Saturday, January 28, 2012

Me Speedy? Who Knew! - Calhoun's 10-Miler Recap

Daniel and I before the race.
You never really know what you're capable of until you put yourself to the test. Thing is, I wasn't looking to test myself per se. My goal was to get myself used to running some hills for my upcoming marathon.

Today (Saturday, Jan. 28), I ran the Calhoun's 10-Miler in Lenoir City, Tenn., with the sole intention to get used to running hills. The Knoxville Marathon is notoriously hilly and has earned the nickname the "KnoxHILLS" Marathon. Not having completed a full marathon before, I want to make sure I am as prepared as possible for my first. I'm not dead-set on a certain time (other than to finish under 5 hours), but my main goal is to finish and survive.

The Calhoun's 10-Miler is a nice out-and-back race with rolling hills along the way. Definitely a great test for me as I gear up for running 26.2 miles.
The race started and ended at Calhoun's, a BBQ restaurant located on the marina at Fort Loudon Lake. Beautiful scenery to say the least, especially at sunrise. (See the photo below.) The weather was perfect for a run in January. Temps in the mid-30s, no wind and a mostly sunny skies. Like I said, it was perfect weather for a run in January.

As I said, I was looking at this race for a good tune-up to get adjusted to hills, but I did want to post a time around 1:40 and maintain a 10-minute per mile pace that I hope to sustain during the marathon.

The gun went off shortly after 7:30 a.m., and we were off!

The first three-quarters of a mile was level, but then we hit the hill. It began near some lakeside homes and shot up the hill to a cemetery and mortuary for a nearly 100 feet in elevation in a mere .14 of a mile! It was a challenge, but I chugged along and cleared it easily. Of course, it was still early in the race. 

I finished the first mile in 10:11, which ironically was my slowest mile for the entire race. My running buddy, Daniel, and I started in the back of the pack. We were there to have fun and enjoy the race. Problem was we got bunched in with a lot of slower runners and it took a little to weave our way past them. The cemetery hill during the first mile did a lot to help us move past them.

Mile 2 went downhill which made it easy for me to post a 9:16 time for the second mile. As we crossed the marker for Mile 2, we began a slow ascent that peaked about the 2.5 mark before an 90-foot elevation drop over the next .17 of mile. From there, we hit a stretch of rolling hills that slowly took us to the highest point on the course, which came right at the halfway mark. For miles 3, 4, 5 and 6, I posted times of 9:28, 9:41, 9:28 and 9:28. I'm nothing if not constant!

The marina at sunrise, right before the race started.
At about 6.5 miles, I slowed to walk in order to down a GU gel and get a quick swig of water to prevent me from bonking out. Knowing my body like I do, I was getting close to empty and I needed fuel to finish strong. Even with the brief break, I completed Mile 7 in 10:07 and then hit mile marker No. 8 in 9:27. 

Mile 9 was a toughie. Just past the 8.5-mile point we began an 100-foot ascent in elevation over a third of a mile. Had to walk briefly during one of the steepest part of the entire course, but once I reached the top, it was all downhill toward the finish line.

Completed Mile 9 in 10:02, and then something clicked in me. 

Despite battling nine miles of hills, I felt great. I felt strong. I felt like I could go on for a while.

Carefully sprinting down the cemetery hill, I picked up my pace and went hard. Yet, I didn't feel like I was pushing it, I was just going at a good, strong pace. Not once during the final mile did I look at my Garmin to check my pace, so you can imagine my surprise when I got home and saw that my time for Mile 10 was 8:36!

EIGHT MINUTES AND THIRTY-SIX SECONDS!!! For the final mile of a 10-mile race!

How crazy is that?!?!

How crazy is that my first mile was my slowest and my last mile was the fastest?!?! Don't make sense, but I'll take it.

As I'm sprinting toward the finish, I could not believe what I was seeing on the clock 1:36 with the seconds slowing going up. 

Closed the line in 1:36:28 for a pace of 9:33 per mile!

My running buddy, Daniel, finished just a little behind my in 1:40:17, beating his goal time by almost five minutes.

All in all, the Calhoun's 10-Miler is a great race. The course was mainly on two-lane roads, and the support staff and county police did a great job managing the traffic.

Only one thing would've made this race better. Seeing that Calhoun's is the main sponsor - and has been for a while, I think that the post-race food should be BBQ. Sure, the donuts, bagels, yogurt and granola were good, but I'm telling you, if there was BBQ waiting for me at the finish line, I probably would've finished in 1:15 or 1:20. :-)

This was the perfect race to kick off my 2012 season. Can't wait to see what the rest of the year has in store for me.

Happy running!


  1. Take the same conservative approach on the first 20 miles of the marathon & you will be pleasantly surprised. You'll enjoy your experience & reach your goal!

    1. Thanks for your comment and advice. Appreciate it.

  2. I have to say this: just my opinion, but compared to the Knoxville Marathon, Calhoun's might as well be flat. Just warnin' ya!

    1. I know the Knoxville Marathon is hillier, and to be honest, Calhoun's was a lot easier than the elevation chart led me to believe. By no means am I going to take my success at Calhoun's and think it'll make Knoxville seem like a piece of cake. I still have plenty of work to do, include a lot more hills. Thanks for your opinion. I really do appreciate it.

  3. Great job finishing so strong. You're setting yourself up well for some great things this year!