Race Report: 2014 LungStrong 15K

(Originally posted September 28, 2014.)

I got a PR! OK, it was my first 15K race, so of course it’s a PR. But overall, I’m fairly pleased with how I ran.

One random note about this race is that, besides being my first 15K, it’s the first time I’ve run a race on a Sunday. All 9 of my previous races have been Saturday morning races.

Packet pickup was very easy. When I signed up, I chose the University location of Run For Your Life, since it’s close to work. I stopped by after work on Thursday. The packet was just a bib, timing chip, and t-shirt. (Again, no tech tee, just a cotton/polyester blend, boo. Also, I didn’t see any safety pins for the bib, which was just odd, but I have safety pins from previous races, so no big deal.) They had packet pickup on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, plus race day pickup, and Thursday and Friday pickup was at all Run For Your Life locations. (Saturday was at the University location only.)

I did realize late Saturday that maybe I shouldn’t have done yard work Saturday morning, the day before a race. As far as I can tell, it had no affect on my run. Other than that, I took it easy all day. I ate spaghetti for dinner, of course. Carb loading.

I didn’t really sleep well, but that’s pretty normal before a race. I ate my usual two slices of whole wheat bread with peanut butter.

Cornelius is a bit of a haul for me, and it took about 45 minutes for me to get there, although some of that was due to the construction on the bridge at Exit 28 over I-77. Anyway, there was plenty of parking at the Jetton Village Shopping Center.

I applied lots of sunscreen just to be on the safe side. It was overcast at the start of the race, and the sun threatened to break though the clouds a few times, but the sun wasn’t really a problem. (Yes, I’m aware you can still get sunburn on a cloudy day. I’m fairly certain it’s happened to me before.) The temperature was 59 degrees, which felt really nice. There was some humidity, but it was tolerable. I can’t really complain about the weather, especially after my last race.

I was going back and forth on what goal time I should set. I eventually settled on 1:46. I thought I might be able to get in under 1:45, but I knew the course had some hills. I also considered 1:47 because of the hills, and the fact that I worried that I was due for a bad run. As it turns out, there’s one other factor I forgot to consider, but we’ll get back to that.

I made my way to the starting line. It wasn’t obvious at first, since all they had was a timing mat, but I found it. There was also a 5K that started at the same time. (We split with the 5K runners about a quarter mile in.) So here’s a shot of all the runners in front of me just before the start.

2014-09-28 07.43.30

The starting line is somewhere up there. It took me a good 30 seconds to get to it after the start.

Before I get to the race, I just want to point out that this was a really nice looking course. Early on, it goes through Jetton Park, which is really nice and has some great views of Lake Norman. If it wasn’t so far away, I’d consider running there more often. Later in the race, there were spots where you could see a little bit of the lake. Well, you kind of had to look in between some very, very large houses, but it was still pretty nice.

I always worry about starting out too fast in races or any situation where there are a lot of other runners. Some of those runners are way faster than I should be going. But I made it through the first mile in 11:03 according to RunKeeper. Considering there were a few downhill stretches (Why, oh why, do races put the downhill on the first mile?), that wasn’t too bad. It certainly wasn’t Ludicrous Speed.

On Mile 2, I slowed down a bit, although part of that was the water stop at the very end of the mile. I walked at all of the water stops. One thing I have to say, they did not skimp on the water at the water stops. I appreciated it. Not that I’ve ever seen any races where I thought they didn’t give out enough water, but for some reason it seemed like they were giving out more than usual here. This ended up being my slowest mile, at 11:27.

Mile 3 had another water stop. It also had a stretch on John Connor Road, which is just awesome. I finished in 11:15.

Miles 4 and 5 were a little faster, 11:01 and 10:58. Maybe I should have slowed down a little bit here, but again, this wasn’t Ludicrous Speed. There was another water stop during Mile 5. Also, near the end of Mile 5, we turned on to Flying Jib Road. In any other race, that would be the best road name, but you can’t compete with a Terminator reference.

I think I started to feel it on Mile 6. I still made it through with only a walk break at the water stop, but my time was up to 11:15. Not too bad, though.

Mile 7 had the last water stop, which I walked, but otherwise, I kept running. I do wish the last water stop was maybe half a mile later. My time was 11:19. Mile 8 was really tough, but I kept chugging along at 11:18.

Mile 9 finally broke me. About halfway through, near the top of a hill, I took a walk break. It helped, though, because my time went down to 11:12.

I took one last walk break, just after Mile 9, and I ran the rest of the way, and even sped up at the end. I crossed the finish line, and I later found out that while my gun time was over 1:46, my chip time was 1:45:38.7. I made my goal. (Side note: I don’t recall getting tenths of a second in my chip time before. Although it’s quite possible that I’ve gotten it at previous races and just ignored it.)

Now, one of the things I forgot to take into account when setting my goal was the fact that GPS distance is almost always longer than course distance. My actual distance was almost 9.49 miles. I didn’t stop RunKeeper right at the finish line, but it was pretty close. So according to the official timing, my pace was 11:21/mile, but according to RunKeeper, it was 11:10/mile. Also, for the last .49 miles, RunKeeper had me at a 10:33/mile pace, so I was definitely strong at the finish.

Had I considered the likely mileage difference, I probably would have set my goal at 1:47, which I would have easily beat. So, yeah, I’m pretty happy with how I ran. Other than miles 4 and 5 maybe being a little too fast, I can’t really think of anything I’d do differently. Sure, I wonder if I had slowed down a little there, if I could have finished without those walk breaks. But that’s definitely crossing the line into nitpicking.

After the race, they gave out bottles of water and goody bags. My bag had a banana, a bagel, and a peanut butter chocolate granola bar. They also had cups of Gatorade available.

I have to whine briefly. The bagel had raisins. I hate raisins. A raisin is a waste of a perfectly good grape. I did try to pick out the raisins, and ate about half of the bagel with all of the raisins removed, but then I gave up and threw away the rest. OK, whine over.

I was a little disappointed that the beer was Michelob Ultra, since it’s not very good beer (I admit it, I’m a beer snob), and besides, I’d much rather see beer from local breweries at races.

I’ll give them credit, though the peanut butter chocolate granola bar was really good.

My car key made it to the end of the race, and here’s the proof.

2014-09-28 09.48.24

Yeah, I had a lot of trouble with my bib today for some reason.

I wandered around for a bit and found where the results were posted. (No timing snafus this time around.) Like I said earlier, I was happy with my time and I beat my goal.

The course was tough, but I thought it was fair. (The OrthoCarolina 10K course was totally unfair.) I’m not sure, but I think it might have been a slightly tougher course than the Thunder Road Half Marathon. Thunder Road has tweaked their course this year, so I’ll have to see how it feels this year compared to LungStrong. And like I said, this was a really nice looking course. Overall, it’s a good race, well organized, and I’d like to run it again at some point.

15K is a really interesting distance. 9.3 miles is long, but not quite as long as a half marathon, It’s a good challenge, but not as draining as a half. It’s pretty rare to find a 15K, though. I wish there were more of them locally, but as far as I know, LungStrong is the only local 15K.

I do think this was a good warmup for my half marathon in about a month and a half. I think (and hope) my pace will continue to improve. I’ve still got an 11 mile long run, a 12 mile long run, and a couple of 10 milers. (OK, the second 10 miler is during my taper.) We’ll see how much I can improve between now and November 15.

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