Monday, October 1, 2012

Elkmont Rails to Trails 10k

First, I want to congratulate Whitney Hollingsworth for pulling off such a good race. She had record attendance this year, and Whitney is just one of the good, selfless, loving people on this earth, not to mention a very strong runner. I enjoy this race and I am thankful that I had an opportunity to support this race and cause today. I wish I had done more to help her.

I didn't plan to run a 10k race today. I was planning to join the Fleet Feet 26.2 group for an easy 15 miler and a few extra miles afterward. We were meeting in Huntsville at 6:00 AM. I just completely slept through my alarm. I totally don't remember it. I guess I turned it off, but I just don't remember. I hopped out of bed wide awake at 6:10. Oh well. Still time to go to Elkmont. So I did.

This is such a unique race. It's a downhill first 5k with a seriously downhill second mile (-125 feet). The entire second 5k is a gradual uphill gaining 200 feet spread over 3.1 miles. It's a strategic race, for sure. Have a  look at the elevation graph below.
Elevation of Elkmont Rails to Trails 10k

I know I'm not in shape to run a strong 10k, so I knew this would be miserable.  I've been struggling to run 5-6 mile tempo runs at 6:30 to 6:35, so how could I expect to run a 10k any faster? Also, I ran pretty hard earlier this week. So, I have plenty of excuses. But the bottom line is that I'm a little heavy and out of shape. When I began warming up, I knew it wasn't going to be a great day. It was humid and I just didn't feel great. But I'm here and signed up. I may as well go.

There were lots of fast people at this race, so I had no delusions of competing or winning masters. George DeWitt is in great shape right now in his triathlon training. Tim Vinson is getting stronger as he does every fall. And out front there was George Heeschen and Tyrone Harris. This race always draws a competitive crowd.

My strategy was simple. Let gravity do the work in the first half. If I felt like I was pushing the pace in the first half, I was going too fast. Then, I was just going to hold on as much as I could in the second half. If someone was near me, hang on to them. Maybe a more specific strategy and a definite goal would have been good.

That's pretty much what I did. I tried to keep Tim Vinson in sight and I did for most of the first half. If he faded at all in the second half, I would try to close the distance. He didn't fade. I did. I positive split this course by nearly two minutes,  which means that I completely fell apart.

I ran a 39:14 which was good enough for first in the 40-44 age group and 9th overall. My splits were 6:05, 5:54, 6:13, 6:33 (the beginning of the meltdown), 6:36, 6:39, and 1:05. I wish I had pushed a little harder in the last half, but I just didn't. I knew that a PR was out of reach. There was nobody that I  had a chance to catch and nobody had a chance to catch me. I gave some thought to breaking 39, but I didn't even hang on enough to do that. I finished this race, but I definitely quit at mile 4.

There was a young guy ahead of me. I saw Tim pass him and I knew he was struggling. He probably broke 39, and he was limping and miserable at the finish. I really admired the tough race he ran. I congratulated and hugged and complimented his toughness at the end of the race. I'll look at the results to get his name.

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