It was time for the famed R.C. Cola Moon-Pie 10 Miler. I didn't know much about this race except that it's very hot and hilly and takes place in Bell Buckle, TN. To me, it sounded like a brutal race experience but yet, a lot of the people in the Hendersonville Running Club absolutely love the race. I guess they are gluttons for punishment...
However, I decided to take a stab at it. I didn't know the race started so early, so Mary and I woke up at 4:30. The drive was a little bit over an hour and we got there a little under an hour before race time. That gave me some time for a 10 minute warm-up with some strides thrown in for good measure.
I started in a pack of about 10 or so guys. Mary thought it was funny because no one in the pack said a word and looked totally serious while people further back were chatting it up. I hit the mile marker in 5:41 which was fast but felt controlled. Warren Adler started to break up the pack some, which got things rolling. I hit the three mile mark in 17:29 and the fourth in 23:27 in 6th place, right behind Jeff Edmonds. I was a little nervous because Jeff ran a really solid 15:48 5k a few weeks prior, so I was hoping I wasn't going out too fast.
Before the fifth mile, there was a really big, steep climb. I'm a terrible hill runner and had a side stitch right before the hill, so needless to say, I lost a lot of time going up it. Matt Pulle passed me right before it, which moved me to 7th place. At the top of the hill was the five mile marker, which also meant I was halfway done. I hit that at 30:00, which was right at my goal pace, which was a motivating sign. However, my last mile split was 6:33 and it was getting hotter by the minute and I wasn't sure how I would respond the second half because the longest race I've ever done in my life was a 10k.
I tried to reel in Matt but I couldn't get any closer to him. I hit the next mile in 5:53, which put me back under 60:00 pace. In the 7th mile, I caught Peter Woerner, who runs at Tennessee Tech with Steven Bretz, a runner I used to coach at Beech. My 7th mile split was 5:51 and despite the increase in speed, I still wasn't having any luck catching Matt. Lipscomb runner, Geoffrey Musick was now in sight, which gave me some motivation to chase. I went by him and split 5:47 that mile, which was the fourth mile in a row I increased my pace.
Making all of the passes mentally tired me out a good bit and not catching Matt frustrated me some, so I was losing some motivation. What made matters worse was that there was another big hill coming up. Luckily I saw Warren Adler, the early leader, walking up the hill. This gave me a revamped my motivation because if I passed him, I would be fourth place and have a shot at finishing in the top three. That sounded a lot better than me to fourth or fifth, so I went after him and made the pass.
With Warren behind me, my next focus was catching Michael Peters. Michael is a very tough runner for Montgomery Bell Academy who just finished his junior year. He is a sub 2:00 800m guy, as well as sub 9:40 3200m runner and he has a good chance of being the best runner in TN next year, regardless of division. I knew he was physically in much better shape than me but I figured he would have trouble late in the race. High school track makes you a little ADD because your races are so short and you only have to focus for a small period of time. Racing ten miles is a whole new ball game and I knew it was only a matter of time before he got mentally distracted and tired out. After passing him, I continued to press the pace because I knew if he stayed close, he would outkick me. I also really, really didn't want to get beat by a high school kid, especially at the end of the race.
My split that mile was 6:02, which was my second slowest of the race so far. However, it was up a decent sized hill, so I didn't worry about it. There was just one mile to go and I was getting really tired. When I race 5ks, the pain is very intense but you can fight through it because you know it won't last long. In this race, I was hurting but it was a different kind of hurt...I was flat out exhausted and just wanted to be done.
I thought about trying to catch Matt this mile but realistically, he was just too far ahead. I was also really drained and was for the most part, racing in "survival" mode. I crossed the line in 3rd place in 59:13, which gave me a 5:47 last mile. Jeff raced a very smart race and had an easy win in 57:41 with Matt in 2nd place in 58:48. I didn't realize he was so close but Geoffrey ended up also catching Michael, finishing in 59:24, with Michael 10 seconds behind.
After the race, I was by far the most tired I've been in my life. Normally after a race, I like to cool-down for a couple miles but after this race, all I could do was sit on the ground and whine to Mary. I was debating cooling down with Jeff but after jogging a couple of steps, I knew I was done. With the race over, it was time to celebrate with some R.C. Cola.