I would always prefer sleeping in on a cold Saturday morning, but the Spencer Mountain 10-Miler is kind of a special race. I’m not really sure why. Maybe it’s the challenging hills in the last half, or the fact that it’s only about 3 miles from my house, or maybe it because a lot of my running friends from nearby are there as well as other friends who drive from quite a distance to get here, or maybe it’s just a combination of all of that. Whatever the reason, it’s a race that I’ll get out in the cold and run, guy-who-hates-cold-weather that I am.
I arrived at Warlick School, the site of the start and finish line, about 45 minutes before the start of the race, plenty early enough to get in the school gym to pick up my shirt and talk to friends, but not quite early enough to get in the school bus parking lot so I ended up parking in the big field, which is an issue if it’s muddy but since it doesn’t rain anymore it was perfectly dry.
The 5k and the 10-miler start simultaneously but in different directions, and this is the only race I know that does that. I’ve never run the 5k, but from what I’ve heard it’s flat and fast, and people tend to run fast times in the 5k. One of my friends, 57-year-old Bill Weimer, ran his fastest 5k (22:16) in 30 years at today’s race, and several other friends ran their fastest 5k times of the year.
The 10-miler is a little bit of a different story. It starts out virtually flat for the first 5 miles, but after that it’s a roller coaster, with several huge hills including the final one that goes straight up for a half mile back into the town of Ranlo.
I’ve been feeling really good lately and had high hopes that I might be able to beat my fastest time here, which was 1:12:30 in 2009. To say the race start was anti-climactic is an understatement. I didn’t hear a thing but all of a sudden everybody started running and we were off. I carried on bits of conversation in the first mile with a variety of runners. Stephen Phillips said he planned on sticking with me then beating me at the end, but apparently he changed his mind and drifted a little ways behind. I came upon Bryan Allf and Fred Levy, who had both run the New York City Marathon last weekend, and they were both more in recovery mode than race mode. We talked just a little and Bryan asked me if I was using the heart rate method to run, and I of course replied that I was. He was the one who first gave me the idea to run by my heart rate about four years ago and I’ve done it ever since. I ran on up ahead and saw Ransel Wildes, who sometimes joins the Gaston County Runners for speed work, and we talked and ran together for a short while before I ran up a little ahead and caught up with GCR buddy Chris Baucom and ran next to him for a little bit. He wasn’t in a talking mood and had told me before the race that his training had been off lately. Little by little I drifted ahead of Chris, knowing that all of the guys I had passed were aware of my tendency to walk on the hills, and I figured (as did they) that they would all be back to haunt me before the end of the race.
Feeling remarkably well, I managed to bank a little bit of time by running a sub-7 minute pace for each of the first four miles. After that the hills started, and I took a short walk break of about 20 seconds on one of the first hills. I kind of kicked myself, remembering what Chris Baucom said about trying not to walk because when he does it once it becomes easy to do it again. I knew that not only Chris but the others I had passed earlier in the race were all close behind and I told myself I wouldn’t walk again in the race unless I absolutely had to. There were several more big hills that followed, and as I climbed each one I reminded myself that I would try to keep running. It worked, and even on the famous last hill in the 8th mile, which I had never run without taking several walk breaks, I slowed my pace and plugged away at it and managed a pace of 8:11. Just before the 8-mile marker that was part of the way up the hill, another GCR friend, Bernhard Heulmanns, who always runs a negative split, passed me. I wasn’t surprised that he caught up with me, but usually he leaves me completely behind. This time, since I was determined to keep running, I was able to stay pretty close behind him, and when we finally reached the top of the hill I was fairly close. He told me later that his last mile was his fastest of the race. I managed a pace of 7:06 for the 9th mile and 6:56 for the 10th mile but it wasn’t enough to catch him. I finished 16 seconds behind Bernhard but was happy I was able to stay fairly close behind for the last 2 miles.
As I approached the finish line there was a fairly large crowd of maybe a couple hundred people cheering on the finishers. I heard the announcer call out Bernhard’s name. The next thing I heard from the PA system was “Here comes the first female finisher.” I didn’t look around but I figured she must be pretty close behind me. I stepped up my pace as much as I could, which wasn’t a lot considering I was already at full steam. There were a lot of cheers and happy faces as I rounded the corner to the finish line. I figured they probably thought it was kind of cool that somebody my age had run so well. Turns out they were laughing about the announcer mistaking me for a female, so there wasn’t actually a girl approaching — it was just me. The next runner was over a minute behind me.
Just so nobody has to use their imagination, Bill Weimer captured this picture of me approaching the finish line. I don’t know. Maybe it was the tights, or maybe the long hair, which you actually couldn’t even see for the hat but somebody said it was hanging out the back.
Anyhoo, everybody had a good laugh and it makes a pretty good story, so no big deal.
I was much more concerned with finishing the race at a respectable time, which I did, with a time of 1:10:50, about a minute and a half faster than I had run my previous PR at Spencer Mountain back in 2009.
A couple minutes later Chris, Ransel, and a pack of four or five other runners all arrived at about the same time. Chris came over and looked kind of incredulous and said “What was that??” He was surprised, as was I, that I was able to finish strong without imploding on the final big hill. I don’t know really, but lately I’ve been running my best race times since 2011, which was my fastest season ever. I’ll just try to appreciate it while it lasts.
I finished 16th overall, which I’m really happy with, but I wanted to mention that up in the very front of the pack was one of our very own Gaston County Runners, Matt Longworth, who not only won the race but managed to win it by more than 5 full minutes over speedy Michael McWhirter, who came in second. Matt is new to the local racing scene but is quickly making his presence known.
Age Group: 1st
Overall: 16th of 115
Average Heart Rate: 168
Maximum Heart Race: 175 (had a high misreading in the first mile)
Age Graded Equivalent Time: 56:38 (78.36%)
* RACE RATING *
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.]
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
5 – 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 (possibly 1/10 mile short)
1 – Partly or fully on unpaved roads: (0)yes (1)no
2 – Cost: (0)expensive (2)reasonable (5)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
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)
0 – 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
5 – 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 (5-9)fabulous door prizes!
3 – Finisher Medals for All Finishers: (0)no (3)yes (5)really cool medals
5 – Food for Race Participants: (0-10 with 5 being average)
5 – Entertainment: (0)no (1-9)yes
2 – Finisher times posted after race: (0)no (2)yes
2 – Porta Potties: (0)no (1)limited, long lines (2)plentiful
1 – Indoor Restrooms: (0)no (1)limited, long lines (2)plentiful
2 – T-Shirts: (0)no (2)yes
2 – 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
x – Prices: (0)expensive (2)reasonable (5)cheap!
2 – Free Photographs (newspaper, etc.): (0)no (2)yes (5)lots of free pics! (Some on Facebook)
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 (YMCA site)
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