and do a little socializing. The weather was nearly perfect with a starting temperature in the 50's and low humidity and the wind hadn't started picking up yet. I did my usual pre race warm up and then headed over to the start with just a few minutes to go. The women had just started 10 minutes earlier which helps to thin out the crowd on this narrow course so by the time we caught the slower runners and walkers it would not be a problem passing.
As expected all the fast Seniors I expected and a few more that I didn't know if they would be competitive or not had shown up to race. And again as expected as soon as the race started Kevin and Robert were gone. Mike was just ahead but my main concern was to settle in and not get sucked out too fast in the first mile. I stayed very relaxed and was thrilled to hit the 1st mile in 7:24 and it felt a slower. Yes, I think it is going to be a good day !
The legend , 71 year old Wade Clark was just ahead too. What an amazing runner ! By mile two I was holding steady and caught up to Mike. It was pretty cool running alongside of him and knowing we were both having the same goal of fnishing in front of the other !
Around mile 3.5 I finally eased by Wade but he was still lookiing strong. Around the same time I passed a couple of others that were possibly in my age group. At mile four Mike stopped for water and for a moment I thought maybe he was slowing but just about the 5 mile mark there he was right beside me again. My time at the half was still well ahead of my goal pace and only about 30 seconds slower than my fantasy goal. I saw John Tate at the turnaround and exchanged a quick greeting and then Mike made a move and gradually began to pull away.
I was hoping to keep him close and my pace for mile 6 was right where I wanted, 7:39 even with the sharp u turn but he was not coming back to me. It was a bit strange the next few miles. I still felt pretty good and my turnover seemed the same but now my splits kept getting a little slower each mile. Although it appears basically flat, the whole trail has about a 1% grade to it and most of the return was back up that grade and it just slowly zaps the speed out of you. I was really trying to drop the pace but the extra effort was not making me go any faster. And at times it would seem like I was beginning to close the gap on Mike but then he would find more energy and open the gap again. And to make it even harder I noticed the forecasted wind had picked up and was right in our faces the last two miles.
Finally I was able to see the finish line and although those last 3 miles were slower I knew I was going to beat myself from 2007 !
It would be awhile before the results were ready so I spent more time hanging out with friends and talking to my fellow seniors. Turns out because the race doesn't duplicate awards after taking out the first 3 Senior Grandmasters, I was left in first place for the age group ! Not exactly the most rewarding way to win but I'll take it ! And a big congratulations to those other guys. They are certainly on another level than me. But I think I might can take them in a hundred if I ever decide to race another one !
Oh, and my time was 77:07, which was 41 seconds faster than I ran 10 years ago ! The amazing year of turning back the clock continues ! Stay tuned for the next adventure !