Had some fun times at the Charlotte Hot Chocolate 15k this morning. Got a chance to catch up with Megan. Hadn't seen her in nearly year. Had the opportunity to mix it up again with Mark this morning. The last time that we mixed it up was at the Charlotte Turkey Trot 8k on Thanksgiving several years ago. He was wearing a Turkey costume, and it took everything that I had on that day to stay in front of him. I was expecting him to be off running with the leaders.
The weatherman was calling for rain today, but we got off lucky. Most of the race we faced nothing more than a slight drizzle.
With the 5k runners heading off at 7:45 AM, we made our way to starting line for an 8:05 start. Mark and Megan were lined up next to me. Chaz, who was pacing the 7 minute milers, was just behind us.
Everyone stepped up to the line, and we were off and running. Almost immediately, we all went single file. Seemed that Mark and I were running similar paces. We passed a couple of guys in the first 3 miles, but by then, the lead runners were out of sight. We were pretty much pushed each other, or in all in honesty, Mark was pushing me the rest of the race. However, from the look on this face, he didn't seem to be working as hard as I was.
And, good lord, was the course full of rolling hills. I cannot explain it why but it always seems like the uphills go on forever while the downhills are way too short. We passed through 4 miles, and then 5 miles, and then 6 miles. These Hot Chocolate guys had their stuff together. Cones marked the course so if you got lost, it was because you were not paying attention. Something I nearly did at one turn. They had clocks at every mile. If I remember correctly, all running except one. Then, there was aid stations. Plenty of the water, Nunn, and Chocolate if you wanted it were being offered, and they had plenty of volunteers staffing these aid stations.
For most of the race, I had a step or two on Mark. Occasionally, he would come up by side me on a hill, but once we crossed it, I got my step back. That is until we hit the final climb on Randolph Road. Mark came up by side me, and then he just shifted into another gear. My legs were struggling. I couldn't maintain his pace. The more we climbed, the more ground that he put on me. We turned off the Randolph Rd, and for a moment, the ground losing stabilized. Then, we started up Laurel. Laurel isn't necessary steep but rather just a slight steady climb. However, at nearly 9 miles, my legs thought they were climbing Everest. Not helping my confidence, Mark was growing smaller with each step that I took. And, he wasn't getting smaller in my rear view mirror, but out my windshield. He was definitely pulling away. The whole time, I felt like I was slowing down. I hit the 9 mile mark around 56:20. I sucked it up and pushed my way to the finish. I clocked a time of 58:28.
My time was slower than my Novant Health 15k last fall, but still I was happy with it. This coarse in my opinion is actually tougher than the the Novant race.
I finished 7th overall, and some 20 second or so behind Mark. This placed me first in my age group.
Post race, I need to give the Hot Chocolate guys props for a “sweet” looking medal. Also, the post race mugs were more like a huge bowl. It came with snacks and a cup of hot chocolate. I just wish we could get seconds, thirds, and forths.
One last note on my closing miles, while mentally, I thought that I was slowing down. Looking at my splits now, I pulled my over pace for the race down by 2 seconds per mile over the last 5k. In reality, my only problem was not slowing down but Mark pulled his down by 5 seconds. Guess, I just need to work harder so next time, I give myself a better opportunity to stay with him.
Now, I am on to the next race - the 10 miler next weekend.
Sipping the Hot Chocolate,
The Cool Down Runner