Sunday, May 24, 2009
Cotton Row 10k Course
I'm taking it easy today hoping to have fresh legs and my best 10k effort yet tomorrow. I'm reviewing the course in my mind as preparation for tomorrow, so I'll share my thoughts.
The Overall Course
I've said before, and I'll say again that I really love this course as road courses go. It starts and finishes downtown and winds through some historical and beautiful neighborhoods. Most of the lawns are very well maintained and there is some shade on much of the course.
This is no doubt a negative split course. A negative split is almost a given here. The highest point of the course is almost exactly at the halfway point and there is significant elevation loss from there to the finish. You go from 853 feet to 621 feet in less than 3 miles, with only two very small, short uphill sections during that stretch. I would guess that most runners will negative split by 30 seconds or more.
The start is near the VBCC at the intersection of Clinton and Monroe. Runners start east on Clinton for a block and then turn right on Church St. Church St. has a small curve that can be straightened a little to shave a few feet off the distance before turning left on Lowe Ave. Lowe is curvy and also can be shortened a bit. I haven't had much time to practice this because there has always been traffic on the street when I run it. I've heard that the distance savings can be significant enough to be worth nearly 10 seconds. After crossing Adams St., you'll see the 1 mile split. If you want to meet your goal for the day, this needs to be at least 10 seconds ahead of your goal pace because 1) It's your first mile (duh), 2) It can be run short, 3) It's relatively flat. I'm hoping to hit this in 6:15 tomorrow.
The course transitions from downtown to neighborhood streets just after 1 mile. You're still on Lowe, but it becomes Fraser. There's a slight veer to the right onto Sierra before turning left onto Carmelian St. Carmelian can also be shortened slightly, but it is slight. Carmelian ends at McClung Ave. and runners will turn right. There is a cymetary on your left and houses on your right and the Mile 2 split just ahead. Again, you need to run this one well. It's only slightly uphill. You should run this one near your goal pace. 6:20, 12:35 is my target.
The Toughest Mile
Now, the course will show it's teeth. There is a very noticable incline up McClung to Owens Drive. It flattens and maybe gives back a few feet just as you turn on Owens, but then starts up again. These two hills always get me a little because I'm only thinking about Mountainwood, and I forget about these until I'm running them and feel my pace slipping. Mentally, these hills have been tougher for me than Mountainwood. Mountainwood I am expecting and psyched up for; these, I'm not so much. After topping the second portion of the incline on Owens, the street splits. Stay right and stay low. You'll start a slight climb again just as the street re-joins. This is a nice residential street. When you see Mountainwood, look out. Hang a left and start the most brutal climb on any 10k road race in the state. It's downright evil to put this hill on a 10k course. This hill defines this course. This hill is the course's identity. Everyone who runs this race remembers this hill. Those who don't run this race hear about this hill! Objectively, there are worse hills on road races across the country. But this hill gains 80 feet in just over 1/8 of a mile. It's steep! The 3 mile split is just about halfway up the hill. There is also a homeowner with a sense of humor near the top who is blasting the "Rocky" theme every year! Hope you didn't destroy your chances for your goal with this mile. It will be slower than your goal pace. I'm really hoping to run this mile no slower than 6:45. If I hit the first two miles as planned, anything below 7:00 should avoid a disaster. My target tomorrow is 6:45, 19:20.
Another Tough Mile
This mile begins with the remainder of Mountainwood to go! It's seriously uphill to begin. After topping Mountainwood, runners will turn right on Toll Gate Road and there will be aid. This is, I'm guessing, roughly the 5k split (though there's nobody there calling 5k splits). If you're 30 seconds or less behind your goal pace, you are in good shape to meet your goal. If I'm above 20:30 here, I will seriously have to fight the urge to give up. The road dips slightly to allow some recovery, then climbs again to the intersection of Toll Gate and Bankhead Parkway. The left on Bankhead is the sharpest turn on the course, but it isn't bad at all, though sharper than 90 degrees. Then, you get back the climbing you did! Bankhead is the most dangerous road on the course if you want to run it any day other than race day. There is no shoulder (but there is an awkward to get to sidewalk on the right hand side of the road) and there will be traffic. But on race day, just LET IT FLY! Traffic is controlled and you have some time to make up! Mile 4 ends at roughly the same elevation it begins, so run it in your goal pace, though it surely won't be an evenly paced mile. It's up at the beginning and down at the end. The 4 mile split is just beyond a left curve. I'm aiming for 6:20, 25:40.
The Fastest Mile!
Mile 5 is the fastest on the course. You MUST beat your goal pace on this mile, and you must beat it soundly. You'll finish the quad-busting downhill on Bankhead until it veers right and becomes Pratt Ave. That portion is seriously downhill. You have to fly. Take advantage of gravity and don't let your footstrike slow you down! Pratt will divide, and you'll turn left on Grayson for two blocks before turning right on Clinton. The Grayson/Clinton section is the flattest part of the course. Carry any downhill momentum if you can, but you will be slowing down now. The 5 mile split will be near Coleman St. I'm aiming for 6:05, 31:45.
Bring It Home!!!
Just after the 5 mile split, runners cross California St. just south of the 5 points area. Then, they'll go a block to take a left on White St., then a right on Randolph a block later. This stretch of the course has some well maintained homes with character. I like running this section. This is also a very flat portion of the course. Runners will follow Randolph back to the downtown area. On the way back, there is one more hill that leads up to Greene St. It isn't a bad hill at all, but it is late. Hill probably isn't even the right word. Rise, maybe. Just know that it is all downhill from there! After crossing Greene St., turn right on Washington, then left on Clinton a block later. From here, you can see the finish!!!! Don't get too excited, though because it's farther than it looks! HOLD ON!!! DO NOT LET UP!!! After that turn on Clinton, I'm guessing that I'll have about 2:15 to the finish. It's between 0.3 and 0.4 miles to the finish, closer to 0.4. You may see the 6 mile split painted on the road, but nobody will be there calling splits. I'm aiming for 6:25 + 1:15 for 39:25. That's not much room for error to break 40:00.
Wish me luck. I hope this course tour helps you if you're running the Cotton Row Run 10k.