Monday, April 23, 2012

Tar Heel 10 Miler

Saturday my husband and I ran the Tar Heel 10 Miler in Chapel Hill, North Carolina!  We both graduated from UNC and love it there so this was the perfect race for us!  We decided to get a hotel room and just make a whole weekend of it so we could relax and enjoy one of our favorite towns.

Dinner at California Pizza Kitchen has become our traditional pre-race meal!  We had pasta there the night before the race and then called it an early night.  Before bed I got all my race gear laid out and ready to go!

The start line and finish line were both located in Kenan Stadium.  We were running a little late on race morning and we made it to the start line just minutes before the race started!  But we did have time to take one last bathroom break before the race.  I had drank lots of water the day before and had a little that morning, and I fueled with a bagel and peanut butter.  I carried 4 packs of chocolate Gu with me...I was going to make sure I had plenty of carbs in this race and not get grumpy like I did at the end of the Princess Half!

Pete took off ahead of me at the very start of the race.  I was already running much faster than I usually do at the beginning of a race (about 11:30 pace) and I had to keep reminding myself that if I tried to go faster I would either get leg cramps or run out of steam way too soon.  I kept it steady and felt very happy!  I was certainly moving much faster than I usually do at the beginning of a run, but I didn't feel like I was pushing too hard.

The course wound through all the most beautiful parts of campus!  The first water station was at the Old Well and the volunteers were all girls decked out in lululemon (might they have been representing the new store going in at Southpoint Mall?).  I told the girl who handed me water that I loved her lulu!

Shortly after I passed the Old Well the pace police made their first appearance!  There was a 12:00 minimum pace requirement for the race that we were slightly concerned about.  The race officials even sent emails about the pace requirement in the days leading up to the race!  I had done some research and knew that they didn't pull you from the course if you fell below pace, but that you would have to run the rest of the race on sidewalks without police assistance or closed roads.  We were running on some busy roads and I did NOT want to tackle that without police assistance!  When the pace police showed up I was actually the last person before the bicycle that was following us, but I was bound and determined not to fall behind.  I actually moved up pretty quickly and did not see the pace police anymore after that!  Major accomplishment for me.

There were a couple loops through historic neighborhoods and I kept thinking I'd see Pete coming out as I was going in, but we were just far enough apart not to see each other!

I did wish that there were more aid stations during this race.  There were only three - mile 3, mile 5, and mile 8.  I was so thirsty and was actually staring longingly at the fuel belts some racers were wearing and wondering if they'd notice if I reached out and snatched one of their water bottles!  I guess I was spoiled by having water at every mile marker during Disney races.

The night before the race Pete and I had driven the course, so I knew what was coming at mile 8.  Shortly after mile 8, the course went up a mile-long road called Laurel Hill.  Laurel Hill is actually 2 (very steep) hills, climbing about 200 feet over a little less than a mile.  I had been doing great during the whole race, but I was tired at the end and I knew I was going to walk up Laurel Hill.  Thankfully, there was a nice little downhill stretch in the middle so I could run and make up some time, but I and everyone around me was walking up the steep parts!

At the top of Laurel Hill, the finish line was only about a half mile away.  It was mostly downhill, but I pushed myself and even ran the last little uphill stretch into the stadium and actually put on a huge burst of speed in the last tenth of a mile and passed five people!

My finish time was 1:56:51with an average pace of 11:41!  I actually did a little better than that, though, because Toby measured the course as 10.31 miles and I finished in 1:58:something with an average pace of 11:23!  Whichever pace I look at, I am so proud of myself for keeping a pace under 12:00 for 10 miles (which included at least a mile of walk breaks so I know when I was running I was even faster than that).

The only negative part of this race was the finish line logistics.  About 20 feet after crossing the finish line, there were huge bins of Vitamin Water.  Volunteers were there handing them out but they were obviously understaffed and not able to let all the racers know that they could have a Vitamin Water.  I don't even like VW, but I was so thirsty at the end of this race I was ready to drink one!  It was room temperature - not appetizing.  I was dying for some water, and apparently there were water bottles there near the VW being passed out, but I did not get one or even see them.  Then we were directed to climb to the top of the stadium steps (after just running 10 miles...seriously?) to get our finisher's medal.  There was no order to handing out the medals - just a couple people standing there handing them out.  I think any person could have walked up and been given a medal.  It took me awhile to even figure out where the people giving out medals were.  But I got my medal and then had to walk even farther around the stadium to find water.  I couldn't find water bottles or any station giving out water, but I did find a water fountain so I dumped out my Vitamin Water and refilled the bottle from the fountain.  Finally, as we were leaving the stadium we found a Primo Water station handing out water bottles and providing places for people to fill them up.  A note to the race organizers - don't make finishers climb hundreds of steps immediately after running a 10 mile race, have clearly marked and easily accessible stations to hand out water, and make receiving the finisher's medal at least feel a little special.  Other than that, excellent race!

One of my biggest motivations for running this race was the awesome bling!

Honey was proud of us too, but mostly just happy to not be alone in the hotel room anymore!

We had no entourage at this race so it was a challenge getting a picture of us together, but we managed!

We loved the Tar Heel 10 Miler, even though it was tough, and I'm sure we'll run it again in the future. It was hard not to enjoy a run through the most beautiful campus in the country!  Combined with the perfect weather and beautiful historic homes, I don't think you could ask for a more scenic run in the Piedmont of North Carolina!

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