Race to Read 8k – First overall win – October 2010

Race to Read 8k
This was on Saturday, its a part of my running club “Tour de Columbia” series but had fairly limited attendance – a week ago was a major race (Ray Tanner 12k/5k) and there were 2 other races in the area same day. About 45 runners, though a decent crowd was there overall as there was a sizable walk and kids run. Weather was unusually cold for SC in October – high 30’s at the start – I forgot my running gloves and I was pretty chilly in a long sleeve tech shirt and shorts. Looking around at the start there were a few familiar faces but none of the local elites. One guy, Greg, who is a friend of mine, runs slightly faster at the 10k than me and slightly slower at 5k. There was a thin, fast looking guy with a college singlet wearing Vibram 5 fingers shoes, so I assumed he would probably trounce the field. I didnt know him though. I wasnt sure how to do the 8k distance, so I averaged my low 6:20 and low 6:40 5k and 10k paces and decided to shoot for 6:30ish. My PR in the only other 8k I’ve done (in Nov 2009) is 34:08 (6:50 pace), and this was a very good race for me at the time.

With the gun, college guy goes out like a rocket along with three kids, with myself and Greg lagging behind them. The kids faded in the first half mile, and pretty soon it was Greg and I running side by side with college dude about 30 meters ahead. I told Greg that I thought college guy would win this race by several minutes, but he pointed out that the guy was breathing hard. Sure enough, the cold allowed you to see a lot of huffing and puffing going on way up front. We reached mile 1 at 6:36, right on pace. The course had an initial hill but much of mile 2 was downhill, which I knew we would have to make up given the loop course. We continued to gain on college guy, and by mile 2 we were running as a 3 person pack. Second split was also 6:30s. Greg and college guy then picked up the pace and gapped me by about 10 meters as the course started rolling and becoming more difficult. As mile 3 approached, Greg surged ahead of college guy and I ended up passing him as well right before the marker , which was about 6:40. I was starting to breathe harder but what was hurting me the most was a sense of lactic acid in my legs, burning around my calves. Thankfully as the 4th mile started, it was flat and then a long downhill before a ferocious hill in the distance. Greg had gapped me by about 20-30 meters at this point and I was really frustrated with this, as we should be pretty even at this distance. The extended downhill really helped me clear the lactic acid burn, and the gap held steady to the mile 4 marker, split was also high 6:30’s. At this point i knew there was 0.96 to the finish, a majority up the brutal hill. I know I’m both good at hills and at finishing strong, so I decided that this was my chance. The temptation of an overall win was too great too pass up, even though it was going to hurt. I really ramped the pace up the hill and made a huge gain on Greg, who seemed to be fading. At the top of the hill I was only about 10 feet back as we entered a quarter mile “nature trail” before  a flat paved finish. I was just behind Greg as we were finishing the trail when I looked down and saw we had only .25 left. I then launched into an absolute sprint, even though I was hurting pretty bad by this time. Passed Greg as we hit the paved section and ran like a maniac. I had to suppress a dry heave on the last turn, but I could see I was leading by over 30 feet and coasted in with a 32:37 and my first overall win. Felt amazing, almost as good as my first sub 20 5k. It was a small race and  not very competitive, but it was great to have to dig down deep and fight for it. PR’d by a minute and a half too!


Ray Tanner 12k – October 2010

Ray Tanner Home Run 5k/12k

This is an increasingly large race that was founded by Ray Tanner, the South Carolina baseball coach, for his foundation for special needs children. The two courses are really cool because they start and end at Carolina stadium, where the Gamecocks play.  Finish is actually at home plate with a local sports guy calling out your name as you come through the outfield and down the third base line. The race sold out this year for the first time, 1300 runners combined. I was considering doing the 5k as both are on the Tour de Columbia race series, and the 12k is by far the more competitive, as it is the state championship for this distance. I had been disappointed in my 12k race last year, where I went out too fast and had to really slow down before making a decent finish. Its a hard race to gauge pace, as the 7.46 miles is not something anyone is really used to. I finished in 55:55 last year, 7:30 pace, though at that time my idea of a “long run” was about 6-7 miles. My strategy was to try to run about 6:40ish even pace this year and try to break 50 minutes (6:42). I was scared about going out too fast in this race because of last years troubles and my most recent 10k, where I blazed a 6:18 in mile 1 and paid for it dearly. I am in the midst of marathon training, having done a 2 22 miler last Sunday, this was a cut back week in prep for the last push to the Richmond Marathon Nov 13. I reluctantly agreed to a 4.5 mile warmup run to make sure that myself and my training group would get to 12 miles for the day. Even with the mileage weve been pulling recently, I was worried about how this long of a warmup would affect my race stamina. Warmup felt awesome – it was mid 40’s and clear, little wind. Finished about 15-20 minutes before race time.
Over 400 were in the 12k. Lined up 2nd row to try and mitigate my usual blast off at the start. The course does a 1 mile loop back to the start in which you get 2 doses of loud cheering of the 5k crowd (they start 15minutes later) and several high school cheerleading squads, so it is easy to get caught up in that energy. I felt good after the first mile, and my split was 6:46, actually slower than I had meant. The second and third miles go over and back a large incline of a bridge, and include several hills. This is where I ran into trouble last year, so I think I was too conservative once again, and ended up with a 7 minute split on mile 2 and somewhere in the 6:50s for mile 3. as I neared the mile 3 marker I ran  into the swarm of 5kers who merge on to the course. Unfortunately I was too slow to miss the first wave and I found myself dodging people with strollers and the 9 minute crowd. They were supposed to stay in one lane and the 12k in the other, but apparently no one paid attention to this. Luckily I was able to find a seam on the far left so I wasnt doing too much lateral movement. Halfway into mile 4 I was able to free myself from the 5k crowd. Our marathon group leader caught up with me and we ran most of the rest of the race together – I’m slightly faster in the shorter races, but he’s definitely the better long distance runner, and has BQ’d with a 3:08.  Hit mile 4 at around 6:50 or so, still slower than I wanted, but I was breathing pretty hard and mile 4-5 is a long steady hill, which luckily you come back down after the mile 5 marker. It was a little disheartening as I neared the top of the hill and there were already a steady stream of the lead pack blazing down while I was struggling a little to keep up the pace. I think the mile 5 split was 7 flat, after which I basically gave up hope of sub 50. As I started the downhill, I could feel myself recovering pretty fast – it was a good 3/4 of a mile of a decline that helped your speed significantly without being so steep as to wear out your quads. I think I really took this mile too easy, as the marathon group leader and another friend of mine started to gap me just a little. Split at mile 6, which was on a flat bridge, was 6:44. Had to start dodging 5kers again, except these were even slower, a lot of walkers. Knowing I had a mile and a half left, and growing increasingly frustrated with my attempt at pacing, I decided to try and step it up a bit. Some more small hills on this mile, but I closed the gap on the group leader and we were both step for step until the 7 mile marker – hit this in 6:28. At this point I absolutely put the hammer down. There was a slight decline and then a flat stretch into the stadium. Felt surprisingly good, and basically did a controlled sprint for the whole last half mile. Once I hit the stadium I did a 100 meters about as fast as my best 5k kick.  I didnt even look up to the last 20 meters, where I saw 50:07 or something. Finished in 50:10, couldnt believe how close I had gotten to my goal given how far off pace I had been at mile 6. Ended up beating our group leader by about 10 seconds. Last split for the last 0.46 was 5:19 pace, with a best pace of 4:00. Yeah, thats leaving too much in the tank. What’s worse, I missed 3rd in my age group by less than a minute, and 1st was only a minute and a half faster. I was a little disappointed, but the 5:45 improvement from last year was huge, and of course a PR for this odd distance. My two oldest boys ran the kids race right after the finish, and that was a lot of fun. I stayed around for the awards and had a chance to talk to Mr Sig (who did the 5k) – who will defnitely need to chime in on his performance yesterday – was a great day for him and his wife.

Race for Life 5k – October 2010

Race for Life 5k RR
This is the first year for this event, and it was tacked on to a huge (6000) “Walk for Life” to support breast cancer research. Despite its first year, there were 430+ runners. Course was totally new to me and I didnt have a chance to do a dry run on it. Temps were almost perfect, high 50’s – low 60’s at race time. Ran only about a mile in warmup with a few strides. I saw a few local elites but turnout was scarce among the top guys in our area.

My strategy was to go out in 6:15 and see what happened. I also wanted to make sure and beat my main competitor (eric)  in my age group, who was also there. The first mile felt pretty good. The field quickly thinned out and the course was decently flat. A few rolling hills but nothing to seriously slow you down. Eric went out super fast, as he often does, and I had to remember not to try and follow too closely because he always severely positive splits his races. I was helping the top local masters female pace herself in the first mile, as she has been trying to get back under 20 again after coming back from an illness this year. I hit the first mile almost exactly – 6:16 per the Garmin. My breathing was surprisingly contained at this point and my legs still felt pretty strong, so I was pleased with that. I decided to just try and hold the pace. I was already quickly gaining on Eric. The woman I was pacing fell off a little bit and I didnt see her again. We made the turnback on the loop course and all of a sudden hit a substantial steep hill. I decided to really bust it up the hill, which helped me pass several people (including Eric) but unfortunately it took more out of me than I had hoped. I was sucking a lot of wind at the top and never completely recovred, though the relatively flat mile and a half to follow helped some. I hit mile 2 at 6:24/12:40, which I was OK with given the hill had really slowed me down for a good quarter mile. I tried to nudge up the pace a little on mile 3, but my legs were starting to complain a little and my breathing was too ragged to really push it too much. I knew the last 2 tenths or so were screaming downhill, so I was trying to save some for that too. I started to gain on a pack in front of me, and towards the end of the mile we were pretty much together with me in the back. There was a mild hill near 2.7 or so, and then the downhill started right over the crest. The front guy pulled away some, and as I let the hammer down I was able to push past the other guy in the mini pack. Breathing pretty hard by then but I knew the finish was so close. Let the hill pretty much destroy my quads as I was desperately trying to hold off the other guy. There was a sharp turn midway down the huge hill as we entered a grassy area in a park with the finish about 100 yards in. Kicked it as hard as I could, but then realized there were two mats with the second for the runners finish. I eased a little bit in between the mats (maybe 20 feet) and the guy behind me almost clipped me at the line. Luckily he didnt – must have been a few microseconds. The lead guy in our pack faded a bit, and I almost caught him during my kick but came up just short. Official time was 19:47, 6th overall, 1st in age group. I was happy with the result, though hopefully I can be smarter next time about the course. Thought I might PR about halfway through. Still, I’ll never complain about a sub 20 or getting 1st in AG.