2011 Race Reports: Tarheel 10-Miler

Race: Tarheel-10 Miler City: Chapel Hill, NC   Date: 4/9/2011

Distance: 10 miles / 4 miles – I did the 10 mile race (first at this distance!)

Weather: awesome. Cool-ish (lower 60s), cloudy, at times a little light mist, but no actual rain.

Course: streets, and hilly… ohhhh, so hilly. Good practice for UT and OR races, maybe???

Summary: The Tarheel-10 Miler and I are back on speaking terms. Oh, and I beat my goal… I think.

Pre-Race

Many of you were not around for the disaster that was the Fleet Feet 4-miler for me last year, so feel free to look back to the archive to see why this was *such* a big deal to me. I quit that race last year. I’m not a quitter, usually, so it has bugged me to no end since then. This year, I wanted redemption – plus 6 miles – so I registered for the 10-miler instead. I got what I was after and so much more: the additional  6 miles, a nasty hill, and a Running Buddy waiting for me at the end to congratulate (and thank) me.

The night before the race, I went to pick up the packet in the Franklin Hotel as they were having an “expo”. I was anxious about this race for a while, because of last year, so I wanted to pick up my packet the day before. I wanted to be on the start line on time. I wanted to make sure I had time to walk the mile+ from my car to start. I wanted to make sure I didn’t get pulled over by a cop for blowing through a pedestrian cross-walk. Met the Running Buddy that I’ve been training with over the last couple of months at the “expo” and we got our bibs and shirts. Unfortunately, it wasn’t much of an expo – I guess they called it that because Fleet Feet (the sponsor of the 4 mile race) was there selling a boat load of last year’s shoes and some stickers. We didn’t get a bag, AND the t-shirts were the same as last year… sheesh. One big improvement, though, is the tag. Loved the tagging system this year – if I did have to quit, I wouldn’t have had to get lost through campus again to return it as was the case last year. Thankfully, that wasn’t an issue this year, but it was a relief nonetheless.

Thankfully, the packet pickup was pretty uneventful: no cops (incidentally without a driver’s license),  getting lost or almost mowing down pedestrians. The most exciting thing was the spice on our pasta. We got our bibs and shirts and then went for a pasta dinner and drove the course to see what we were to expect. I think I must have scared him a little about the hills because I intentionally picked the nastiest hills I could find in Raleigh for our long trainer runs that he often complained about (he’s a much better hill runner than me, but I guess nobody really likes hills…). We got to Laurel Hill, though, and we both went silent. I don’t think either of us expected that. As we drove up it, we got a little salty about the <expletive> hill at the end of the race. Were they crazy?

We went our separate ways, I ran a few errands and went home to lay out all my stuff, plug in all my toys and go to bed. I’m always like a kid at Christmas the night before a run – I can barely sleep. My mind was just racing – especially about that last hill – Laurel Hill Drive. It seemed to go on forever, and I swear, it was the side of a mountain. I actually dreamed about climbing mountains once I finally did get to sleep – haha.

Race Day

My alarm went off around 5:30, and my first groggy thought was “I thought today was Saturday – why did I set my alarm?”… So, I hit snooze. Then it went off again and I suddenly remembered:  “Oh, right! the race!” and jumped out of bed. That’s the first time that ever happened. And, hopefully the last. Just goes to show, though, in spite of the dreams about mountain climbing, I slept like a rock!

I got dressed, did my hair, gathered all my gadgets, made my coffee and Almond Butter toast and went out the door. I was on the road by 6:15. Chapel Hill is a good 45 minute drive from my house, so I was right on schedule with getting there and parked in time to meet Running Buddy by 7.  At exactly 7, I pulled into a spot and found Running Buddy. We started on our 1+ mile walk to the start line.

We finally got to the start line and decided to make one last pit stop before start. Since I was the veteran, he was looking to me to point him in the direction of the porta-potties – yet, none to be found! The start line wasn’t in the same place, so we wondered around a bit and noticed people coming and going from Kenan Stadium. Nice! A real potty (happy tear). So happy. We took care of business with only seconds to spare and filed into the back of the pack.

The race starts and we are completely in the back – I mean, behind the end of the corral – so we walked a bit (which is why I don’t think the time I’ve seen so far is right – it felt like it was a good minute before we crossed the start mat). We crossed the mat, and then we were off. The crowd was pretty thick at the start – especially since we were at the back, it took us a full 2 miles for the crowd to finally thin – just in time for the first big hill. So, the split times for the first 3 miles were all over 9:00mm, and my goal for the entire race was 90 min or overall average pace of 9:00mm splits all around. I had some work to do, but this hill wasn’t helping!

Running Buddy and I stayed together for a good portion of the next couple of miles, but as I mentioned before, he’s a great hill runner and, while I’m getting better, he just smokes me after about 6 or 7 miles. He finally pulled ahead of me at around 5 1/2 miles. I had him in sight until about mile 7  1/4 or so, which I’m pretty proud of. For miles 4 – 8 1/2, my split times were 8:30 – 8:40 range, which I was very, very happy about.

The route was very scenic – Chapel Hill is a beautiful town. It took us through the campus, up the main thoroughfare (Franklin Street) and through a couple of really beautiful neighborhoods, the last of which was Laurel Hill Road. Now… ok. I’m constantly complaining about hills. I will no longer complain about the puny little hills I have to regularly run in Downtown Raleigh now because they are nothing compared to this. And the event planners knew it. They actually timed a split just for this hill. Mat at the bottom, and another on the top. Called it the “Laurel Hill Challenge” and were handing out prizes to top times in each age bracket. The bottom of the hill was at about 8 1/2 mile marker, the top of it at about 9 1/2, give or take (followed by even more hills). That one mile went from an elevation of 280 ft to 480!!! In one mile! That hurts just to write it. Thank God, THANK GOD, we drove it the night before. I had dreams about this hill and I had anxiety about it the entire first 8 1/2 miles of the race. I even thought at one point that ignorance might have been bliss for me – not knowing what was ahead so I didn’t have to dread it… that is until I got to the bottom of it I looked up it. Had I been blissfully ignorant of it, I might have thought that it was a shorter or less steep hill (it curved so you really can’t see how long or steep from the bottom) and taken it way too fast and had to stop or hurt myself. But… when I got to it and looked up, knowing what I knew, I found it daunting, for sure, but I knew how long it was and I said to myself “just slow down – you only have 1 1/2 miles to go and you’re on target for time” and I took it. It was very tough – very steep at the start (you should see the elevation charts for it) and then it fakes you out with a “flat” part only to be followed by yet another steep (maybe even steeper than the first – who knows, I was so out of it by this point) hill behind a curve. Just mean. I have never, ever, ever been so happy to see a smaller hill in my life as I was when I climbed the hill right after (yes, I said right after) this hill. This is going down in my books as one of the tougher runs I’ve done.

The last 1/2 mile was a complete blur – I kept thinking I was closer to the finish than I was, but when I finally did see the flags for the finish line, I booked it and sprinted in. This is probably the first race in my memory where I didn’t even think or worry about busting my ass during a sprint. The only thing I thought about was “these girls all look like they’re in my age group – I’m totally not coming in behind them” (they weren’t – I’m a poor judge of age after about 5 miles – haha).

Gun time says I was 1:31:32, but Garmin Time says 1:29:47 – I split the difference, I still got pretty close to my goal.

Learnings

ah, yes, always something to learn… I need to learn how to take hills better and how to be faster on them. I need to work on my overall fitness level so that I don’t average a heart rate of 92% for 90 minutes – that can’t be good. I need to get an overall heart-rate  based Vo2 max fitness test done (just need to break down and pay for it) so I have a better idea of where am and what I’m training toward, especially if I want to make it through 47 more half marathons. I did have some hydration issues at the end – still can’t seem to get that formula right, although, the coconut water I brought with me did stave off any tummy and/or hydration issues I had in the past, so maybe that’s starting to work and I just needed to bring more and/or drink more from the onset. I also should try other options like GELs or GUs. I have time this summer to work on those things without a long race to distract me.

Overall, a wonderful, wonderful race and I highly recommend it… and look forward to running it next year (and getting my mug on the JumboTron inside Kenan Stadium!).