Another race from the archives!
I've done the Martha Jefferson Hospital 8K for the last 3 years in a row. It's a great tune up for the Charlottesville 10-Miler, which follows in 3 weeks, and it draws a pretty big field (over 500 this year). The course is a real tester, winding up and down through the downtown streets of Charlottesville. There are over 20 turns on the course, and I can only think of about 2 spots that are flat. The rest is up and down, with an emphasis on short, steep hills.
Race morning was cool and overcast, in the upper 30s, but the expected rain was holding off. I got a good warmup run in, and went to the starting line in shorts, long sleeve base layer with a short sleeve technical shirt over top, gloves, and a polypro hat.
The start was a bit downhill, and one of the longer straights of the run. I'd been feeling a little nicked up over the last week or so -- a little knee pain and a tight hip -- but I was happy to feel good and smooth as I took off. The field strung out pretty quickly. It's one of the nice advantages of getting a little faster -- I can line up nearer the front and avoid the usual craziness of the crush at the start.
The first mile featured a couple of downhill stretches, and my time showed it as I hit the Mile 1 marker -- 6:30. A little fear at that, since I know I'm not that fast, and there were some tough stretches to come. I backed off on the throttle a little bit and settled into a good rhythm. I caught a few runners, but lost position to some others. No worries -- this felt good. Mile 2 hit at 13:22, a 6:53 mile. That felt solid.
As we twisted and turned through the streets, I knew the first real challenge was coming up -- a fairly long and steep climb near the 2.5 mile mark. I hit the bottom of the hill and started counting on every left foot strike. 1, 2, 3... I knew I could keep this up to 100 at least. 33, 34, 35...starting to get winded, keep the pace up. 75, 76, 77...near the top. Finally around the corner at the top and a chance to stretch it out on the next downhill. Mile 3 -- 20:06, a 6:44 mile. Good.
The next obstacle was looming. Near the end of mile 4, a San Fransisco worthy street that'll hit you like a ton of bricks. I kept my pace up, running strong with some 40-something age groupers in a loose pack around me, and we hit the hill. Counting steps helped here, at least to keep my mind off the uncomfortable thought that I might get sick. Finally we crested the top, and started down, past the Mile 4 marker. 27:00, a 6:53. Not bad.
The last chunk was anti-climactic. I was running strong, but the age groupers around me gradually pulled away. No shame on my part -- these guys were solid, and just had a little bit better top end gear. I was running strong, and powered up the last gradual climb and turned to do the final stretch. Across the line, stopped the watch and let it sink in.
33:26. 6:45 pace, and almost a 2 minute PR over last year's 35:15. Best of all, while it had been a hard effort, I never felt out of control, or on the edge of losing it. And with the Charlottesville 10-Miler in three weeks, the idea of running under 70 minutes seems like a real possibility.