Sorry, no pics. I was the only Limestone County runner I knew of in the race, so I had no photographer.
First, let me say that Keith Hallmark puts on an absolutely fine event here. Thanks, Keith, and thanks volunteers. This race was an absolute pleasure to run and to hang out at before the start and after the finish. I'm planning on running this race again next year. It's very well worth the fee and the travel. The food and hospitality were beyond excellent.
The race was just a little late getting started, like 7:05 or so which was fine with me. Read on to see why. After the last minute instructions, there was a prayer. I very much appreciate that. We all need to be reminded of the Creator and to take time to be thankful to Him for the blessings He has given us.
The weather was perfect for the race! I went into this race with a goal of 2:05. Well, I had the typical 3 goals, the ideal goal, the realistic goal, and the "won't consider the race a disaster" goal. Those were 2:05, 2:10, and 2:30. I'm honestly a little disappointed with the 2:06. 2:05 was too high of an ideal goal. I believe that I can break 2 hours on this course. I definitely left too much on the trails. I have to learn to race harder. I know I had more than I gave today, and that's why I'm disappointed with my performance.
The starting hill is the worst hill on the course. I've been thinking all week about how to attack this hill. Do I take it slow and make up the time with the reserved energy? Or do I burst out and stay with the top 10 or 15 and just try to hang on after that? Well, I didn't commit to either strategy and it cost me. I started with the top 10 or 15, but my heart rate was through the roof, so I slowed down. Also, I was having some pain in my left shin. I've never had pain there before. Then, I let some slower runners pass me while trying to bring my HR down. You don't want slower runners in front of you on single track trails. Because my HR was still through the roof, I didn't aggressively try to pass. I just couldn't bring the HR down. I tried stopping, walking, deep breathing, nothing would bring it down from the 165 range. The odd thing is that I didn't feel like my effort was that hard. It must have been the excitement of race day or something. So I quit worrying about it between miles 5 and 6.
Which brings me to the next problem for the day. My Garmin stopped somewhere along the way. I guess I bumped it, because I had to hit start to make it go again. I really didn't know how much distance or time I had lost. And it was clocking some miles very slowly. I ran an average of 8:07, so there just wasn't room for a couple of 10:00 miles and three 9:00 miles in there. I was thoroughly confused about distance for most of the race. I ended up with about 13.5 miles on the GPS. Two weeks ago when I ran the course, it was 15.3, so I'm surprised that I had problems with it today.
I stopped at the aid station at mile 6 to refill my water bottle. Doing that let a group of about 6-8 50k runners ahead of me. Again, that was a mistake. I was stuck behind them until the race split at mile 8 or so. I definitely could have run those two miles faster.
When the race split, I was alone until about mile 11. I noticed someone gaining on me. I got his name at the finish, but I don't remember it. He's number 10 in the results. :( The 12th mile is the second worst mile on the course. It's steadily uphill. I just walked too much of it. I took some gel while walking, and he passed and built about a 0.25 mile lead on me by the time we got back to the gravel road home stretch. He was out of sight for much of the rest of the trail. I wanted to track him down, but I apparently didn't want to badly enough.
When I got back to the road, I was out of water, and I knew I needed some for the last kick at the end. I refilled as quickly as I could, but 10th place was building the lead on me. I ran the 2.7 to the finish as quickly as I could. People who have run this course will know what I mean here. From the start to the trail head is uphill both ways!!! Really, there is a slight downill near the trail head, but you don't remember it because the first 1.3 miles or so drains you. So, when you're done with the trails, you expect an immediate downhill all the way to the finish. But it's not that way at all. You have about .75 mile or so uphill before the downhill kicks in.
I ran the last 2.7 or so in 7:27 (uphill mostly), 6:40 (seriously downhill), and 3:21 (mostly downhill, but pouring it on, too). That was all I had. 10th place finished about 10 seconds ahead of me. I was gaining on him the whole way, but I just didn't have enough to catch him. There are about a dozen places in the race that I could have gained more than that 10 seconds, so the finishing push was not the problem.
I felt too good after the race. I didn't give it all I had, and that's disappointing. I didn't hurt after the race. I need to learn to hurt more during a race.
After the race I hung out with Madelyn, Jane, and Laura waiting on the first 50k finishers. Enjoyed the company, gals! I also met a former UNA cross country runner named Josh. Great hanging out with you Josh! I hope to see you at some more races soon.
Again, BIG thanks to Keith Hallmark and all the race volunteers! Today was a GREAT race!!!