Friday, May 25, 2012

2012 NCRC Umstead Half Marathon

Saturday night at a party, people asked us if we had any races coming up.
The answer was: "Why yes, in the morning we have the 14th Annual North Carolina Roadrunners Club Invitational Half-Marathon".
But actually saying that was just too exhausting so I just said "No."

I'm not sure what the "Invitational" part of the race refereed to, but we were not invited; we had to sign up .
But the ONLY reason we signed up for this race is that the course practically runs right through our living room. It would just be too awkward not to be running it with all those people running by.

Sunday morning we already had our bibs, so we slept in and then left our house at 6:45 am for the 7:00 am start time.

Jogging to the start a half mile away was somewhat of a problem though, as I struggled to shake of my early morning arthritic paralysis. I barely managed to warm up and catch Shannon at the start with a minute to spare.

Two female runners react to the sights
 and smells of shirtless douchebags
With a whistle, the pack was off, almost immediately descending down a steep, paved section of Old Reedy Creek Road.
At first it was fun, and I managed to keep up with the lead pack. But the drop continued to get steeper, and I began to REALLY miss the thick cushioning of my old running shoes.
With the Merrell trail gloves, I have not yet mastered the skill of a controlled descent, and it was absolutely KILLING my knees. So I had two options:
  1. Stop and shuffle very slowly down the hill. Walk, really.
  2. Go for an un-controlled descent.
In the rush of the moment, I chose option 2.
Even though it was the first mile of a 13 mile race, I red-lined it like it was 100 meter dash.
With feet flailing and slapping the pavement, I flew by the lead pack, most of them skinny kids wearing UNC singlets. It felt like I broke several bones in my feet, but for a minute, I was in second place.

That ended quickly as I hit the bottom of the hill and started up the long ascent into Umstead park.
My 13 mph sprint turned into a 10 min mile slog and a long stream of runners began passing me, wondering why I was in front of them..
One guy ran by, and seeing how hard I was struggling up the incline, became confused, "Uh, are you running the race?"

Several more people passed, one of which, I swear, was an 8 year old boy.
I could live with that. But next I heard, "Hey, Anthony", as one my arch rivals ran by...

Dan threatens me with a banana peel but I defend myself with a gift card 

Rival: Dan The Man
Dan was one of the people who inspired me to switch to minimal shoes after I saw him run the Umstead 100 last year in Vibrams.
But he didn't just finish, he crushed it, completing his first 100 miler in 17:30 on minimal training. That performance ranks 56 out 1502 on the all time Umstead list.
Throw in a 2:55 City of Oaks marathon and 17:21 5K, and that's a resume that I can only dream of.

Clearly, he is the stronger runner. But our rivalry has come out backwards, as I have managed to always catch Dan when he is under-trained and having a bad day .

In each of the last 5 races we have done, I have passed him in the second half. In the philosopher's Way last year, I made an asshole move and squeaked by at the very end to edge him by 6 seconds. I think I might be pissing him off.

Rivalry Stats
Total Races vs7
Record vs (W-L)5-2
Greatest Victory2011 Uwharrie 40 (-57:17)
Worst Defeat2008 City Of Oaks  (+30:03)
Next Race?
Current StatusAnnoying Winner

"I'm sure we will be seeing a lot of each other today", Dan predicted as he passed me there at mile 1.

My vision started to get hazy

Same Old Thing
Sure enough, I caught up to and passed Dan on the next downhill, and he passed me going back up. But neither of us could catch the 8 year old kid just ahead.

After mile 4, the soleus on both of my legs were getting so tight they felt like they might snap. From what I hear, this is a standard feature of minimal shoes.

If it had been convenient, I would have dropped out, because it seemed impossible that my soleus would hold out another 9 miles. But being on the far side of Umstead convinced me to try to continue.
So the rest of the way I was constantly adjusting my stride, with my legs teetering right on the edge of seizing up.

After the turn around, I caught Dan again. "You are going to have to get ahead, so I can pass you on graveyard.", he told me. So I did. When I got to Graveyard Hill, I was shocked to see that I was pace to beat my time from 2 years ago.
The lure of a PR was too tempting to resist and I powered up the hill, pleading with my soleus muscles, "I promise I will take the entire week off, if you can hold on for 4 more miles. I swear. Really!".

I managed to hold off Dan there, as I went by the aid station Shannon and I volunteered at last year. I got boost from some familiar faces and a cup of cold water over my head..

Shannon's photos from the race included 50 of people
and about 300 of dogs.
I pushed it hard the last couple miles down the Black Creek greenway, and saw that Dan was not far behind me at the turn around there. Going up to the finish line is a short steep hill, and I slowed to a crawl having almost nothing left.

I thought I heard Dan right on my heels, so I dug deep, summoning up what I had eaten the night before.
Barely holding the barf down, I crossed the finish line in 1:26:55, amazingly a few seconds faster than my 2010 time.

And for the 6th time in a row, I had edged out Dan. I bet he is really pissed now.

I did not completely avoid barf, however, as later I was walking around barefoot and stepped in the product of winner Ben Godfrey's finishing kick.

Shannon came in shortly after as second female overall, but failed to get many good pictures.

The rest of Shannon's photos are here.