This past weekend was the 2007 Scholar’s Run, hosted by Parks & Rec in association with the Foothill Striders and is the Second Leg of the Ruby Tuesday Triple Crown of Running. I’ll let you click the link for all the details.
This race was my first race in the transition period between Summer Running and Fall Marathon Training Schedule. It’s also the only race that I have ran each year, without fail, since I started running in 1998. Being that it’s late August and the race is held in hilly Maryville, TN, so it’s not one of those PR type courses.
As I pulled into the Maryville College campus it was hard to miss the HUGE pile of building debris off to my right and I thought to myself, “That’s part of the course.” Well, yes and no. It was part of the course, but not this year. The building was being demolished and they blocked off the small section of road next to the building that was a hill that I referred to as the “Demoralizer.” It sat at about the 2.5 mile mark (out of 3.1 miles) and was about 0.1 mile in length and just a Quad (leg muscle) buster. Everything about it was demoralizing. It was near the end of the course, you had to do a 90 degree turn to start it, it was steep, there was more hill after you got to the top and did I mention it was steep?
I parked and made my way to packet pick up. Typically, this race has a great goody bag for pre registered runners and it didn’t disappoint this year. Inside was a Ruby Tuesday branded small FM radio. The first thing I thought of was why a race gave out an item with headphones, and no, we weren’t allowed to use them during the race.
My legs were a little tired from the Tempo run the day before. I had ran a little too fast and out of everything involved with the race, I worried that my legs would be dead at the end to endure the hills. I did run a 10 minute warm up run, just to get the pre race jitters out which helped but not much.
The construction on campus changed the route a little. To accommodate the change, the middle of the course was reversed and that made the harder hills more in the middle of the course instead of later in the course. However, we still had the last hill at the end of the race. The problem isn’t the steepness of that hill, it’s the fact that it is long and curvy, so you never get a good chance to focus on the hill before you have to adjust for the turns.
I stood in the middle of the pack of runners, going over my starting line strategy. I seemed to be further back than normal, but not by much. I would be forced to pace with the traffic in front of me and given that a 5k is only 3.1 miles, you don’t have a lot of time to make up a slow start and weaving in and out of runners at the start will kill your time. The starting gun fired and it took me about 4 or 5 seconds to make it to the white tape on the ground.
It wasn’t 10 seconds into the race before a runner tripped beside me. I was fine, but still adds a element of surprise and nervousness, that makes you start your in-race analysis of the conditions around you. In short races, you must always be aware of what’s going on and what you are doing, you just can’t afford not to.
The first loop was on the campus and passes in front of the Maryville College Gym (also the finish line) but it shares the same section of campus that is part of the final approach of the race. Yes, this means that you have to go up the curvy hill twice. As I was monitoring how I was feeling, I thought to myself that I must only be running around an 8 minute mile. I was pacing behind two runners that seemed to be running consistently and it was tough (but not difficult) to maintain their speed. But I didn’t feel fast at all.
As we started the up hill turn, I continued at my pace while the others slowed down to acclimate to the hill. I have no fear of hills and see them as a opportunity to pass runners and rest some part of my legs as my quads become the powerhouse for the race. I still felt pretty good at the top of the hill, well, as good as you can get while running.
We approached the first mile split and I was surprised, very surprised at my time. The volunteer calling out split times had to be misspeaking because instead of the “eight” that I was expecting to hear based on my perceived speed and level of exertion, they called out “seven” instead. I hit the first mile at 7:39.
Once we left the campus, the was some reprieve as we proceeded down hill and then for a level stretch. The bad thing is that what goes down, must come up. At this point, I wasn’t pacing with anyone, I was just in my groove trying not to slow down and just trying to survive the hills.
The nice thing about 5ks is that when you hit Mile 2, you know that the race is about done… it’s just 1.1 miles to go. So, at a turn before yet another incline, the Mile 2 split time was called and I had cut 2 seconds off for a 7:37 split. At least, at the top of this little hill, I would not have to endure any more inclines until the last final approach.
Turning back into campus with around 3/4 mile to go, I started to do my Finish Line Assessment. Here is when I figure how much juice I have left, how much I am hurting, and strategy for the last 1/4 mile. First thing was that I couldn’t go any faster, I could not pick up the pace, so if someone was going to pass me, I would have to let them pass. I would just have to deal with it. With the hill at the end, I could not afford the energy drain. Next, I look ahead at the runners ahead of me and like a hungry lion, I looked for the sick and weak of the herd in front of me.
Near the start of the last hill, I heard it. A runner, actually two, passing me at the start of the hill. Being true to my strategy, I stayed the course and let them go… oh did I want to ghost behind them and then pass them in the last 50 feet! But no… I did not. My reward? I passed two runners myself at the base of the hill.
Tucked in and focusing at the turns on the hill, I was able to make it past another runner. Consistency is the name of the game on a hill… and you don’t stop until you pass the top. With a little more than 0.1 of a mile to go, the hill final crested and I was making preparations for the final approach.
A group of runners was in front of me, and in reach. I would not be able to turn on my turbo boosters and blow past everyone in the last 0.1 of a mile, but I did pick up some speed. It was nice that they marked the 3 mile mark, and that only confirmed an even pace with a 7:32 mile. With 0.1 of mile to go, I had passed 6 runners already and there were 5 more ahead of me. Now there were only 3 ahead and I wasn’t going to catch them.
Well, I wasn’t going to catch them, until the kid running about 20 feet of me, stopped cold in his tracks, bent over and begin throwing up. Had I been centered behind him, I would have either had to hurdle him or plow through him. He had no chance of making to the side before his body rebelled against the physical exertion and began expelling morning’s offerings.
In the final 100 feet, I ran as hard as I could, and tucked behind a runner that I couldn’t beat to the finish line unless I pushed him out of the way. Too bad he was in my age group. I finished, unofficially in 23:26 (my watch). As I was trying to catch my breath in the finishing chute, I saw a guy with rubber gloves on and tried to tell him that a kid was puking on the course. Thankfully, someone helping the boy was calling for the medical team and he headed over to check the boy.
I found the gatorade and water then started my cool down run. Back behind the gynasium is the Maryville Woods and has a nice set of trails behind it. So I cooled down in the shade of the trees but not for too long, there were awards and doorprizes to win.
I didn’t win either. The closest I got was a door prize because they called 213 and my bib was 214. Oh well… maybe next time. And the age group awards. Eh, the 3rd place finisher in the 35-39 age group had a time of 20:54.
Now that the results are posted, my official time was 23:32, I was 87th out of 303 finishers. They didn’t post ages this time, which isn’t very helpful, but at best I placed 11th in my age group but there were 9 people in the result I that I could not find ages in other race results (so I don’t know). Looks like my age group was stacked this race. Even my 5k PR time of 21:56 would have only gotten me to 6th! So, I don’t mind the 11th place, I did finish in the top 30% of all finishers.
Winners of my Guess My Time Contest will be announced shortly.
After I was done and getting ready to leave, I saw the kid sitting up right and in his van with his family around him. He had a bag of ice around his neck and look like an EMT was helping him.