Saturday, September 26, 2009

'Hilly' Brixx race a Hit with runners

In the days and hours leading up to Run For Your Life's Hit the Brixx 10K and 5K races, runners seemed to be worried about two things: 1) Would it rain? ... and 2) Would the hills prove as tough as they were rumored to be?

The answers:

1) There was precipitation Saturday morning, but unless you were concentrating really hard, it wasn't noticeable. If anything, the thin mist helped make the 64-degree start actually feel like 64 degrees. Pretty cool, literally and figuratively.

2) The hills? Hmm. It depends on who you ask. Let's come back to that.

Now, if you took a pass on Hit the Brixx, you missed a pretty great event. Generally very well-organized, with the lure of all-you-can-eat pizza and pasta, plus a couple of free micro-brewed beers (good-sized ones, at that).

The thing that really makes HtB unique, though, is the staggered start times for the 10K and the 5K. With 80 minutes between starts, it was easy for 10Kers to finish in time to do the 5K. It also allowed 10Kers who didn't double up to be there to cheer for friends kicking to the finish in the 5K (i.e., if the races were run simultaneously, 10Kers would still be running when 5Kers crossed).

In all, more than 800 people ran the 10K, versus about 475 who did the 5K -- and if you keep an eye on the local race calendar closely, you're probably aware that the longer distance is so popular because it's rarely offered in the Charlotte area.

Anyway, about that course: Race director Ashleigh Lawrence of Run For Your Life earlier this week rated the 10K route an 8 on a 1-to-10 difficulty scale. I might not have rated it quite that high ... BUT ... it was certainly no walk in the park. And I thought a good bit of the challenge was negotiating all the turns. By my count, there were 18 over 6.2 miles, and since courses (correct me if I'm wrong) are certified based on the insides of turns, runners who took them wide probably wound up adding some distance.

As for those hills ... maybe it's all about expectations. I never got a chance to pre-run the course, but I'd heard from several people who had, and most warned of the climb in the final miles. So I planned for the worst, frankly.

That meant holding back early and hanging for two miles with a friend, ticking off a 7:30 then an 8:03. After the second marker, I turned it up and did a 6:53 for Mile 3. Then I backed off a little again (7:06 for Mile 4, 7:11 for Mile 5) in anticipation of a tough finish. But I felt like the only truly challenging climb was that steep riser in the homestretch on Seventh, right before the left onto Caldwell (a few blocks from the finish). In fact, I covered the sixth mile in 6:48 -- my fastest of the day including the 5K I did later. Crossed with a chip time of 45:24, a PR by more than two minutes.

But don't take my word for it, necessarily. Caitlin Chrisman, who smoked me (and almost everyone else -- she was the top overall female finisher in 37:27), had a different viewpoint: "The course was pretty rough, with the first mile blazing fast due to the downhill and the last 2.5 miles an ugly incline that seemed to get steeper as each second ticked away on the clock."

And Billy Shue, who finished in 36:36 and placed eighth overall, said: "I felt very prepared for the uphills with the training I've been doing, but they were still challenging."

Meanwhile, late this morning I heard from a reader who said they "didn't notice any hills." "I tried to pace myself the first half so I could be a little more ready for them the second half. The next thing I knew, the race was over. What happened to the hills that this race is supposedly known for??"

I'm not positive, but I believe this reader finished in over an hour. So my best guess then is that maybe the "elites" -- hey, they're elites to me -- are just big babies. (I'm TOTALLY kidding, guys -- haha :) ... . But seriously, I'm interested to hear other feedback, so please comment if you have thoughts.

Other random things worth noting about Hit the Brixx:
  • I received several minor complaints, particularly from front-runners, about how it could have been clearer when and where to turn at points. The consensus: Arrows or markers of some kind would have helped.
  • Another common complaint regarded the lack of water stations. Unless I'm wrong, there was only one, somewhere between about 2.5 and 3.5 miles. There should have been at least two places for runners to re-hydrate.
  • No complaints, meanwhile, about the beer: Carolina Blonde, spiced with pumpkin, in generously sized cups. Runners were allowed two apiece. And the pizza and pasta lines, which spilled out of the uptown Brixx location, moved reasonably well. Pasta was decent; the pizza itself was not the chain's best effort -- but then, Brixx doesn't typically have to deal with crowds this big, so I don't blame them for making what was easiest.
  • There was also a lot of love for the Snickers Marathon bars being passed out near the finish line (volunteers at that booth weren't being stingy, either -- one of them handed a friend of mine four).
  • Updates on a couple runners I've profiled recently: Kevin Collins, the Ironman who has agreed to run multiple races in a cheetah-print running skirt, finished the 10K in 59:09. And Jason Ackiss, the visually impaired runner who's training for a half-marathon, knocked out the same race in 50:13. Well done, guys.
  • Other notable 10K performances by friends of the blog: Jay Holder celebrated his 26th birthday with a 34:39, good for fourth overall. Twelve-year-old Alana Hadley was the second-fastest female (38:08), and Danielle Walther was the fourth. Bill Shires won the men's masters title in 35:39. And two guys I did part of a long run with just last week -- Mark Cox and Eric Reiner -- finished third in the male masters division and first in the men's clydesdale division, respectively (times: 37:04 and 41:01). Complete 10K results here.
  • Other notable 5K performances by friends of the blog: Rebecca Thomason, in her first race since coming back from a stress fracture in her foot, won the women's overall in 19:19. Shue, perhaps the most improved runner in Charlotte in 2009, ran a 17:47 to finish as the second overall male. And a regular training buddy of mine, Tim Friederichs, was the top male masters runner in 19:12. Complete 5K results here.
  • I also PR'd in the 5K, with a 21:22. So I think my new plan is to warm up for every 5K with 6.2 miles at a 10K pace!
So how'd it go for you?


Anonymous said...

I am shocked about the lack of water stops! I have run many RFYL events over the years, and this was the worst one I have ever seen regarding the lack of water tables. At about the 3 1/2 mile mark of the 10K, a Crystal Water truck was stopped on the road side and the driver was pouring water for the runners. Then at about the 5 mile mark, there was a water table, but I saw no one pouring water. I then ran the 5K race, and the only water I saw was the one at the 5 mile mark of the 10K. The table was folder on it's side and the water coolers were on the ground and there were no cups. Except for this problem, the events were great before and after the race. I am glad it was not a very hot day. But I'm sure many people were looking forward to wateron the course. I hope someone from from RFYL will comment because this is such a suprise at one of their sponsored events.

Anonymous said...

I ran the 10K and then the 5K. Do you have a number on how many people doubled up? The weather was idea for running. Cool temps with a lite mist. I think the return hill up 7th Street seemed to go on forever. However, it did not seem as tough as the old course where you had to run up Trade Street. That seemed like a tougher hill. Plenty of Port-a-jons before the race. Beer and pizza and pasta were excellent. Small lines that moved quickly and plenty for everyone. Perhaps next year, they could offer a non-alcoholic beverage choice to non-drinkers (and not just Powerade from the finishing area). One of the best races in Charlotte.

Anonymous said...

I debated whether to bring my water bottle - glad I did! Hills didn't seem anywhere near as bad as that person earlier in the week that was complaining on your column. I waited around for a while to find the 5K results posted but eventually just gave up - figured I could just view them online. Overall a good event, although sometimes just a bit unorganized. Definitely will be back next year for the 10K!

caitchris said...

maybe the hills felt steep to me because my legs felt pretty dead going into the race and dead coming out of the race...the hills got bigger in my imagination probably. but, theoden, you probably are right. we are ALL a bunch of babies. i think we're all (me, Jay, Aaron) going through the training slump weeks since we've been going pretty hard the last couple of weeks. Great job on all your PRs. Your marathon is going to ROCK.

Richard Hefner said...

I looked at my Garmin at that one and only water stop in the 10k and I'm pretty sure it was at 4.5 miles. Wow... good thing I wasn't thirsty.

I also agree with the people who didn't see a lot of hills. I was bracing myself for the last 2 miles being all uphill but it seemed to me that the actual uphill part was only around a half mile and not too steep a climb.

Anonymous said...

I only did the 5k, not both....I held back in mile 2 b/c I was afraid of the "hills" in mile 3. But I honestly didn't think the final hill was too steep or too long. I finished stronger than expected.

Thanks to Great Harvest Bread Co for coming to all these events - your bread is delicious.

And I thought Brixx did a good job feeding the masses.

Weather was perfect - cool, cloudy, and a mist here and there.

Hey runners- just a request - do not stop and congregate 2 feet over the finish line...Folks running behind you are coming in fast and cannot break so suddenly. When you finish keep moving through or off to one side.

Anonymous said...

Those Marathon Bars were good! Are they sold at grocery stores?

Cool Down Runner said...

fyi. my garmin measured the course in 6.29 by running the tangents.

Jason said...

Way to go on your PR's for both races!

Anonymous said...

I have never seen the Marathon bars for sale in RFYL, but have seen them sold in Target, WalMart and Harris Teeter stores in their Drtug / Health areas. Don't know about any other sporting goods stores. They taste better than a regular Snickers bar. Maybe they are too candy / snack food like to be taken seriously.

Anonymous said...

The lack of water stops and direction on the course was most likely due to a shortage of volunteers. It takes a lot of volunteers to organize a race. If you want to see better organization, volunteer!

chupacabra said...

I had a great time, not a PR but I've been on vacation so it just felt good to get in a run. I'm glad someone mentioned the Crystal Water truck. My husband didn't see it and thinks I was hallucinating.

The race did have a certain air of last minuteness, but I'm pretty laid back about that kind of thing and just appreciate all the hard work that goes into these things behind the scenes.

This race is definitely a keeper, especially since there are just not that many 10k's around. Why is that?

Anonymous said...

Cheers to the Crystal Water Truck driver who took it upon himself to hand out water to the thirsty folks 3.5 miles into the 10K. Thanks so much!!

The water situation for both races was really a problem. I heard that the course got set up late -- which may help to explain the lack of water on the 10K but doesn't explain why the only water stop on the course closed up shop for the
5K. That made no sense at all.

There were a lot of people in Red Brixx volunteer shirts along the course so I'm not sure it was a personnel problem.

I loved the post-run party, but the lack of water for both races makes me question if I would do this event again.