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Monday, March 14, 2011

Asheville Shamrock 10k Race Report... and a treat

A perfect day for racing was left to participants of the 2011 Asheville Catholic School's Shamrock 10k. This was my first visit to this particular event after having raced in Lenoir, NC for the previous 3 years. I was expecting the competition to be more serious amongst the runners and the course to be more difficult as well.

Elevation by kilometer (do the math as you climb!)
The Course
This was challenging for a 10k and certainly not the place to run a personal best... but had enough give within the take that a decent time could be posted. This course favored the stronger climbers and then downhill speed.

I had not run it, but had a vague memory of the chart showing the elevation profile etch in the depths of my mind. I knew there was something steep and then some more climbing before the course lolli-popped back to the starting area. It was with this limited knowledge that I lined up and dashed from the start to avoid trampling small boys.

Into the Great Semi-known World
Right away the course offered short steep ups and downs so the body HAD to be ready from the start. Since I had run my warm up in this section I was ready and ran a 5:40 and felt very comfortable.

Soon, I did back down a little bit effort wise as runners were finding their paces in the uneven terrain. I yo-yo'd with one runner for a bit, before he settled back a bit as Dave Workman (Masters Champion) came up on my shoulder. We have been racing together quite a bit lately so it was good to see that I would have such a nice guy to work through the course with. He is in the picture below in white just behind the large cone and the little guy in red.

The Sean is stage left... #1073
Mile two was a downhill cruise and a straight shot on a large avenue. We ran side by side chasing after the pace vehicle on a cool and still morning. I felt right at home and really enjoyed the scene as the race was set up to be a good one. Mile two 5:32 and feeling great!

The Climb
And then... we made a sharp right hand turn and began the climbing in earnest. Within a minute I found myself slightly over-extended but also opening a gap into the lead. This was not intentional in the least. But once out there, doing that kind of work I decided to just settle into it and grind. Adjusting my intensity to a level I could maintain for 10 minutes I knew that even with some over extension here, I did have a big, steep and long downhill run into the last mile where I could cover ground on pace and recover at the same time.

As the hill continued I was able to catch glimpses of Dave chasing me. At switchback sections I saw that I was probably extending the lead a little bit, maybe 15 seconds or so. At the same time, I derived a good dose of confidence recalling all the hill training I have been doing back home in Boone (which is much hillier than the Asheville area if you ask me). I hit the hills almost every day and came to the place where I was no longer "racing" but running the terrain as fast as I could. The "race event" in this sense fades to the role of a stage for performance, testing fitness, which is elevated as the distractions of competition fade and all that remains is the job at hand... getting up over the hill quickly.

The slope gave way steadily and the course became a slight grade for a mile or so with a couple short steep spikes. As I reached the top of the course I caught some great views of the Asheville area below and then followed the escort vehicle down tight turns and steep grades.

Having the trust in your turnover and sustained leg speed is a skill which needs to be developed by running hills aggressively. You really have to allow the legs to spin freely on the steepest areas and then reconnect with your pace when the road levels out again.

I use trigger words to remind myself that the goal is not to run that screaming downhill pace for the remainder of the event but to settle back into the race as the terrain settles back... What I say to myself is "transition". This key word triggers proper running form and technique which put me in my effort/pace once again. I do this all the time, everyday any time terrain changes present themselves. As the course flattened out into  the end of mile 5 the 10k course rejoined the 5k and a straight and slightly downhill grade ushered me along. Thanks to preparation I was running fast and efficiently. The training was paying off and I was having a blast:)

Hold it together
Now I was back in a recognizable land. This was where I had warm up, I usually like to run the final mile of the course for key topography, so I knew I had 3 little hills ahead of me. I had no clue who was behind me or how close they were as I chased down the bumper of the lead vehicle but I had a good idea that I was laying down my best race in over a year. The finish line proved it in numbers too as I completed a very difficult course in 6:02 pace, 37:26 (full results)... compared to January's 38:51 on a MUCH gentler course I am feeling very good about where my training is and where my mind is leading into Boston next month.

The Takeaway
By adding consistent volume, with long and demanding (but very low effort) trail runs and regular short duration, but fast and intense speed work I have been able to quickly find my racing legs... this week that brought me a free rafting trip and a new pair of shoes from Foot RX in Asheville!! So at least I covered my entry fee and gas money... (getting a little out of hand don't you think? Anyone else driving to Boston?)

and... if you have made it this far in the report you deserve a prize yourself. So here is the traditional finisher's award for St. Patrick's Day races here on this blog.  Georgia Snail here are The Sirens for their annual visit:

The Sirens

Happy Running!


  1. Good job! Sounds like an overall good race! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Great race report - thanks for sharing! This is very inspirational for newbies like me. :)

  3. Love it!!! And congratulations! I can only imagine what leading a race must be like! Awesome!!

  4. You are ridonc fast. Fact. Also, that kid next you in the first photo looks like he's a wee bit intimidated. Congratulations!!!

  5. A 6:02 on that course?!?!? You are seriously going to destroy Boston! Can't wait to meet you soon!!!

    P.S. Are you really driving there?!?!? Say it ain't true!!!

  6. Congratulations again! very enjoyable race report read too :)

  7. AHHHHH! I finally made it! Sorry I was off the grid for a minute....let's see, where was I? Oh yeah, blah, blah...god job on race, blah, blah, chasing lead vehicle...

    SIRENS! YES! Thanks so much. Appropriately, Happy St. Pat's!

  8. Hooray sirens!! I can't remember what else I was going to say about this post. :)

    So, were you running in a kiddie race? It seemed like there were a bunch of 12 year olds right behind you in the picture.

    Either way, nice work on a hilly course. That strategy will help you a lot come hoptington.

  9. It looks like you are about to be pulled over speeding!

    No? Sorry, all out of jokes today.


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