Seems like I Just completed one of these! This is my last race until the Spinx Half Marathon on Halloween though. This race was in Winston-Salem, NC, so I woke up at 3:30am to be out the door by 4am. Steady rain the whole way and got there at 7am feeling not so tired. Got my bib and t-shirt and met 3 women who were volunteering had on their BRR shirts. We spoke some and it was nice that they recognized Do Not Resuscitate! Two were on Mixed Nuts, one of which was runner #11 - so we commiserated on the last leg and how unfriendly it was! I rested in my car mostly as the rain came down and had a difficult time deciding on what to wear. It was still 60° and a steady rain (and it would rain the whole race), so I decided on my Marine Corps training T-shirt and no jacket. It was the right call. Walk up to the start about 7:45am. The race is on a dirt path around Salem Lake - about 6.5 miles, then 2.5 miles or so on a paved Greenway, then back the way we came. It's been a Long time since I've done an out and back course (Michelin 5k from 2007?). Started on time and we were off. About 390 or so doing the 30k, another 330+ doing a 10k, but thankfully, that started after us. It thinned out pretty quickly and I tried to settle into a 9min/mile pace. That was my goal - giving me under a 2:47, but I really thought I could do a 2:42 without pushing too hard - this was just supposed to be a training run after all. Never quite found anyone with my pace the first 8 miles or so...some people would pass me and I'd pass a few others. Of course I started out faster than I intended - 8:40, 8:31...and an 8:22 early on. I did run with an older guy from Fort Mill, SC from mile 8 to the turn around. That was nice - he was going faster than he expected to also (and we picked it up some with two 8:22's), but was planning on slowing down at the halfway point. There was only one other person I ran "with" - but that was only for a mile or two. I was still feeling rather good until I got a cramp in my abdomen. Don't usually get that, but it stayed a little while (mile or two) then went away without affecting my pace much. I was still doing my miles between 8:28 and 8:41 until the last 2.6 miles. I was mentally pushing myself to keep the pace, slowly passing people, feeling tired, but not overly so. I knew the last 2 miles I would be close to the 2:40 mark, so I pushed to make that. My posture was suffering, but I felt good overall as I came down the final stretch to finish in 2:39:27! Last 2 miles were my slowest at 8:46 and 8:50. I could feel it immediately afterwards - tried to refuel (gatorade, banana, krispy kreme donut, water) and used some cold water bottles to roll my legs. Couldn't do a whole lot for my lower back. Wandered around the finish area, chatted with a few people I had met on the course and generally tried to keep moving for a little bit. Being soaking wet and the rain still around had me quite cold so I eventually slowly walked back to my car to dry off and change. Still had ~3 hours in the car to get back home, but I was certainly glad I had made the trip!
Being 5 minutes faster thru 18 miles than in my last marathon bodes well for my quest to get under 4 hours and still being 12 full weeks out.
The course only had 3-4 minor hills, short ones at that, but the packed dirt was nice to run on. I haven't even mentioned the lake. Wonderful! Very little straight shoreline as we wound in and out of every bend on the wide trail. Water stops every 2 miles or so was nice too. My hand-held bottle was able to last the whole race because of that. 2 Gu's kept my energy level up too. I can not say enough about how nice the course is to run on, and the race was managed very well - loud volunteers at each water station, good crowds at the 10k finish pushing us on (both ways), and remote enough most of the time to enjoy the scenery.
Once I got home - other than my lower back being sore that afternoon for a while (and sleepy eyes) - I felt great. That evening - I didn't even feel like I had run at all that day. Kind of scary! Hope it continues!