Race Report: Charles Harris Run for Leukemia 10k

I ran the Charles Harris Run for Leukemia 10k yesterday in chilly, but sunny, weather (28 degrees farenheit at race start). It was a fun race with a good course. I would do this one again.

The race starts in Tucker, GA and uses Lawrenceville Highway (US 29/SR 8) for the majority of the race course. As advertised, the course is long downhill slopes with a few uphills for a very fast route. If you race and train around Atlanta, the uphills are pretty gentle. At the end of the course, at approximately kilometer 9, the path turns right onto North Druid Hills road and then right again into a neighborhood. This is very important to realize, and I’ll tell you why:

First, a digression. I’m a big proponent of running/biking/driving a race course prior to running a race. It only makes sense! Put some eyes on the course to know what to expect and whether or not there are surprises or things that must be planned for. I did not follow this rule yesterday, for several reasons. Therefore, I had a bit of a surprise at the end of the race.

As I said, the race course is primarily on Lawrenceville Highway which is a 5-lane arterial here in the metro area, servicing traffic commutting to and from eastern DeKalb and western Gwinnett Counties. This means it has gentle hills (probably no greater than 3-4% at maximum, I’m guesstimating). As you approach North DeKalb Mall, there is a long downslope starting at about kilometer 8. If you pace a 10k like I do, this is the time to start using up the rest of the gas in the tank, so to speak, and burn the last couple kilometers as quickly as possible. So, you’re picking up the pace coming down this incline, using it for all you are worth. Then you make the right turn onto Druid Hills. There’s a bit of an uphill here, sharp but not too bad. Then you make another right turn onto Mistletoe Road, with additional uphill, and then finally onto Mt. Olive Drive where you discover that the nice gentle downhills and uphills on Lawrencville Highway were lulling you into a false sense of security!

There is one very steep, but quick, climb just as you turn onto Mt. Olive at ~9.4k. For me, this wasn’t so bad except there was an equally steep downhill on the other side which I just didn’t have the legs to take advantage of. I’m of the school that says, “If it’s a steep downhill, get that turnover going and use it,” but my legs just weren’t going to go that fast, so I ended up wasting energy and time on the downslope (which will be explained as important in a second). Finally, the last half kilometer of the race is slightly upslope leading to the finish line.

I had been (sort of) aiming at a sub-50 time for this race and my pacing through the course had led me to think I could do it. Unfortunately, I’d left everything I had out on Lawrenceville Highway and especially on the two uphills leading into Mt. Olive Drive. All I could do for the last bit was hold on and try not to slow down. Faster wasn’t in the cards.

Final time was 50:01. Two seconds out of my unstated goal.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m happy with that time. It’s a PR by something like a minute and a half; it’s an excellent time for me. I also can’t say I didn’t run a good race. I managed negative or equal splits the whole way except for one uphill mile (switching to miles now, sorry) in the middle. Who’s to say that if I hadn’t used the downhill on kilometer 8-9, I’d have put up a slower time. However, if I had my druthers, I’d have liked to have pounded those last two hills into submission and not felt like I was just holding on for the finish. It would have been nice if I could have snipped those two seconds off the total time.

Mile splits were:
8:12 (uphill section)
8:01 (also had some uphill but I was nudging into high gear)
7:35 (mostly downhill but included most of the hills listed above)
1:34 (which calculates to a 12:37 mile pace)

Compare that last bit of mileage (0.2 km) to all the rest of the splits and you’ll see what I was getting at about the hills. Going from a constant 8:00 minute pace to 12:37 means that somebody ran out of oomph.

The lesson here is two-fold! Be aware of the late hills on this course and always check out the races you’re about to undertake.

As I said, I had a good race, it was fun, and I’d do it again. It was well-supported with plenty of volunteers and safety officers.

The full race results for 2010 can be found at Active.com which is doing its best recently to piss me off in the same way ticketmaster does; by slapping “convenience fees” of rather extreme amounts onto race registration.

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