Lynnea and I showed up early with Lily (the dog) and met RD Jenny Nichols and Beth Minnick for a quick visit before getting laced up for the shake out and swap to flats for the business at hand.
The course for the Christopher Todd Richardson Memorial Run 10k is set on an out and back on the Virginia Creeper Trail, a reformed railroad bed of crushed gravel. The grade is deceptive with a slight decline out and a seemingly larger incline on the return. It seems like it should be fast... but, not for me. Whether it is the repetitive "flat" running, the loose gravel or a lack of leg speed, I have yet to break 37 out on this course. A mystery since I am currently in the 34's on some hillier, paved courses... but I digress.
The horn sounded and the runners were off, dust flying, arms swinging, feet pounding. Staying relaxed in a distant 4th position I moved through mile one in 5:52, a tad quick. Within a half mile or so I eased in 3rd as runners continued to adjust their effort level to the distance. The front runners were completely out of sight on this straight as a railroad track in the woods course. In other words, they were blazing right along!
It was a treat to watch that kind of running and remember the days when I might have been a bit closer before all the 50k non-sense began to make sense;) However, the word on the street is that David, the leader has run in the 28 range for 10k... so even still my 33:28 is a far cry from even thinking about anything other than running my own race.
Halfway there is not halfway done
The turnaround came quickly enough and then the real work began. The best part of an out and back is that you are able to see exactly how the field has strung out. You see how close things are, how the other runners are handling the workload, who might be ready to move up in the field... who went out too fast. And you certainly know by now all these things about yourself as well. I'd hit 18 minutes on the head for 3 miles, a little slow for 36 minute pace and I was certain the return trip was slower. Form check and I moved on promising to stay back for mile 4 and not increase the rate of travel quite yet.
Mile 4 is a gradual grade which you feel with the sudden change in perspective. Crossing two bridges and the majority of the field during this time there is plenty of distraction for the mind. I found myself being pulled into running a little too hard. Mile 4- 6:23... fading fast.
Each Runner an Island
Now the course was quiet and I was alone with the crunch of gravel under my flats. The breathe once so still was now raging to enter and escape. Discomfort was here and my tense shoulders were pleading for me to pull back and ease off. Decision time... another form check and a microscopic decrease in effort soon brought relief to my burning muscles. Lactate was reaching critical levels at this point. Recovery requires only a small shift in expenditure and a matter of time. Mile 5- 6:23.
One mile to go! Reaching the final aid station and the truly flat ground of the stretch mile! Not that I was feeling much fresher. In fact, I was falling apart physically. My limbs were over reaching as the power had all been sapped and my patience was being tested. Legs reaching for the extra inch of ground toward the finish at this point create the braking effect and increase in effort required to maintain body speed. I was in the fog and listening to the whispers from a distant echo of past experience.
"Reset your form. Run from the center- it is powerful."
"This is painful."
"Less so than quitting..."
"yes, I this is true..."
"Let's go then, you are light, quick, strong!"
The dialogue continues in waves in response to such searing sensations.
"This is the test."
As if pain were it own medium of transport I reached the 6 mile mark... and I see David, the aforementioned flyer. He is there to run me in! I welcome the aid. 50m and feeling fast, a manageable level of pain building. David asked for me to push harder! To reach out for more, to drive my arms... I know he is right and I drive and drive and we are moving so fast now. This is painful. I want it to be over, David is so happy now, he asks for more as we reach 100m to go, the banner is there. It is not time to stop, time to fly. I can feel his energy carrying me forward. This is not my spirit doing this. David's desire for me to run as fast as I am capable is to thank, my legs are not mine at this moment. His spirit directs my brain, the body just follows. My pain and my smile and my relief and my memory of that brief moment are all deepest thank you from one runner to another.
The Essential Runner
The rush of Relief
I stumbled toward Lynnea and regathered myself. Soon enough life returned to normal. The peripheral returned. Meanwhile, David turned around, back out onto the course. Around the corner he disappeared. Only to return shortly, this time with Annette Bednosky, overall woman, pushing her from her comfort zone. Then he turned out onto the course again, and again, and again... eventually David ran in every runner he could reach out to! He asked the same desire out of each of us, and probably gave more to each of us than we would have given ourselves otherwise.
Custom finisher's awards!! Top 3 overall. That's me, George (1st place) and David (L-R)