On February 28, 2010 I had my 12 year RUNiversary, and what a strange race it turned out to be…
The Whitestone 30k is a road race whose START/FINISH is at the Whitestone Inn in Paint Rock, TN. I had ran it back in 2002, but given it’s distance and date (traditionally, a Sunday) I hadn’t put it on my racing calendar. But this year, since I am not running a Spring Marathon, but instead training for a PR time at the 1/2 marathon distance on April 24 in Harriman, TN, I thought this would be a very good endurance run, since I just had run Strawplains Half Marathon just 2 weeks prior.
Like all the races that I know ahead of time that I am going to run, I will volunteer for any pre-race duties. Seeing that this was a training run and a longer distance, there would be little chance of me placing in my age-group, I wouldn’t need any warm-up and as long as I got to the starting line, I’d be fine. Bobby Holcombe was the race director for the event and emailing him saying that I could volunteer for anything pre-race that I’d be more than happy to help. My reply was that most things were covered, but a few people including myself would be on the “reserve/back-up list” in case there was a need for something. I could handle that, just fine.
One of the neat things about volunteering at Knoxville Track Club events, is that you get a Volunteer Voucher, which in essence is good for $5 in KTC money. That is, you can apply vouchers when purchasing KTC apparel or race entry fees for KTC events, or exchanging it for that race’s shirt (because it is so cool, or NOT white!). When you volunteer outside of Knox County, you get 2 of them! Well, with my volunteering at Strawplains, I had 9 coupons, which is worth $45 in KTC Land. It just so happened to be that Whitestone 30k was $45 for Day of Race registration! So, I didn’t have to pay a nickel to run the 30k! However, there were NO t-shirts for Day of Race entrants and I am waiting for the email saying that my shirt is ready.
I arrived on-site and proceeded to find Volunteer Check-In and Day of Race Registration. Wasn’t difficult at all, and still being early it went fast as well. When I checked in, everything was “covered” so I didn’t really have anything to do… I could just take my 2 coupons and head out for the race. But that’s shooting fish in a barrel and I’m not really programmed to work that way anyway. I’d still volunteer is there were NO coupons, but I appreciate the coupons though! Registration (usually a good pre-race activity) was fine, so I headed out to see if there was anything that I could to help outside. I wandered over to the KTC trailer and found people pulling out tables for the water stations. I jumped right in and helped get those tables into a pick-up to be taken out to the course. Then I started loading another truck with cones, Mile Markers, and Race In Progress signs.
I was beginning to shape up that the guy, Dave, was going to be alone in putting out the road markers, so I grabbed a map and hopped into the truck. The Whitestone 30k course wraps around itself depending on where you are. That is, there are certain chunks of roadway that you run over 3 times with different directions at the intersections depending on how far you are in the race. As a result some of the Mile Markers, are near 100ft of each other, so when it came to looking for the markings for these, if we found one, we knew the other was close. We had about 45 minutes to get all the Mile Markers, Cones and Race in Progress signs out there and for the most part it went pretty smoothly. We did calculate that given the race start that we’d be behind in getting everything out before the race actually started. Most of the Mile Markers weren’t an issue because even the immortal Elite Runners could never run that fast that we couldn’t put the 12 mile marker on the road before they would get there… they’d have to be running at a World Record pace of 1:00 mi/min.
Given our location (near Mile 11) and the time, we might have an issue with the 6 mile marker not being out on the course in time. After we put down Mile 12 marker, we started seeing some of the runners and the Police stopped traffic. We were close enough to some of the Mile Markers, that Dave took one in one direction and I took the other. While setting up the Mile Marker I had, # I think, I saw my friend THE Stewart Ellington, who at the time was in second overall, but there was a relay aspect to this race, so that might have just been a relay person ahead of him. I got to cheer him as he passed and then I ran back to the truck. THE Stewart Ellington ended up placing 1st in this race, and actually in alot of races around here… I joke with him that he better watchout because during the race I’ll be behind him chasing him down. Of course his pace is like 5 and some change… mine, eh…
So as we proceeded to head back, we saw the bulk of runners and Dave was talking with the people he knew as we went by. It was really cool because he knows some of the personally, he would tell me an interesting fact about them, which was cool. But we both TOTALLY missed the Mile 17 marker! So we kept going to put the Mile 18 mile marker down and then I asked him if he could take me to the Race Start before he went back to put down Mile 17. He dropped me off and I ran to my car where I put on my number and got what I would need for the race. When I got to the top of the hill, there was no one around… I found the line I assumed that was used for the Starting Line, leisurely got all my gear together, looked at the time and started the stopwatch. My watch said 8:56 when I started so that was +26 minutes into the race, if it had started right on time at 8:30 and the time was accurate.
The Race start is an Exciting downhill start… steep and windy down the parking lot and entrance to Whitestone Inn. I had just passed where my car was when I remembered: OH I DON’T HAVE MY WATERBOTTLE! Seeing that I had some inside of me just 3 days earlier that “Hated The World”, I was worried that I would be dehydrated during the race, so having that water bottle was of utmost importance! And that backtracking to the car was the best diversion ever… I would have been DOA if I hadn’t gone back and gotten it.
The first couple of miles, was just trying to find a pace that wasn’t too strenuous. The only thing was that I was DEAD LAST… I was 20+ minutes BEHIND the patrol car, so knowing that just made me WANT to run fast. But I know that had I done that I would be paying for it big time later in the race. This was the longest distance since the Flying Monkey Marathon in November 2009, so I wasn’t sure how long I was going to last. Plus hitting the Wall around Mile 9 of the Strawplains Half Marathon just 2 weeks prior, I wasn’t sure where that Wall would be for a 18.7 mile course… maybe 11, maybe 15… maybe 8? Who Knew?
Being where I was on the course, when I approached MY mile 2, this was the Elite’s Mile 6, so I was being passed by some of the Elite Runners and some of the Relay Team. I did want to speed up as they passed, they made it look SOOO easy to run at that pace… I would sound like a herd of wild elephants or something.
When I approached the Split at Mile 2.5, which you pass by 3 times, I had to tell the Volunteers who were telling the runners at the Mile 6.5 point that I was just making my first pass! I filled my Water Bottle at every chance that I could to make sure that I stayed hydrated. Since I had helped set up the course, I already knew where the water stations were going to be located and so for Racing Dynamics, it made it easier to pace my water intake, trying to keep myself from dehydrating too quickly.
Right near the Mile 5 marker I saw the flashing lights of the patrol car who was following the last runner. At this point, I was relieved that I was now back “officially” within the course time cutoff.
For the next batch of miles, I felt pretty decent. I wasn’t pushing myself, but rather trying to stay evenly paced as best I could with the terrain. I was completely alone, there was no one ahead of me and the last runner was still behind, I really had no idea where I was in the race, other than next-to-last. Mile 8 of the course double backs on its self and it was here that I saw the tail end of runners, about 7 of them just starting Mile 9 and I was just beginning Mile 8. I tried to do some math to see if my pace would be enough to catch up with them before the finish line. I wasn’t sure… perhaps, but we hadn’t quite hit half-way and there were still Plenty O’Hills to worry about.
When I came to Mile 9, I could just make out the Police lights of the Last Runner, he was yet to start Mile 8. Good to know that he was still going steady-on. The runners ahead of me where out of side… still perhaps about a mile away, but with the hills and curves, I couldn’t see them. At Mile 10, I shifted my race strategy to incorporate some mandating walking (other than water stops). I could tell that I was consuming liquids WAY too fast, which for me means that if I continue at the same pace, I will end up Hitting the Wall and it falling on me. Using this strategy, I could at least defer The Wall to a later distance.
Starting at Mile 11, the course takes you back on the main road, which unfortunately is not sheltered from the elements. In my case, this was slightly beneficial because the cold wind was helping keep my core body temperature from rising too fast going up the hills. I was still able to maintain running for the most part, with walk breaks taken at specific locations (usually at the mid/end of a downhill).
I knew at this point that that personal finishing time (Terry Time) would be decent given the conditions, my training, etc but that the clock time would stink. I still figured that my pace was still overall faster than those that I saw at Mile 9, but I didn’t see them although there were hills and curves to obstruct my view. Knowing that I was basically running on this road right up until the finish line, I began to move into my Race Finish Mode. Even though there was no time goal involved (good that I didn’t have a Guess My Time, Win Crap contest), this was still a Race and unless it’s a “fun run” it’s ethical to beat 6 year olds and 80 year olds. My goal at this point was to maintain my pace, and to try to over take runners still on the course (which is a typical Race Strategy).
Around Mile 16 I started seeing a lot of vehicles coming from the direction of the Whitestone Inn. This could really only mean ONE thing… the Award Ceremony was over and people were leaving! And sure enough, that is what it was… runners… rather “Finishers” leaving to head home and I’m still out there with just a few miles to go. I even saw the overall winner pass and wave to him and his wife and I wondered if it was weird that he saw me help setting up the course at “his” Mile 2 and that I was wearing a Race Bib and he was leaving at “my” Mile 17?
Just before I reached Mile 18, at the top of the hill, I could see another runner on the course. But damn was I tired! There wasn’t a whole lot in the take, but I did have one thing… motivation. I wanted… NEEDED to finish quickly. The uphill finish for this race is nothing to be trifled with even for those like me that actually “Like” hills! In the last 1/2 mile I shifted into a quick walk, fast pace run. While this is much more taxing on the body, it does provide a faster pace and at this point, it was do or die.
Not only is the uphill pretty steep, just to make it more “fun” there’s a number of curves associated with it. And it was here where I saw my chance to pick-off the weak of the herd. I pulled within 10-20 feet of the runner right in front of me waiting for the right time to move. The last part of the course is on a asphalt “trail” that leads up to the Inn and Chapel and maybe 0.1 of a mile… or little more… but, you have make a right turn from the parking lot onto to it. And that is when I made my move.
Right as she was turning, I accelerated past her and started to churn my legs to make it up the hill. I probably got a 20-25 feet ahead of her before my legs said… “NO MORE” and I was forced to walk. However, my mind decided to drown out my Legs whining and I focused on the top of the hill where I could see the clock and just started moving as best as I could. And then, I crossed the finish line… “officially” in 3:49:48 as the 124 finisher out of 126. Looking at the finishing times, I could have potentially have come in 122, if I had just been 15 seconds faster…
The unofficial Terry Finish Time was 3:28:49, which ended up being roughly 21 mins difference… so perhaps the race started a tad late. Now, although the conditions would have been different had I started with the rest, my unofficial time would have put me around 108 out of 126. So overall, I was fine with my time, it was a training run after all anyway, but I was more pleased from my performance. I have said it before that I have learned MORE about my running style and strategies on races that have gone poorly than I do where I run races well.
Here’s a picture from the Whitestone Inn, just a few feet from the Start/Finish Line