Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The American Tobacco Trail 10 Miler: Race Report -- 10/22/2011

The American Tobacco Trail 10 Miler was designated as the 2011 Road Runners club of America North Carolina 10 Mile State Championship Event, which meant nothing to me other than, there would be a lot of fast folks at this race.  I was also certain that I would be spending my near the tail end of the field, which I had no problem with at all.  The field was going to be fleet of foot, but the race was also going to sport some top notch organization and another great location to run.  It seemed to me that the 10 mile distance itself would also weed out a lot of people, who like the sexiness of the Half and Full Marathon but aren't looking to run a lot of races.  Another thing that I knew would discourage a lot of recreational runners was that the race had a strict ban on headphones: the website even went as far as to say:

As a USATF sanctioned race we must enforce recently amended rule 144.3(b) that prohibits the use of portable electronic devices by participants competing in long distances running races.

Any violators will be disqualified and timing will NOT be scored. For your safety and the safety of your fellow runners, please leave your headphones at home.

I didn't add in the bold type or italics folks -- that's a direct cut and paste!  Scary, Huh! Personally, I had been in need of something to force me to leave my i-pod at home.  I had been running without music for most of the year until I got laid up with the flu.  I started using the I-pod again when I came back to distract me from how bad I felt. 

There were two main reasons that I wanted to run this race: One -- I had never run on the American Tobacco Trail, and Two --  I wanted another longer distance race following the Neuse River Bridge for fear of a "what now moment?"  I am kinda famous or infamous for what I call a "What Now Moment?" after a major accomplishment.  I sort of get lost and make really dumb decisions because I focus so much on achieving my goal that I have no real idea what I want to do next.  Anyway, I figured that another race right after the Half would help me keep my head in the game.

As for the course, the race was being run on the American Tobacco Trail, which is a Rails to Trails project that runs over 20 miles from Durham to just south of Apex NC.  Most of the trail is covered in a fine compacted gravel surface that is ideal for running and fairly flat.  I had heard that it was a wonderful place to run, and a lot of people rave about the Spring Marathon and Half Marathon that utilize the trail.  Even though I was well aware of the trail, I have never ventured the 20 minute drive to see for myself, mainly because my beloved Umstead Park is just minutes away from my door. 


Saturday was nice chilly morning cool enough to sport my Raiders nit cap (which I will refer to from here on as a toboggan) rather than my hat.  Since the race was on a trail and there would not be enough parking, there was a shuttle bus service running from the USA Baseball Training Complex to the race HQ where we picked up our timing chips and could use the restrooms.  After that, we walked about a quarter of a mile to the starting line for the start of the race.  Since the race was being run on a trail about 10 feet wide, there were two starts one for women and another 15 minutes later for men.  I had no pretense as to my place in this field and made my way right to the back of the pack.  My goals were to run a smart race, try to keep my splits close together, beat my average pace for the half Marathon, negative split the race, and walk away in much better shape than I had the Half. 

The Start and Mile One:
I had triple checked Old Bob before the race to ensure that he was at full power for the race.  My warmups had not been great and I felt stiff, but at the start of the race, I felt really good.  The first mile actually began on a street leading to the trail in order to accommodate the whole field of runners being packed together.  This would lead to a slightly long outbound portion of the race because the finish would be on the trail.  Some people don't like out and back races, but I am rather fond of them.  However, this also meant that the race began with a small incline.  I could tell right off that I was going to have a good race -- maybe my Raiders toboggan has special powers, who knows.    I tried hard not to go out too fast and forced myself to slow down several times during the first mile.

Miles Two through Four:
The field had indeed been just as fast as I had imagined, and I was clearly near the back of the pack, which was just fine by me because it allowed me to concentrate totally upon my race.  Most of the out bound portion of the race was on a slight decline, which I knew would make my goal of a negative split more difficult, but I still felt up for the challenge.  I had done well in regards to not going out too fast for perhaps the first time.  Miles two, three, and four were all about maintaining an even pace and not trying to do too much.  I felt great, but I needed to resist the temptation of taking advantage of how great I felt.  I kept telling myself that the more energy I conserved on the first half of the course, the better I would run on the back half.  I started to encounter runners from the women's race some where into the third mile.  And, I saw the eventual winner of the women race on her return leg as I finished my fourth mile.  Immediately, I  recognized her as someone I see running in both Umstead and on Hillsborough St. all the time. I felt great by the end of my fourth mile and most of the field was now passing me going in the opposite direction, but I was running my race and my splits were exactly where I wanted them.

Miles Five, Six, Seven:
I took my Gu (Espresso Love)  at the start of mile five and finished it at the turn, which was at 5.3 miles.  The next three miles were about maintaining my pace despite the course shifting to more of an incline and the early onset of fatigue.  I know that I am really bad about pushing myself to maintain my pace during uphill portions of a race, which leads to some wild swings in my splits.  It was a major goal of mine to work on that during this race, and I was having to push myself not to let my pace fall into the 10min. mile range that much during these miles.  I did a fairly decent job and was happy with the results. 

Miles Eight and Nine:
AKA -- Reeling in Mr. Red Cap.  When I looked ahead of me at the start of mile Eight I could only see a few men ahead of me.  Most of the other guys were way beyond my line of sight.  There were a few guys behind me and I had just passed three younger guys that I knew would re-pass me at some point.  However, I could make out one guy wearing a Red (most likely NC State) Cap with about four or five women in between us.  Catching him became my goal for the next two miles.  I gradually picked up my pace and began to shrink the  distance between us.  I could see him getting closer to me as I passed each of the ladies that had been running between us.   There was only about 15 seconds between us at the 8.5 mile mark.  I finally caught him at the 9 mile mark and picked him off.

Mile Ten and the Finish:
AKA -- This one hurt.  After passing Mr. Red Cap, I could feel the hurt in a bad way.  I knew that I was slowing down as we were again running on an incline.  I tried my best not to let my pace slip too much and to fight off the guys who were coming up from behind me.  The three young guys that I knew were going to pass me zipped by shortly after I passed Mr. Red Cap.  two more older guys also passed me on the first half of mile 9.  I knew that one of them was gone for good but the other was lingering close and I thought that I could get him if I pushed.  At the 9.7 mile mark I got sick of the hurt.  I wanted it over with!  I could feel that I was no longer running upright, but was hunching over, and I decided enough.  So I launched into what would become a full on head long berserker sprint for the finish line.  I didn't do it to save seconds or to pass people -- I did it to end the hurt as quickly as possible.   I looked like a complete Jackass, I am sure!  But, I finished the race on my own terms and ended the hurt.  I was able to pass the one of the older dudes that passed me as well, which was nice. 

I felt Awesome.  I didn't negative split the race, but I achieved all of my other goals.  I didn't feel wrecked by this race mile I did the Half, and I felt like I had run a much stronger race.  I can not wait to run this race again next year.  Honestly, I think that The American Tobacco Trail 10 Miler will go down as my favorite race of 2011 . . . at least thus far!

10 miles in  1:33:26 for a 9:20 pace

1-- 9:16
2 --9:01
3 --9:35
4 --9:12
5 --9:14
6 --9:43
7 --9:35
8 --9:04
9 --9:15
10 --9:30


  1. Super exciting nail biter of a race recap! And your splits were pretty dang awesome. The trail looks beautiful.

    I thought a toboggan was a sled...

  2. Well done! Very consistent times there, nice!

    I think it would be cool to run a 10-mile race, kind of a different distance but a respectable one for certain.

    I also think I look like a bit of a tool at the end of races when I go into my sprint. Oh well. I'll take that if I can shave off a few seconds from my time :)

  3. The rule about headphones from USATF is an old rule that they have changed (thankfully!). It's up to race directors now if headphones are allowed or not. :)

  4. Yeah, that rule seemed rather Draconian, but I think they still trucked it out because of the narrowness of the trail, and I understand the dangers that I-pod can create. I saw a lady messing with her I-pod at my Half Marathon crash into a wheelchair racer because she couldn't here his warnings. Still, sometimes . . . I just need a little lift and the tunes help!

  5. Look at you running a 10 miler right after a half like it's nothing! You are hooked...LOVE it!
    Reeling in Mr. Red Cap, I like this part of the story because I have been there picking out random folks and then gunning for them...poor unsuspecting people.
    GREAT job!!!