The Drool Deer aka Stone Mountain Run
|the crew... I look thrilled|
Race day arrived, and I began to fill guilty for not paying the extremely cheap entry fee, so I showed up with it to show my appreciation for Mr. Squirrel and his dedication to making this race as fun and goofy as possible. The course would be the 5 mile Stone Mountain Loop trail. It began by falling of the face of the earth down a ton of wooden steps beside a cascading waterfall, then leveled out for a bit, but soon enough climbed 700 ft up plenty of stone steps to the top of the appropriately named Stone Mountain. After reaching the summit, you descended down a loose gravel trail, with plenty of switchbacks back to the start.
|at the summit in 1st|
|getting out kicked on camera....great|
|Pisgah Nation represent!|
I haven't raced a half since the Mistletoe in 2011, and with Hannah's brother Tom wanting to attempt his first one, I suggested the New River Half and said that I would join him. If I was going to run a road half, I wanted to make sure it was a beautiful course and you cannot go wrong with the High Country of NC. I began "training" for a sub 1:30 time once the plan was set in stone, but after the first week of too much speed work, I tweaked my achilles and I was in recovery mode. Before I could even begin to ramp the speed sessions back up I hit the 3 marathons in 2 weeks part of the training plan (isn't that how you are supposed to train for shorter races?) Therefore, I cut the speedwork out and concentrated on recovering from those 3 runs. Obviously, training didn't go as planned, but I did have a great time and some great runs during this phase. Plus, I would rather have fun while running than strictly sticking to a regimented plan for 12 weeks. Anyway, I still was feeling pretty much in shape and had recovered well from the 3 marathon efforts. Sub 1:30 seemed very much unlikely, but a PR seemed possible so that became the goal.
The night before the run, Beth Frye kindly opened up her home to Hannah, Tommy, Martha, Michael, and I so we could avoid a long morning drive to the start of the race near Todd, NC. It was nice to be back in Boone and even got a chance to slackline in Durham Park a bit (slacklining is kinda my new thing, even though I had seen the hippies in Boone do it for my entire tenure there). Race morning came and we all hoped that the forecasted rain would hold off. It was quite chilly at the start and we all decided to shed our warm layers right before the gun and hand them to Michael. I found Scott and chatted a bit with him and then the horn sounded and we began to pound the pavement.
|scott and i walkin' to the start|
|and we're off|
The first mile I tried to take it easy knowing that a huge hill awaited during the next mile. Apparently, I had taken it a bit too easy and was already off my planned pace. I picked it up and climbed solidly over our first 300ft climb of the day. I was moving well, but my pace over the next few miles would vary quite dramatically. The rollingish terrain of the middle part of the race I had underestimated. I was clicking of miles everywhere from 7:30's to 6:20's. Not really what I was expecting.
Around mile 6 I began to fill the dreaded stomach issues. This was probably some of the reason for the variance in pace as I was trying to keep everything in. I kept debating on using the jon or not the entire last half of the race. When we hit the next big climb of the day, I decided to relax a bit and hoped to crank down the last 4 miles which were all downhill/flat to make up time. During these last 4 miles the stomach issues really began to bother me and I was beginning to wonder if I would just have to find a spot in the woods. I kept pushing the pace though and hoped that I could hold out as I was still near pace to PR. During the last 3 miles though, a stiff headwind greeted us runners and it never relinquished its hold. As we neared the final mile and the finish line, it actually got stronger. When I hit the 12 mile sign, I really began to pick up the effort, although I think it had little affect on my pace as the wind had picked up as well.
With about a quarter mile to go, my friend John Sugg had finally caught up with me and said "keep pushing". I really kicked it then and began running as hard as I could. I made the turn onto the grass finish chute and hurled myself over the finish line. I crossed the line in 1:34:49, a mear 19 seconds off my PR time. I was disappointed and collapsed into the grass to regain my breath.
Although I am still slightly disappointed, I do feel that I ran a PR effort especially while battling stomach issues, a stiff headwind, and a tougher course than my previous half. If it would have been a flatter course without all those issues I could seriously see that effort turning into something closer to a 1:31. I do not believe though that I can get under 1:30 just yet for the half so that goal is still on the mind and maybe something to shoot for at this year's Mistletoe. I ended up finishing 16th overall in the half, so I am pretty proud of that and I can tell that I am getting faster and stronger and that is always a good thing.
|hannah at the finish|
I would also like to proudly mention that Hannah and Tommy both ran an excellent race. Hannah finished this course in 1:56 and Tommy finished his first half ever in 1:41! Great efforts by both of them on a tough course and on a tough day.