XTERRA Georgia Trail Run Series: "Thrill in the Hills" - 21k - RunHalf Marathon

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Winder, Georgia
United States
Dirty Spokes Productions, LLC
41F / 5C
Total Time = 1h 47m 56s
Overall Rank = 26/382
Age Group = 45-49
Age Group Rank = 2/34
Pre-race routine:

This was scheduled to just be a hard training day and we didn't target it at all as a real "race." Coach called the night before basically to give me permission to not run the race based on me being sick this week and the conditions of the course - he was not convinced the training return would really be worth it. But the last thing he said was that if I still thought it would be fun I should do it. Talked to JT and she was really excited about it and thought the conditions would actually make it more fun, so we stuck with our original plans to run the race - yee-haw!

Race day morning I snoozed the alarm and listened to the rain. Yup, this is going to be "fun!" Eventually crawled out of bed got my act together. I had packed bags the night before, but basically rolled the dice and decided to dress really lightly. We jumped in the car, swung by the coffee shop to grab a tea and a bit of breakfast for the ride up, then drove to Fort Yargo State Park (about an hour away) in the pre-dawn drizzle.
Event warmup:

We got to the Fort Yargo early enough to get a parking spot reasonably close to registration and the race start which was great. The sun had just come up and it was STILL drizzling. I pulled on my rain gear to stay dry, and went and grabbed our registration stuff, then back to the car to stay warm. I was supposed to warm up a little extra today (due to the course being so twisty) so about 30 minutes before the gun went off we piled out of the car, cheered for the poor, crazy marathoners that went off 1/2 hour before us, and then went for a 15 minute walk around the park. Followed that up with my normal dynamic stretching routine, then a little light jogging and striders. Walked over to the start area (about 2/10ths of a mile) with just a few minutes to spare before the the gun - perfect warm up and great timing as we didn't have to stand around getting chilly at all. And the rain had finally stopped, which we just counted as a bonus.
  • 1h 47m 56s
  • 13.1 miles
  • 08m 14s  min/mile

So this was supposed to just be a "hard training day" run at steady state effort, but once the gun went off I of course zoomed right into my tempo zone. So yes, yes, yes I ran way too hard, or at the very least my HR is still very uncoupled from my effort as a result of being under the weather this week. But it was a race, and of course I ran as hard as I could go. I really do not think I could have gone any harder at any time on the course.

This was an incredibly fun event - Jennifer and I both had a blast. The trails did have a remendous amount of mud and water on them (in a lot of places it could not have been any worse if we were running in the middle of a creek), but my shoe and sock combo was perfect (Innov8 X-Talons and mid-cut lightweight smartwools) - they cleared the water fast and were very stable and grippy - I did not slide around at all. I was actually suprised how much energy folks used to try and stay out of the water and mud - it was pretty obvious that was not going to be possible from the get-go so I just did not worry about it at all and ran the best line I could without breaking stride.

The race starts out with a fairly steep uphill out and back, and then goes for about .4 miles further on the road to get folks spread out somewhat. I just ran that part hard but comfortable. When we got on the trail we were moving dead-on an 8 minute pace (by milemarkers, not garmin) and had a fairly large single file group for a while, with the sub 8 folks opening up a gap quickly off the front. Right around the 2.5 mile mark we ran into a long opening and I made the mistake of going wide and trying to get around folks - hooked a toe and almost went down, but was able to bear-crawl my way back on my feet before it got too ugly. It was weird, but at this part of the run there were still a ton af folks together, but only 800 meters later there were only 6 of us still running 8mpm. I was dangling off and on the back of this group, and fairly certain that I would not be able to hang on to them for long and really considered slowing down a bit. At mile 4 we hit the first aid station and I grabbed a water and slipped up into the 3-hole in the group. Immediately after that we started running into the back of the marathoners that went out 30 minutes ahead of us. It was about that time that the 3 dudes at the back of group really began to fade, and I was yoyoing a bit on the back, which had me concerned (I once again considered drifting back to the group trailing behind), but I quickly realized that the two guys in front were really just surging up the hills and then recovering on the descents as I kept running back up into them, so I decided instead just to keep working back up to them. I figured that I would just let them keep doing that silliness and not have any part of it. If there is anything that I have learned from all this IM training, it is how to run a steady-paced effort. After a while the guy in the front began to struggle just a bit so me and the one other dude snuck around at about mile 6ish. The new lead guy really had me tapped out, but again I would just maintain my effort on the climbs and then ease back up on him on the descents. With about 5.5 miles to go we came on to a flatish part of the trail and it seemed like we were taking it a little too slow so I slipped by and just thought, "well it is only 5 miles - I can do anything for 40 minutes" and really tried to push hard from that point on, which got me some immediate separation. That was somewhat motivational.

Around mile 9 we hit a big, steep, open climb on a powerline cut and that was the first time you could really see the race out in front of you, and it was obvious that a number of folks had gone out too hard and were struggling a bit. Now it was my turn to start attacking the hills and I just put my head down and went up it as hard as I could and just hoping that I would get a little reprieve at the top where I could recover. Fortunately I guessed right, caught a little breather at the summit, and then finally started picking off folks in front of me. For the last 3 miles I just ran person to person as fast as I could and was even lucky enough to get around a handful of folks that were in my age group. With one mile to go my left hamstring and knee tendons started to complain just a little bit (from all the twisting and turning in the trail I imagine), but there was one person about 100 meters in front of me that I reaaaally wanted to run down so I just forged ahead. In the end it was was lucky that I did not catch him as he was 18 years old - and the LAST thing I needed to do was get in a footrace to the finish with a teenager. It really helped tremendously to have that final rabbit though, because the last mile of this race is just about as hard as the previous 12.

As slow as my time was it was good enough for 2nd place (out of 34) in my age group. As we were waiting around for awards it seemed to be the general consensus from folks that were regulars that the course conditions had finish times anywhere from 6 to 10 minutes slower for them than the last couple of years. While I don't know if that is true or not, if so then it turned out to be good for me - because I don't think I could have been 6 minutes faster today even if the course was dry - I think I would still have been only 1:45ish probably. So I kinda lucked into a podium spot, I think - I may have just been a little less conservative than most based on the trail and weather conditions. In the previous two years I would have had to run right around 1:44 to even get 3rd. But like always - I will take it.

2013 Thrill in the Hills HM

2013 Thrill in the Hills HM

Link to race data including route and elevation info
What would you do differently?:

Maybe ditch my wind vest, but really I cannot imagine this race going better than it did.
Post race
Warm down:

Grabbed a couple of gatorades and a slice of pizza, chatted with folks, and stretched. I started getting chilly pretty quickly so went to the car and did a full costume change into warm windproof clothes before JT came in. Really not sure how other racers were standing around so long in their wet and muddy clothes? JT crossed the finish line just before the awards started (I actually like that they do awards just as soon as the top 3 in every AG are finished) and I had just enough time to jump into the chute and snap her finishing Pic - Yea, JT!!!!

Thrill in the Hills HM 2013

We got JT changed into so warm dry clothes and beat it back toward the house. Stopped at Southern Sweets for lunch - I had their award-winning Dagwood - it was awesome, but probably WAY too much food. I probably should have run another HM just to work it off....

What limited your ability to perform faster:

While I wish I had not gotten sick this week and that I had a little more speed-focus under my belt, this was still one of those rare races where everything just seemed to click and come together. I was really lucky enough to get in with a group of guys that pushed me early a little harder than I wanted to go and then had the endurance to keep it up after they fell away. I am at a little bit of a loss to think of where I could have squeezed out even another second on this one.

Event comments:

The event was extremely well run - I would definitely do it again and again, and any other by put on by Dirty Spokes Race Productions. I look forward to the next one!

Last updated: 2013-02-18 12:00 AM
01:47:56 | 13.1 miles | 08m 14s  min/mile
Age Group: 2/34
Overall: 26/382
Performance: Good
Course: Mostly twisty single track with about 800 feet of up and down, but nothing too long - mostly short moderately steep stuff. Nothing too bad. We have been having a lot of rain recently, so the course was a first-rate mess, but still a lot of fun. There are adequate places to pass, and some relatively flat, fast sections.
Keeping cool Good Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5] 5
Physical exertion [1-5] 5
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 5