Race #217 – Cotton Row Run 10k – Huntsville, Alabama – 05/27/13

The Cotton Row Run marks the end of the Running Journal Grand Prix season. This is my fourth year competing in the Grand Prix and the fourth time we’ve traveled to Huntsville for this final race. It’s been one of my favorites each year. On one hand it marks the beginning of the summer season, and since I love running in warm weather I’m always excited about that. On the other hand, for each of the four years it has marked the end of a successful season for me in the Running Journal Grand Prix. I was the Grand Masters Champion for two of those years, the 55-59 Age Group Champion one year, and this year I won the Senior Grand Masters Championship for the season. For me as a runner, winning the Running Journal has been my big goal of the year, and it’s been a lot of fun but I’ve decided this would be my last year. Traveling to races all over the Southeastern United States gets expensive, and the older I get the less I like taking those long road trips. My wife’s thrilled with that decision, and I’m happy with it too. With the exception of a handful of races outside our local area when visiting our kids we’ll just run the races easy enough to drive to, which will be mostly small local races, and that suits me fine.

Anyhoo, speaking of the Cotton Row Run, it’s quite the spectacle, drawing top runners from the region who want to stake their claim for the considerable prize money awarded to the top overall runners and masters runners (ages 40 and over). The prize money, of course, doesn’t extend to the senior grand masters categories (ages 60 and up) unless they can outrun the fastest runners who are twenty years younger, and that hardly ever happens, so we’re in it strictly for the sake of running and competing against some of our peers, which is fine with us although never very profitable.

There is an official video for this race on YouTube, much better and more professional than anything I can do with my video glasses, and I’ll embed it here in my blog. It provides great commentary and stays with the lead runner throughout the race and shows the entire course, including the infamous Mountainwood Hill, which is the steepest hill I’ve ever tried to run up in a race (I actually walked most of it). Here’s the official video…

I’m glad the official video worked out well because my glasses didn’t do such a great job this time around. Before the race and until a minute or two into the race all of the video was messed up, possibly because of the glare of the early morning sun where the race started. In addition to that, the video battery conked out just after the 4-mile mark in the race so I entirely missed the last two miles, which is too bad since the race has such a great finish. It’s kind of funny to compare my perspective in the race to the one on the official video that tracked the race winner. I wasn’t that far back really, finishing in 120th place out of 2,105 runners, which is in the top 6 percent, but things are definitely different anywhere back in the pack. When you think about it, there are hundreds of little sub-races going on in addition to the overall race. I was hoping to beat the guys in my age group. Other people were doing that too, as well as rivalries from offices, families, neighbors, and people just trying to beat what their own times from last year. I guess that’s part of what makes running so much fun.

Here’s my race video, followed by a few photos taken along the course…

A quarter of a mile into the race I was already a considerable distance behind
the leaders and wasn’t sure if there were some others in my age group that
were already ahead of me.

For the first mile and a half or so I chased George Sykes of Spartanburg,
South Carolina, who was this year’s Grand Masters Champion of the
Running Journal Grand Prix. He’s always a step ahead of me though and
finally left me behind. I finished just a little over a minute behind him and
he was 1st place in the 55-59 age group.

There were a lot of displays of patriotism for Memorial Day.

Of all the patriots I saw along the course, my favorite was this little girl
standing alone on a street corner waving a small flag.

I was right around 13:50 at the 2-mile mark, which is just about right for me.

Just past the 2-mile mark I was passed by 63-year-old Wayne Heckler of
Madison, Alabama, who would go on to win the 60-64 age group.

As we approached the big hill on Mountainwood my heart rate monitor said
I was already at 171 beats per minute. That’s about 5 beats above my cruising
range so I knew I had to take the hill slowly to keep from imploding, even if
I felt like I could run it.

The pavement on the big hill is grooved so cars can get traction in bad weather.

I managed to run to the 3-mile marker, which was about halfway up the hill.
At that point I was exhausted and, as you can see, Wayne Heckler was leaving
me behind. I mostly walked the rest of the way up but did run a little bit of it.

I was still going up the hill when I caught this last glimpse of Wayne Heckler,
who had a huge lead on me by then. I finished 2nd in the age group, about
a minute and a half behind him, so I might have actually gained on him a little
after I finally reached the top of the hill.

Despite dying on the hill, I felt pretty good after reaching the top and
knowing the worst was behind me, and I was still with a group of fairly
strong, mostly young runners, which is a good sign that I’m still running okay.

I hit the 4-mile split at about 28:50, which was good to see after my
disastrous uphill climb.

As I mentioned previously, the battery in my video glasses died shortly after the 4-mile mark so I don’t have any additional pictures or videos, which is too bad because the last quarter mile or so before the finish line is spectacular. I had known that my friend, Bob Nelson, who had also come from Charlotte to run, was probably close behind, but I didn’t look back until around a half mile from the finish line. There are so many people in this race that it’s hard to tell, but I couldn’t see Bob or anybody else who looked like they were in my age group, so I just ran what I felt like was a good pace down the home stretch. I finished in 43:52 (actually 43:49 chip time), which is a great time for me. It was my best 10k time since the fall of 2011, and a PR for me in the 60-64 age group. I was 2nd in the age group out of 59 runners, followed about a minute later by Bob Nelson, who finished in third place. Our other Charlotte friend, Roberta Villneff (Bobbi V) finished in 1st place in the 60-64 female age division. It ended a successful season for all of us, with Roberta and me winning the Senior Grand Masters Championship and Bob Nelson winning the 60-64 Age Group Championship.

Click Here for Race Results

My Stats:

Time:  43:49 (chip time)
Pace:  7:00
Age Group:  2 of  59
Overall:  120 of  2105 (5.7%)
Average Heart Rate:  168
Maximum Heart Race:  178
Age Graded Equivalent Time:  34:56 (76.87%)

***************
* RACE RATING *
***************

RACE COURSE
3 – Chip Timing: (3 points if yes)
2 – Starting Mat: (2 points if yes)
2 – Water Stops: (0)none  (2)normal  (5)extras [Gu, sports drink, etc.]
1 – Course Marking:  (0)bad  (1)good
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
7 – Finish line: (0)mediocre  (2)not bad  (5)very good  (7)spectacular!
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
3 – Cost:  (0)expensive  (1)reasonable  (3)cheap!  (15 bucks!)
0 – Race Day Registration:  (0)no  (3)yes

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

AGE GROUPS
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)
2 – Top Overall M/F:  (0)none or first only  (2)top 3 or better
2 – 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

AWARDS
5 – Overall Winner Awards: (0)none  (2)yes  (5)excellent  (Big Bucks!)
5 – Age Group Awards: (0)none  (2)yes  (5)excellent
0 – Door Prizes or Drawing: (0)no  (2)yes   (5-9)fabulous door prizes!
0 – Finisher Medals for All Finishers: (0)no  (3)yes  (5)really cool medals

POST RACE
9 – Food for Race Participants: (0-10 with 5 being average)
7 – Entertainment:  (0)no  (1-9)yes
2 – Finisher times posted after race:  (0)no  (2)yes

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

T-SHIRTS
2 – T-Shirts: (0)no  (2)yes
1 – Design: (0)not good  (1)not bad  (2)nice  (5)beautiful!
0 – Material: (0)cotton  (2)technical fabric
0 – Discount for no-shirt option:  (0)no (2)yes

PHOTOGRAPHY
5 – Professional Photography: (0)no  (5)yes
2 – Prices: (0)expensive  (2)reasonable  (5)cheap!
0 – Free Photographs (newspaper, etc.):  (0)no  (2)yes  (5)lots of free pics!

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

WEBSITE
2 – Dedicated race website (0)no  (2)yes
2 – Results or link to results posted on website:  (0)no  (2)yes

OTHER
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
2 – Part of race series or Grand Prix:  (0)no  (2)yes

TOTAL:  98

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