We got lucky with the weather this morning. It was 87F on Saturday and storms predicted overnight but the rain cleared out by 6:30am followed by a cold front so we had 50F and overcast at the start. About a 15 mph wind with gust at times but fortunately we were shielded much of the race .
I got in my usual warm up after waiting inside the Arcade whose parking lot was being used for the start. I lined up close to the front of the field of just over 300 runners and I didn't see too much in the way of competition but you never know. They had a ceremony with The Fire Dept honoring 9/11and other Fallen Heros complete with Color Guard and National Anthem from atop a Fire truck and then we were off.
After a flat 200 yards we hit the first nasty hill which reminded me of Cemetary and it was directly into the wind. I knew better than to push it now so I just relaxed. I was in around 45th place but people were streaming by me going up. I assumed a lot of them would be coming back to me. There was a nice little downhill to the dam of Fayetteville Lake which is flat so I was able to get going then. Not long after crossing we came to the one mile mark. It was 8:16 which was actually a bit faster than I expected. That was followed by a short hill and then begin what was typical of the next 6 miles around the lake. Slight ups and downs with very little flat. For the most part nothing steep, just steady grades. Mile 2 was 8:11 and three was 7:57 which would turn out to be the only sub 8 mile I could muster on this day.
I was feeling very good and confident of being able to hold close to this average but I was holding back a little because most of the course was unknown other than the elevation profile and I knew there was a lot of total climbing ahead. I settled in and was just enjoying the day. They had water stops nearly every mile but I wasn't stopping for water today. I had been slowly picking off some of the runners that had passed me on the first hill but by now the small field of 300 runners were spread out quite a bit..
Mile 4 was an 8:15 and just as I was thinking that this wasn't so bad, there was a pretty steep hill for the next quarter mile. I did enjoy the backside and maintained pace for an 8:10. Mile 6 completed the loop of the lake and we had to cross the dam again. Mile 6 was on the dam in 8:06. I was beginning to get some notice from spectators and volunteers that I was doing ok for an old guy !
After crossing the dam we turned away from the lake onto a connecting trail that would lead us toward downtown for the last 6.5 miles. At the turn I asked if there were any more old guys in front and was told they didn't think so. And right after that a petite young girl, maybe 12 or 13 went flying by me like she was just starting. You go girl !
I passed mile 7 in 8:09, still being fairly consistent and almost got a sub 8 for mile 8. According to the map it was all uphill from here but I didn't know how bad it would be but I was still feeling great. By now the clouds had moved away and it was a beautiful morning. The humidity was 100% but I was not having any breathing issues or over heating thanks to the temps holding steady in the low 50's but I was totally drenched ! Mile 9 was not as bad as I expected but mostly a slight grade, similar to the worst of the ATT and I did it in 8:06. I was doing mental calculations and guessing my finish time was going to be around 1:47 if I didn't blow up and I was pretty sure that wasn't going to happen.
Every time now as I passed a water stop or spectator area I was having someone tell me I was the oldest so far so that was encouraging but like I said, you never know. I wasn't going to back off. Mile 10 had a bit more climb plus a trip through a tunnel about 200 yds long and I slowed a bit to 8:19. Just a 5k tempo run with the Honey Badger to go was what I was telling myself.
The long grind continued mostly slightly up with the steep parts very short as we would just do a loop like a small exit ramp after passing over and under some streets. I was feeling good about mile 11 but then a bit of cruelty as we had to do a short out and back spur that would make the distance correct to the finish and of course it was uphill ! Mile 11 in 8:18. For a brief time at mile 10 I was thinking I might go under 1:47 but that was probably not going to happen.
Mile 12 was more of the same but a bit steeper grade and I was growing weary of the constant up up up and although I was trying to hold pace I had my slowest mile in 8:27. Just 1.1 to go. Just go ! I caught up to the young girl that passed me 6 miles earlier and she gave me a good job and I thanked her . Not long after that the final nasty hill came into view. A cruel steep climb worthy of Turkey Creek. There was a HS drum Line at the top which helped keep me motivated to not walk ! The young girl passed me back and I told her great work , now push it home which she did flying down the backside. I could see the finish ahead now and could let it rip. (turns out she was 14)
There was no marker for 13 but I did the last 1.1 in 9:22, about the same as my average. Funny thing I had estimated my average pace at mile 6 to be around 8:10. Actual pace for the race was 8:11 so considering the toughness of the 2nd half especially, I am very pleased with the consistency.
The finish line atmosphere was great. Live band, lots of food, drop bags and friendly people. I had several come over to me and tell me how great I did and how good I looked running. I had a sweatshirt to wear but was so wet that it was soaked in no time from my sweaty shorts and singlet. I was about to go to my car when they finally posted the age group winners and I saw I had accomplished what I came for. So I quickly went to my car to change into dry clothes, fire off a message to the #1 fan and then headed back for the awards. My moment of glory was anti climactic as about the time my named was called the first of about 6 or 7 firefighters that were running in full gear including air tanks came into view and everyone moved over to watch him including the photographer so I was left standing on the podium with no one looking lol. Oh well, those firefighters deserved the attention.
Soon after, the race director who is also a fireman and the founder of the race came over to chat with me. He seemed quite happy that I traveled so far. I congratulated him on putting on a quality event that I could highly recommend to anyone. If they didn't mind a tough course.
Final results. 1:47:21 which with the toughness of the course I feel was equivalent to a 1:42-1:43 on flat ground.
1st Senior Grandmaster and 43rd overall out of 295 finishers.
This put me solidly into 1st place in the Running Journal Grand Prix after the 2 events. I got 100 points for the win plus 25 bonus points for the distance so I have a total of 180 points now. No one else that ran the first race was here so 2nd place has 125 points and 3rd with 110.
So that's another one for the books.
Stay tuned for the next adventure.