Last weekend I took second in my age group on a very hilly Tarheel 4 Miler course. This was my second year running this race and I was pleased with the improvement in performance.
Last year unfortunately my GPS watch wasn’t working so, while I had a baseline time (29:03), I didn’t have any more granular information about km splits, which would have been especially useful for this race because it is so hilly. As such, my race plan called for a specific average pace and then I adjusted it down for downhill segments and up for uphill segments.
I managed to secure a spot near the front for the start – no small feat with nearly 1,200 runners! There I met someone who described me as his nemesis. Oh, hello, it’s not every day that you learn that you’re someone’s nemesis! Apparently he and I had run several of the same races and each time I had overtaken him right at the end. Exciting – now I had extra motivation to run hard and live up to my nemesis status!
After an outstanding rendition of the national anthem, we were off. The 1st km was flat at first and then offered a steep downhill. Between launching hot at the starting line and flying down the hill, my first km split was 3:52 (Yay!) but my heart rate was pretty high (174 BPM) for that early in the race (Boo!). My nemesis was way ahead of me, but I told myself just to run my own race.
The 2nd km had even more downhill, but I managed to moderate my pace in order to finish in 4:06. My heart rate was down to 172, which was more in line with my goal. The 3rd km was more flat, so I finished in 4:27 while keeping my heart rate constant at 172 (average).
My pace slowed during the 4th km, which had a long, gentle uphill: 4:43. My average heart rate was down to 171, so maybe I wasn’t pushing hard enough. However, knowing what was coming next motivated me to play conservatively here.
The end of the 4th km marked the beginning of the Laurel Hill Challenge – a full mile of steep incline (Time to pay for those early downhills!) with only a few flat segments. There was a timing mat at the bottom and another at the top, so runners were scored not just on their overall times, but also their splits for Laurel Hill.
The 5th km was a trudge: 5:11 at a 176 average heart rate. The 6th km was pretty rough for the first half, and then flatter and even a little downhill for the second half: 4:38 overall but averaging 180 BPM. I wasn’t concerned about the high heart rate at this point because there was very little race left. My nemesis was back in my sights now, but I couldn’t quite close the gap.
The final half km last year went through the stadium tunnel and then finished in the football stadium. Not only was that a very cool experience, it was a very flat experience as well. This year, due to stadium maintenance, the final half km went back uphill almost back to the starting point – oy, not fun at all! I channeled my inner Rocky and left it all out there, finishing this segment in 2:02, hitting a max heart rate of 187. Perhaps best of all, this is where I passed my nemesis – the streak is intact!
My final time was 28:58, only a few seconds faster than last year, but on a slower course due to the final uphill. My Laurel Hill split was 7:28 vs 7:47 last year, so it seems that I am continuing to improve at running these very non-Houston hills that Chapel Hill has to offer.
I finished #20 overall and #2 in my age group. #1 in my age group was #1 overall (< 23 minutes!) so I have a loooooooong way to go! Still, it was a great race and I’m proud of my progress!