Race Report: 2016 Charlotte 10 Miler

(Originally posted March 4, 2016.)

(I should add that, due to a variety of reasons, I haven’t had another race since this one with the same pre-race dinner. Maybe I’ll try it again someday, if I don’t find something that’s healthier and just as effective.)

I remembered to bring my watch, and now I really wish I had it in 2015.

Also, I think I found my new pre-race dinner, although I feel like I should add a “Don’t try this at home” disclaimer.

Oh, and I totally crushed the race. 1:35:17.7, over 3 minutes faster than last year.

My biggest complaint last year was no Thursday packet pick-up, just Friday from 4-7 at Charlotte Running Company in Ballantyne (featuring the World’s Worst Parking Lot), and then on the morning of the race. This year, they changed it…to 3-6 on Friday. Unlike last year, when I was able to take the day off Friday and get there semi-early, I was on call, so I had to work until around 5. I seriously considered waiting until the morning of the race, but at the last minute, I headed over there.

Driving over there, I was reminded of why I work from home on Fridays: to avoid Friday afternoon rush hour. Traffic was insane, but luckily I didn’t have too far to go. I managed to get there around 5:45. Like last year, there was a long line of people waiting to get their packets. (Side note, looking at the results, there were around 700 finishers last year, and over 1,000 this year. It’s a growing race. Thursday packet pick-up. Get on it, race organizers.)

I got my bib and a hoodie. They had safety pins, I didn’t take any because I’ve still got a surplus at home. Unlike last year, this year’s hoodie is a polyester/cotton blend, which is a bummer, but I do like this year’s logo better.

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When I left Charlotte Running Company, I was ready for dinner. Let’s flash back to the night before the Charleston Half Marathon. I got done with the expo, I was tired, hungry, and didn’t know where exactly to find any good restaurants, so I went with the Burger King next door to my hotel. On Friday afternoon the day before this race, just after picking up my packet, I wasn’t particularly tired, I certainly could have waited until I got home to eat, and at home, I had pasta I could cook. But I kept thinking about how well I ran in Charleston, and figured, what the hell, let’s try it again. So I went to Burger King. The #8 Combo (Chicken Sandwich), small, with a Sprite. (A Coke would have kept me up all night.) Yeah, I can’t say that I recommend this meal the night before a race to anybody else, but it seems to be working for me.

One odd thing I noticed about the bib, there was a piece of foam on the back for the timing chip. I’ve never seen anything like it, and took a (slightly blurry) picture, with my thumb for scale.

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I have to say, I was a little worried that the foam might rub against my chest, and I used a little extra Body Glide around there just in case, but I had no issues, and didn’t really notice it. (Obviously it wasn’t an issue, considering my time.)

I got to bed around 10, slept relatively well for the night before a race, and got up at 5:30. I checked the weather, and it was 46 degrees and overcast. Holy crap. For me, that is absolutely perfect weather for running. I showered, used the bathroom, ate 2 Chocolate Chip Clif bars (Somewhat more conventional than Burger King the night before, but it’s another choice modeled after Charleston), attached my bib, put on my watch (I remembered it this year!), grabbed some sunscreen (just in case) and a Strawberry Banana Gu, and headed out. It’s about 10 minutes from my house, and I got there at around 6:45. I parked in the parking deck behind Earth Fare, just like last year, so it was easy to get in and out of.

46 and overcast is fantastic running weather, but it’s less than ideal standing-around-waiting-for-the-race-to-start weather. I survived.

One thing I should mention, I complained last year that there was no indication on the race website where the water stops would be, or if they’d have anything beside water. This year, they didn’t put it on their website, but they did mention it in an e-mail, and it was the same as last year, around 2, 4, 6, and 8 miles, with Gu at 8, but otherwise water only.

The 4 mile race started first, at 7:30. I got a picture just before their start.

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Last year, I was amused that the 4 milers got a giant inflatable thing over their starting line, while the 10 milers got something more like this year’s 4 mile start. It was reversed this year, and we got the giant inflatable thing. Of course, you’re going to have to trust me on what the starting line of the 10 miler looked like, because for some reason, I completely forgot to take a picture right before the race started.

Anyway, after a countdown (which I could barely hear because the speakers weren’t very loud but the people near me were), we started at 7:45.

Mile 1: 10:02

This mile seemed a lot more crowded this year (maybe it was the 300 extra runners). I don’t think it slowed me down too much. It was also primarily uphill, but it was a slow, steady climb, unlike a certain other hill that we’ll get to in Mile 9.

This was the only mile last year where I knew my time, 10:03. So, I was 1 second faster. Progress.

Mile 2: 9:18

Oops. That was way faster than I had planned. In my defense, it was mostly downhill.

We turned in to the greenway parking lot at 1.75 miles, and just after the start of the greenway was the first water station. A little before 2, but it was a lot easier to set it up there than at the actual 2 mile mark. The cups were really small this year, like roughly shot glass sized. Based on my finish, I don’t think my mid-race hydration was an issue. I walked through this water stop, as well as the others.

I saw the sign for 2 miles, and looked at my watch, and it said…1.90? That’s odd. Mile 1 had been just about right. As it turns out, the mile markers seemed to be kind of random the rest of the way. 5 miles (which was good since they had a timing mat so you could get a halfway split) and 7 miles were right on the dot. Others seemed to be anywhere from .03 to a full .1 off. Of course, that helped prepare me for the end, but we’ll get to that later.

Miles 3-5: 9:57, 9:48, 9:33

I made a conscious effort to pull back a bit on Mile 3, and it worked. Maybe I didn’t need to slow down quite that much, but I wanted to make sure I was still strong at the end.

Right around the 5K mark, we turned off the greenway and into a neighborhood. The neighborhood was slightly more hilly than I remember. Also, I remembered running on the bridge over I-485 last year and holding on to my hat. This year, since it was 15 degrees warmer, I didn’t need a hat.

There was a water stop right before the 4 mile mark. Right before 5 miles, we turned back on to the greenway.

Miles 6-8: 9:33, 9:48, 9:55

I tried to take it easy during this stretch, but it was all on the greenway and pretty flat. The next water stop was around 6.3 miles. I ate my Gu right before this stop. I remember last year they put this stop right where the McMullen Creek Greenway ends and the Four Mile Creek Greenway begins, but they had the trash right next to the water stop, so I had to stop and drink my water before throwing my cup away. This year, they moved the trash so there was a little bit of space. (It was actually on a bridge.) It worked out much better.

For the most part, it was pretty uneventful through here. (I’m not complaining.) However, at one point, I noticed there were a whole bunch of deer watching us go by. There had to be at least 5 of them. I’ve seen deer before on this stretch of greenway, but never more than 3 together. Also, I think individual runners are more likely to spook them, but here, I guess they figured if there’s that many runners, might as well stick around and watch. Crowd support.

The last water stop was around 7.75 miles. They gave out Vanilla Bean Gu. (This year, the volunteers actually said the flavor of Gu so you knew what you were getting. Also, it’s possible they had other flavors, but Vanilla Bean is the one I heard.) I took one, since it’s free, but stuck it in my pocket. I still prefer Strawberry Banana, but I did have the Vanilla Bean during City of Oaks. It tasted OK then, and more importantly, didn’t give me any stomach trouble, so I kept it to use during a future run.

Right after the water stop, we left the greenway and finished Mile 8.

Mile 9: 9:25

So, Mile 9. I remember Mile 9 from last year. There’s a hill in Mile 9. A very, very, very steep hill. Like 112 feet in .51 miles. To put that in perspective, the entire Charleston Half Marathon, 13.1 miles, had 72 feet of elevation gain.

Luckily, I knew it was coming, and I was ready for it. Those (relatively) slow miles on the greenway paid off. I passed people left and right, and when I got to the end of Mile 9, after we had reached the peak and hit a flat stretch, I really took off for the last mile.

Last 0.95: 7:53 (8:22/mile pace)

Wait, what?

Well, considering the seemingly random placement of the mile markers, I had an idea this race wouldn’t be exactly 10 miles. And, as it turns out, it was 9.95 miles according to my watch.

For the record, this stretch was either flat or slightly downhill, mostly straight, and with the hill behind me, I flew through it.

I crossed the finish line, and they called out my name, always a nice touch.

I stopped my watch, and my watch time was 1:35:19, a little over a second longer than my actual time, so that was good. And apparently, for the last full mile that I ran, I set a new one mile record, 8:25.3, barely beating my old record of 8:25.4 from the Yiasou Greek Festival 5K last year. Also, I have a new 10K record, 58:54, which, holy crap, first time under an hour, with a minute to spare, and it included the hill in Mile 9. (I really really really want to race a 10K right now.)

This is where I wish I had my watch last year, so I could compare the distances. As far as I can tell, there were no changes to the course this year, so I really wonder if my Garmin would have shown a short course last year as well.

Anyway, after the race, there was water and Nuun. (Tried Nuun last year, it was weird, not interested unless I feel like I’m really hurting for electrolytes.) Good Bottle Company brought some beers. I tried (I think) a blonde ale from Appalachian Brewing Company, which is actually in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It wasn’t bad. They also had an IPA from Southern Tier Brewing from Lakewood, New York. (Not an IPA fan, sorry.) So, the beer wasn’t exactly local, but Good Bottle Company is a local bottle shop. And an OK blonde ale from Pennsylvania is still way better than Michelob Ultra.

Big View Restaurant and Bar brought the pancakes and sausage back again this year. Aww, yeah. There were also some bananas, and some company was giving out organic juices. (The orange juice tasted fine but was a bit more pulpy than I’d like.)

I waited until after the food and drink before I took my traditional car key picture. The medal makes it tougher to get a good picture (I needed like 5 tries), and you can’t see my bib number (869), but here it is.

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I’m still not 100% convinced a 10 mile race deserves a medal, but I gotta say, I really like this one. I think it’s nicer than last year’s (and honestly looks nicer than most of my half marathon medals).

On the Wednesday before the race, my left ankle started bothering me during a run, enough to slow me down. I didn’t have any issues when I ran that Thursday, and I planned a rest day on that Friday, so I was curious to see how it would hold up during the race. (Considering that I haven’t mentioned it so far, and considering my time, you’ve probably figured out the answer.) Well, there were a couple of spots where I felt a little something, kind of a “Hey, this is your left ankle, I’m here, and I don’t like this.” But it never affected my pace, so that’s good.

So, 9.95 miles. Normally, I’d have some problems calling this a 10 Mile PR, but there are two reasons I don’t have any problem calling this a PR. First, my old PR came on the same course. Second, even if somehow I missed something and they shortened the course this year, I still PRed by over 3 minutes.

Hey, if Han Solo can do the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, I can do the Charlotte 10 Miler in 9.95 miles.

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