I was really looking forward to the race. My training has been going really well and I needed something to break up the monotony of it all and have something to go after. The last couple of days leading up to the race, I was feeling really pent up and ready to race. Brock has run the race pretty much every year, so I knew he would be ready to fight for the win. I also heard that Sean Keveren was going to be there. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 2012 and was a 13:48 5k guy and All-American in the 10k. I couldn't find any recent results on Sean but with that kind of talent, I knew he would be tough. But I had some extra incentive to beat him because there's a Nashville area runner who has a moderate man-crush on the guy and I knew if I lost, I'd never hear the end of it.
The race runs down-and-back Belle Meade Boulevard in Nashville, which doesn't have much flatness to it. You're either going gradually up or down, with the first half mostly uphill, before turning around and coming back down. My tactics would depend on the field but if Lee Gilmer showed up, I was planning on starting pretty hard the first couple of minutes, in hopes to get the pace rolling, before tucking back behind and then making a big push after the turnaround. If he wasn't there and it was just me, Sean and Brock, I was going to relax the first couple of minutes before slowly tightening the screws throughout the race, in hopes they eventually cracked.
Since I heard parking can be a nightmare, I got there super early and found a decent spot at 6:20am (8:00 start time). When I left my housee, it was 16 degrees and with the race time temperature 19 degrees, it was probably going to be the coldest weather I've ever raced in. The 2002 DII XC Championships had some massive snow the day before the race and it was also insanely cold but I don't remember the temperature. In that race, the heavily favored and East African-heavy Abilene Christian team from Texas lost to Western State from Gunnison, CO, which has an average daily low of -8 during January. Alaska-Anchorage also surprised a ton of people with a much higher than expected finish and I had an absolutely terrible race. After that race, I vowed to never return to Ohio again but broke that promise on my way to the USA 25k Championships this past May. It was the first road race I've ever dropped out of, and I'm certain my stop in Ohio jinxed me. Heaven forbid if Cincinnati gets the 2016 Marathon Olympic Trials. But yeah, back to the race.
Because of the weather, I planned on getting a slightly longer warm-up than usual and was dressed like an Eskimo with my pants, long tights, running shorts and even sported a pair of underwear under my shorts. I also had on a long-sleeve compression shirt, regular long sleeve shirt, thick hoody and not one, but two beanies. I would have also worn two pairs of gloves but I couldn't find my second pair of 75 cent Wal-Mart gloves. So yeah, it was cold.
I went back to my car to change about twenty minutes before the race and spent most of that time shirtless in the parking lot, trying to put on my race shirt before figuring out I went through both sides of the shirt with all four of the safety pins. My race attire was going to be the long-sleeve shirt, shorts, a pair of gloves and I was going to leave the hat behind. I have a surprisingly warm head for a bald guy and hate the feeling of a hot head. But after jogging to the starting line, which was about 1/3 of a mile away, I immediately regretted that decision because my ears were killing me.
After knocking out a few strides, it was time to head to the line. I only noticed Brock and Sean and unless someone else was hiding out, I was going to stick to my pre-race plan of patiently finding my rhythm. But Mike Tyson says that everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth, and once the race started, I was out much harder than expected. About a minute or so in, I could tell I was running too fast because by the sound of things, I had a several second lead. I backed off a hair but tried to keep a fast enough pace so they wouldn't run me down. There were a couple climbs on the first mile and I went through in 4:53. It felt like I was running sub 4:50 pace for sure, but I figured I got a little bit lazy, so I kept on the gas. I couldn't hear them behind me anymore and then felt like I had a large rock or something on the bottom of my shoe. I slowed down and kicked my foot against the ground a few times but it wouldn't come off. I later figured out it was the big callous behind my toe that probably got super hard because of the really cold temperature. And at this point, my hands were so cold that I could barely make my thumb and pinky touch each other.
My second mile was a 4:48, which I felt was going to set me up to have a shot at sub 24 since the second half was going to be downhill. I made a few more climbs before making the turnaround and heading on the other side of the road. After turning around, it took me eight seconds to meet up with Brock, with Sean on his tail, on the other side of the road, so I figured I had about a 15-16 second lead. It was a nice cushion but if the two worked together or made moves on each other, one of them could still chase me down. So I kept on pushing some more.
I liked running on the opposite side of the road because I could see a lot of my friends running and enjoyed all of the people cheering for me, which gave me an added boost. I felt like my lead was increasing and with splits of 4:43 and 4:45 the next two miles, I knew I was probably going to break 24. I made the final turn and saw 23:30s on the clock and finished in 23:41 with a 4:31 last mile. Brock finished second in 25:00 and Sean was just behind him in 25:06. I was happy with the margin of victory because those guys are tough dudes.
It was a really satisfying race because I was able to run a good bit under 24 minutes and felt strong running it. Brock told me that he's been doing his tempo runs at 5:00 pace and said 5:00 pace in this race was much harder than any of his tempos. So hopefully the cold weather slowed me down some, which means I'm even more fit than I thought. I feel a ton fitter than I did going into my marathon-specific cycle last year, so I look forward to seeing how my training progresses. This is also most likely my last race before the Houston Marathon, unless I decide to run Max King's sadistic Club XC course in a couple of weeks.
So all-in-all it was a great Thanksgiving. I even decided to not eat your traditional Thanksgiving dinner, since all I like to eat on Thanksgiving is dark meat turkey, pumpkin pie and macaroni and cheese. So my wife and I decided to have a Pizzagiving, with pumpkin pie, of course. I even attempted to brave the insane Wal-Mart crowd that evening so I could try and get the 70" Vizio TV, they were selling for just under $1000. The parking lot was completely full, and after parking far away and walking to the store, I saw people were literally sprinting from the parking lot, into the store. And it was the type of people you can tell don't exactly run very often. But the TV's were gone, so I will wait until I can try and snag a good deal again. Not bad a bad Thanksgiving!