Even though this race is only a couple miles from where I live, this was only the second time I have run it. Honestly, I had kind of avoided it over the last couple years since they had 10-year age groups and as I was approaching 60 I didn’t like being stuck competing in an age group with people who were as much as nine years younger than me. There’s a huge difference in being 50 years old and being 59 years old, whether you’re a runner or not, but especially in age group competition. This year the race organizers changed it to 5-year age groups, which to me is a great improvement. I’m 60 now so I would have been at the bottom of the 60-69 age group, but I don’t really take any pleasure in beating up on a 69-year-old either, and if you’re 69 you most likely don’t want to have to worry about the 60-year-olds, so it should be a welcome improvement for anybody who cares about age-group competition.
I don’t know the history of every race in Gaston County, but the Spencer Mountain 10-Miler is possibly the most established race in the county and is a well respected race in this region. The nearly mile-long hill that starts around the 8-mile mark is one of the most formidable climbs around, as far as local road races go, and it can be a daunting task to climb it after having already run 8 hard miles.
Fortunately, the first 5 miles of the race are pretty flat so you’re good and warmed up by the time you approach the rolling hills that precede the big one. Several of the warm-up hills are tough in their own right, and some of the downhills are too steep to really benefit from as well. As always, I wore my heart rate monitor with the intention of building my heart rate up to my cruising range, which is about 165 beats per minute, and stay in the range of around 165-168 throughout the race. To my surprise, I looked at my watch at the 2-mile mark in the race and my heart rate was already up to 175. That’s not only way higher than my cruising range, but it’s about my limit in the last mile of a race most of the time. A heart rate of 175 only 2 miles into the race would ordinarily set me up to be sitting on the sidelines waiting for the sag wagon (if there is one) about halfway through the race.
Lately I’ve had some health issues including a pulled hamstring and piriformis syndrome. I won’t even mention the sore piggy that went to market and promptly got run over by a shopping cart. A bigger issue of late has been the diagnosis of acute bronchitis and asthma. I actually seem to be getting used to the asthma and a lot of coughing that goes along with it, and it’s improved quite a bit with the medications, but some combination of medication left me with a prostate the size of a catcher’s mitt, so after a couple days last week of thinking about my mortality I once again ended up at the doctor’s office for another bout of medication juggling. I seem to be back on the right track now and feel relatively fine, but the whole point I’m trying to make is that I think this new medication regimen has affected my normal heart rate so it’s now 10 beats or so higher than it normally would be in a race.
As I ran along at the 2-mile mark I considered my abnormal heart rate for a couple of minutes and had to make a quick decision about how I should run the race. I didn’t even consider stopping but I did think about slowing down so my heart rate would return to normal. I felt fine with the 175 heart rate so I decided to try to stay between 170-175 as long as I felt okay. I did consider the possibility that getting up over 180 might kill me (not likely but there’s always the possibility) so I didn’t want to overdo it.
In the end I won my age group but was about 5 minutes slower than when I ran this race three years ago. I’m not elated about being slower but I’m three years older and not quite as healthy and maybe not training quite as seriously as I did back then so I’m not surprised or terribly disappointed. My fastest days are behind me now but I’m just happy that I’m still running and hope I can keep it up regardless of whether it’s fast or slow.
There were some issues with the timing system. Some of the Gaston County organizations (YMCA, etc.) got together and purchased their own system to use instead of paying timing companies and this was only the second time they’ve used it, so there were some resultant problems. I’m really glad to see Gaston County make that kind of an investment though so I have no complaints, but then again I’m not one whose time was missed. I believe that over time it’ll help our community have a more active racing scene and I’m all for that!
Age Group: 1 of 8
Overall: 30 of 136
Average Heart Rate: 172
Maximum Heart Race: 181
Age Graded Equivalent Time: 1:02:04 (71:5%)
* RACE RATING *
Note: I made a few adjustments to the rating system as of 10/27/12 to give races a chance to score more rating points, so it can be futile to compare an older race with a newer one. Hopefully the different items on the checklist will inform you of what you need to know about a race. I’m still trying to keep it as objective as I can. The total points points possible are more than 100 but I’m trying to fine tune it so that good races end up in the 85-100 range. It’s too much trouble to go back and make changes to the old race ratings, but one of these days after all of the fine tuning is done it may be much easier to compare races with each other.
3 – Chip Timing: (3 points if yes)
0 – Starting Mat: (2 points if yes)
2 – Water Stops: (0)none (2)normal (5)extras [Gu, sports drink, etc.]
0 – Course Marking: (0)bad (1)good (1 turn unmarked… other runner knew course)
2 – Course Scenery: (0)bad (2)pleasant (5)extraordinary
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)not bad (5)very good (7)spectacular!
0 – Certified Course: (0)no (2) yes
0 – Correct Distance: (0)no (2)yes (.06 miles short on my GPS)
1 – Partly or fully on unpaved roads: (0)yes (1)no
1 – Cost: (0)expensive (1)reasonable (3)cheap!
3 – Race Day Registration: (0)no (3)yes
2 – Posted promptly online: (0)no (2)yes
1 – Clear link on website: (0)no (1)yes
0 – 3 deep awards: (2)yes (0 for anything less) (2 deep)
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)
2 – Top Overall M/F: (0)none or first only (2)top 3 or better
0 – Masters Category(40+): (0)no (2)yes
0 – Grand Masters Category (50+): (0)no (3)yes
0 – Senior Grand Masters Category: (0)no (5)yes
2 – Overall Winner Awards: (0)none (2)yes (5)excellent
2 – Age Group Awards: (0)none (2)yes (5)excellent
0 – Door Prizes or Drawing: (0)no (2)yes (3)fabulous door prizes!
3 – Finisher Medals for All Finishers: (0)no (3)yes (5)really cool medals
3 – Food for Race Participants: (0)none (1)some (3)adequate (7)a feast!
0 – Entertainment: (0)no (1)yes
0 – Finisher times posted after race: (0)no (1)yes
0 – Porta Potties: (0)no (1)limited, long lines (2)plentiful
2 – Indoor Restrooms: (0)no (1)limited, long lines (2)plentiful
2 – T-Shirts: (0)no (2)yes
1 – Design: (0)not good (1)not bad (2)nice (5)beautiful!
2 – Material: (0)cotton (2)technical fabric
0 – Discount for no-shirt option: (0)no (2)yes
0 – Professional Photography: (0)no (5)yes
0 – Prices: (0)expensive (2)reasonable (5)cheap!
5 – Free Photographs (newspaper, etc.): (0)no (2)yes (5) lots of free pics!
2 – Close to Start: (2)yes (0)no
2 – Close to Finish: (2)yes (0)no
2 – Plenty of spaces: (2)yes (0)no
2 – Free Parking: (2)yes (0)no
0 – Dedicated race website (0)no (2)yes
2 – Results or link to results posted on website: (0)no (2)yes
2 – Shelter from Inclement Weather (needed or not): (0)no (2)yes
0 – Swag (free socks, water bottles, etc.): (0)no (2)yes, some (5)excellent
0 – Part of race series or Grand Prix: (0)no (2)yes