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?
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?