Yes, I must say I am very very happy with the way this turned out !
Leading up to this race my training had been going well but as I mentoned in the preview, I didn't taper other than 3 fairly easy days before the race and I had just completed a hard BQ attempt at Myrtle Beach 4 weeks ago and a pesonal best course run at Umstead Trail marathon 2 weeks ago. With these things on my mind I was reasonably confident I could at least have a shot at a sub 1:40 but also aware that it would not be easy no matter what happened and there was always the possibility that some lingering fatigue would de-rail my attempt in the latter stages of the race.
With that, I was very happy that the weather forecast was looking to be ideal for running hard. I did a one mile warmup and then worked my way to the start and lined up right behind the 1:40 pace group led by Jeremy Hong and Matt and Meghan Craver. I don't usually pay much attention to pace groups and will run faster or slower depending on how I feel but today I thought I would at least try ad keep them in sight for awhile. Well as soon as the race started I fell behind them in the large crowd of runners and as always there seem to be too many people that like to line up near the front that really have no business being anywhere near the front.
After the first half mile things spread out enough that I could get into a rhythm and settle into what felt like a comfortable pace. I hit one mile in 8:00 , about 23 seconds too slow but I wasn;t worried and thought with the congested start that I was currently running closer to goal pace. The pace group was still a pretty good ways ahead of me an I just relaxed and didn't worry about it. Sure enough mile 2 was dead on 7:37. I had plenty of time to chip way at the deficit in the first mile.
We turned off of the road and onto the trail around the 2.5 mile point and by now I was getting comfortable with the pace and put it on cruise control. I was very happy to hit mile 3 in 7:17. It felt easy and with that one mile I was close to making up the deficit. I still had not made up any ground on the pace group but shortly after that I noticed the gap was beginning to close as Jeremy must have backed off the pace a little. That first mile or two on the trail is pretty quick in the direction we were going and I hit mile 4 in 7:24. This was awesome. I felt great and was now moving ahead of goal pace.
I clicked off another good one hitting mile 5 in 7:27 and by now had closed the gap and was right behind Jeremy. Matt and Meghan had moved on ahead a ways at that point. Shortly after that I moved ahead of Jeremy and just decided to go for it. However the next mile is on a slight upgrade and I backed off the effort just a little. Maybe a little too much because mile 6 was 7:46 but when I made the turn at the halfway point I was still ahead of pace and moving well.
Things suddenly got very crowded with the two way traffic and the bulk of the 2,500 runners coming towards us now. I had caught up to Matt and was running right behind him but it was shoulder to shoulder and large groups coming towards us 3 and 4 abreast made it very tight and nearly bumping runners squeezing by. This is an awesome event but it is just a bit too crowded to have that many runners on such a narrow course.
Mile 7 was a quick 7:22, enough to make up for the slow mile 6 and keep me with a cushion. I felt strong through mile 8 in 7:25 and was now beginning to believe I may have a shot at not just the sub 1:40 but maybe even cracking 1:39 !
Mile 9 was slightly upgrade again but I passed it in 7:35 and was finally beginning to feel the effort but I still was sure I was not going to fall apart.. But mile 10 was getting tough and I was beginning to feel a stitch coming on and had to back off the effort a little. It was a disappointing 7:48 but then things leveled out and I was able to pick it up again. We turned back onto the road at 10.5 and the push was on now. Mile 11 was 7:38. I was digging deep now and focusing on trying to reel in a couple of guys up ahead that looked like they could possibly be in my age group.The time I was aiming for would have gotten me close or onto the podium for an age group award in just about all the previous races so I was trying to go for every second.
Mile 12 was even better with a 7:23. Oh yeah, one more to go. Sub 1:40 well in the bag but how close to 1:39 ? One more hill and then a turn back into the park with about 1/2 mile to go. I caught up to Meghan again and we ran together the rest of the way. Passed mile 13 in 7:23. I was thinking I would be closer to 1:39:30ish so when I saw I actually was going to finish in1:39:03 I was of course wishing I had been able to find just a little more speed somewhere. Ha ! Actually I am super satisfied and happy with the result !
During and after the race I had quite few people, some that I know and others that were strangers running in close proximity comment on how smooth and relaxed I looked and how I made it look easy. That makes me feel good of course and the fact is I felt great nearly the whole race.
I ended up 5th out of 56 in my age group so I am pretty happy with that being an old ultra runner that has been focused on the Umstead 100 since finishing Myrtle Beach. Stay tuned for more exciting adventures !