I wrote recently about enjoying my hill running since moving to South Carolina. Well, if you want to get better at racing on hills, you have to go race some hills. So I figured I’d start small…notice I said small, and not easy. Upstate Ultras RD Matt Hammersmith has a knack for creating challenging courses, and this was a great one! 640 feet of elevation change for a 5k, now that’s a good workout! (the half marathon had over 4,000 feet of elevation change, and the marathon over 6,000 feet!)
The day started bright and early, well not very bright at 6:45am, but definitely early! This would be the earliest race start I’ve ever had, but luckily I live close by, so the drive was easy. Even with a short drive, I arrived later than planned and did not get in my normal warmup (20mins w/strides), after only a half mile of easy jogging, it was time to start!
All three races were starting at the same time, but being the inaugural race, it was a small field, so this wasn’t a problem at all. I lined up towards the front, behind some fast looking younger folks. A short countdown and we were off!
Mile 1: 6:37
After the first turn, I started to pulled away from the younger group I had lined up behind, had to check my watch to make sure I wasn’t going out way too fast, a bad habit of mine. The pace seemed reasonable, so I kept at it. It was then that I realized that I was in second place, much too early to know if I’d be able to hold that position, especially given the hills that I knew were coming. Oh look, there’s the first one. While I have enjoyed the hills during my training runs, racing on them is a different story. A properly run 5k has enough pain to begin with, throw in hills and you start to question your sanity. This first hill was manageable though, but I knew the second hill was worse. The leader with his police escort was still in view, but pulling away steadily.
Mile 2: 6:36
Mile 2 brought a brief respite from the suckage with a nice downhill portion, quickly followed by the larger of the two hills that dominated the course. I’ve found during my brief hill training period, that I really enjoy flying downhill, this was no exception, felt great! As I climbed the second hill, I was passed by a younger runner who definitely seemed more comfortable on the hills than I felt, but he was still close enough that I might be able to catch him on the downhill that made up most of the last mile. I should mention that while pushing up this hill, I had a fairly strong urge to vomit, good to know that I was pushing myself hard.
Mile 3: 5:57
This last mile, as evidenced by my pace, was entirely downhill, and fantastic! After fighting through both hills, this mile felt great. I opened up my stride, cycled my legs a lil faster and felt grateful for gravity’s assistance. I had closed the gap to a reasonable distance with 2nd place, entering the park for the final portion, I might have a chance to catch him.
Mile .15: 55.70
Upon entering the park for a lap to the finish, I opened it up to see what I had left, turns out, not much! As both of us started our kick, his was a bit stronger and he pulled away slightly while I pushed with everything I had left. Once again, I felt the same urge I had while climbing the second hill, good, I’m laying it all out there.
Final time: 20:07, 3rd place overall
I congratulated the 2nd place runner, who I found out will be running Boston next week, good luck Dan! Always nice when you have some good competition in a race to help you push yourself. This was a great race, looking forward to it again next year, and more great events from Upstate Ultras! Also, the hand made medals and awards were outstanding!