The Virginia (Lynchburg) Ten Miler Race Report

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Virginia Ten miler was not on my radar of events to consider running this year...or ever really. The more I think about it...I had heard of this particular event before, currently in its 39th running, but I can't say I had thought "that's a must do race for me."  However, having had the opportunity to run it last weekend (now finally publishing over a month ago), I must confess it made a big impression on me and it will certainly be on my calendar for years to come. The details surrounding the run were pretty unique, as I actually WON an entry into this years Genworth Virginia Ten Miler, but not won as in qualified or placed fast enough to be invited, instead WON as in FREE, like out of a hat free, thanks to Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine!  I had entered one of their giveaway contests for which my mentality is usually "I'll enter this because to have a chance to win, you have to enter" but usually don't think much about it as I've probably entered a couple dozen contests on their site without having ever heard anything (As a side note to Blue Ridge Outdoors, you guys should totally request contest winners to submit a blog entry or recap of the events).

As I left class Friday morning, a week prior to the race, I received a call from Blue Ridge Outdoors letting me know that I had been selected for a FREE (Yes, caps lock is necessary) entry to this years Genworth Virginia Ten Miler! I omitted the fact that I had been suffering from cold-like symptoms for the past 3 weeks and had just one week ago to the very hour been told I had bronchitis, but I thought "Hey, its FREE. Why not?" and just like that I began mentally preparing myself for the run in just over a week.  Through the fall my training had been perfect as I prepared for the Marine Corps Marathon in late October, but a cold had significantly derailed my training, so much so that my longest run through today is just over 16 miles...that's another blog post though.

My first run in three weeks came just 6 days before the Virginia Ten Miler, I decided to ease back into it and that 4 miles was an acceptable start. I felt comfortable through the first mile and a half or so, then began to feel as if my breathing was constricted and noticed I seemed to be working harder to maintain a "usual" pace.  I again managed runs on Tuesday and Wednesday leading up to Saturdays race of 4 and 9 miles respectively. Not having anything invested in the run it was easy to be relaxed and take it all in stride, as Fridays dinner wasn't your typical pasta dinner instead break-and-bake cookies were the fuel of choice.  I turned in for the evening around 11:30 and set my alarm for 3:45AM the next morning.

After stumbling around to find my phone to turn off my alarm, I shoveled in a bowl of Cheerios and a banana before jumping in the car for a what may be my earliest start for a race day...ever.  The first hour of the drive was relatively easy with the majority being on I-81 from Blacksburg up to exit 175 where I found the twistiest-foggiest road possible at 5 in the morning, I arrived at E.C. Glass High school just after 6AM and headed in to find my race bib and t-shirt. Unfortunately, they had run out and shirts were only guaranteed for runners who registered early....a bummer as the shirts were nice technical -t's, but again I only had gas invested in the drive to the run so I was just happy to be there participating.  I did however receive the nicest Brooks drawstring race bag I've seen which partially made up for not receiving a shirt.  I had a TON of time to sit around and wait, I found the heated seats in the Subaru particularly useful in helping the time pass.  My fear was falling asleep and missing the start so I eventually decided to pry myself from the cozy car and take in the overwhelming pungency of embrocation.

Around 7:50 all the runners began lining up for the 8AM start, they announced some of the elite athletes including 3 previous Virginia Ten Miler winners and a 2012 US Olympic trials athlete.  The coolest part however, was the honorary number 1 worn by a gentleman who had run all 38 previous Virginia Ten Milers, a true champion in my opinion.  I lined up in the 8:00-9:00 minute pace area and quickly realized that I was going to be passing A LOT of people in front of me.  The race also included a 4 mile run which started simultaneously so I think a lot of these folks were lining up based on the shorter distance.  When the horn sounded we all took off and to my surprise I felt fresh and light, I was very pleased considering I had missed three important weeks of training but knew it was way too early to tell where my fitness was.  The first few miles flew by and as I glanced down at my watch I knew I was running well based on the mid-7 minute miles I was doing.  I decided to go for it and see what I had in the tank, when the race split at the four mile mark I began looking ahead picking off runners one-by-one.  Just after mile 5 I put myself a bit into the red on an uphill in a park. I decided to ease off and allow myself to recover going from a 7:06 5th mile to a 7:26 6th mile.


I was forewarned the Saturday before the race by Michelle's dad that Lynchburg was a hilly town and to be prepared for nothing but up and down.  I had been to Lynchburg numerous times in the past but always in a car where its easy to ignore the grade of the road.  The great thing about the course was that it was an out and back, so you knew what you had to do on the way home and could conserve appropriately, this was also the downfall of the race.

Every time I went down a hill I thought there's another one for the way home, but the time away from running over the previous three weeks allowed me to attack each successive hill harder and continue to pick off runners.  As I approached mile eight I knew from the course description on the website that there was one long sustained hill between me and the finish, "the infamous Farm Basket Hill."  I have to admit, I did fade on this hill dropping from a 7:07 eighth mile to 7:28 and 7:49 ninth and tenth miles respectively. However, when considering the grade of the hill, Strava computes the Grade Adjusted Pace (GAP) which for the 8, 9, and 10 miles were 7:03, 6:59, and 7:09; so I was still turning over quick miles and consistent GAP for the entire race.

Crossing the finish line I was pleased with how I ran the race and the outcome of a new PR, 1:14:54. As I've mentioned before, I often establish these "arbitrary" goals for myself one of which was running a sub 1:15 and the other was finishing in the top 10% of the race. I established the 1:15 time from last years results where the top 10% (110/1102) was bounded by a time of 1:14:31 (110th place), but the 112 runner ran a 1:15.  The field this year was more competitive, where the top 10% (129/1299) was bounded by a time of 1:13:16, over a minute faster than 2011.  At the end of the day I finished 160/1299 or 12.3%, not bad but not where I wanted to be either.  The finish line festivities included pizza, bagels, and a variety of other snacks. I ventured over to the Blue Ridge Outdoors booth to thank them for the FREE entry and let them know I had an absolute blast!

Mile Splits with Grade Adjusted Pace (GAP)

Official Results

Eventually I hopped in my car, turned on the heated seats and drove home to watch my Hokies lose. As I mentioned above I will consider putting this race on my calendar next year as it's convenient to Blacksburg and a very well run event. I'd recommend it to anyone interested in a challenging course and to runners who prefer hills over the flats, like me.

The Awesome Finisher Medal!

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