After re-injuring my left hamstring at the Pawz to Run 5K in Davidson in April, and then shuffling through Kings Mountain Marathon in SC one week later, I swore off all future 5K’s. I passed on Our Boys in Concord, Main Street in China Grove, Upgrade in Birkdale, and others. My friend Mark Schlegel asked me to do Upgrade (which I declined), and then the Firecracker 5K on July 2nd. He is getting back into running after a long layoff, and I guess he wanted me as a benchmark for his progress. I looked up the course profile, and noting that it is relatively flat, I decided to give it a try, even though I have Grandfather Mountain and/or San Francisco Marathons coming up. I don’t learn from my mistakes, and I signed up.
I peeked out of my back door on the morning of the race, noting that it was cooler with lower humidity, so it looked like it was going to be a good day for a race (this wouldn’t last of course). Packet pick up was easy on Friday, and onsite registration looked very well organized on race day. The starting line was on the east side of Verhoff, down from HFFA. I jogged partway down to the start and then walked the last part with fellow DART-ers Johane and Marc Hirschfield (Marc had photo and child watch duties for this one after running it last year), and my friend Mark (a potential BARF-er). As we approached, we saw some very serious looking Charlotte Running Company guys toeing the line, with our DART friends Todd Hartung and Bobby Aswell in close proximity. Johane and I took position in mid-pack. I wanted to stay a little further back so not to make the mistake of trying to chase down Bobby and Todd like I did at Pawz to Run before I limped home to the finish. Suddenly, without any build-up, the gun went off and the race started.
One problem with being honest in your start position, is that you have to weave your way through the delusional people who should really be at the back of the pack, but I did manage to break through by the end of Verhoff at 21. This was mainly a downhill portion and I came in at 6:32 for mile one, which was a little faster than I wanted to go (but heck, it was downhill and adrenaline was going). As I turned up 21, I could see the lead pack WAY off in the distance, and realized that this was going to be a competitive event. They were even further away as we made the turn onto Mt Holly-Huntersville. I settled in to a comfortable rhythm and was trying to keep an even pace to break 21 minutes (I didn’t…oh well!). Marc had briefed Johane, Mark and I about mile 2 being a steady uphill climb, so we were ready for it. It was into the wind, which kept us cool too. But when the direction changed on this loop course, it seemed to jump 5 degrees per mile, and by the time the wind was at our backs, it was HOT. Mile 2 was 6:52.
During mile 2, I noticed that there was a boy running in front of me who looked to be about 10 years old. He was doing a pace equal to mine, which typically means he will fade as the race goes on, since most kids tend to blow out on mile one, incapable of pacing. The problem was, he wasn’t fading. Now I was facing the grim reality that I may get beat by a 10 year old. Ouch. I pointed out the boy to a runner my age next to me , whose one-word panting comment was, “depressing.” I pushed through mile three, overtook the boy prior to turning onto 115 (no, I did not elbow him or taunt him as I passed) and headed on to Verhoff. Mile 3 time was the same as mile 2. It was getting very warm at this point, and after turning back onto Verhoff, it was essentially downhill. The start mat was moved back to HFFA near the front doors to make it 3.11 miles. I kicked to the end and saw Bobby taking pictures of DART’ers at the finish line, and came in at 21:15, which was a PR for me by 3 seconds.
As I looked around, I also saw Todd at the water table, working the room. We chatted about the heat, and I turned back to the finish line to look for the rest of our group.
Mark S. came in a few minutes later, followed shortly by Johane. Apparently he looked down at a water station to pour water on his head and rear-ended another runner who for whatever reason had completely stopped moving. He twisted his ankle and limped in in ~26 minutes. Johane came in right behind him, our top female DART finisher.
Afterwards, they had a nice selection of Powerbars, water, poweraid, fruit, bagels, etc. Results were posted quickly inside the air-conditioned building. I was 7th in my age group, 67th overall, last among the DART finishers. A little disappointing, BUT NO LIMP THIS TIME!!
I stayed afterwards with Marc and Johane and watched Julia Hirschfield perform quite well in the kids fun run. A star may be born.
After I left, Todd rocked the house in the cannonball contest, winning his age group (is there anything he can’t place in?). Marc Hirschfield said it was a fantastic display of splash-prowess.
Overall, it was well organized. The course was very fair, easy to follow, and well staffed by volunteers and police. I’d do it again. Maybe next time in under 21 minutes?