(Originally posted March 6, 2015.)
I never thought I’d run a race where I was thankful that it was 29 degrees, but when you get down into single digits a day before a race, 29 sounds great. The 2014 Thunder Road Half was colder, as were both races in the Joe Davis Memorial 10K and 5K. (Although Thunder Road warmed up into the mid 30’s by the end of the race, while the Charlotte 10 Miler only got up to 31.) I also never thought I’d be thankful for the hills in my neighborhood. (?!?)
I’d love to give you a detailed breakdown of my pace for each mile, and the elevation gain/loss, and the exact mileage of each water stop. All I’ve got is my time for the first mile (10:03), and my average pace for the whole race (9:50/mile.) More on why my statistical analysis is weak later.
First, let’s go back to packet pickup. There was no Thursday packet pickup. (Boo!) Friday, from 4-7, there was packet pickup at the Charlotte Running Company store at Promenade on Providence. I got there around 4:45 (I took Friday off of work, mainly because I needed to use up a carryover PTO day from last year), and I was surprised to see a pretty long line for packet pickup. It only took about 5 minutes to get through the line, but still, I don’t remember ever seeing a line like that for a packet pickup any time other than race day.
The packet was just a bib and a shirt, but when the shirt is a tech hoodie, I can’t complain.
I did see safety pins available, but I have plenty from previous bibs, so I decided to reuse some.
As usual, I had a terrible night of sleep. I got up, took a shower, and got dressed. I went with a short sleeved tech tee under a pullover, long running pants, a hat, and gloves. I also wore my FlipBelt, mainly because I planned to bring a Strawberry Banana Gu for a little boost during the race.
One thing that I noticed is that I couldn’t find anything on the race website about water stops. I mean, I assumed that they would have them, because even the smallest 5K I’ve done still had a water stop, but there was no indication of where, or how many, or if any of them would offer anything other than water. (As it turns out, 4 stops, at roughly 2, 4, 6, and 8, although 2 was a little early and 6 was a little late just due to the course layout. Also, water only, no Gatorade or any other drink, but they did give out Gu at Mile 8.) It would have been nice to have this info in advance.
I ate two slices of toasted whole grain bread with peanut butter, and drank some water. I gathered all of my stuff (or so I thought) and headed over there. I’m pretty sure this was the shortest distance I’ve ever had to travel to a race. I got there in less than 10 minutes. There was plenty of parking in the Earth Fare shopping center, and also in the parking deck behind the shopping center. I went with the parking deck, which was a longer walk, but easier to get into (and later, easier to get out of).
I sat in my car for a few minutes, because it was still pretty cold out there, and then I realized that I forgot my Garmin watch. Crap. I thought for a second about running with no tracking, then I remembered my old pal Runkeeper, which was still installed on my phone. OK, it’s not as easy or as detailed as my Garmin, but it’ll do.
I walked over towards the starting line, and tried to keep warm.
There was a 4 mile race in addition to the 10 miler. The 4 miler was scheduled to start at 7:30, and the 10 miler at 7:40. The races had slightly different starting lines. I was amused by the difference between the two. Here’s the 4 Miler starting line.
And here’s the 10 Miler starting line.
The 4 milers get the fancier starting line. Go figure.
Anyway, at around 7:42 AM according to Runkeeper, we were off. I hadn’t used Runkeeper in a while, but I thought it was odd when I started it that it showed me a stopwatch. And then I realized, too late, that a few months earlier, they had added a stopwatch mode, and I had played around with it a little bit, in the hopes of using it for my treadmill runs, but then I forgot about it, and never put it back in to regular mode. So basically, all Runkeeper could tell me was my current time. I would have to rely on the course to tell me distance. To the organizers’ credit, each mile was well marked, as were all of the turns.
The first mile was slightly uphill, along Johnston Road. I’ve run this stretch before, and it’s not a terrible hill, but considering the hills in my neighborhood, you have to take my judgment with a grain of salt. Like I mentioned earlier, I did see my time for the first mile, and it was 10:03, which is pretty good, not too fast.
We stayed on Johnston until we got to Highway 51, then ran along it until we got to the McMullen Creek Greenway entrance. Yes, a good chunk of this race followed a greenway that I’m familiar with. I still like Little Sugar Creek Greenway up near Freedom Park better, but McMullen Creek is still pretty nice, and it’s also pretty flat.
The first water stop was right at the beginning of the Greenway, which was a little bit before the 2 Mile mark.
This stretch probably had the most ice on the course, left over from the storm on Tuesday. Also, because it was still early in the race, there were a lot more other people around trying to get around the ice, but I and everyone around me made it through without slipping.
Right after the 3 mile mark, we turned off the Greenway and went through a neighborhood. There were a few hills, but nothing major. We also got to the 4 mile mark, with a water stop literally right in front of the sign that said 4 miles. I decided to take my Gu there, since I wasn’t sure when the next stop would be.
Just after the 5 mile mark, we got back on the Greenway. The next water stop was a little later, around 6.2 miles, since they wanted to put it in a more easily accessible location, right before McMullen Creek Greenway ends and Four Mile Creek Greenway begins. Unfortunately, they put it right before a bridge, and so I had to stop to drink my water so I could put my cup in the trash can, otherwise I would have needed to hold on to it for a while. In retrospect, I probably would have picked this stop to have my Gu. Ultimately, whether I ate it at 4 miles or 6 (or even not at all), I don’t think it made any difference in my final time.
Anyway, Four Mile Creek Greenway took us all the way to Mile 8 before we got off at Elm Lane, and had our final water stop. I was surprised to see they were giving out Gu. I didn’t see which flavor. I like to know in advance if it’s a flavor that agrees with me. I didn’t take it, although afterwards, I kind of wish I had taken it and put it in my pocket to try some other time.
This is where the course got tough. We got spoiled by the nice flat stretches on the greenways. There was a slight climb up Elm until we got to a neighborhood. And in that neighborhood was Ridgemore Drive. Now that was a hill. If I think it was a big hill, and I deal with a pretty big hill in my neighborhood pretty much every morning, it must have been pretty bad. (This is the point where I was thankful for my neighborhood hills.) The majority of the people around me stopped to walk up that hill, but I managed to keep going. Since I hadn’t been able to run as much as I normally would have during the previous week, my legs were pretty fresh (I guess I had an unintentional taper), and while I probably slowed down a bit, I ran the whole way up the hill. I’m probably most proud of that part.
Right around Mile 9, we reached the top of the hill. After that, it was flat the rest of the way, and I really took off. I have no idea what my pace was for the last mile, but I think it was pretty fast, and I passed several people along the way. I crossed the finish line, saw that the clock said 1:38 something, and was really happy with my time. Since it was the same timing company as my last few races, they had the terminals where you could look up your time, and my official time was 1:38:22.5, for an average pace of 9:50/mile. Not only is that a better pace (and overall time, even though this was .7 miles longer) than my 15K PR (which I expected, since I’ve made a lot of progress since September), but it’s a better pace than my 10K PR, which was last month. (To be fair, at that 10K, I had a 5K right afterward, so I didn’t want to go all out.) And yes, since it’s my first official 10 mile race, it’s also a PR.
Here’s proof that my car key made it to the finish line with me, and also a nice shot of the medal.
I found out later when I checked the finish line video that the race used chip time instead of gun time. I don’t see my gun time posted anywhere, but in the video, I crossed the finish line when the clock said 1:38:39. I started a little bit behind the starting line, and 17 seconds to get to the starting line sounds about right.
Afterwards, they had water and Nuun. I’ve never had Nuun before, and…it’s weird. It’s slightly carbonated, and mostly water with just a little bit of flavor. (I had the Fruit Punch flavor.) If I need electrolytes, my first choice would be Gatorade or something similar, but if my only options are Nuun or water, I guess I’d go with Nuun. However, when it’s 29 degrees, and I had a Gu along the course, I didn’t feel like I was hurting for electrolytes, so I stuck with water.
Oh, and they also had breakfast from the Big View Diner. Pancakes and sausage patties. Awww yeah. Best. Post race food. Ever. There were some bananas too, so I grabbed half of one for good measure.
Overall, I was pleased with the race. My biggest complaints were no Thursday packet pickup, and nothing on the race website indicating where the water stops would be. (The 4 milers getting a fancier starting line is not a legitimate complaint.) Otherwise, it was well-organized, a challenging but fair course, and between the tech hoodie and Big View Diner breakfast, it had some pretty awesome perks.
As far as my performance, like I said, I’m happy with it. I never did set a goal for this race, but if I had, I’m pretty sure I would have set it for at least 1:40, if not higher, and I would have blown it away. It was interesting running without knowing my pace. Since I’m in the neighborhood of 10:00/mile, it did make it easier for me to check my overall time at each mile marker to see if I was under 10:00/mile. Other than mile 1 (10:03), I think I stayed under 10. I do wish I had my pace for the last mile. (Lesson learned: don’t forget my watch.)