ONANCOCK, Virginia, April 7 2013
Ambitious goal – 1:40:00
Fallback goal – 1:45:00
If I lived closer I would do this race every year it’s held.
It was an intimate affair, only some hundred or so competitors spread over two races: a half marathon and a 10k. The race organization, however, was absolutely first rate. The course was very nice, starting and finishing in quaint Onancock, Virginia, with a scenic loop in the middle. There was no traffic control on the narrow, rural roads, which occasioned a little bit of a pucker factor when a blind curve was ahead or the sound of a motor behind. They did have cyclists patrolling the course, though, and they were very helpful with keeping motorists alert.
The course was flat, but it was windy. I’d been thinking I should be able to hold a 7:45 average pace on a course like this, but I was thwarted by a few factors:
–There was a lot of headwind.
–A moderately severe side stitch hobbled me for a couple minutes around the middle of the race. It was the first time I’ve ever had to walk during a road race shorter than a marathon.
–The roads were a little rough. On the one hand, this was part of the charm of the race, but running on the slight angle near the edges really exacerbated the knee pain that’s been plaguing me for the the past few months.
There were some 9 or 10 people ahead of me starting out, and when three of these turned around at the 5k point I knew they were in the shorter race. After that point I saw almost no other runners until the last couple miles. Near the five mile mark I looked back and saw a couple of guys in white shirts some fair distance behind me. When I had to stop and walk out the stitch I worried that they were gaining on me, but I didn’t look back until later.
Once you’ve walked once, the mental resistance to doing it again is considerably lowered. I kept thinking I’d walk for a while just up ahead, but I managed to squash that urge except for a few steps at each of the two remaining water stops. After the first of these around 6.5 miles in I looked back and saw that one of the white shirts had been dropped, but the other was startlingly close, spurring me back into a run.
This situation repeated itself at the water stop at 10 miles. After this there was a long, gradual downhill back into the village of Onancock. I’d almost reached the turn leading back to the wharf when I heard someone shout something unintelligible behind me. I looked back and it was a runner in a blue shirt – the white shirt guy had been dropped. Blue Shirt passed me a pretty good clip. My calves had been threatening mutiny for a couple miles, and when I briefly thought about trying to reverse the pass they went into full riot mode.
I had to back off the pace a little bit. The calves continued their tomfoolery, but I was able to keep them from seizing up completely. I passed a few 10k walkers with their dogs.
After the final turn I saw that the clock was at 1:43:xx. It would be close, but sub-1:45 was possible. The final hundred meters was a ridiculous limping, hobbling, flailing attempt at a sprint, but I sneaked in under the wire: 1:44:56. Eighth overall and 3rd (out of 4, but still) in my age group. Just barely made my fallback goal, but I did accomplish a long-time secondary goal – I finished ahead of the first female.
The post-race food was the best I’ve had at any race of any size, and the musical act was right fine. The weather was as near to perfect as I think it could be. I probably won’t want to travel that far every year, but I’d definitely like to go back some day.
Miles this race – 13.1
Miles raced in 2013 – 66.53