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Monday, October 11, 2010

The Knob: Race Report

a LONG season is at its end.  Beginning in March with a 5k and then the High Country Triple Crown in April getting underway... we finally made it to this mid October run up to the top of Howard's Knob.  This event in conjunction with Home Coming weekend at Appalachian St. drew many former App St. runners to the starting line- making for the most competitive field of the three race series.
Beginning at the Boone Library, we started out downhill before making our first small climb.  Knowing my place I let the burst of speed get away from me and allowed the sting of the climb to settle into my quads.  With 1100 feet of elevation gain looming in the 1.5 miles following this 1/2 mile warm up, I knew better than to get wrapped up in oxygen debt on this afternoon.  I sat in 15th spot and moved along absorbing the wide-eyed excited runners as they faded to a world of oxygen-debt. 

Under 70 degrees and clear blue skies, we dipped into and out of turns with the fall color display beginning to play along the residential areas of Boone, NC.  Soon, the warm up portion of the run had slipped behind us.  As the course turned drastically to the left and up uP UP hill
I found myself in 6th position.  Sam who had been running strong in 4th place (and 3rd in the Triple Crown points standings) was about a minute ahead, just into and out of sight as the course wound its way up and around sharp switchbacks in the road. 

Reaching the one mile marker in 8:40 I was feeling under control and knew that a 5 minute 2nd place series lead was likely safe with one mile to go in the series.  Even if that one mile had about 700ft of climbing built into it!  I continued an efficient climbing pattern; with the tiniest steps, a controlled knee lift and the ever important relaxed shoulders and free arm swing.  Hill running is 1 part fitness, 1 part toughness and 1 part technique. 

Figuring on 10 minutes for this final mile I focused on applying my power over that time.  What can I do for 10 minutes?  Each step slid into the next, ratcheting slowly upward with the town of Boone fading behind and below.

With 1/2 mile to go the course reaches a small ridge where the incline relents for a hundred feet or so, enough to regain composure for the final assault. Here you can spot the land, largely undeveloped, which sits to the north of Boone.  The beautiful knobbed terrain rolls out forever seemingly.  Soon though, your mind is brought back to reality, as the road severely changes its mood and spikes out of the earth.  The final pitch comes in 3 stages, first this abrupt climb where a couple of families were taking in the ridiculous decision we all made to pay to run up this thing! 

Another small platform gives some energy back before the hill sweeps up to the left.  I was gaining on the 5th place runner, had been for about 3/4 of a mile but was not sure I had enough space left to pull him all the way back.  It looked like he had some other ideas about how he would prefer to spend his time at the moment- but I knew he is strong, so figured if somehow I did catch him, he'd probably have some juice left to go.  About then he peaked back over his shoulder and saw that he was not alone.  That was about as close as I got:)

We entered Howard's Knob park and now with about a minute to go, I left it all out on the road.  I drove the arms, swung the legs with all my power and it felt soooo good to move along with such smoothness despite the grade of ascent.  The long season was being wrapped up neatly, a tidy finish of maximum effort and the relief was about to greet me.  Just not yet.  The work of 200m was ahead of my feet. 

I looked upward and saw my beautiful wife, Lynnea snapping photos with Goliath smiling the day away! The sacrifices of time and money we make to maintain this lifestyle are large- but the rewards are immeasurable.  This way is one of health, of smiles, of adventure.  It allows us to test ourselves, to meet GREAT people of all ages and backgrounds, allows us to be taught valuable lessons we can bring into "real" life and at times boils the ether down to the most essential, precious elements.

As I reached Lynnea 50 feet from the finish line a pain pinged me as I had to run beyond her and to another arbitrary line on the road.  My race was complete when I saw her smile with the late autumn sunshine glowing behind her radiant beauty, the rays of the sun being rivalled.  I said my congratulations to the competitors who ran so well and moved swiftly to more important things, reuniting with Lynnea and sharing space and time with the one.

Another successful season, for so many reasons, and so different from year to year.  Like Mark Twain said, "we gather experience in life and from these moments make necklaces of jewels or of tin."  So choose wisely, we each have ourselves to thank or to blame for our situation in life!  Strikes and gutterballs are a matter of interpretation and time: perspective and perspiration.  

Happiness= Satisfaction/ Desire 


  1. Awww, Lynnea is a such a lucky lady :)

  2. Great race report and what a fantastic way to end the season!

  3. Sounds like a great end to your season. That sounds like my kind of race.


  4. Awesome! You constantly amaze and inspire me (not that you can tell it in my race results!!) And I love the new site design . . . nice change! Keep running . . . forget that 'season' thing!

  5. Way to go Sean! Awesome race! You look so strong coming in that final stretch:) I totally agree with you about how this is a spendy little hobby....the personal rewards and positive emotions are so worth it! I know I have told you this before but you are such a great writer:)

  6. I've enjoyed following this season...I look forward to the adventures ahead. For now, it is time to enjoy the day!

  7. Sounds like a great race, a great time! Congrats!

  8. Great post Sean. You really hit the nail on the head speaking to running past loved ones. The hardest thing to do in a race.


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