For the past two years, I've run the 10k at this race (and did the 5k/10k double last year). I debated running the double again because it would be a really good hill training stimulus but I decided to pass on it. My goal for the race was to run it as a pretty hard tempo run and keep my mile splits between 5:00-5:10. The course is really hilly, so that would be pretty tough. I've always felt that the pace someone can run here for 10k is the same pace they can race for a flat half-marathon. Tough course!
Friday morning, I woke up feeling like crap. I didn't have enough time to prepare for a sub, so I went in for half the day, so I could rest the second half. As the day went on, I started feeling really badly with chills, body aches and a low grade fever. Finally, 10:30am rolled around, and as soon as I got home, I was in bed. I felt pretty miserable the rest of the day and didn't get out until my alarm went off at 6:00am the next morning.
If I didn't already sign up for the race, I would have skipped it. But since I'm pretty cheap and hate throwing away/wasting money (I prefer to call it being financially conservative), I wanted to at least think about running. I got out of bed, threw on a hoody and did some easy jogging up-and-down my street. I was leaning towards staying home but I ate a small breakfast (no appetite), took a shower and still was debating it.
Against my better judgement, I hopped into the car and was on my way. I almost turned around before hitting Davidson County, but decided to drive a little further. Finally I was there and got there in time to see Connor Kamm win the 5k in an easy 16:08. He was doubling back in the 10k, which worried me. You got $100 for the win, which was my main hope/justification for running today. I also talked myself into believing that being sick made my body weaker, so the hills would be harder on my body, which would help more down the road. I met up with Connor and jogged about two miles for my warm-up and his cool-down/warm-up since he was doubling back up.
We talked about our 10k plans and he wanted to start at a 5:30 effort and work down. My pre-virus plan was to run it as a pretty hard tempo run, so I told him I was planning on running hard. Granted my "hard" in this race was going to be much slower than anticipated but I knew I had to build an early gap, in hopes he didn't chase me. I finished up the warm-up, did a couple half-hearted strides and was nervous about how it would all go down.
When the gun went off, I shot out pretty hard. Fortnuately, Connor let me go. My legs didn't feel like working but I knew I needed to press the pace. The first mile drops a good bit and I figured I'd hit it around 4:45. When my watch got around that time, I was looking for the mile marker and after 5:00, I got a little worried because I thought I was running really slowly. Finally, I convinced mysely they forgot the mile markers and got ready for the second mile, which is the toughest mile on the course (has a 1000m hill that climbs a couple hundred feet.)
When I started to climb, I tried to focus on my usual hill running cues: stand "tall" (I have a tendencey to lean way too far forward), focus on a good knee lift and increase my leg turnover. I was really scared of this hill because I'm a bad enough hill runner as it is, and the sickness was toying with my emotions. I had visions of having to walk up the hill and then getting passed by Connor and then John Ramsay. And to make matters worse, this course isn't drop out friendly, so I was not enjoying the moment.
I really hate that hill. Just when you hope you are close to being finished, you make a turn and can see it climb around the other way. That image always gives me a quick kick in the soul. I finally made it to the top, checked over my shoulder and I couldn't see Connor but I kept moving hard, just in case.
After climbing the second mile, you get a nice, steep half-mile downhill. I enjoy downhills (who doesn't), so I opened up and let myself benefit from the extra gravity. After the downhill decent, you cut a quick left, which is one of my least favorite parts of the course. You run down (well, techincally, you run up) for about half a mile, make a 180 turn and then come back down. I hate this part because I hate all things uphill but also because I always get scared that I ran down too far and missed the turnaround. This year, I didn't have that problem. A couple of hundred meters after making the turn, I saw two girls standing by the first cone that reminded runners to keep to the left. I passed it and one of the girls told me to turn around. I stopped and asked if they were sure and they seemed pretty convinced. I knew it didn't make sense but figured that they changed the course somewhere else. I made my quick turn, saw I had about 30 seconds on Connor and then tried to push the pace again, as I descended another half-mileish long hill.
I was feeling pretty confident at this point but knew the dreaded "golf course" hill was coming up shortly. Even though I hate nearly all uphills, I really hate this one. It's about 1000m long and comes in three climbs. On paper, it's not any worse than the hill in the second mile, but you are much more tired five miles (well, 4.5 because of the turnaround debacle) into a 6.2 mile race than you are in the second mile (after a downhill first mile). I did my best to trot up it and every year, I always find it ridiculous how slowly I am running up the thing. Finally, I made it to the top, finished out the last 3-4 minutes and crossed the line in 29:10, with Connor finishing up his long day about 1.5 minutes behind. My GPS said the course was 5.65 miles and gave me a pace of 5:10, which is exactly what I wanted. In most road races, my GPS measures a little bit long but anytime I run at Percy Warner, it measures short, so who knows how far it was. I was just happy to be able to win the race and not feel like death. Unfortunately, the death feeling came back and my fever came back and I went to bed early, after puking up my McDonald Chicken Nuggets, which remarkably were just as white and the same exact shape they were when I ate them six hours earlier.
I really like this race because of the difficulty of the course. It's also a great fitness test two weeks out from the Tom King Half-Marathon. Hopefully they will bring the mileage markers back. Last year, a few were in the wrong spot and this year they were missing completely. The course is USATF certified, so putting them in the right spot should be a pretty easy thing to do. That's my only old man gripe about the race for now.