The Martha Jefferson Hospital 8K road race has a well-deserved reputation for having one of the toughest, hilliest courses in Charlottesville running. And given our varied topography, that's saying something. The route winds through downtown Charlottesville neighborhoods, and each mile presents some sort of vertical challenge.
While I'd been happy with my first two races of the year -- 20:50
and 20:20 at two local 5Ks, I'd gone out too fast in each of those races
and faded at the end. A similar performance here would doom me.
Race day was cold -- lower 30s -- but dry. I got a good warmup in
and seeded myself about 3 rows back, determined to keep the lid on it
during the first two miles.
At the start the field strung out
nicely and I got some open space to run in. There were several short
downhills, and I busted down them full-bore, tempering my self a bit on
the following ups. Mile 1 came in at 6:40. That was good.
Miles 2 and 3 present a series of climbs with a couple of
short respites. I held back a bit on the ups and tried to crest each
hill with a good head of steam to take advantage of the flats and
downhills. This set up some back and forth racing action with some of my
competitors, as they'd pull ahead and I'd close the gap. Mile 2 came in
at 6:59, and 3 at 6:52.
Now it was time to dig in. Ahead was the famed "Belmont Hill,"
a stupid steep climb that closed off the 4th mile with an exclamation
point. I rounded the corner to the climb, lifted my arms, tighten my
core and started counting -- I just needed to put in 100 strong right
feet and I'd be at the top.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5...not too bad...20, 21, 22...breath getting
short...55, 56, 57...concentrate...98, 99, 100...crap, not at the top
yet...121, 122, 123...leveling out and over the top, with just a bit
less than a mile to go. Mile 4 in 7:00 flat.
Now, push hard for the end -- I vaguely remember trying to
close the gap with a group right in front of me, but could only hold on
to the back of the back. Finally the final turn and the finish was in
sight. I saw 33:30 something on the clock -- sub 34 would be a good time
for me -- final push to the line and I was in at 33:52. 6:19 for the
last .94 mile, 6:42 pace. The overall pace for the run was 6:50 -- a good effort on that course.
I was gassed, but satisfied. It was my best run at MJH
since 2009, when I did a 33:27, and my second-fastest ever. I stuck
around for awards, only to find out I'd missed 3rd AG by two seconds.
But I was happy -- I think I'm making some strides in the right