Sometimes, races don't work out the way you want them to. And when that happens, you just do what you've gotta do to try and make the best of things.
That's what the Carolina Panthers and Run For Your Life did Saturday morning at the BluePoints 5K in uptown Charlotte, after they decided at the 11th hour to have runners do the 3.1-mile course in reverse to offset the effects of heavy construction on Stonewall Street.
Beforehand, I heard some chatter as runners learned of the change that they were relieved to see the big climb up Morehead Street eradicated. If only they -- and the nearly 1,300 others who ran today -- had known then what they know now about Mile 3 of the revised course.
According to my Garmin, there were 250 feet of climbing between the halfway point (right before Midtown Square, where the Target is) and the top of Stonewall in front of the Observer building. A couple dozen stories of climbing. Over a stretch of just 1.3 miles. In 75-degree heat.
Posts on my Facebook profile afterward seemed to confirm it. "Was the race completely uphill? Dang it felt like it," said one runner. Another: "No lie! That was a tough course... it felt like the last mile and a half was straight UP!" And: "I was also wondering how we ended up at the same place when I felt like I went uphill at least 2/3rds of the race."
The last comment came from a guy who was a full minute-30 off his time in a 5K two weeks ago. Anyway, like I said: Sometimes, races just don't work out the way you want them to.
Myself, I missed PRing by almost a minute-30. I actually decided before the race to try to pace my friend to a PR (hers is 22:31) -- which seemed like a good idea at the time. Problem is, I'm not even very good at pacing myself. So I think I gave her some bad mojo by going out too fast, a not-uncommon mistake I tend to make.
The start was CROWDED. As usual, too many slower runners lined up too far toward the front, and the left turn off Mint Street onto Morehead comes so quickly that there was a lot of bunching and a little bottlenecking toward the inside of the turn. So there I am trying to blaze a path for her, but really I'm just wasting energy of mine and hers (energy I should have been storing up for Mile 3) by bobbing and weaving through the crowd.
The jockeying ended toward the top of the first hill, about 2,000 feet in, right by the intersection of College Street. After cresting on the bridge over the Light Rail tracks, we barreled down Morehead, and when we clicked off the first mile around Dilworth Road in 6:47 (target was 6:58), I realized I needed to ease off the gas.
Less than half a mile later, at a more moderate pace, we were on Kenilworth Avenue. By the way, an interesting thing happens shortly after you make that left turn onto Kenilworth: And that is, you come out from under the canopy of trees that line Morehead nearly from top to bottom and start seeing less and less green very quickly as you approach the ramps for I-277 -- where there's virtually no green. So at the same time you're hitting the hills, you're also getting hit by the sun. This is where pouring it on too early began to take its toll on my friend.
We've trained for hills like these (worse than these, in fact), but in hindsight, the smart thing to do would've been to go out in about 7:05, try to nail right around 7:00 in Mile 2, then throw everything on the table after crossing under the Belk Freeway and leaving the PR up to a sprint on Mint.
Instead, the combination of the fast start and the staircase climb on Stonewall beat my friend up a little and we ticked off Mile 3 at 7:53 -- way off pace. Yet I still got her to sprint out the last 0.10 on Mint at a 6:15 clip, which means she did have something left in the tank. ... Anyway, official time for both of us: 23:06. Off her PR by 35 seconds, off mine by 1:27.
But hey, stuff happens. Sometimes, things go your way. They certainly did for a couple of other FB friends of mine, including Bo Jordan, who PR'd with an 18:24; Alex Gunter, who turned in his best time ever (22:47); and Danielle Walther, who was the overall female winner in 18:46.
Other times, things just don't go your way. The Panthers and RFYL probably didn't appreciate the fact that the construction screwed with their game plan, but they did what they could to make the best of it. And while my friend and I probably could have run a better race, it gets chalked up as a learning experience for both of us.
Besides, there's always GreekFest. I hear that's flat. Right about now, I like the sound of that.
Top BluePoints 5K finishers
Bert Rodriguez, 29, of Arlington, was the overall male winner in 15:41 (he also won the Run For Your Life 4-Miler last month). Thirty-five-year-old Robert Marchinko of Salisbury finished second in 15:58, and Rock Hill's Matthew Elliott, 23, took third with a 16:17.
On the women's side, after winner Walther -- who I profiled earlier this summer -- there was a near-photo finish for the two and three spots: Teenagers Olivia Jacobs (19, China Grove) and Sarah Williamson (18, Charlotte) crossed the mat in 19:39 and 19:40, respectively.
For complete BluePoints 5K results, click here.