Monday, March 19, 2012

Blarney! Recap of the Leprechaun Loop 8K

St. Patrick's Day was appropriately green and filled with allergenic pollen in Davidson this year.  It also marked Summit Coffee's 1st annual Leprechaun Loop 8K, the 1st race in the coffee shop's newly minted Twilight Racing Series.  An impressive 250 runners showed up to kick off the series right.  Among them was local Olympian Anthony Famiglietti (FAM), and nearly a dozen other members of Davidson Area Running Team (DART).  Summit owner Tim Helfrich and his brother Brian--both fellow DARTers--were the RDs for the event, and they were kind enough to share a map of the course to our running group a couple weeks in advance.  Like a handful of others, I capitalized on the nepitism/homefield advantage and previewed the course a few times, including once at tempo pace to emulate race conditions.  As other DARTers surely would agree, previewing the course may have added race-specific knowledge, but only solidified the intimidation of the elevation profile.

The potentially stormy, surely humid forecast turned gave way to relatively merciful race conditions.  It was still hot and humid, but the sun dipped behind a cloud bank moments before the start and stayed there for most of the race.  While a breeze might have been refreshing, there was no danger of a headwind on what was already a challenging course.  I nestled into a group near the line that included fellow DARTers Dave Munger, Tommy Wagoner, Bryan Massingayle, Jordan Duvall, and newly introduced Peter Browne.  My pre-race prediction was that Dave and Tommy would be duking it out the whole way, both finishing a minute or so ahead of me.  Bryan, despite being a fast marathoner, was getting over a feverish crud, so I figured I could hold my own with him for 5 miles.  I didn't know what to expect of Peter; my only clue about him was that he was a 3 hour marathoner, so I wasn't too worried about keeping pace with him.
Runners at the gun.  Photo courtesy of Chad Randolph.
At the sound of the siren, FAM shot out ahead as everyone knew he would.  A dozen or so runners flew by me, including Tommy, who quickly advanced to a 10 second lead on me.  The 1st half mile was practically all downhill, so even though I had to settle my self down in order to save my energy, I still clocked a sub-6 minute/mile pace without really thinking about it.  Speed got a little more manageable as we picked up the sidewalk next to Griffith Street.  Tommy stayed within sight, and Peter pulled alongside me.  Shortly after turning left past the Davidson Charter School, Peter passed me at the 1 mile mark.  My split was 6:09. 

A left on Faust and another left on Catawba brought us to a long straightaway that led back towards Main Street.  Dave passed me here and looked to be keeping a manageably quick pace.  He stayed in reach, and Tommy stayed in sight, but Peter and I kept leap-frogging around each other.  After a quick detour onto Potts, I hopped ahead of Peter and waved at my cheering wife.  Chad Randolph was on the other side of the street to catch a photo of us around mile 1.5.

Me at mile 1.5 with Pete hot on my heels.  Photo courtesy of Chad Randolph.
A left on Main and a right on Walnut wrapped up the 2nd mile (6:30) and led to the longest sustained downhill of the course.  Dave was fewer than 2 strides ahead of me, so I leaned into the decent on Walnut and passed him as we hung a left on Mimosa.  A right turn on South Street gave us a couple hundred more yards of nice downhill, so I honed in on Tommy, who was fading back to me.  Tommy was tenacious, and it took the length of the hill to finally pass him as we angled left onto the greenway. 

Back to reality.  As the greenway leveled out and gave way to Avinger at mile marker 3 (I forget my split at this point), I was aware I had a lot of negative elevation I would have to gain back. This stretch of road was a real pace killer.  Another runner in my age group passed me here and stayed in front of me for the remainder of the race.  I pushed for an even effort and reminded myself that this gradual climb would be an easy spot to lose any semblance of a lead I might have gained on my competitors.  I did not hear anyone directly behind me, so I set my eyes upon the next intersection.  A left on Pine offered some reprieve: I went from uphill to slightly less uphill.  I had done mile repeats for speed work on this particular stretch of road a few times, so it felt comfortable to gun the throttle a little bit.  Fellow DARTer Marc Hirschfield stood by at my next turn onto Lorimer halfway through the 4th mile and snapped a picture of me as I thumbs-up'd by.

Me at mile 3.5.  I look better than I feel.  Photo courtesy of Marc Hirschfield.
 On many races and training runs, Lorimer would be the last stretch before the finish, but not so with the Leprechaun Loop.  A left on Woodland aimed me down the last significant downhill the course had to offer.  I leaned into that sucker to milk it for all it was worth, eventually cracking a 5:45 pace by the time I hit the bottom.  Woodlawn turned right onto Spring Street, which led straight uphill--penance for the sinful downhill I had just run.  It was not a long ascent, but it slowed me to a more humble 7:15 pace by the time I reached the top.  I crossed over South Street within shouting distance of the finish line and continued down Spring to a short, jarring downhill that did little more than set me off balance before doglegging around toward my next intersection.  A right turn on Goodrum gave me a steep 100 yards of loose gravel driveway to climb before I would reach South Street one last time. 

At the end of Goodrum, my legs were trashed, but I had a few hundrend more yards of uphill running on South St. between me and the finish line.  the volunteers had stopped traffic for me, only to let the driver continue on the road right behind me.  Nothing goads your pace like a car chasing you!  My wife was cheering me from the sidewalk as the finish line approached.  When I saw the gun clock tick over to 31:50, I gunned it into a full-tilt sprint in an effort to break 32 minutes.  My official time was 31:57, a 6:26 overall pace.  I dropped my hands onto my knees to suck in some air before my wife rewarded me with some green beads in the spirit of the holiday.  Peter finished after me, followed in short order by Dave, Tommy, and Bryan.  All looked as out-of-breath as me.  FAM already was doing some cool-down strides.  He had fnished 4 minutes ahead of the second place runner with an unfathomable 23:56.  Heidi and I grabbed some water and coffee inside Summit before partaking in the post-race festivities. I later found out that I finished 10th overall out of nearly 250 runners.  Woohoo!
Relaxing inside Summit Coffee after the race and sporting some St. Patty's Day beads.
 One of my goals for the year is to race a 10K in under 40 minutes.  If I could keep this race's pace for another 1.2 miles, I would just barely be able to do it.  All I need to do is find a more forgiving course, but I'm certainly hungry for it!  I will keep readers posted as my progress towards that goal develops.
My Green Inov-8 Bare-X 150s
Gear used:
--Inov-8 Bare-X 150: a zero-drop, sub-6 ounce racing flat.  Lots of ground feel, very quiet, and super fast.  These will be my go-to road racers for anything short of 10K.
--Racing singlet by Reckless Running: lightweight and comfortable.  I almost forgot I was wearing a singlet.  The royal blue color really pops too.

Next on my race calendar:
5/6/12: Long Cane 50K, Abbeville, SC

9/7-8/12: Blue Ridge Relay (maybe), Boone/Asheville, NC

9/29-30/12: Hinson Lake 24 Hour Classic, Rockingham, NC
Fall Road marathon TBD

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