My Plan: I didn't have a firm race time goal. Instead I wanted to see if I could hold a pace at or under 9 minutes over 10 miles. My 5, 8, and 10k times recently all indicated that I can, but I haven't done it, so I wasn't confident in my ability. My idea was that this race would be a great test of my ability to hold my half marathon pace. However, as we lined up for the race, I wasn't sure where I wanted to line up. The organizers did a great job of organizing the start by pace, and I had the option of joining either the 9min group or the 9:30 group. I debated about where to go for some time before deciding that I had come to the race in order to test myself, and a 9:30 pace was not testing myself.
|Meb greeting the runners!|
|Doesn't it look like someone gave a kid a map, a crayon, and Red Bull and said knock yourself out.|
|The course was hilly as Hades!|
By Mile 3, the course seemed to calm down, and I was able to enjoy myself more. I had my hand held water bottle, so I bypassed the water stops, which I think was wise. The morning air was cool with a nice breeze, but as the day went on the humidity increased and turned the race into a sweat fest. Miles 4 and 5 were strait runs through campus and down Franklin street, which are the only areas of Chapel Hill that I really know well. I did mile three in 8:58, four in 8:50, and five in 8:53. During mile five I took in a Goo, and noticed that I was doing well on my time. At the five mile marker, I felt like I was running strong and knew that barring any mishaps that I would PR the race. Mile six took us into some residential areas that were hilly, but nice and shady, which seemed an even trade. I did mile six in 8:52. One thing, I noticed was that the crowd support was somewhat thin, which seemed odd. I thought there would have been more people out cheering, but there were tons of volunteers, and my guess is that many of the local were actually in the race. I had heard that this year's field was over 5,000.
Mile seven was nearly all down hill. Most people enjoyed this huge decline, which was a certainly a change. I couple of times, on areas of the street that were on a sideways slope the unevenness of the hill and the downhill put a lot of pressure on my left knee, but once I moved to the middle of the road, the pressure eased, and I was able to enjoy myself more. I resisted the urge to open up my stride and gallop head long down the hill like some people were doing. Instead, I just tried to maintain my pace and control, which served me well later on the uphill portion. I did gain some time on the downhill and finished the mile in 8:44.
At some point during the last few miles runners from the 4mile race merged with people doing the 10 miler, which I had been warned about in the past. I didn't notice when it happened, but I started to see more people on the course, who were going at a slower pace during mile 8 and others, who were going much faster and smeed more fresh than the people that had been running near me, but I wasn't bothered or hampered in any fashion. Miles eight and nine cover what is called the Laural Hill Challenge (special prizes are awarded to people with the fastest time up the hill), and there are timing mats placed at the foot and top of Laural Hill to time how fast runners are able to ascend the hill. I made the climb in 8:27 and did mile eight in 8:51 and mile nine where the bulk of the hill is in 9:57. The hill was no joke, but it wasn't harbinger of doom that I had herd horror stories about. After Laural Hill my legs were burning, but I would have been able to have done better on it had I known what to expect. I kept expecting on more massive climb with each turn, but that killer soul stealing climb never came. I was able to recover pretty quickly from the hill and regain my stride and pace over the last mile, which found us making our way into the stadium yet again. I didn't have much of a kick at the end of the race, which I take as a sign that I pushed myself throughout the run and didn't have extra energy to spare at the end. But, I did the final mile, which was almost all down hill, in 8:38 making it my fastest mile of the day.
My Official Time was 1:31:15, which was a new PR. As I mentioned earlier, my Garmin picke up some extra distance, but I am fairly certain that this time there was no real issue and the problem was just the result of Old Bob losing signal in the stadium. At the finish of the race, we received nice reusable water bottles and a sweet little medal. At the end, I was a sweaty mess but had a great time. I am not sure it this race will fit into my spring schedule next, which like my fall schedule will be a bit smaller due to some impending life changes, but I know that I'll be running this one again in the future. Congrats to everyone who took part, and if you didn't next year's your chance!