The race start was at 7:30, trying to beat the heat (of course, if you've ever been in Augusta in pretty much June-September, you know it's pretty much impossible to avoid it). I woke up at 6:15 and started a cup of espresso-roast coffee brewing while I started munching on a Powerbar, got dressed, and laced up my Saucony Grid Tangent 3s. I drove to the race site and parked about a quarter-mile away and jogged to the registration table to get warmed up. After registering, I did another quarter-mile warmup jog and did some dynamic stretches before heading back to the starting line and finding my spot near the back of the pack. A quick summary of the course by one of the race directors and we were off!
Mile 1 - I felt great for pretty much all of mile 1. It started out taking us along a sidewalk that runs along side one of the main bridges into downtown North Augusta from downtown Augusta before taking us under the bridge and along a gravel path past some old brick ponds that have been turned into a park. From there, the route met up with the actual Greeneway trail, a path that I've become very familiar with on my lunchtime runs since I work in downtown Augusta. This particular section of the Greeneway is very well shaded so the temperature was not much of an issue and I felt like I was just loping along, but when my Garmin beeped to indicate 1 mile, my split revealed that I had just run a 10:12 first mile. My pacing strategy for this race was to run 10:30 for both the first and second miles, then pick it up in the third, so a 10:12 wasn't horribly far off.
Mile 2 - Shortly after the 1 mile mark, the route turned left and took us along a relatively new section of the Greeneway that runs along the riverfront and back to the 13th Street bridge. About halfway into the second mile, there's an old flatbed railroad car that's been converted into a bridge over a creek. It was just after this bridge that my thoughts of a PR came to an end. My intestines began to cramp horribly and painfully. If I slowed to around a 12 minute pace, the cramping settled down a little bit and was manageable, but if I went any faster, it got worse. Mile 2 ended up being a disappointing 11:39.
Mile 3 - Needless to say, mile 3 was absolutely miserable. The route was pleasant enough, taking us down the other side of the 13th Street bridge and through another section of the brick pond park before meeting back up with the main Greeneway and doubling back to the start. The miserable part was knowing that my legs had a PR in them (they weren't even burning at this point), but my stomach was rebelling against it. I ran pretty much all of mile 3 at a pace slower than even my warmup jogs and ended up running a horrible 12:47 split.
The final 0.1 - Once I passed the 3 mile marker, I decided to go ahead and finish strong. If whatever was causing my stomach to cramp decided to manifest itself in the worst way possible, I would at least be at the finish line where there were porta-potties. So, I kicked it. I didn't go for a full-on sprint as I typically would, but more of a good 3rd-mile effort. My average pace over the last tenth was a 9:37, which frustrated me even more because I know I could have sustained that for mile 3 if my stomach had allowed.
Anyway, it turns out the stomach problems weren't related to the running at all. I apparently have a stomach bug that I most likely caught from my next-door neighbor because I've been having the same sorts of problems all day long, basically every time I eat anything.
I ended up finishing with a disappointing 35:21. Yes, it's still faster than my first 5K, when I was close to 50 pounds heavier, and faster than last weeks Grass Roots 5K, which was on the absolutely brutal XC course at Blanchard Woods. But to know that I could have had a time in the low 31s and missed it due to something completely out of my control is incredibly frustrating.
Next week I've got a 6K, the next race in the Grass Roots XC Series at Blanchard Woods. The 3K and 5K there were a lot of fun and quite challenging so I'm looking forward to the 6K, then the 8K and 10K races out there later this summer. Hopefully by next Saturday I'll have kicked this stomach bug and will have a much better race report to write. Until then,
Run Long, Run Free