Saturday, November 26, 2011

Race Report - 2011 Skinny Turkey 10K

Another cool T, a medal and a gift card...nice!
I had almost forgotten about this race as it was one of those events I registered for during one of my race registration frenzies. I get into those about 3-4 times a year when I'm looking for new motivation. Well, I'm glad that I did register.

I got up at 5:30 AM Saturday morning to give myself enough time to have my morning Joe and to make the drive from Huntsville to Guntersville. I was planning to run the second edition of the Skinny Turkey 10K race that was run in conjunction with the Skinny Turkey 5K race at beautiful Lake Guntersville. In fact, the entire course for both races led along the shoreline of the lake on a paved bike and walking path with an initial 1.5 mile road section running parallel to the path. 5K runners would run this lollipop shaped out & back once while the 10K racers got to do a reconnaissance lap before turning around for a second helping.

Since this was a rather new event with a fairly small field of runners, I was quickly able to identify the favorites that would be leading the field, the Youngren family, Rob and Kathy. My plan was to push for a PR, but I wasn't familiar with the nature of the race course, so I decided to just reevaluate during the race. The race was started at 8 AM sharp in the most unique format, yet. Both the 5K and the 10K racers started at the same time, but at slightly different locations. The 5K racers started about 0.1 miles up the road from the 10K racers, which made for an interesting first mile.

As I predicted, Rob and Kathy took off leading the 10K runners and I just tried to hold on for the first half mile to pass as many 5K runners as possible before we entered the bike path. By the time we entered the bike path after 1.5 miles, I only had about 8 or 9 runners ahead of me, but I was quite sure how many of them were actually running the 10K. I would have to wait until the turnaround for the second out & back only the 10K runners would have to do.

After about two miles into the race, I already started to slow a little and I came to the realization that while my ankle brace kept my ankle steady, I just wasn't feeling spring in my step, so I decided to just take the foot off the pedal a little and to focus on reeling in the guy in front of me without getting passed by other runners. At the turnaround point, I realized that I was running in sixth place, the highest placement I remember ever sitting in at the half way point of any race. Crap, now started to worry about that...could I keep this place? How far ahead was I of other 10K runners? Yadayadayada. Well, at least it gave me something to occupy my mind as my body was starting to tire. And when I wasn't thinking about that, the course gave the chance to gaze out over lake Guntersville. The weather was perfect, cool and sunny and the only reason I saw for my slowing was the slightly hilly nature of the course.

By no means was this a difficult course, it just wasn't particularly flat or straight. By mile 4, I still managed to pass the guy running in fifth place. I slowly caught up to another young guy running in fourth place. When I saw him taking a short walking break just before the final turnaround and stopping for water at the aid station, I saw my chance to pass him for good. I sped up but I fully expected him to pass me later, if he recovered since I had no energy to fight off anyone at this point.

I was struggling to maintain even my slow pace at this point. I was now running in fourth place overall with less than a mile to go. While I knew I wasn't going to PR, it surely would be cool to finish in the top 4 or 5.  With a quarter mile to go, I could hear another runner closing in on me. I was tired, but I wasn't going to give up my spot in the overall standings without a fight. I started kicking and could feel my heart rate inching closer to its max. I managed to fight off the other runner and finished in 42 minutes and 40 seconds, about 15 seconds slower than my 10K PR. Oh well. I also came close to winning the Masters division for the very first time, but the runner in third place beat me to it, by about a minute. I still felt pretty cool to finish up this high in the results. In the end,it was good enough for my second age group win of the week. I also managed to collect a couple of gift cards and other freebies.

Thanks to the RD and the team of volunteers for putting on a fun event at lake Guntersville. I'd also like to extend a special thanks to the folks that were manning the kitchen and baking some awesome pies. I loved the apple pie I received after the race and wished I could've grabbed another and another and another...

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