The following report was provided by Rock/Creek Race Team standout Owen Bradley. Congrats on the win, Owen!
Sunday, November 13, 2011
This is the first race I have run where a famous Olympic runner was in the field of competitors. Zola Budd, now Zola Pieterse, was to run the 25k distance option. She is famous for the 1984 Olympic 1500 meter race where she and Mary Decker got tangled up and Mary ended up falling and withdrawing from the race. Being competitive, I was concerned that Zola would use her leg speed to push the pace at the start of the race.
The course was a 5.178 mile paved golf cart path loop around several lakes and neighborhoods. It was mainly wooded with some tunnels, a few very slight hills, and two road crossings.
After announcements and viewing the awesome decorative glass 50k winners’ trophies, the race started. I jumped out quickly following the bicycle that was leading the first lap of six I had to run. I was afraid to look back thinking that Zola, who was historically known for running barefoot but is now sponsored by Newton running shoes, would be on my heels. There were no mile markers on the course, just leftover marks from several other races. Therefore, pacing was a guessing game for me, having run hard at a 10k the previous weekend in Birmingham.
There was one aid station on the course at mile 2.7. I reached this point in about 17 minutes. Just before each 5.178 mile loop ends there is a quarter mile out-and-back section, which allows you to see other runners. As I was about to complete this section I saw Zola starting the out and back segment only a minute or so behind me. I finished the first lap under 32 minutes (31:35).
I continued to keep moving at a brisk pace on the second loop having grabbed my Ultimate Direction handheld bottle with a lemon-lime Nuun at the start of the loop. I was slightly slower to the aid station at mile 2.7 on the second loop than the first loop. It was a relief not to see Zola on the out and back section on the second loop. I finished the second lap in 1:04:44. settled into a slightly slower pace for the third loop with some hope to finish the 25k ahead of Zola. I hit the halfway point for the 50k at 1:39:08. This was well ahead of pace for my goal time of under a 3:30. I changed shoes at the halfway point, filled up my handleheld with water, and headed back out.
I felt relieved to not be running out of fear as I had on the first three laps. Going forward it was about keeping a steady pace. By now, I had noticed two mile markers that were part of a different 10k loop. I was able to use them from about mile 2 to 4 on my course to calculate mile splits. It gave me a nice mental distraction of calculating paces. After the fourth loop my time was 2:13:05; I grabbed my iPod since I was running solo and needed some mental stimulation. The fifth loop went okay, but I could tell that last loop was going to be a struggle! I pushed ahead, with my overall average pace being around 6:38 for the race thus far. I completed the fifth loop in 2:51:40, and refueled with a banana and a water refill.
I started on the last lap at 2:52:30 and estimated I’d completed the marathon in approximately 2:54:40. The gas tank was getting close to empty for me at this point. My stretch goal of running around 3:28 was looking out of reach; I was now just trying to break 3:30. From mile 2 to 3 my pace had dropped to 7:05. It dropped again to 7:15 from mile 3 to 4. I kept thinking how it would have been nice to have a pacer for the last lap, but no such luck!
I got some renewed energy as I was starting the out-and-back section of the final lap with the time reading 3:27 and some seconds. I thought maybe I could push enough to just skate in under 3:30. Much to my dismay as I made the last turn the clock read 3:29:57. I finished as strong as I could, in a time of 3:30:08. This finishing time was one minute and one second faster than my Nashville 50k time from October 2010 (3:31:09), so all in all, a victory! My last lap was a disappointing 37:38 (7:16 pace), meaning I only ran strong through the marathon point.
Overall the race was well organized by the Darkside Running Club. Peachtree City, GA is a friendly and easy city to navigate. I was able to stay in a hotel that was a mile from the starting line. The Panera bagels after the race hit the spot. Zola won the 25k easily by 8 minutes in a time of 1:47 (it had 29 total finishers). The 50k had 58 total finishers, with 41 starting at regular time of 7:30 am and 17 getting an early start at 6am.