Race #180 – China Grove Main Street Challenge 5k – China Grove, NC – 06/08/12

I only run a handful of nighttime races each year and they’re normally not my favorites because I have a hard time with my diet during the day leading up to an evening race, but it’s hard not to like this Friday night extravaganza that features great entertainment, delicious food (pizza, watermelon, Cheerwine, etc.), fast runners, a flat course, and a small town that goes all out to create a first class event.

It’s the fourth time I’ve run the China Grove 5k and since it’s flat and the course hasn’t changed at all it provides a good benchmark for how I’m doing each year. Over those four years my times have varied by less than a minute, with a slowest time of 21:51 in 2009 to a fastest time of 20:57 in 2010. In last year’s race I was disappointed with my time of 21:44 and it sent me into a frenzy of dieting and deciding to run every day.

I’m happy to report that as of this race I managed to run the entire year without taking a day off and averaging a little over 5 miles a day during my running streak, and also that I lost 10 pounds with the diet. I’m not quite as happy to report that I gained all of the 10 pounds back over the Christmas holidays last year and as much as I would like to lose that extra weight I haven’t been able to, but I’m still trying. The 6 slices of pizza that I had after this race probably didn’t help.

I doubt that either the half-hearted dieting or the daily running really were of much benefit for anything other than just keeping me on track, but I did manage to chip away 20 seconds off last year’s time, finishing in 21:24. Interestingly, the first year I ran it I came in 4th place in the 55-59 age group. The top three finishers in the age group that year all finished within a second of each other, also at 21:24! It’s the only time I’ve ever seen three people at the top of an age group with identical times.

Click Here for Race Results


My Stats:

Time:  21:24
Pace:   6:54
Age Group:  1 of  10
Overall:  66 of 565
Average Heart Rate:  162
Maximum Heart Race:  175
Age Graded Equivalent Time:  17:12

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* RACE RATING  (100 Possible Points) *
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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)
0 – 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)
1 – Cost:  (0)expensive  (1)reasonable  (3)cheap!
3 – 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
1 – Grand Masters Category (50+):  (0)no  (1)yes

AWARDS  (9 possible points)
2 – Overall Winner Awards: (0)none  (1)yes  (2)excellent
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
1 – Indoor Restrooms: (0)no  (1)limited, long lines  (2)plentiful

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

PHOTOGRAPHY  (12 possible points)
0 – Professional Photography: (0)no  (5)yes
x – Prices: (0)expensive  (2)reasonable  (5)cheap!
2 – Free Photographs (newspaper, etc.):  (0)no  (2)yes  (Facebook-Vac & Dash)

PARKING  (8 possible points)
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

WEBSITE  (5 possible points)
0 – 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)
0 – 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
0 – Part of race series or Grand Prix:  (0)no  (1)yes

TOTAL:  71

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Race #130 – China Grove Main St. Challenge 5k – China Grove, NC – 06/10/11

The China Grove Main Street Challenge is one of those races that is growing by leaps and bounds in recent years. Three years ago in 2008 there were only 254 finishers. In 2009 it swelled to 390, then in 2010 there were 531, and this year it topped out at 606 runners crossing the finish line. I really don’t like racing at night and seldom do well at it, but this is such a fun race that I just hate to miss it. It attracts some of North Carolina’s best runners. There’s a little prize money involved, but I think the big draw is that it’s a fun race on a Friday night with a great post-race celebration and lots of camaraderie among runners. I couldn’t count the number of familiar faces and friends that I had met at other races, all meeting up in the tiny town of China Grove, population 3,616, but bursting at the seams on this beautiful summer night.

Did I mention there were some fast runners out there? The top three runners all finished the race in less than 15 minutes. Charlotte speedster Jason Holder blistered the course in 16:23, a time that most of us could never even dream of, yet he finished 6th in his age group. There were 23 runners who finished in less than 18 minutes — a time that would win most local races — and 45 finished in under 20 minutes.

So, needless to say, I was somewhere back in the pack, but ultimately glad I finished in what came close to being my first DNF (Did Not Finish). At the first mile split I was at 6:55, about 20 seconds slower than my normal first mile, and I seriously considering throwing in the towel, but as I thought about having to walk back to the finish line and explain it to everybody (I didn’t have a good excuse other than feeling lousy) I decided to just keep going. It worked out generally okay and at the finish I was in the neighborhood of the times I’ve been running lately — somewhere between 21 and 22 minutes — and I managed to eke out a 2-second age group win over another runner in my age group at 21:44.

One final note… Lately my diet has been a disaster (just ask anybody who saw me with an ice cream cone AND a lime slushy 10 minutes before the China Grove race). Before I began running I was known for two things: being a ukulele player and eating way more than any one person should ever eat. I still dabble with the ukulele, but that’s relatively harmless. The eating is a problem though. I’ve decided that this week I’ll be re-joining WeightWatchers and try to climb back aboard the sensible eating wagon. As scrawny as I may still appear, I’ve gained about 10 pounds since I did my best running and I really think I need professional help. Linda and I both became Lifetime Members of WeightWatchers three years ago but we didn’t keep up the requirements so we’ll both be going back the drawing board, hopefully beginning this week.

Click Here for Race Results


Race Rating:

5 – 1-10  Website (Information, results, registration, photo links, etc.)
7 – 1-10  Awards (Quality of medals, trophies, etc.) (1 to 10)
7 – 1-10  Awards Presentation (PA system, winning times, etc.) (1 to 10)
9 – 1-10  Food for Race Participants (1 to 10)
5 – 1-10  T-Shirts (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
4 – 4/6   Part of Race Series (Grand Prix, etc.) (6=Yes and 4=No)
0 – 0/5   Professional Photography (5=Yes and 0=No)
6 – 4/6   Chip Timing (6=Yes and 4=No)
7 – 3/7   Certified Course (by USA Track & Field) (7=Yes and 3=No)
8 – 1-10  Course (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
4 – 1-10  Parking (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
8 – 1-10  Entertainment (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
10 – 0-10  Age Groups (10 if 5-year groups; 0 if 10-year groups)
5 – 0/5   Indoor Shelter from Elements (0 if none; 5 if provided)
6 – 1-10  Bathroom Facilities
0-10  Other

TOTAL – 91

Race Stats:

1st Overall Male:  Ryan Woods (14:46)
1st Overall Female:  Caitlin Chrisman (17:21)
Total Finishers:  606

My Stats:

Time:   21:44
Pace:   7:00
Age Group:  1 of 19
Overall:  83 of 606 (13.7%)

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Race #91 – China Grove 5k Main Street Challenge – China Grove, NC – 06/11/10

It was a hot, steamy night in China Grove for the 13th annual Main Street Challenge. I dislike cold weather so much that I really don’t like complaining about hot weather at all, and since we all knew it would be a steamer before we got there, it’s all part of the adventure. Like it or not though, the wheels don’t seem to turn quite as quickly when you’re running on a hot summer night with a temperature of 85 degrees and I think quite a few folks ran slower times than they normally do although Jordan Kinley, the overall race winner, blazed the trail at 15:05.
I’ve been stuck in the 21-minute range in 5k races for a while and didn’t feel great going into this one, so I was happy to finish in 20:57 and win my age group just ahead of Steve Staley. Steve always provides me with a little extra motivation and since I knew he was right on my heels it helped me stay focused. Other than one or two gentle inclines that are barely noticeable it’s a flat out-and-back run all the way with the only turn being the halfway point of the race where you run around a barrel to head back in the other direction. This year’s race wasn’t nearly as dark as the one last year. I remember last year not being able to see where I was stepping but that wasn’t an issue this year. I think they had enough temporary lighting set up to eliminate the problem.
It was still dark enough though that I couldn’t read my Garmin, even when I turned on the backlight. I could wear my glasses and see it, of course, but what fun would that be? I’ve been monitoring my heart rate in races for the past few months. When I first started experimenting with it I would raise my heart rate to 166 — about 92% of my Maximum Heart Rate — then try to stay right at that level throughout the race. Over time I’ve begun to fine tune my 5k heart rate, finishing the first mile at about 166 beats per minute (bpm), then building up the second mile to around 168 or 170 bpm, then gradually going up to 172 or 173 bpm for the third mile. Of course, not being able to read my Garmin I had to go by perception instead of actually looking at the numbers, so I was surprised to find that it worked according to plan in the race, with my heart rate averaging 169 in the second mile and 173 in the third mile.
This is a fun race and one of my favorite local races. I’m using the term “local” loosely because it’s about a 40-mile drive but I consider anything within 50 miles or so local since we can get there within an hour. The town of China Grove really gets behind this race with support and it’s a first class event all the way. The word is apparently spreading about what a great race it is, and this year there was a record crowd of 531 finishers as opposed to 390 in 2009.
Before the 5k race begins at 9 p.m., there is a Tot Trot that starts at 8:00 for the toddlers, followed by a half mile fun run for bigger kids. Other pre-race activities include several inflatable bounce houses for kids (I think there were three of them), lots of music, and a free Krispy Kreme donut booth where you can design your own by dipping them in chocolate or add sprinkles or whatever.
The post-race food is some of the best you’ll find at any race including fresh watermelon and cantaloupe, free Pizza Hut pizza, cookies, bagels, bananas, oranges, sports drinks, Cheerwine, and more.
This year’s T-shirts were nice as well — gold colored tech shirts. There were nice trophies for the Overall, Masters, and Grand Masters, and nice custom-made medals for the age group winners as well as gift certificates from Dick’s Sporting Goods.
I still prefer morning races but the change of pace to a nighttime race is nice occasionally, and this is one that I’ll keep on the schedule for next year.
Race Rating:
3 – 1-10 Website (Information, results, registration, photo links, etc.)
8 – 1-10 Awards (Quality of medals, trophies, etc.) (1 to 10)
8 – 1-10 Awards Presentation (PA system, winning times, etc.) (1 to 10)
10 – 1-10 Food for Race Participants (1 to 10)
8 – 1-10 T-Shirts (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
4 – 4/6 Part of Race Series (Grand Prix, etc.) (6=Yes and 4=No)
0 – 0/5 Professional Photography (5=Yes and 0=No)
6 – 4/6 Chip Timing (6=Yes and 4=No)
7 – 3/7 Certified Course (by USA Track & Field) (7=Yes and 3=No)
9 – 1-10 Course (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
4 – 1-10 Parking (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
9 – 1-10 Entertainment (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
10 – 0-10 Age Groups (10 if 5-year groups; 0 if 10-year groups)
5 – 0/5 Indoor Shelter from Elements (0 if none; 5 if provided)
7 – 1-10 Bathroom Facilities
0-10 Other
TOTAL – 98
My Stats:
Time: 20:57
Pace: 6:46
Mile Splits: (1) 6:35 — (2) 6:51 — (3) 6:46
Age Group: 1 of 10
Overall: 52 of 531 (9.8%)
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Race #37 – China Grove 5k Main Street Challenge – China Grove NC – 06/12/09


With a start time of 9:00 p.m., the biggest challenge I faced in this race was seeing where I was going. Not to worry though… it was a straight shot down Main Street in China Grove with no deviation onto side streets, then run around the cone and straight back to the finish. Once you get out of the main part of town (maybe a quarter mile or so) there are no more street lights, so the later it gets, the darker it gets, and on the way back up the course I found myself thinking that I’m glad it’s a straight shot on a good road because I literally couldn’t see where my feet were landing.
It’s an extremely fast course due to the fact that turns do slow you down, and also there are no discernible hills, although you can sense a little rise and fall in elevation along the way. The overall winner, Ryan Woods of Boone, finished in a blistering 14:58, and I think a lot of PRs were set despite temperatures that were probably 10 degrees warmer than most morning races.
I finished in 21:51, which is just 10 seconds off my PR, but still didn’t place in my age group, finishing 4th among 12 runners (67th overall out of 390 finishers). My mile splits were: 6:38, 7:16, and 7:11, so I was happy to at least run the third mile faster than the second although I actually took a 20-second walk break in both the 2nd and 3rd mile. Interestingly, the 3 top finishers in my age division all finished within 1 second of each other at 21:24.
Theoden Janes, whose excellent Charlotte Observer running blog I’ve been following lately, was out to set a new PR, according to his blog, and about a quarter mile into the race I looked up and he was right in front of me. I stayed behind him for a while and then passed him when he was slowed down a little by a couple of runners who slowed down directly in front of him. Before long he passed me again and was gone, finishing in 21:39 and getting his PR.
Overall it was a great race and a lot of fun, with lots of good food and entertainment before and after the race, and the awards (one of which I didn’t get) were really nice as well. There were also technical material T-shirts, which is a rarity for the 5k races.
I got a few photos but as it grew darker that became more of a challenge, so it’s kind of limited, but I’ve included about 15 in a slideshow at the top.
Race Rating:
5 – 1-10 Website (Informaton, results, registration, photo links, etc.)
8 – 1-10 Awards (Quality of medals, trophies, etc.) (1 to 10)
8 – 1-10 Awards Presentation (PA system, winning times, etc.) (1 to 10)
8 – 1-10 Food for Race Participants (1 to 10)
8 – 1-10 T-Shirts (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
4 – 4/6 Part of Race Series (Grand Prix, etc.) (6=Yes and 4=No)
0 – 0/5 Professional Photography (5=Yes and 0=No)
6 – 4/6 Chip Timing (6=Yes and 4=No)
7 – 3/7 Certified Course (by USA Track & Field) (7=Yes and 3=No)
8 – 1-10 Course (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
5 – 1-10 Parking (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
8 – 1-10 Entertainment (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
7 – 3/7 Age Groups (7 if 5-year groups; 3 if 10-year groups)
5 – 0/5 Indoor Shelter from Elements (0 if none; 5 if provided)
5 – 1-10 Bathroom Facilities
0-10 Other
TOTAL – 92
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