I know I haven’t been posting in awhile but I’ll try to be better about it in the future. I miss hearing from all of you that post here and send me emails about your progress and what not. I will try my best to do better.
So first, what has been going on? Besides family, work, and music, the answer is “running.” I’ve been enjoying running again. After taking a year off of any serious running, I’m back at it and loving it. I’m trying to get faster and run longer without getting injured. That is usually a tall task for most runners but I think it is achievable. My ultimate goal is still to eventually run fast enough to qualify for Boston, but right now I am just focusing on the smaller running goals that will eventually produce that result. It is going to take some time and hard work, but I know eventually I’ll get to Boston!
Having said all that, I thought I would use today’s space to tell you about a very cool race that I ran a few weeks ago. I’ve never reported on a race before, but both times I have run the Oak Barrel half marathon, I left thinking “what a cool race,” so I thought I might spend some time telling folks about it.
The 2013 version of this race is only its third edition, but the folks in the small town of Lynchburg, Tennessee have got this race thing figured out. In a conversation with one of the race directors, he told me that the race is put on by a bunch of local runners who just like to run. I could see the pride in his eyes when I complimented the race. It isn’t just another race to the people of Lynchburg, it is their race. It belongs to them and to the 1,200 runners who show up every year to run.
Even though this is a smaller race, I am still impressed by the organization. For the most part, everything seemed to run so smoothly. And you don’t just leave Lynchburg with a running t. How about a technical t-shirt, a wooden race medal, a hat, and Smithwick socks with the race logo. All that swag for a race fee of $50!
Now I need to mention the course. The race starts in downtown Lynchburg and ends in downtown Lynchburg, which looks like it could have been stolen from the set of the Andy Griffith Show. Mayberry ain’t got nothing on Lynchburg, but more on this later. The course quickly moves to the country and takes you past a number of farms and rolling scenery, which I really enjoyed. Quick warning: You may notice the strong odor of cow poop at certain points along the way, but here in the south we like to call that “Southern charm.”
One other quick warning: this course is not flat! Check out my splits:
Mile 1- 7:46
Mile 2- 7:47
Mile 3- 8:00
Mile 4- 7:58
Mile 5- 9:55 (Whiskey hill)
Mile 6- 7:40
Mile 7- 8:12 (another smaller hill)
Mile 8- 7:37
Mile 9- 7:37
Mile 10- 7:27
Mile 11- 7:24
Mile 12- 7:36
Mile 13- 7:31
You can see around mile 5 there is a big hill which seemed to go on forever. The locals call it Whiskey Hill, and Whiskey Hill is so mean that it actually has its own Facebook page. The Oak Barrel website calls it a “character building hill” that is a “gradual climb for about a mile.” I’m not sure if any “character building” was achieved, but I will say Whiskey Hill kicked my butt and it took a mile or so to recover. I think it is also important to note that somewhere in the middle of running this hill is when I heard the banjo music from Deliverance piping out of a sound system In the woods. That definitely made me run faster.
The good news however, is that the runners who conquer Whiskey Hill, are rewarded by getting to go downhill. Who doesn’t love to go downhill? Also, the last mile was nice and flat as you pass the Jack Daniels Distillery (no free samples along the race course which is actually in a dry county). While the course was challenging, it wasn’t unmanageable. I only cursed once or twice and I do that in every race anyway.
The finish line in downtown Lynchburg was an awesome spectacle. The people there seemed to really enjoy the experience and were totally in to it. I think the local flare is what makes this race so great. Yes, they did have the typical finish line food (bagels, bananas, etc.), but along with it different booths were set up with food from local restaurants. Along with pizza from a joint on the town square, you could get Brunswick Stew, and a local delicacy called Hoe cakes. For you big city dwellers, check the spelling on that last one and get your mind out of the gutter. A Hoe Cake is basically cornmeal fried in oil, and at the finish line of the Oak Barrel three ladies were cooking them under a tent. Next to that tent was a Jack Daniels tent and if you’re in to the whiskey thing, the head distiller is available to sign your race medal.
All in all, a really fun race! As I left the downtown square to travel home, I saw a man giving rides in a horse-drawn carriage as well as a bluegrass group jamming their way through Foggy Mountain Breakdown. I found it so captivating that I had to stay and listen for a good twenty minutes. I still couldn’t believe I wasn’t in Mayberry. Very cool experience, and I would encourage anyone looking for a small town half-marathon somewhat off the beaten path, to make their way down to Lynchburg. And don’t be afraid of that hill, it didn’t hurt…..much.
In case anyone cares, I finished in 1:43:38 (7:55/mile pace) and was 3rd place in the 40-44 age division. That was cool for me since I’ve never been that high in my age division before. From the splits listed above, you can see I ran the last 6 miles at a pace much closer to what I would need to qualify for Boston. Also, I feel I could have ran even faster if that dang hill hadn’t somewhat whipped me out.
Next Up: I’m thinking I will run the local Cotton Row 10k at the end of May. I want to see what I can do for 6.2 miles. However, this race also features a killer hill. What is up with me and these hills? I will definitely include some hills in my training the next few weeks.
Also, my oldest daughter and I plan to run a Color Race in a couple months. Looks to be loads of fun. Hope she loves it.
OK, so tell me about your running! As always, I love hearing from you guys via email or post on the site. Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org .
I'll leave you with some post-race music from downtown Lynchburg: