Temp 42 (40) Wind 4 mph. Humidity 98%. Finish: 47 (45) Wind 6 mph.
Total of 419 runners (191 in FM and 228 in HM). Pack includes Olympic hopeful Leah Thorvilson who appears to have an entourage of about 6-8 folks who plan to run with or near her. I’m on foreign turf, and recognize only one other runner. Young kid (22 year-old Martin G.) introduces himself at starting line. Says he’s here to break his 1:26:XX PR.
We’re off. First turn about 1/3 mile into race and there are at least two dozen runners ahead of me. Look down at Garmin and running 7:00 flat pace. WTH? Then two more guys blow by. Second half of first mile starts gradual climb. (Mile 1 – 7:09) Ugh! Lost 10-15 seconds already. OK, relax, serious hill in mile two, do not try to get it all back at once, and maybe hold off a little longer with starting initial push on race effort/pace.
More serious climbing starts and they are dropping like flies, including the two guys who blew by me in first mile. Get to top of hill and its shook out. Several are a ways out front (includes FM OA winner and four other HMers), LT’s crew is together, and there are four runners behind them (gray hair, Cardinal shirt, OA female HM winner Kris H., and other guy shaking out his arms already) ahead of me. (Miles 2 & 3 – 6:53 / 6:42) Pass the arm shaker.
Catch up to Kris H. towards end of mile four. Go by, but she passes me again when I stop at water station for shot of EFS and water. (Cannot run or walk while drinking, so have to stop and step off side of road every time.) Back on the course and past mile marker. (Mile 4 – 6:48) We are on an open course on a state highway with hills and curves. Unable to run good tangents safely, and police made us switch sides once already. At each Garmin mile alert, I am losing ground to the course mile markers. Move on past KH and Cardinal shirt.
Ahead next is gray hair. He appears to be about my age and he’s looking strong. (Mile 5 – 6:36) Catch up to him on one mile stretch of gradual incline. Run side by side a while until I break the ice with a comment on the nice weather. He’s 51 and running the FM. When I tell him I’m in the HM, he says, “Have a good run” and lets me go on. (Mile 6 – 6:48) Talked to him again after race, he wins FM GM Division and BQs.
Approaching turn-around point and will get a look at how I’m doing. Runners starting to come back. UT-Martin XC runner Cody Lemmons has about a minute and a half lead on last year’s winner Michael B. Martin G. from starting line is third. Another younger guy fourth, and I’m fifth. Make the turn-around and see I’ve opened quite a gap on the others I’ve passed. Hold the pace and get everything I came here for: (1) sub-1:30:00, (2) Top 5, and (3) GM Champion. Half Split: 44:22.
Hit first water station on way back. Gatorade. (Mile 7 – 6:43) Original plan was to get to mile ten in good shape, then try to bust out a 20:00 minute 5K to finish. Feel that I’m in absolute control and in the position I want to be in. Have noticed course is marked with 5000 meter splits on highway. Thinking now, what the heck, let’s focus on running relaxed, strong, and efficient for a couple of miles, then start busting butt early at the 15K mark. (Miles 8 & 9 – 6:43 / 6:33). Stop for my last EFS shot and water just short of mile nine mark. Check Garmin at nine and see I’ve just ran a 6:33 split WITH a water stop…game on, let rock!
Check ahead, and fourth place runner (32 year old Jeff C.) has come back into play. Number three (MG) appears out of reach, especially if he’s a 1:26:XX guy. (Mile 10 – 6:32). Dodging runners coming out on my right and traffic including semis on my left now. Again have to switch sides of road. Alerts about 30 seconds or so behind course markers now.
We have been on a gradual climb for over a mile now. Catch up to JC early in 11th mile. He says three words, “Go get him!!” referring to MG. Last major climb starts about 10.5 miles into race. There is a water station at bottom. Was done with hydration, but thinking now that if I’m going to attack hill and MG, I’m going to take on one more cup. Hear JC still not far behind as I jump back on the course. (Mile 11 – 6:41 with the stop).
Catch up MG near top of hill. It’s crushed him. Tell him here’s the deal. I want a strong finish. We got about a mile and a half to go, downhill and flat. I’m here for GM championship, you run with me and push me hard all the way in and I’ll let you cross the line in 3rd. He agrees and says, “Take me in.” Hammer the downhill (Mile 12 – 6:26). No Martin at the bottom. Deal is off.
Can feel HR peeking, but know I’ve only got about 7:00 – 8:00 minutes to go. Trust the training. I’m ready for this, carry on…hard. Back in town. Several turns on bumpy streets with potholes. Nearly stumbled twice. (Mile 13 – 6:14). See the FM 26-mile marker about the time my Garmin alert goes off. Know I’m running about one-tenth long today.
Step over a curb off the street, through a parking lot onto some grass with running mats thrown across it, through the football stadium gate, up a little incline and step onto the track. On to the finish line…may break 1:28:00!! Nope, missed it by a hair. (Last 0.20 – 1:13 (6:03 pace)) Second Half Split: 43:39. Official time 1:28:01. Third OA. Cody Lemmons wins in 1:22:06. Last year’s winner Michael B. is second with a 1:26:55. JC out-kicks MG on the track to take 4th OA by one second!! 1:29:05 / 1:29:06. Kris H. wins female OA in 1:31:32. She’s 47 years old…solid…solid as hell solid.
Mark this off the list! Another goal down. I am bushed, little broken, and need a rest. Amazing last half of 2011. Last five races, four PRs…at four different distances. So jacked. So thankful for RA, strong local running group, best training partner anyone could have, and wife that lets me do all this crazy $#!&.