Thursday, October 25, 2007

American Tobacco Trail 10 Mile

My legs feel like cement I said to Mike as he urged me to hang with him. "I can't hear you buddy" he replied. That's because he was pulling away as I continued my slowly declining pace.

Back in my younger running days, 10 miles was my favorite race distance. Short enough not to wear me down like a marathon but long enough not to need to hurt every step like a 5K. The ideal distance for a not too fast and not too strong runner like me. However since I have been specializing in marathons and mostly ultramarathons the past several years I have really not tested myself over this distance. Other than pacing Karla 2 years ago in Greenville, I have not raced the distance in at least 7 or 8 years.With my impending race at the Richmond Marathon coming up in November, I thought that this would be an ideal test and training run as I prepare for my Boston qualifier.

I awoke way too early on a beautiful October morning, but noticed right away that it was way too warm and muggy for this time of year, but that is just the way the weather pattern has been. Fortunately the course is shaded over 90% of it's course and I never felt that the temperature affected me, although I'm sure it had some subtle effect. I arrived at the trail parking lot early and enjoyed meeting and greeting many friends. With the limited field of runners, and being an NCRC event, I knew quite a lot of runners as well as volunteers. Lisa Howell and I ran a warm-up mile together and then I began final preparations. As I sat adjusting my shoes, I noticed the Trail Angel had arrived with Allison and Alan to volunteer. Laura would not be running as she is preparing for the Ridge to Bridge Marathon on the 27th but it was a pleasant surprise to see her there.
By now it was nearly time to start and I realized the starting line was about a quarter mile up the road so I had to hurry off. Soon all were ready and RD Aaron sent us on our way. My plan was to stay relaxed and hope to reach halfway at 7:30 pace. Then if I felt good maybe pick it up and if not just try to maintain. We were quickly onto the soft, well shaded trail and I settled into my pace. Mike Walsh soon pulled up beside me and we would be near to each other for most of the remainder of the run. He was just trying to get in a good workout but got caught into a strong pace with another guy and pulled away. As we hit the first mile which I passed in 7:16, he realized he was going too fast and dropped back to run with me for a while. It was a little too fast for me but I felt good and just relaxed, settling into a nice rhythm. It was most pleasant running through the woods on the nice flat, soft surface. Ideal for a fast run. Even so, the very slightest change in elevation seemed to affect pace ever so slightly.

Being an out and back course, I began to see the lead runners coming back to me. This was nice so I could see all the people I know out on the course and exchange encouragement. I decided to count everyone ahead of me and was in about 43rd or 44th place.. Mike and I hit 5 miles together and I although I had slowed a little bit , I was only about 12 seconds behind my planned pace and still feeling good. I passed a couple of runners but mostly just tried to stay relaxed and hold the pace. Around 7 miles, I stopped for a cup of gatorade and the runners I had passed went by. Over the next mile I was slowly reeling them in but then the legs started tightening up as we ran through the Hwy 55 underpass. That's when I had to watch as Mike and the others slowly pulled away. There would be no 75:00 today so I just hoped to finish as comfortably as possible and as I could hear no footsteps behind me , I felt my position was safe.

I guess pain is inevitable though if you are racing and sure enough with about 200 yards to go I began to hear someone behind me and then with 100yds I could tell there were at least 2 runners and they were coming on strong. This is not what I wanted but my competitive instincts took over and I began pushing harder and harder until the footsteps seemed to fade. But then I had to finally reach for the last ounce of speed left in me to keep from being nipped at the line. The next guy was given the same time with two others right behind. As I bent over, hands on my knees gasping and trying not to throw up, I said to the volunteers nearby," I really didn't want to have to do that!"

So, I didn't achieve me time goal but overall I had a great time and finished 4th out of 17 in my age-group. Not really a confidence booster for my goal at Richmond but I have three weeks to recover, train and taper. I probably shouldn't have run at Hinson Lake and concentrated my training but I had a goal there and really wanted to do it so I will accept whatever comes. Bottom line is that I have fun and do the things I enjoy with my fellow runners and friends.

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