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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Black Mountain Greenway Challenge 10k- a summary of confusion

This past weekend Lynnea and I packed up lil' Sylas and drove south to Black Mountain, NC for the Black Mountain Greenway Challenge 10k. This race was hosted by Pisgah Brewing, a local organic brewery which provided post race benefits times 2... which came in very handy considering non-events that unfolded later in the day.

Getting There?? 
There was a little confusion finding the starting line and after a few u-turns and a dreaded directions-obtaining-detour we stumbled upon the site we were searching for. I got my bib and got ready to race amid violent winds which were set to peak from 1-3 pm... race start time... you guessed it 1pm.

"Runners Set..."
10k start... but, where are the 5k runners??
The race began in a curious manner, one I don't recall experiencing previously... with 5k and 10k starting at the same time, the organizers had the races split into two distinct starting lines... the 10k group directly in front of the 5k race... this meant we 10k runners had a clear shot at the road; which I enjoyed. But the 5k runners had to work through the entire 10k race field for the first mile, when the courses split. I am sure that was difficult for the 5k leaders as they were forced to weave and run through the grass off the road to get to clear running space. Though the 10k runners were asked to stay to the right at the start, let's be serious folks! We could all see this one waiting to happen.

Runners Triangle
The 10k race quickly became a 3 man race. Gary Curran set the pace with Craig Plunkard and The Sean running just behind in a runner's triangle. The course was rolling gently for mile 1 and we went through in about 5:35 or so as the second mile offered a climb right away.

This mile was mostly uphill and Gary set out to put some distance between himself and the field. I was feeling worn out already and little increases in effort were causing big changes in effort perception. Gary and I had traded off finishing positions in two previous races this season. As his lead grew I tried to not allow thoughts of where I thought I should be enter into the equation. But it was a tough battle as he grew smaller in view and I was even losing ground to the 2nd place runner.

As Craig increased his hold on second place, the course dropped downhill into mile 3 and a loop around a small pond. Here it was obvious that the top 3 spots were to be split amongst us and that was reassuring. At the same time I found that I was gaining on 2nd place and feeling a lot better after the initial lethargy. As we reached the other side of the pond I had caught back up with him and could visibly see that Craig was in a rough patch like I had been during mile 2. I was thankful that I had kept grinding away and moving the best way I could during that time.

Middle of Nowhere?
As we turned uphill to the right away from the pond we had some confusion as we interrupted the volunteer from her text messages and we actually ran the wrong way to the left for a few steps before we gained her attention. Catching on to the correct course first, I did stop and wait for Craig to run along with me choosing running as the deciding factor and not navigation on a road course.
Finishing up a tough day of racing

On this short steep section away from the pond, I was able to take hold of second place and I could still glimpse Gary off in the distance on longer stretches of straight asphalt as he chased down the police car. I was still thinking about hanging in with a lingering thought that Gary might possibly be running over his head a little bit and that I might still have a chance to reel him in over the final 2 miles. It was difficult to keep him in mind though on this winding course with many small rolling hills. Couple that with Gary's incredible strength over the course and you would have known that things were already decided. But I didn't.

Hanging in and Hanging on
Finishing in 36 flat Gary had thrown down big time during very difficult racing conditions. The wind was brutally gusting and it personally made it difficult for me to focus on effort and pace... certainly great experience to draw on in the future and to see how Gary had not let that external factor detract from his performance. He had instead immersed himself into the experience of the day.

Looking back I would have like to have worked more with the conditions rather than see them as a foe. Like I said, a good lesson to learn. I was able to average 5:54 per mile on a tough day and hold on for second place overall. And... what did I garner for my toils... full results. All in all I would say this race indicated a great progression in fitness and an indicator that the ingredients are there for a successful run at Boston.

The Sean says "Yes" to PPA
The (way) Post Race...
After crossing the finish line I spoke with Gary Curran and Daniel Amick (5k winner) for a few minutes and then found Lynnea and Sylas who had braved the blustery spring afternoon to support me. It was Sylas's first race event so I am sure he had a great time seeing all the runners sweating away. I know I was excited to have my family there at the finish line!

I hit up the first of my free Pisgah Brews, the Pale Ale and waited for the post race awards. One beer down I got changed into dry clothes and hung out with Lynnea and Sylas in the warmth of the car, out of the wind. Back to the staging area awaiting awards again and downed my final freebie while listening to some live bluegrass and watching the bizarre scene of buzzed spandex clad beer drinkers in the early spring afternoon, but still no awards... no announcement??? Just lots of beers and smiles and spandex...

After 2 hours post race I still had no idea what was going on. I like my finishing bling as much as anyone but I was out of free beer and we were ready to be on with our day. So, we threw in the towel and headed home wondering what was going on... were there no awards at all? was there some unexplained delay? did they just get everyone drunk hoping that no one would notice? I didn't know and time had run out. So we hit the trail and stopped in at Pf Chang's for a late lunch (4pm) and drove back up the mountain to Sugar Grove.

Wayyyy Post Race Results, (the next day)
Apparently the timing company had a major snafu and results were not released until the next day... would have been a long time to wait for a finisher's award- though I am sure that Pisgah Brewery had a banner sales day for a Sunday afternoon. I was pretty disappointed with the organization from the start to the course marking to the post race communication. Since I have received information from the RD and completely understand that he is likely more disappointed than any of the runners.

I doubt they'll be using the same timing company next year.


  1. Sounds like a hard race and what a bummer about awards etc. I know the real reward is seeing your results yourself and knowing you are progressing but still annoying when people sort of "mess up". I've been known to do that before (once or twice). Nice race.

  2. Bummer about the awards, but hey, free beer! ;-)

  3. hehe, that picture of you and the old guy STILL cracks me up. Love it.


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