Saturday, March 3, 2012

2012 Explore Your Limits 5k / RNUTS 2 of 6

Written in advance of the event

     Training has been solid. Recent statistics compared to year ago statistics seemed to suggest a good shot at a PR. Three weeks into training for the next half marathon and already the quickening was working its magic. Now is the chance to prove it.

     The Explore Your Limits 5k has been the breeding ground for some of the finest hardware hanging on the wall. Running the event in 2010 yielded my first Age Group win with a 24:27, returning in 2011 granted substantial improvement with a 22:27 and my first and so far only Overall Top 3 finish.

Existing EYL 5k hardware.
      Hardware is nice, but most runners understand that finish places are often determined simply by who shows up. Being a trend spotter, I can't help but be hopeful, but the Mountain Junkies have posted the participant list in advance and I know that a strong field is scheduled to show up. Time, not place, is the focus for this race, and with 22:27 being the time to beat for a PR, it will take EVERYTHING in the tank.

Elevation Profile for the 2011 EYL 5k

     The 5k course itself is is an excellent combination of running surfaces with about 1/3 trail, 1/3 gravel road, and 1/3 asphalt. The uniqueness and even distribution of the various surfaces is one reason I have consistently chosen to run the 5k course as opposed to the 10k course which is also an option at this event. The 10k course has an additional 3.1 miles of trail. For either course, but most critical section is the steep uphill climb at about 2.3 miles in and lasting for about 1/2 a mile.

     My ongoing competition with myself at these events is a huge motivator as I seek to delay the inevitable lifetime peak when PR's are no longer possible except in a more modest capacity, such as limiting the historical data to only looking at performance in recent years. But there is something bigger than data, awards, and fitness levels going on at the competitions that I participate in and with the Mountain Junkie events in particular. For many, and especially us regulars, these are family and friend social activities. My 10 yr old daughter, Faith, will be hiking this course with my wife, Denise. I hope Faith will find her "wind", like my son, Chris, once did, but I'm just happy that she is looking forward to participating as a hiker/walker. After I finish running the event, I'll grab some food and go back and walk them to the finish!

 The Event
Written after the race
     Excellent day for a race! Having spent all week looking at weather forecasters predicting a significant likelyhood of rain during the EYL 5k, it turned out that the rain stopped early and the event was held under cloudy skies and with wet trails but no rain. I'm no fan of running in the rain, but I had resolved myself to do it, if that was what the day gave me. 

     Denise had awoken early to help out as a volunteer, so after we arrived we went to find her at the race check in. Denise and Faith were walking the event as the sweepers, whose job it is to come in last and make sure that no runner is left behind injured. 
Denise doing some pre-event volunteer work

     At 8:45 or so the race director, Josh Gilbert, began the pre-race announcements and explained that the 5k course would be slightly different from last year. Changing the course meant that my year-over-year course comparisons would be slightly skewed, but since the bulk of the course was the same I accept the variance as virtually insignificant.

Parkway = home turf! Well over half my training is on or near the Blue Ridge Parkway.
C&C running group. The small one is Craig Thornton. Awesome fast kid! Worthy of his "Little Pre" nickname!
I wanna be this guy when I grow up! 70+ yrs old and running trails and doing triathlons like a champion!
Faith, just prior to race start.
     There was some confusion about where the start line was, but everybody got in place with minutes to spare prior to race start. There was approximately 200-250 of us and I tried to get close to the start. At my past few races I had stayed back a few yards from the front and found that I struggled in heavy congestion. Today was better. I found the inside corner and was able to avoid almost all the initial tangle.

     I established 3rd place about 1/10th of a mile into the race and held it for the whole race. The first mile was mostly asphalt. The 2nd mile was mostly trail and it was quite slick in spots. I never did fall, but I was slowed down in several areas. The 10k runners started 10 minutes prior to us 5k'ers so the slick spots were made worse due to 200+ people having already trampled the path. The 3rd mile was mostly well packed gravel with some more asphalt towards the latter parts of the course.
(Event photo courtesy of John Wimmer Photography)

     Except for compensating for the slick mud, and having to dig deep to get up the steep hills in the final mile of the course, the race itself was almost like a blur. I was heavily focused on breathing, running form, and footing. Garmin data, which is notoriously less accurate on trails, suggests that I hit the first mile under 7 minutes, the 2nd mile at around 7 1/2 and the 3rd mile around 8. As I was coming up the steep hill (nicknamed Vomit Hill) a strong runner passed me, so I thought I had fallen back to forth place. The passing runner pulled away by as much as 100' during the last 1/2 mile, but at the top of the hill he seemed to slow. I thought I could catch him before the finish. I turned on all the gas I had, but as we approached the finish chute he just continued on to the 10k course, so 3rd overall was mine. I looked at the clock. 22:06. 3rd was mine and with a PR time to boot! Happy day in race land!

 Full ON sprint mode as I cross the line. Getting passed in the chute is going to happen from time to time, but I do my part to make sure its not easy for somebody tryin' to do it to me!

     Finished with my race, but not yet finished with the course, I quickly set out to find my wife and daughter. I walked back until I found them at around the midway point. We had a nice conversation and joked and played a little bit, but I was struck by some of the scenery now that I was getting a chance to appreciate it at a walking pace. Having ran by it so quickly just an hour earlier I literally felt like I was seeing it for the first time!

Roanoke River. Swollen from recent rains.

Yeah, you might say I kicked up some mud while I was out there today!

(Event photo courtesy of John Wimmer Photography)

     I walked Denise and Faith to the finish and then we went to enjoy the food spread that the Mountain Junkies had laid out for us. I had a bagel, pumpkin bread, an assortment of raw veggies, and a trail mix. Good stuff!

Faithy, finishing strong!

     Shortly after, the awards ceremony started and I was thrilled to receive the award for 3rd place. My 2nd top 3 finish ever! 

New Hardware!
Final Results: 2012-time 22:06.82, pace: 7:08/M, Place 3/205 overall, 1/13 in my age group, 3/96 among men. Also see  GARMIN DATA


  1. GREAT JOB! I did the 10K this morning and it was a fun time. See you at Montvale in a few weeks?

    1. Thanks! Yeah I do most all Mountain Junkie events. See you there. Dine, Dash and Deadlift...neat! Sounds like my Thursdays! Haha

  2. Awesome, awesome job. Congrats!

  3. Thanks! It was great to get back into a race environment. The 8 week gap between Frozen Toe and EYL is too long. I'll have to find a February event next year.

  4. Nice report, Phil. Good seeing you out there and congratulations on a strong performance!

    1. Thanks! It was a blast. You had a strong run at EYL yourself. Hope to see you at MMM. Terrapin Mtn. is on my to do list, but its just not to be this year. Good luck out there.

  5. Congrats on such a strong race! You nailed all of your goals and also seemed to have a great time with your family. It doesn't get any better than that!

    1. So very true. It always makes for a better event when the family can be a part of it!