Race #178 – Cotton Row Run 10k – Huntsville, AL – 05/28/12

This is my third consecutive year of running Alabama’s premier 10k road race, the Cotton Row Run. With more than $10,000 in prize money it brings out some of the big boys, and this year’s winner was Julius Koskei, a former US National 10,000 meter champion who defied the Alabama heat by running a 29:25. 
I was stuck a little farther back in the pack but did manage to finish 2nd (or was it 3rd?) in the 60-64 age group. Seems like the same thing happened recently at another race (I can’t remember which). At the awards ceremony I collected the 2nd place award, and as I write this I’m still listed as 2nd on the awards page, but in the age group listing I’m 3rd. I suspect there was a glitch of some sort and I’m actually supposed to be 3rd so I’ll go with that. 
This is one of the most spectacular 10k races you’ll ever find, with the atmosphere feeling more like a marathon, with a large expo and lots of people. With the three races combined (10k, 5k, and 1-miler) there are well over 5,000 runners, and the post-race food is the best anywhere. Oh yeah — pizza, ice cream, and lots more — all at 8 o’clock in the morning.
It took 178 races but it finally happened: my shoe came untied in the second mile! That probably sounds insubstantial if you’re not a runner, but if you’re in a race with an untied shoe it’s a big problem. Do you keep going and just hope you don’t trip, or do you pull off to the side and lose a minute or so of time to tie it and lose all of your momentum? I thought about it for just a couple seconds. With 4 miles left in the race there’s no way I’m going to worry about tripping with every step I take, so I made my way over to the side to get out of the way of other runners and re-tied my shoe and got back into the mix as quickly as I could.
About a half mile past the shoe incident was the famous steep hill that everybody talks about in this race. The past two times I’ve mostly walked it, but on this day one of my race goals was to run it. As I approached the hill I could see that my heart rate was already near the red line stage at around 171 beats per minute and there was no way I could run that hill. No more than 20 feet up I began walking, checking my heart rate every few seconds, and even walking I stayed at around 170 so I basically just walked the entire hill. I did manage to begin running again maybe 30 or 40 feet from the crest and as I made my way down the hill that mercifully follows I managed to pass quite a few of the people who had jogged passed me on the way up. 
In a crowd in the last mile — I’m 2nd from the left.
One of the things I like about this race is that once you’re past the huge hill in the middle of the race, a good portion of the final 3 miles is downhill or at least flat. As you can see from the photo here taken during the last mile of the race, it was crowded from start to finish. Sometimes I’ve been able to stay ahead of the pack in large races but in this one I always seemed to be surrounded by other runners. No doubt, the farther back you are in a race the more people you have surrounding you, so maybe I need to start getting used to having company.
This race is the final race of the season of the Running Journal Grand Prix and it’s the reason I’ve been coming here for the past three years. I do love the race, but honestly it’s a long way from North Carolina so I’d normally opt for something closer to home. Placing in the RJ Grand Prix has become my goal for each of the past three years. I enjoy all of the races. Linda and I have fun traveling around the Southeast. With my job I don’t really get any vacation time so these weekend racing trips work out great for us and the Grand Prix circuit gives me a goal to shoot for. This year I was fortunate to win the Grand Masters Championship once again (I also won it two years ago; last year I won the 55-59 age group championship). Since I turned 60 in February I had earned all of my points before that so this race didn’t count towards the Grand Masters since it’s only for ages 50 through 59. Next year I’ll be in the Senior Grand Masters and I might have a harder time winning anything with guys like Butch Holt, Bob Nelson, William Walker, Louis Messina, Jerry Sofley, and Bob Milan all being fast guys from ages 60-69 who might go for it, and that’s just the ones I know, so it’ll be interesting to see who decides to compete. Since there’s quite a bit of traveling involved and some big races close together on the calendar, it’s not something that everybody wants to do every year, but I figure I’ll keep it up as long as I’m able to stay competitive.

Click Here for Race Results

My Stats:

Time:  45:32 (chip time)
Pace:  7:17
Age Group:  3 of  49
Overall:  164 of 2013
Average Heart Rate:  166
Maximum Heart Race:  181
Age Graded Equivalent Time:  36:35

* RACE RATING  (100 Possible Points) *

Note: With my new rating system (started in December 2011) there’s not a chance of any race scoring near 100. If it’s important to you, look at each individual category to see how points were earned (or not). Just trying to be more objective with the details. I generally like all of the races I run. If there’s something that really rubs me the wrong way I’ll mention it in the summary above.

RACE COURSE  (20 possible points)
3 – Chip Timing: (3 points if yes)
2 – Starting Mat: (2 points if yes)
2 – Water Stops: (at least 1 for 5k, 2 for 10k, 4 for half marathon) (2 points)
1 – Course Marking:  (0)bad  (1)good
1 – Course Scenery:  (0)bad  (1)good
2 – Mile Markers: (0)poor or none  (1)normal  (2)with clocks or time called out
2 – Volunteers:  (0)too few  (2)good
2 – Finish line: (0)mediocre  (2)pretty good to excellent
2 – Certified Course: (0)no  (2) yes
2 – Correct Distance: (0)no  (2)yes
1 – Partly or fully on unpaved roads:  (0)yes  (1)no

REGISTRATION  (6 possible points)
3 – Cost:  (0)expensive  (1)reasonable  (3)cheap! (15 bucks)
0 – Race Day Registration:  (0)no  (3)yes

RESULTS  (3 possible points)
2 – Posted promptly online:  (0)no  (2)yes
1 – Clear link on website:  (0)no  (1)yes

AGE GROUPS  (13 possible points)
2 – 3 deep awards: (2)yes (0 for anything less)
5 – 5-year age groups (5 points) (0 for anything less)
1 – 14 and under group (1)
1 – 65+ group (1)
1 – 70+ group (1)
1 – Top Overall M/F:  (0)none or first only  (1)top 3 or better
1 – Masters Category(40+): (0)no  (1)yes
0 – Grand Masters Category (50+):  (0)no  (1)yes

AWARDS  (9 possible points)
2 – Overall Winner Awards: (0)none  (1)yes  (2)excellent ($10,000+ for top runners)
2 – Age Group Awards: (0)none  (1)yes  (2)excellent
0 – Door Prizes or Drawing: (0)no  (2)yes
0 – Finisher Medals for All Finishers: (0)no  (1)yes  (3)really cool medals

POST RACE  (7 possible points)
5 – Food for Race Participants: (0)none  (1)some  (2)adequate  (5)a feast!
1 – Entertainment:  (0)no  (1)yes
1 – Finisher times posted after race:  (0)no  (1)yes

REST ROOMS  (4 possible points)
2 – Porta Potties:  (0)no  (1)limited, long lines  (2)plentiful
2 – Indoor Restrooms: (0)no  (1)limited, long lines  (2)plentiful

T-SHIRTS  (8 possible points)
2 – T-Shirts: (0)no  (2)yes
1 – Design: (0)not good  (1)not bad  (2)nice
0 – Material: (0)cotton  (2)technical fabric
0 – Discount for no-shirt option:  (0)no (2)yes

PHOTOGRAPHY  (12 possible points)
5 – Professional Photography: (0)no  (5)yes
2 – Prices: (0)expensive  (2)reasonable  (5)cheap!
2 – Free Photographs (newspaper, etc.):  (0)no  (2)yes  (AL.COM)   (WHNT)

PARKING  (8 possible points)
2 – Close to Start:  (2)yes  (0)no
2 – Close to Finish:  (2)yes  (0)no
0 – Plenty of spaces:  (2)yes  (0)no
2 – Free Parking:  (2)yes  (0)no

WEBSITE  (5 possible points)
2 – Dedicated race website (0)no  (2)yes
1 – No dedicated site but separate page on other site (organization, running store, etc):  (0)no  (1)yes
2 – Results or link to results posted on website:  (0)no  (2)yes

OTHER  (5 possible points)
2 – Shelter from Inclement Weather (needed or not): (0)no  (2)yes
0 – Swag (free socks, water bottles, etc.): (0)no  (1)yes, some  (2)excellent
1 – Part of race series or Grand Prix:  (0)no  (1)yes

TOTAL:  79

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